Katie Couric’s Daughters Talk About Her Sad Diagnosis

Last week, Katie’s poignant letter, in which she revealed her breast cancer diagnosis, was published. Following a long-delayed mammogram scheduled for the summer of 2022, a tiny tumor the size of an olive was identified.

Katie was fortunate to find her illness early, and she received immediate treatment, including a lumpectomy and chemotherapy. Katie, a long-time supporter of cancer research and awareness, is now moved to share her experience.

To that aim, she is using Breast Cancer Awareness Month to provide details about her diagnosis, treatment, and overall experience.

Katie emphasizes the necessity of adequate cancer screenings in this incredibly personal episode of her podcast Next Question. She also advises listeners to schedule regular doctor’s appointments.

Katie also underlines the increased risk for patients with dense breasts; over half of all American women have dense breasts, which can reduce the likelihood of abnormalities being detected by mammography.

Katie keeps open channels of communication with her medical staff. She consults with the surgical breast oncologist and chief of breast surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center about diagnostic and treatment options. Interventional breast radiologists Lisa Newman, MD, and Susan Drossman, MD, work together.

Katie also provides unedited recordings she made while undergoing treatment, giving readers a firsthand look at her experience.

In this episode, Katie’s two children, Ellie and Carrie Monahan, share intimate details about their emotional reactions to their mother’s illness. Katie also interviews Michele Young, a breast cancer survivor, about the campaign to reform Ohio’s breast cancer screening criteria.

Listen to the entire podcast or read the highlights from the discussions below.

“She is continuously calling and texting me. I used to be somewhat unresponsive to her, especially while I was in college. She does, however, phone or FaceTime on a regular basis these days. We talk frequently throughout the day.

I had missed a phone call when I awakened in the morning.

This is how she frequently acts. It could be for something utterly irrelevant and inconsequential. I recall having only recently awoken. She messaged me on FaceTime. It frightened me. She reassured me that nothing was wrong. I’m guessing she did it to introduce it.”

“Nothing had been revealed by mammography. When I found out I had cancer, I was distraught.”

“I was concerned. But I believe she recognized immediately away that she had access to excellent medical personnel, that it was early, and that she would most likely be fine.”

She informed me that due to the date of the treatment, a trip she and I had planned would be canceled. “Don’t tell Ellie,” she said, “because I’ll tell her.”

During a stressful summer, Ellie Monahan struggled with her mother’s forecast that she was different from Carrie. “I’ve always been anxious, and my mother and I are always in contact.”

“It was only in the last few years that I learned to let it go.” She was constantly on my speed dial, and we still talk frequently. It used to happen every day, but now it just happens every now and then. That’s okay with me because I’m married and 31.”

“We hadn’t chatted much since I had three weddings and had to go from L.A., where I live, to the East coast, where these weddings were. I took a redeye flight to New Jersey to attend the wedding of my husband’s cousin. I’d been emotionally exhausted since the day Roe v. Wade was overruled.”

I finally got in touch with her that day. She informed me that she had been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.

Ellie investigates the horrible cancer history of her family.

“A couple of trigger words were employed. It was impossible to hear “radiation.” I was horrified just thinking about chemotherapy and my mother’s hair falling off.”

“In 1997, our father [Jay Monahan] was diagnosed with stage four cancer.” It was encouraging to learn that my mother’s condition had progressed significantly. As a result of her work with Stand Up to Cancer and the cancer community, our mother is quite resilient and has excellent medical contacts.”

“I knew she had excellent doctors and that further information would be shared as soon as it became available.” She handled it so calmly. After the first shock of hearing the C word, that was a big source of comfort. She appeared to be keeping an eye on us, which was really nice of her at the moment. That is a motherly gesture.”

“I guess my mind was incapable of imagining that she would not be okay.” After our father died, I simply couldn’t go there. I had no idea where I was.”

Carrie talks about her father’s passing.

“I don’t recall it.” I feel it made the experience even worse for her. Ellie just told me how horrified she was when she saw a mannequin head covered in one of our father’s wigs.

“Oh my goodness, how am I going to tell Katie this?” Dr. Drossman recalls wondering.

“That’s what I always say when I have to break bad news to someone.” It’s always a struggle. It’s always difficult for me.”

“Can you spare a few minutes to speak?” I obviously asked of Katie. “When I’m concerned about anything, I notify folks that I’m about to call and that the news may not be good.  I make an effort not to catch people off guard.”

“I believe I said it was a small amount of breast cancer. It is completely treatable, but we need a strategy.”