Katie Couric has been a journalist for over 30 years. In that time, no story has been as personal as her husband’s colorectal cancer diagnosis and death in 1998. The loss of her husband, Jay Monahan, as well as her sister, Emily, to pancreatic cancer in 2001, inspired the Yahoo! Global Anchor, to become the passionate advocate for cancer research she still is today.

“I just knew I had to take my grief, anger and the sense of powerlessness I experienced,” she says, “And channel it so something positive could come out of these terrible losses.”

Giving hope a name

Couric co-founded Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA) along with the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) and Lilly Tartikoff. In her husband’s honor, she also co-founded the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health.

“When Jay was diagnosed 18 years ago, the first-line treatment was the same drug that had been used since the 1950s,” recalls Couric, who is finds the advancements in science, medicine and technology encouraging for future care.

“I just knew I had to take my grief, anger and the sense of powerlessness I experienced and channel it so something positive could come out of these terrible losses."

“Lives are being saved and people are living longer, with better quality of life, because of the discoveries that are being made in the lab and developed into new therapies for patients,” she says, noting 89 percent of women with breast cancer are still living five years after their diagnosis because of early diagnosis and effective treatment.

“Helping cancer researchers do what they do best is the most important thing I can do to spare other families the pain of losing someone they love to cancer.”

Early detection

For a variety of reasons, including fear, lack of education or resources, not enough people are taking advantage of cancer screenings.

Couric urges for this to change, citing the range of early detection screenings like colonoscopies, mammograms and regular dermatology exams.

“You really have to take the initiative to ask about what screenings you ought to have and how to get them,” she says, encouraging everyone to be aware of risk factors like smoking.

Breakthroughs

Couric’s work with SU2C has raised $280 million to speed up groundbreaking cancer research, which can get therapies to patients fast.

“We are on the threshold of so many breakthroughs—and when scientists tell me they predict we may eradicate or at least manage many cancers in my lifetime, I believe them,” she says. “Everyone can help.  They deserve our respect and support because they won’t be able to do it without us.”