The journalist has teamed up with organic baby formula company Bobbie and non-profit organization The Breasties, a group that creates a community for cancer survivors and caregivers, to surprise 111 new moms impacted by the disease with free formula for a year.
"One of the reasons I wanted to be public about my diagnosis is I know that I have the capability to influence public health in this country and to educate and inform people and arm them with the knowledge they need to live longer lives," Couric, 65, tells PEOPLE exclusively.
"And not only is it a huge privilege, but also an enormous responsibility. I was really excited and honored to be a part of this initiative by Bobbie to be able to share some really good news with so many of these women who have been through an awful lot, and not only need emotional support but need financial support as well, some of them."
Couric opened up about her health battle in an essay, but she kept the June diagnosis private until September. It wasn't until she had a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tissue and finished radiation that she was ready to go public, because she finally had the information she needed to help others.
"When I shared what was going on, I did what I always do," the mother of two explains. "I did a lot of reporting and tried to find out important information not only for myself, but for other women and men. I did it when I was ready and I thought that was a good time to do it, and so that's really why I waited."
Now that Couric is officially cancer-free, she's glad she can pay it forward to some of the 3.8 million women dealing with the disease, including this special group of new mothers who were worried about feeding their babies.
"I think they were just a remarkable group of women," Couric, who surprised the group with the news of the $25,000 worth of formula to The Breasties on behalf of Bobbie on Zoom, shares. "Having children is stressful enough and is a big adjustment and very hard on your body as it is, but [even more difficult] in their situations dealing with cancer diagnoses."
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"All of the new mothers we sponsored at least had mastectomies," Bobbie CEO Laura Modi, who's helped 177 women to date in her third year of the program, tells PEOPLE. "We did have two people who had a surrogate and we also sponsored them."
Currently, there is no public health policy that considers the physical capabilities of mothers when assessing coverage for formula or donor milk. This greatly effects mothers who cannot breastfeed due to breast cancer treatment, so Couric and Modi also are launching a public petition fighting for legislative changes that would create insurance equality and cover formula or donor milk for all parents who have undergone a mastectomy.
"Being selected as a part of the Bobbie Breasties program is one of those 'worst club, best members' moments, where I can't believe I'm fortunate enough to have this level of support amidst such a challenging experience," Berenice Lopez Leal, who is soon to be a new mom, tells PEOPLE.
"As a part of this community, both personally and professionally, I urge all women to advocate, advocate, advocate for yourself. Fight for the care that you deserve. Growing up watching my mom fight breast cancer, I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. It wasn't until I graduated med school at 26 years old that I found my first lump and learned that I was BRCA positive. I got my mastectomy in October 2020, and learned I was pregnant in February 2022. My baby girl is due this Friday and I'm so ready to meet her. Despite all I've been through, she has brought everything back into focus."
Today, Couric is thankful to be in good health. She has to take five years worth of aromatase inhibitors, a drug used to prevent breast cancer from coming back. But "I'm feeling great," she says.
"And really grateful because as I've often said, I'm the lucky recipient of everything modern medicine has to offer. I was diagnosed early when my breast cancer is not only treatable, it's curable, and having experienced my husband's colon cancer, my sister's pancreatic cancer, and many other friends who I've lost to cancer, the fact that strides have been made and that my situation, my prognosis is so good. Honestly, that's beyond fortunate."