'The Prognosis Was Really Bleak': Katie Couric Recalls How Her Husband Died of Colon Cancer

Pedro Marrero
Mar 22, 2019
03:11 A.M.

It’s been more than 21 years since the journalist lost her first husband Jay Monahan to colon cancer, and even when Couric rebuilt her life and found love again, the memory of this event has shaped her.


January 21, 2019, marked the 21st anniversary of the passing of Jay Monahan, Katie Couric’s first husband and the father of her two daughters. He was an accomplished lawyer whose life was claimed by colon cancer at 42.

On March, the 62-year-old former “Today” co-host visited the show once again and she opened up about Monahan’s death in an effort to raise awareness on the importance of an early diagnosis to improve chances of surviving the illness.



March is Colon Cancer Awareness month, co-host Craig Melvin reminded during the introduction to the segment, with Couric and Dr. Charles Fuchs, her colleague in Stand Up to Cancer.

“We have to keep getting the word out about how this disease is so preventable, and that families don’t have to have the experience either of us has had,” Couric told Melvin, who revealed that his family has been impacted by the disease.

“He had a tumor the size of an orange blocking his colon, by the time he was diagnosed the prognosis was really bleak. I was desperately, frantic, to find something that would, if not cure Jay, would manage the disease. And there just wasn’t,” Couric recalled.



While both Couric and Dr. Fuchs stressed out the importance of being aware of the symptoms of colon cancer, the physician insisted on the fact that when symptoms appear it might be too late, and he recommended an early screening.

“When Jay was diagnosed he was just 41 years old and at that point screening was at 50. He always had a sore stomach, he was very tired, and we had two little girls, and he was working hard, I was working hard. I wish I had been more aware of the symptoms. He didn’t have a primary care physician.”

-Katie Couric, Today, March 18, 2019.

Couric wished she knew everything she knows now about colon cancer back when Monahan was still alive, and she is still determined to be an advocate for early screenings, campaigning for the destigmatizaton of colonoscopies.


“Kelly is a champion who’s made a difference in screening. When in 2000 only 20% of the people who should get a colonoscopy got it, ten years later, because of Katie, it’s 60%,” acknowledged Fuchs.

Melvin went on to recognize the positive impact of Couric’s campaign, which included submitting herself to a colonoscopy in front of the TV cameras to “demystify the procedure.”



Couric’s late first husband was a lawyer who, among other things, served as legal analyst for NBC News, covering high profile cases such as the O.J. Simpson and the “Unabomber” trials.

Before his early death, Monahan fathered daughters Elinor and Caroline with Couric. The children were 6 and 2 by the time he died after nine months struggling with the disease.

In January 2018, Couric took to her Instagram to post a tribute to Monahan on the 20th anniversary of his passing. She has been committed to fight this disease that claims so many lives since the moment it hit

her former husband.



She eventually moved on and in 2012 she met John Molner in whom she found a life companion. The two married in 2014 in a private ceremony held at her Hamptons’ home.

The television star admitted that it wasn’t easy to love again following the death of her first husband, but she is happy that Molner won her heart and for the two to get the chance of spending the rest of their lives together.


An unknown fact that Couric has recently revealed is that before Molner and her got together she had a blind date with 2020 presidential hopeful Cory Booker, but it didn’t go any further than that.

She made the revelation to TV host Wendy Williams, sharing that the two went to a Giants football game. Although they didn’t get to kiss on that only date, Couric remembers him as “an incredible person.”

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