This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Katie Couric’s late husband Jay Monahan’s death from colon cancer. In an intimate exchange with Arianna Huffington on the Thrive Global Podcast, in partnership with iHeartRadio and Sleep Number, the Stand Up To Cancer co-founder, New York Times best-selling author, and founder of Katie Couric Media reveals how she sustained herself during the tragic year Monahan received his diagnosis, and the year after, when he died at 42. Their daughters Ellie, now 27, and Carrie, 22, were only five and one at the time. “It’s not like you can say, ‘I’m not going to deal with this.’ You just have to deal with it,” Couric tells the Thrive Global Founder and CEO.

Couric also turns a critical eye on our cultural subterfuge around death: “I don’t like it when people say ‘passed away.’ I think they should just say ‘died’ because it’s such a euphemism. As a society, we have so much trouble with the ‘D word.’” Couric breaks down how she — and you — can thrive even through the hardest parts of your life.

Stay busy and informed

Couric tells Huffington that her lifeline during those dark days was her work: “I think continuing to do the ‘TODAY’ show was really like a refuge for me. I dealt with it the best way I knew how, which was to become a reporter and try and find the best treatments for Jay.” With top tier experts at the National Cancer Institute and pharmaceutical companies at her disposal, she says she “went into hyperdrive ‘do something’ mode.”

Make yourself useful

Couric, the first woman in television history to sit solo on an evening newscast (on CBS from 2006 to 2011), confesses to Huffington that she felt that the rarified world she inhabits — one with access to the best medical treatment money can buy —  would protect her from loss. “But cancer doesn’t discriminate,” Couric says. “One in three women will be diagnosed in their lifetime.” Her can-do mentality made confronting cancer especially difficult. “I think one of the worst feelings is how powerless you are,” she says. To ease her sense of helplessness, she used her platform to raise awareness about cancer, from her live colonoscopy on “TODAY” to co-founding Stand Up To Cancer, which has raised over $550 million for cancer research. “I was able to educate the public about colon cancer screening and have the number of colonoscopies increase by 40 percent, which translates to a lot of lives saved.”

Couric continues to amplify her cause, convincing late night host Jimmy Kimmel to air his colonoscopy on his show earlier this year. “I think that to counter that powerlessness I felt when Jay was sick, I think I’ve tried to do things so I could make a difference, if not in Jay’s life, then in the lives of other people,” she says.

To find out more, listen to the full conversation on iHeartRadio, here. You can also listen to the Thrive Global podcast internationally for free on iTunes.

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  • Stephanie Fairyington

    Contributing Writer at Thrive

    Stephanie Fairyington is a contributing writer at Thrive. A New York-based journalist, her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic (online), The New Republic (online), The Boston Globe, and several other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her spouse Sabrina and daughter Marty.