How Katie Couric’s Been Standing Up to Cancer for Decades

Photos courtesy of Katie Couric and Getty Images

All the ways the disease has impacted Katie’s life.

By now you’ve probably read that Katie Couric has breast cancer. The journalist and KCM co-founder announced her diagnosis today in an essay shared exclusively with Wake-Up Call Readers. 

After a routine (yet slightly overdue) mammogram over the summer, Katie’s doctor saw something she wanted to take a closer look at. A few weeks later, Katie got the call: “Your biopsy came back. It’s cancer. You’re going to be fine but we need to make a plan,” her doctor said.

Katie walks us through the next few months of treatment in her essay, which you can read in full here.

Keep in mind, while this is Katie’s first personal bout with cancer, it’s by no means the first time cancer has hit close to home for the Stand Up To Cancer founder. Her first husband Jay Monahan died of colorectal cancer in 1998. After that, Katie became a screening advocate and even aired her own colonoscopy on The TODAY Show in 2000. Sadly, that wouldn’t be the end of her cancer journey; Katie’s sister Emily Couric died of pancreatic cancer in 2001. 

Katie went on to establish the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance and then became a co-founder of Stand Up To Cancer in 2008. 

A few more family cancer scares later, including her current husband John Molner’s, and now Katie took on her own battle. 

“Given my family’s history, why would I be spared? My reaction went from ‘Why me?’ to ‘Why not me?’” Katie writes in her essay. 

Katie Couric’s Cancer Diagnosis

Does Katie Couric have cancer?

Katie was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2022. “June 21, 2022 was the first day of summer, my 8th wedding anniversary, and the day I found out I had breast cancer,” she reveals in her essay. 

What type of cancer does Katie Couric have?

Katie’s tumor was hormone receptor-positive, HER2neu-negative, which her doctor told her was “highly treatable, particularly since it was detected early.”  

According to, HER2 is a protein that helps breast cancer cells grow quickly. But, compared to HER2-positive, cancers that are HER2-negative, like Katie’s, don’t tend to grow as quickly. 

The hormone receptor-positive element means the “breast cancer cells have either estrogen (ER) or progesterone (PR) receptors or both,” according to “These breast cancers can be treated with hormone therapy drugs that lower estrogen levels or block estrogen receptors. Hormone receptor-positive cancers tend to grow more slowly than those that are hormone receptor-negative. Women with hormone receptor-positive cancers tend to have a better outlook in the short-term, but these cancers can sometimes come back many years after treatment.”

Is Katie Couric in treatment for breast cancer?

“We decided I would have ‘breast conservation’ surgery, aka a lumpectomy,” Katie writes in her essay. “Surgery would be followed by radiation and medication — specifically, something called an aromatase inhibitor I’d need to take for five years.”

Her surgery was on July 14, 2022. “The pathology came back a few weeks later. Thankfully, my lymph nodes were clean,” she writes. Her staging was 1A and her Oncotype — which measures the likelihood of your cancer returning — was 19, considered low enough to forgo chemotherapy. 

Katie began radiation Sept. 7. “Each session lasted about 10 minutes and involved lying face down on a massage-like table with my left breast hanging in an opening, away from my body, so the beams wouldn’t veer off course into my lungs or heart.”

Her radiation concluded Sept. 27. 

Katie Couric’s Husband Jay’s Battle with Cancer

Did Katie Couric’s first husband have cancer?

As you know, Katie’s first husband, John Paul “Jay” Monahan III, died of cancer. In Going There, Katie writes that she was completely shocked by his diagnosis; though Jay had been experiencing dramatic weight loss and “a perpetually sour stomach,” his youth and vitality initially prevented the couple from considering such a frightening diagnosis. 

What type of cancer did Jay Monahan have?

Jay had colorectal cancer. After being suddenly rushed to the hospital with intense pain, he entered emergency surgery on April 3, 1997. Doctors excised a tumor the size of an orange, then reconnected two pieces of his large intestine. Despite this intervention, the cancer had already spread. He underwent chemo, but the treatment was unsuccessful. He was in treatment from April 1997 to January 1998 — nine months.

When did Katie Couric’s husband die?

Jay died on January 24, 1998, at the age of 42. After undergoing treatment, his condition deteriorated. After collapsing at home, he died after being taken to Lenox Hill Hospital.

Jay’s funeral was held on January 28, 1998, at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan. Katie was too bereft to deliver her eulogy, so her sister, Emily Couric, delivered the eulogy on Katie’s behalf. Jay was buried at the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, Long Island. 

On February 24, 1998, Katie Couric returned to the TODAY Show. Katie poignantly addressed the viewers by opening up about the tragedy: “Words, of course, will never be able to describe how devastating this loss has been for me and my daughters, and for all of Jay’s family as well.” She thanked viewers for their condolences and contributions to the National Cancer Institute, hoping “that the money can be used to eradicate this terrible disease, which is second to only lung cancer in the number of cancer deaths in this country each year.” She finished off with a few kind words directed toward any viewers battling life-threatening illness: “Just know that my heart goes out to you.” 

Katie Couric’s Sister Emily’s Battle With Cancer

Did Katie Couric’s sister Emily have cancer?

Unfortunately, Jay was only the first member of Katie’s inner circle to develop cancer. Katie’s sister, Emily, was also diagnosed with cancer. As a Democratic state senator in Virginia, the illness caused Emily to drop out of the race for lieutenant governor. Born on June 5, 1947, Emily was the eldest of the four Couric siblings. 

What type of cancer did Emily Couric have?

Emily had pancreatic cancer; she was diagnosed in July 2000, at age 53. In Going There, Katie writes that Emily immediately began taking “a cocktail of drugs” which treated the cancer for a short time, but that the “tumors roared back a few months later.” While Emily underwent treatment, Katie and Emily had tea at the White House with then First Lady, Hillary Clinton, where Emily and Hillary talked politics. Katie remembers this afternoon as “a high point during a time of unthinkable lows.” Katie also recalls a big, raucous family celebration held for Emily’s 54th birthday as a moment of profound joy — though Emily was sick during these high points, she was also very happy, writing in her memoir that she was “grateful for the return to normalcy, however fleeting.”

When did Katie Couric’s sister die?

After being in treatment for over a year, Emily died on October 18, 2001, at 54 years old. She left behind a husband and two children. Her funeral was held at St. Paul’s Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Katie delivered a eulogy at the funeral; because it irked Emily when people asked her if she was Katie Couric’s sister, Katie lovingly said, “I just want you to know I will always be proud to say ‘I am Emily Couric’s sister.'” Emily’s legacy has lived on in a scholarship fund for young women leaders and the amazing work being done at the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center at UVA Hospital.

John Molner’s Cancer Scare

Did Katie Couric’s current husband John Molner have cancer?

Katie’s current husband, John Molner, had a cancer scare in 2013. The couple first noticed some symptoms in late 2013, when John experienced atypical fatigue, stomach pain and nausea. In her memoir, Katie writes that “at a baby shower…he couldn’t manage appetizers or a Bloody Mary.” Friends noticed that John had lost weight. After failing to be diagnosed by his internist, Katie insisted John visit Dr. Schnoll-Sussman, the director of the Jay Monahan Center, a clinical center funded by the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, an organization co-founded by Katie Couric after Jay Monahan’s death. He was treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where doctors determined he had an “indolent” carcinoid tumor — which means the cancer hadn’t spread. 

What treatment did John Molner undergo?

On February 24, 2014, John had liver resection surgery to remove a cancerous, coconut-sized tumor. The surgery took four hours, after which John was hospitalized for several days. Luckily, the surgery was successful; he remains cancer-free.

Katie Couric’s Parents’ Cancer Battles

Did Katie Couric’s parents have cancer?

As if all of this wasn’t enough, Katie’s parents and in-laws have been touched by cancer as well. Katie Couric’s mother, Elinor Couric, was diagnosed with mantle cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Katie Couric’s father, John Martin Couric, was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which was treated with radioactive seeds. Additionally, Katie Couric’s mother-in-law Carol Monahan had ovarian cancer, “which she was fighting as she buried her son, a year and nine months before she herself was laid to rest,” Katie wrote in her essay. 

Did Katie Couric’s parents die from their illnesses?

John Martin Couric Jr. died on June 22, 2011 of complications from Parkinson’s disease. Elinor Couric died of complications from pneumonia on September 1st, 2014. Carol Monahan died of ovarian cancer on September 11th, 1999. 

Katie Couric’s Foundation Stand Up To Cancer

What is Stand Up To Cancer?

Stand Up To Cancer is a charitable organization that raises awareness and funds collaborative research by many of the top cancer scientists in the country.  As of 2021, SU2C scientists have contributed to the development of 9 new FDA cancer-fighting drugs and raised more than 746 million dollars.  

When did Katie Couric found Stand Up To Cancer?

Katie Couric and her co-founders started Stand Up To Cancer on May 27, 2008. In an essay she wrote that she and her colleagues founded the charitable organization in reaction to losing loved ones or suffering from cancer themselves: “In 2007, nine Type A women who had seen the ravages of cancer firsthand decided to join forces.” The founders were especially excited to focus on a collaborative model: Katie wrote, “We thought too many scientists were working in silos, often duplicating each other’s work. Not sharing their brainpower, creativity, and even tissue samples just didn’t make sense to us. What if they worked together? If two heads are better than one, wouldn’t 10 heads be even better than two?” For Katie and her co-founders, this dedication to funding and organizing innovative research is a lifelong commitment.