NEW YORK – Victoria Gotti (search) revealed to the world on Sunday that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer -- but she's now backing away from the story, and sources say it's a lie.
Gotti, the daughter of infamous Gambino crime boss John "Dapper Don" Gotti (search), told the New York Daily News last week that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer -- just days before Monday's premiere of the third season of her A&E (search) reality show, "Growing Up Gotti." (search)
But Matthew Rich, Gotti's publicist of seven years, quit on Monday, reportedly outraged that Gotti would use such a tale to promote her show, a source told the New York Post's PAGE SIX gossip column.
When PAGE SIX called Rich for comment, he would only say, "I no longer work for Victoria Gotti." Asked if she had ever had cancer, he replied, "No comment."
A former friend also told PAGE SIX that Gotti confided four years ago that she had breast cancer, "but then she went into work the next day as if nothing had happened. I didn't believe it then, and I don't believe it now."
Gotti herself backed away from the story Monday night on CNBC's "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch."
The 42-year-old mother of three said she was not diagnosed with breast cancer as reported in the News, but with precancerous cells she chose to treat aggressively before it became cancer.
"What I had can be described as a scare," she said on the show.
She told PAGE SIX on Tuesday: "I could leave it alone and watch it, or get surgery. I chose to be aggressive and get the surgery, adding that she is now "100 percent well."
And on Wednesday, Gotti denied she lied about having breast cancer but acknowledged her diagnosis showed she had "precancerous cells."
"What I have is considered by most to be cancer. Noninvasive cancer," Gotti said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Gotti told ABC the Daily News article "was for the most part accurate."
"The reporter was not lying," she said. "She was not embellishing."
"Everyday since this happened, people have been asking me, 'Well, do you have cancer? Or is it not?'" Gotti said. "There's no easy way to explain that. It is the illness. You have to look it up to understand it."
On Sunday, Gotti was quoted in the News as saying: "The day I got my mammogram and the doctor told me I had breast cancer, it was in mid-November. I had a little pity party for myself and I cried all day ... I lost 25 pounds ... I was so exhausted, I could barely lift my arms."
The News reported that Gotti kept the news to herself until earlier this month, hiding her draining treatments from her three teenage sons and the producers of "Growing Up Gotti."
"I wasn't able to tell them," she said. "I just wanted the boys to be OK and not get crazy and think that Mommy is dying.''
She said her treatment has gone well: "They caught it early and the prognosis is good."
Daily News columnist Joanna Molloy told PAGE SIX that it looks like Gotti is "shape-shifting the truth again."
"She told us in January she had breast cancer, and that's the reason she took a leave of absence from Star magazine. She told us again last week, and we recorded it," Molloy told the Post.
The Daily News also reported that Gotti suffered a "heart attack" a few years ago at one of her sons' basketball games. But Gotti also backed away from that claim Tuesday.
"The original story said 'heart incident.' An editor changed it to 'heart attack,'" she told PAGE SIX.
The Daily News also stated that Gotti had a law degree. But at New York's St. John's University, the only college Gotti has ever been known to attend, spokeswoman Suzi Halpin told PAGE SIX, "We have no record that she graduated from St. John's."
Gotti told the Post: "I have no law degree. I never had a law degree. I don't know where that got started."
Gotti's brother, John "Junior" Gotti (search), is currently on trial for allegedly plotting the botched kidnapping of radio show host Curtis Sliwa (search) -- part of racketeering charges that could keep him in prison for up to 30 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.