The veteran journalist, 65, shared her diagnosis on Wednesday in an essay on her website titled, “Why NOT Me?” as well as on social media. She has undergone a lumpectomy and radiation. She’s encouraging people to get screened.
“June 21, 2022, was the first day of summer, my 8th wedding anniversary, and the day I found out I had breast cancer,” the former Today show anchor wrote in her essay. Couric said that in May she was reminded by her gynecologist that she had missed her 2021 mammogram, so she made an appointment with her breast radiologist, Dr. Susan Drossman, for June. Thinking it would be routine, she decided to film it, as well as a breast ultrasound — as she had done with her colonoscopy in 2000 for the Today show — for her media company.
“Ever the ham, I was cracking jokes and making faces to the camera as I explained what was going on,” she said. “However, the doctor stepped out of the room and when she returned she asked us to stop filming.” The doctor wanted to do a biopsy on Couric, hoping the suspicious area was just scar tissue from a breast reduction she’d had in 2016.
The next day, Drossman reported the results: “‘Your biopsy came back. It’s cancer. You’re going to be fine but we need to make a plan,'” Couric wrote, saying that memories flooded back, including that of her late husband Jay Monahan’s colon cancer diagnosis at 41 “and the terrifying, gutting nine months that followed.” Also, her sister Emily Couric’s terminal pancreatic cancer. She ran through all the others in her family who had had some form of cancer.
She said her “mood quickly shifted from disbelief to resignation” after the news. “Given my family’s history of cancer, why would I be spared?” she asked. “My reaction went from ‘Why me?’ to ‘Why not me?'”
Couric saw Dr. Lisa Newman at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and learned more about her tumor. She was told it was “highly treatable, particularly if it was detected early.” It was decided Couric would have “breast conservation” surgery, or a lumpectomy, followed by radiation and a medication for five years.
Couric had surgery July 14, removing a tumor the size of an olive. The pathology report showed her lymph nodes were clean. Radiation began on September 7 — and she had her final round on Tuesday.
“Why am I telling you all this?” she wrote. “Well, since I’m the ‘Screen Queen’ of colon cancer, it seemed odd to not use this as another teachable moment that could save someone’s life. Please get your annual mammogram. I was six months late this time. I shudder to think what might have happened if I had put it off longer. But just as importantly, please find out if you need additional screening [such as an ultrasound]. Forty-five percent of women in this country (yes, nearly half) have dense breasts, which can make it difficult for mammograms alone to detect abnormalities.”
She ended by saying, “I can’t tell you how many times during this experience I thanked God that it was 2022. And how many times I silently thanked all the dedicated scientists who have been working their asses off to develop better ways to analyze and treat breast cancer. But to reap the benefits of modern medicine, we need to stay on top of our screenings, advocate for ourselves, and make sure everyone has access to the diagnostic tools that could very well save their life.”
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