Honoring Late Loved Ones
- Journalist Katie Couric just shared her tearjerker speech from her daughter Ellie’s 4th of July wedding in Port Jervis, New York.
- Ellie’s father—Couric’s late husband Jay Monahan—was not there to walk his little girl down the aisle. He died from colon cancer in 1998 at just 42 years old.
- Knowing your family history of cancer is crucial, and also sharing the information with your medical team so that you can get screened earlier and stay ahead of a potential diagnosis.
Ellie Monahan, 29, married fiancé Mark Dobrosky on the 4th of July on the picturesque mountaintop of Cedar Lakes Estate in Port Jervis, New York. Sadly, Ellie’s father—Couric’s late husband Jay Monahan—was not there to walk his little girl down the aisle. He died from colon cancer in 1998 at just 42 years old.Read More
“I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you that for many years I’d been dreading this day — because of the people who are not here,” Couric began in her speech, which she posted in full on her personal website, then shared memories of Ellie from over the years. Toward the end of the speech, she circled back to Monahan, the “father of the bride.”
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“Jay would be so proud of you both and so thrilled that Ellie married a lacrosse player. And a terrific guy,” Couric said. “When Jay was in the throes of cancer and it seemed as if the end of his life might be near, he looked at me and said, ‘You know, nothing really matters except your friends and family.’ When everything else was stripped away, Jay understood what was essential to a meaningful life.”
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“Ellie, he would be beaming to witness the woman you’ve become… and somehow, some way, I hope he is,” she added, then shared a quote from one of Ellie’s favorite singers, Kacey Musgraves. “‘Hold tight to your umbrella, cause darling I’m just trying to tell you that there’s always been a rainbow hanging over your head,'” she said, then spoke directly to the new Mr. and Mrs., “Hold tight to your umbrella, and to each other.”
Couric wasn’t the only one to honor Monahan at the festive event. Ellie Monahan also made sure her late father was a part of her special day.
Ellie chose to walk down the aisle by herself to the “Ashokan Farewell,” by composer Jay Ungar.
“Jay Monahan loved that song, which was used in Ken Burn’s series on the Civil War, so it was a way to honor him,” Couric shared. “Yes, I cried the whole time,” she added. “Most of the people there did.”
Despite the emotional moments, there were plenty of fun-filled activities to keep the mood fun and light, like the ’80s themed night before the wedding where the bride-to-be dressed up like Madonna from her iconic MTV VMA’s performance to Like A Virgin in 1984.
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Jay’s Cancer Battle
Couric, who has found love again with her current husband, financier John Molner, honors her late husband by dedicating most of her life to raising awareness for colorectal cancer. Monahan was just 41 when he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, and he passed the following year. The couple married in 1989.
Couric spoke to CureToday.com in 2019 about her tragic loss.
“Our daughters were 6 and 2 at the time, and it’s really hard to describe the kind of heartbreak that ensued after he passed away,” she said. “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.”
Tragically, the cancer had spread to his liver, which is why Monahan declined so quickly. Couric addressed having to start over and pushing forward.
“I think that it’s hard to describe for people what it’s like unless you’ve been there, and you have to rebuild your life,” she shared. “Thomas Jefferson once said that the earth is for the living and we’re all terminal. So I wanted to try to have a full and happy life, even if it meant doing so without my husband. I had two little girls who were depending on me. 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.”
Learning About Colon Cancer
One of the most common signs of colon cancer is a change in bowel habits. This ranges from constipation or diarrhea to changes in the size or shape of bowel movements. A change in stool color, particularly black or tarry stools, can indicate bleeding from a tumor that lies deep in the colon.
Dr. Paul Oberstein from NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center goes over symptoms of colon cancer in a previous interview with SurvivorNet.
“One of the most important facts about colon cancer is that the earlier and smaller it’s detected, the easier the treatment is and the more likely it is to be cured,” Dr. Oberstein explains. “Because colon cancers grow in the lining of the colon, they sometimes can cause problems with digestion. So someone may have constipation or diarrhea or problems going to the bathroom. Sometimes, they’ll cause pain if they’re growing large. Rarely, they can grow large enough to be felt as sort of a firm growth in the abdomen, but that’s uncommon.”
Other symptoms can be harder to pinpoint, such as abdominal pain and unintentional weight loss. Finally, some tumors bleed a small amount over a long period of time, resulting in anemia (low red blood cell count) that is detected on blood work.
“Imagine a wound on the surface of the skin,” Dr. Oberstein says. “It can bleed a little bit and ooze blood. And if that happens, one person– a person might see what’s called black tarry stools. So they might see darkness in their bowel movements. And that’s a sign of bleeding in the stool that’s caused by the cancer.”
If a person has significant bleeding, they can develop what’s called anemia, which is low blood counts, and be tired or have trouble with normal activities because of those blood counts.
“We often recommend to patients that if they see a change in their bowel movements and they feel more fatigued than usual, or they have new issues, it’s something to be concerned about and to be pursued with their physician.”