Katie Couric, 66, says ‘endless curiosity’ is ‘key to aging well’: ‘I feel about 35’
Katie Couric is the journalist of a generation, spending over three decades educating and entertaining America through conversations with prominent politicians, household-name celebrities and everyday people. Still, even with all those questions, there's one she hasn't yet gotten answered — "What happens when you die?" — and it nags at her.
She tells Yahoo Life it "metaphorically keeps me up at night" (although, more literally, "I fall asleep within 11 seconds of my head hitting the pillow," she says). Throughout March specifically, which is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Couric is struck by the question, as she thinks about the loss of her first husband, Jay Monahan, to that very disease.
"I did have, this morning, a dream that I saw my late husband. And that doesn't happen very often," the co-founder of Katie Couric Media says in early March. "But I'm here at the Cologuard Classic, I'm talking to a lot of colon cancer activists and advocates. And you know, Jay has been on my mind."
The loss of Monahan, who is father to her two daughters Ellie and Carrie, was one that Couric dealt with publicly, as she was hosting the Today show when he died in 1998. Rather than it plaguing her life and her career, she's made awareness of colorectal cancer a mission that drives her platform to this day, as "people are still being diagnosed and dying of this disease, which is so preventable," she says. Most importantly, she's changed lives by discussing methods of detection and prevention — recently including her own.
"Having lost both my husband and my sister, Emily [Couric] — Emily to pancreatic cancer, Jay to colorectal cancer — it gave me a lot of perspective when I was diagnosed with breast cancer," she says. "Because early detection saved my life."
Couric made history in 2000 when she had her own colonoscopy live on the Today show, which she says led to a 20% increase in colonoscopies at the time. Following the death of her sister in 2001, Couric has worked to bring awareness to the latest technology and resources available to patients with pancreatic cancer, which is one of the hardest to detect early on.
In 2022, Couric discovered that she was overdue for a mammogram. That test led to her breast cancer diagnosis.
"I was diagnosed with stage 1A breast cancer, which is not only treatable and curable," she says, "but I know so much about cancer, I felt a huge amount of relief that my breast cancer was detected early because that's everything when it comes to your prognosis."
Couric announced her diagnosis and treatment updates in Sept. 2022, crediting her positive-mindset response to the tragic deaths of her loved ones.
"I feel very, very lucky and very blessed. And I think having that knowledge, and having gone through those experiences, helped me process the fact that I too had been diagnosed with this disease," she says.
She clarifies that her diagnosis was "a very, very different situation" from those that her husband and sister faced. Ultimately, it's kept her laser-focused on her health as she gets older.
"I'm really focused on doing weight-bearing exercises, I'm really focused on keeping my bones healthy, I'm really focused on staying active and I'm really focused on staying engaged with the world," she says, noting that her appearance as she ages is of little to no concern. "I think the best anti-aging tool is really staying interested, having endless curiosity about the world around you. Wanting to learn something every day, wanting to meet new people. That, to me, is what being alive is all about."
It's what she's done through her decade-spanning career, and has been the "key to aging well," she says. "And we're not talking about lifespan as much as health span, because people are living longer, but they want their quality of life to be really good. I think because I have those qualities, I feel really good. I feel about 35."
And although she hasn't gotten answers to every last one of her questions through the years, she recognizes that some, like those about life and death, are ultimately unanswerable. "That's where I guess faith comes in," she says.
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