The Tragic Death Of Katie Couric's First Husband

In 1998, Katie Couric's husband Jay Monahan died from colon cancer at age 42, according to People. Couric reflected on that time during a 2003 HealthDay interview, sharing, "My husband found out he had colon cancer when he was basically doubled over with pain in his abdomen. We went to the hospital and learned his colon was almost completely blocked by a tumor." She elaborated, "Jay never really had any symptoms of colon cancer, other than being tired all of the time," which they assumed was because of their "busy lifestyle." The diagnosis was especially surprising since Monahan didn't have a family history of cancer.

Couric told HealthDay, "My first thoughts when I heard the doctor's diagnosis were, I think, the same as most people — stunned disbelief." The Today host added that one the news finally sunk in, she jumped into action learning everything she could possibly learn about colon cancer and how to treat it. Although Couric immersed herself in learning, she didn't have much time to apply her findings, telling Cure in 2019, "Our hopes and dreams, what I thought was going to be a long and happy life together, just vanished into thin air after his nine-month battle." After her husband passed away, Couric used her family's experiences and platform as a public figure to become an advocate for cancer research and awareness.

She had a tough time as a caregiver

In an August 2019 Cure interview, Katie Couric described being a caregiver to her late husband Jay Monahan as "incredibly challenging, difficult, painful and traumatic." She described every day as "a challenge." Even though she wasn't the one who was terminally ill, the stress of that time period physically manifested in her body. She experienced back pain and sleep issues, and a therapist eventually prescribed her antidepressants for "situational depression."

She explained, "The new normal while Jay was sick was that my entire focus was on him. I remember I was still on the Today show, and those two hours just felt like such a helpful escape because those were two hours in the day where I wasn't focused on him, how he was doing, if he was going to get better, were there more treatments I didn't know about, was there a clinical trial going on that he could enroll in." As "overwhelming" as it all was, Couric added that it was ultimately okay, "because that's how I wanted it to be."

In 2018, the Today host told People, "I had never had something horrible happen to me before. Jay used to say I was born on a sunny day, and suddenly I wasn't." Though it was incredibly difficult to go through the loss of her husband, Couric remarked, "It made me understand how important it is to say things in the here and now and not wait."

She channeled her experience into something positive

Katie Couric recalled, "I didn't have the luxury or the time to put the covers over my head and give up. I think people find a way to go on because they have to go on. They have no choice but to go on," during her Cure interview in 2019. She also promised to make sure that her daughters get screenings at the doctor's office, in addition to practicing what she preaches by getting a colonoscopy herself during a live segment for Today in 2000. In May 2018, Couric told People that her husband's passing had given her a "higher sense of purpose" that has motivated her to "take this unimaginable pain and loss and try to do something positive with it."

She even took Jimmy Kimmel to get his first colonoscopy after he turned 50. Couric explained to People that she has been trying to honor Jay Monahan's legacy. She said, "If I can, through what happened, help people live longer, happier lives, and pay it forward in some ways, it doesn't make the loss of Jay go away, but it makes me feel like I've at least done something good in the world." Couric also co-founded Stand Up to Cancer, which raises money and awareness to benefit cancer patients and their caregivers. 

Monahan's passing was very difficult for Couric and her family, but she has used her experiences to help countless other people in similar circumstances.