Cristy Lee Returns to HGTV Amid Health Battle

The renovation and automotive enthusiast discusses her year of health challenges, treatment, and returns.
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Photograph by Ben Wagner Photography, courtesy of Cristy Lee/HGTV

Cristy Lee, a former Detroiter and home renovation expert, is returning to HGTV for the first time after being diagnosed with Graves’ disease and thyroid eye disease. Lee is best known for her appearances on Celebrity IOU Joyride, All Girls Garage, and Steal This House. A year after diagnosis, Lee is featured on Battle on the Mountain, airing Monday, Jan. 22 at 9 p.m.

Here, she talks about her diagnosis and returning to television.

Hour Detroit: Before your health challenges in the last year, what was your involvement like in Detroit and at HGTV?

Cristy Lee: “I moved to Detroit from Daytona Beach in 2005 to invest in real estate and flip and rent houses. I’ve worked in home renovating, interior design, and other behind-the-scenes projects with HGTV in Detroit for seven years. The Motor City, of course, also helped me turn my career towards motorcycles. I rode my first motorcycle 18 years ago and it became my passion. I started working with MotorTrend Network where I did a lot with automotive projects.”

What did it mean to you to be representing the city of Detroit on HGTV?

“When I lived in Detroit, I lived right off Seven Mile. I felt really proud to be living in the state of Michigan, especially in the city of Detroit. Outside of real estate, Detroit was my beginning in the world of broadcasting. I started broadcasting at 101 WRIF in Detroit, which led me to Motor Trend and HGTV. Between then, I worked at the Renaissance Center and MGM Grand in Greektown, I worked for the Pistons and the Red Wings. I have a lot of roots in Detroit.”

What was your experience with Graves Disease and Thyroid Eye Disease?

“About one year ago, I started showing symptoms. You could call it my sick-versary. Both Graves’ disease and thyroid eye disease are autoimmune disorders. They are such rare diseases and I had never heard of them before. I went through a lot of treatments in the past year, like orbital eye decompression surgeries, therapy treatments, and others. I was bedridden for a few months, and my mental health was pretty bad. I’m so glad I’m back on HGTV because I needed so badly to get back out and be me.”

What was the diagnosis like for you, knowing you would have to put your activities on pause?

“Getting a diagnosis was insane for me. My symptoms were very severe, which was painful, but I got a diagnosis fast. I was traveling for work, and I had what I thought was a horrific migraine. My symptoms progressed, and a week later, I was in the emergency room. I got my diagnosis at the ER, and I saw local doctors soon after. It was a godsend having a doctor I could trust and talk to, and now I’m prioritizing my health over everything.”

Where are you at with these health challenges now?

“I’m considering this a journey. Since there is no cure for thyroid eye disease or Graves’ disease, it’s more a process of remission. There are active periods and inactive periods. Monitoring Graves’ disease is less stressful with my daily medications. My thyroid, on the other hand, had to be taken out and I changed a lot about my lifestyle. I still have to monitor my blood work and I have frequent doctor’s appointments, but I feel like I’m doing amazing.”

You are returning to HGTV on Battle on the Mountain. Can you share a little bit about what the show is about and your role?

Battle on the Mountain airs at 9 p.m. on Mondays for the next five weeks. I’ll be featured in the second episode this upcoming Monday. In the show, there are three couples renovating mountain homes in Colorado. Each team works with a mentor, who is another familiar face from HGTV. There are little challenges sprinkled through — (that’s) where I come in. I will present these challenges to the couples, who compete for things like more money for their renovation budget, the opportunity to pick their paint colors, or getting hardware or materials first. I come in and throw a curveball.”

How does it feel to be back?

“Of course, it felt good to be back doing what I love. I have to thank all the folks at HGTV for being so patient with me. I didn’t tell HGTV about what was going on with my health until the middle of the year because I had no idea what was going to happen. Still, they were so empathetic and understanding. It’s a morale boost, being back, and it’s huge for me.”

Moving forward, what are your plans for this year?

“I recently purchased a new shop and I have a lot of fun projects coming along with that. Because of my health issues, I wasn’t able to put a helmet on for most of last year, so I couldn’t do a lot of the things I love doing. I’m looking forward to getting back to that. I’m also planning on launching new home projects and car projects. I’m hoping to launch a new brand to put all my projects under one umbrella. I have a new show with Motor Trend airing on Feb. 16 as well. My doctor always tells me that adrenaline is not my friend. I disagree.”

Battle on the Mountain premiers on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, and airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. For more information, visit hgtv.com. And be sure to check out hourdetroit.com for even more entertainment news.