Katie’s heartfelt letter, in which she revealed her breast cancer diagnosis, was published last week. A small tumor the size of an olive was discovered following a long-delayed mammogram scheduled for the summer of 2022.

Katie was fortunate to discover her illness early, and she received a lumpectomy and radiation treatment right away. Katie, a longtime advocate of cancer research and awareness, is now inspired to share her story.

To that end, she is dedicating Breast Cancer Awareness Month to providing information about her diagnosis, treatment, and overall experience.

In this extremely personal episode of her podcast Next Question, Katie highlights the importance of proper cancer screenings. She also encourages listeners to arrange frequent doctor’s appointments.

Katie also emphasizes the increased risk for patients with dense breasts; roughly half of all American women have dense breasts, which can limit the likelihood of abnormalities being discovered by mammography.

Katie maintains open lines of communication with her medical personnel. She meets with the surgical breast oncologist and chief of breast surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center to review the methods for diagnosis and treatment. Lisa Newman, MD, and Susan Drossman, MD, are interventional breast radiologists.

Katie also includes unedited recordings she recorded while undergoing treatment, providing readers with a real peek into her experience.

Katie’s two children, Ellie and Carrie Monahan, relate intimate experiences of their emotional reactions to their mother’s illness in this episode. Katie also speaks with Michele Young, a breast cancer survivor, on the push to change Ohio’s breast cancer screening criteria.

Listen to the complete podcast or read the highlights from the conversations below.

“She constantly calls and texts me. I used to be pretty unresponsive to her in the past, especially while I was in college. She does, however, frequently call or FaceTime without notice these days. Throughout the day, we communicate regularly.

When I awoke in the morning, I had missed a phone call. Please contact me, she begged.

She frequently behaves in this manner. It could be for a completely unrelated and insignificant purpose. I remember having just awoken. She called me on FaceTime. It scared me. She reassured me that everything was fine. She did that, I assume, to introduce it.”

“Mammography had revealed anything. I was devastated when I learned I had cancer.”

“I was worried. But I believe she realized straight away that she had access to wonderful medical personnel, that it was early, and that she would probably be alright.”

She informed me that a trip she and I had planned would be canceled due to the date of the procedure. “Don’t tell Ellie because I’ll tell her,” she added.

In the midst of a hectic summer, Ellie Monahan grappled with her mother’s prediction that she was somewhat different from Carrie. “I’ve always been anxious, and my mother and I are in constant communication.”

“I only learned to let it go in the last several years. She was always on my speed dial, and we still talk on a regular basis. It used to happen every day, but now it just happens once in a while. That’s fine with me because I’m married and 31 years old.”

“We hadn’t talked much since I had three weddings and had to go back and forth from L.A., where I live, to the East coast, where these weddings were. I took a redeye journey to New Jersey to attend my husband’s cousin’s wedding. I was already emotionally tired from the day Roe v. Wade was overturned.

That day, I finally got in touch with her. She informed me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage.

Ellie explores her family’s tragic cancer history.
Ellie explores her family’s tragic cancer history.
“A few trigger words were used. Hearing “radiation” was difficult. I was terrified just thinking about chemotherapy and my mother losing her hair.”

“Our father [Jay Monahan] was diagnosed with stage four cancer in 1997. It was reassuring to realize that my mother’s condition was considerably further advanced. Our mother is tremendously resilient and has excellent medical connections as a result of her work with Stand Up to Cancer and the cancer community.”

“I was aware that she had outstanding doctors and that further information would be provided as soon as it became available. She took it so calmly. That was a huge source of comfort after the initial shock of hearing the C word. She appeared to be watching over us, which was quite thoughtful of her at the time. That is a motherly move.”

“My mind, I believe, was incapable of imagining that she might not be okay. I simply couldn’t go there after our father died. I didn’t know where I was.”

Carrie discusses the death of her father.

“I don’t remember it.”  I believe it made the experience much more terrible for her. Ellie recently told me about how she was terrified when she saw a mannequin head wearing one of our father’s wigs.

Dr. Drossman remembers thinking to himself, “Oh my goodness, how am I going to tell Katie this?” 

“That’s what I always say when I have to tell someone bad news. Always a challenge. It’s challenging for me every time.”

“Do you have a few minutes to talk?” I apparently asked Katie. “When I’m concerned about anything, I let people know that I’m about to call and that the news might not be good. I try not to catch them off guard.”

“I believe I indicated it was a little breast cancer. It is entirely treatable, but we need a plan.”