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October 13, 2022 48 mins

We all know—or think we know—the wonderful journalist, news anchor, and bestselling author, Katie Couric. But behind and beyond her camera-ready exterior is the interior world of a very real individual— a daughter, sister, wife, and mother navigating the complexities of a public life.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Family Secrets is a production of I Heart Radio. The pressure,
the dread were constant. Sometimes when the Today Show was over,
I'd collapse on the floor of the bathroom in my office,
Bomas cigarette from my hairdresser and sob ridiculous. I know
my husband has cancer and I'm smoking, but that's how

(00:21):
completely undone I was. I keep it together for the show,
the only two hours of my day when I wasn't
obsessing over j spate, and then at nine oh two am,
I'd fall apart. You're probably thinking that voice sounds familiar,
because that's Katie Couric, journalist, news anchor and most recently,

(00:45):
author of the number one New York Times bestselling memoir
Going There. Sometimes when someone is very well known, we think, well,
we think we know them. But if there's one thing
that hosting this show has taught me, it's that we
all have secret in our lives, every single one of us.
Katie's is a story of grit, resilience, and grace, even

(01:08):
while living under the microscope that is fame. I'm Danny Shapiro,
and this is family Secrets. The secrets that are kept
from us, the secrets we keep from others, and the

(01:29):
secrets we keep from ourselves. So described for me the
landscape of your childhood, Well, it's a very beautiful landscape.
And sometimes I feel guilty. As I've gotten older and
met more people, Danny, I realized that so many of

(01:53):
us don't have the kind of loving family I had.
I had really pretty typical in middle class nuclear family
raising kids in the fifties and sixties and early seventies.
My parents. My mom was a stay at home mom,

(02:14):
which I think resulted in some frustration for her. My
dad was a newspaperman who then went into public relations
because I think it was hard to support a family
of four as a single breadwinner as a print reporter.
And I'm the youngest of four, so that very much

(02:34):
informed the person I became. I was sort of the entertainer,
the cut up, you know, the one that would be
performing for my sisters, gentlemen callers. I was the one
cracking jokes at the dinner table. My mom would always
laugh and my father would say eleanor don't encourage her.
My parents were ambitious for us, but not helicopter parents.

(03:00):
They wanted us to do well. Education was really emphasized
in my family. It was very important for us to
go to a good college and do well academically. I
did less well than my siblings because I think as
the last kid, I sort of had more finely tuned
emotional intelligence and kind of could get away with being

(03:23):
charming and funny and sweet talking my teachers. It was
a really happy childhood. No big traumas grandparents died as
grandparents do. Um, some sickness and my parents, but much
later in life I would say, from the age of
zero to forty, I was very blessed. My husband Jay,

(03:47):
my late husband, used to say, I was born on
a sunny day and a lot of things really went
my way for the most part. I grew up in Arlington, Virginia,
in a suburb just outside Washington, d C. It was
teaming with kids riding their bikes, playing street baseball, Capture
the flag, crab apple fights. Um, you know, just very idyllic,

(04:11):
you know, playing red rover, red rover and red light
green light, catching lightning bugs at night. It almost sounds
like a Norman Rockwell painting as I talk of it now,
I've never heard of crab apple fights. Well, you know,
we had them little We just throw them at our neighbors,
and especially at the boys. As Katie grows up in

(04:35):
this idyllic atmosphere, she learns that sweet talking her teachers
will only get her so far academically. When she's a
junior in high school, she buckles down, commits to her
school work, and gets straight a's. It's an important year
for colleges, and she has her heart set on attending
Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. I got rejected, not even

(04:57):
weight listed, for crying out loud, and was particularly painful
because my sisters had both gone there. My sister Emily
was five Beta Kappa and Sigma Si, which was a
science honorary society that I had never heard of. My
sister Kiki also did really well there, went on to
Harvard Graduate School. She got her master's and landscape architect

(05:20):
at the Harvard School of Design. And um, Yeah, it
was really embarrassing and mortifying that I just got rejected,
full stop. When I looked back on it, Danny, there
were other moments when I was disappointed, but they sound
so silly in hindsight, you know. I remember, I think

(05:40):
it was in junior high and the cheerleading team. I
remember this so vividly, was time for the cheerly need
squad to pick the captain and co captain. And I
was one of the one of two girls who had
been accepted to be a cheerleader in eighth grade. Most
to them were ninth grade. I walked in and I heard,

(06:04):
you know, there was a lot of whispering, and of
course I wanted to be captain. Hello, And the gym teacher,
Mrs Beats, who was in charge of the cheerleader said
that she was going to pick the captain and co captain,
which really just was an affront to my democratic principles.
You know that the gym teacher is not supposed to

(06:26):
pick the captain and co captain. I was beside myself.
I was so upset. I came home. I was both
furious and just terribly upset, and I remember thinking, that
is so unfair, Like the teacher isn't allowed to do this.
This is a democratic process. The cheerleaders are supposed to

(06:50):
pick the captain and co captain. Isn't that funny? And
that was a big upsetting event in my life, but
in retrospect probably really important because you know what they
say about you have to learn how to deal with disappointment.
You have to learn that life is not fair. You
have to learn to say, Okay, well that happened. I've

(07:10):
got to move on, and I did, despite its sting.
Katie bounces back from the cheerleading incident and continues to
be involved at school in extracurriculars and keeping her head up.
She's popular and well liked, but when she receives that
thin envelope from Smith rejecting her, the news is catastrophic

(07:31):
for her and opens a fault line that she hadn't
known was there. She becomes bulimic. I was bulimick for
probably a total of on and off for maybe six
or seven years in my sort of late teens to
my mid to late twenties. But it was very sporadic.

(07:52):
Sometimes I would do it, you know, several times a week,
even a few times a day. Sometime I wouldn't do
it at all. So it was very off and on,
and I think, gosh, what was that about. I think
it was about not measuring up, about not meeting expectations,

(08:14):
about being less than not being perfect, um probably feeling
guilty that I hadn't applied myself more not following in
my sister's footsteps. I think that's what it was about,
and then punishing myself and being angry at myself for

(08:35):
all the things that I didn't do versus being happy
about everything I did to right now, that makes a
lot of sense, and you know so much about attempting
to control the universe and oneself. I think I also had,
you know, really bad body image. You know, I was
a very scrawny, skinny kid. I remember like I weighed

(08:58):
forty five pounds when I was in fourth grade. You know,
It's little and wiry, very athletic. And then I really
hated going through puberty. You know, I've been a really
fast runner in elementary school. They used to pull me
out of fourth grade to run against the sixth grade boys,
and I was so proud of that. When I reached puberty,
I felt like my body was betrayed me in a way.

(09:21):
I wasn't as fast. I was more curvy, which I
didn't like. I didn't really love, you know, having breasts.
And I grew up in a family where diet culture
was really strong, where my sisters were always on a
diet and my mom was always on a diet, and
there was always tab and fresca and cottage cheese around

(09:44):
was really during that era, And so I think that
because I wasn't super thin or tall and willowy, I
also felt very bad about myself and my appearance. You know,
I was a little more true. I was kind of
your classic mes amorph no muscular, but not super thin

(10:05):
and not tall. I was probably five two or three.
I'm now barely five four. So I think I was
also responding to this cultural pressure and societal pressure to
look a certain way, you know, to look like Twiggy
or look like the models in seventeen magazine, which I
did not. Did anybody know that you were going through

(10:26):
this during those years? Not really. My mom certainly didn't.
She would have been just so upset, you know, because
it's so phys physically damaging. I remember mentioning it to
my sister, my oldest sister, at one point, and her
confiding to me that she had at times been blimic,

(10:47):
which I thought was super interesting that, you know, there
they think there might be some genetic predisposition to eating
disorders that are then exacerbated by iron Man. But no,
it was pretty secretive a very small group of people.
If anyone knew about it, it was shrouded in shame

(11:08):
and secrecy and self loathing. Where their secrecy their shame,
Where their secrecy, there's silence. This toxic trio. Secrecy, shame,
silence form a vicious cycle, one that is very hard
to break. Of course, Katie doesn't want to talk about it,

(11:30):
and when one roommate confronts her about her bolimia, she
quickly moves out. But then she is shaken to the
core by the tragic death of Karen Carpenter, a singer
songwriter beloved by a whole generation who died as a
result of her anorexia at the age of thirty two.
I mean, I think it was a whole confluence of things.

(11:52):
I think that that was very shocking when Karen Carpenter died.
You know, that was sort of the music my middle
school years. And I think the fact that this could
actually kill you, I mean, she was antarextic versus bliemic um,
and maybe she was both. I was just believe it.

(12:14):
But it really was crushing when Karen Carpenter died, and
I thought, holy smokes, you can actually die from doing this.
And I think it just kind of shook me to
my core. And I thought I'm not gonna do this anymore.
I never wanted to do it. Like you, It's almost
like you're so restricted in your diet then you do

(12:37):
something that's quote unquote bad. You know, it's really weird
how we ascribe moral judgments to food. You know, I
was really bad today. I was really good today. And
I think once I would set up these impossible you know,
I'm only going to eat an apple and a coffee
yogurt today, you know, and I'm going to try to

(12:59):
jump hope and one of those suits that makes you sweat.
Then if I ate almost I got to the point
where I had a piece of gum that wasn't sugarless.
I'd say, I blew it. I blew it. I'm a
terrible person. Well, I'm gonna have to start tomorrow. I'm
going to eat everything I can, and then I'd feel
guilty and then I throw it up. I mean, it
was just that kind of cycle. And that cycle is

(13:22):
happening during a period of time where you go to
college and you start your career. It's like it's during
a period of time where in the outside world you're
beginning to you know, find your footing and succeed and
I think it's true of so many people, I mean
maybe all people in some way, that there's this kind

(13:43):
of at times in our lives, this kind of shadow
life that's going on, that is the other side of
what people see. Appearances can be deceiving. Yeah, I mean
it was an exciting time for me, but I was
it was always this kind of little thing on my shoulder.
Oh what are you going to eat today? Oh, you

(14:03):
had two cups of instant hot chocolate when you were
at ABC News, when you were working the overnights. You're
terrible person. But it's terrible, Like why why do we
do this to ourselves? I just don't know. How can
we have a healthier relationship with food? Because I enjoy food,

(14:25):
you know, I enjoy eating. I love trying new restaurants,
and I like the social aspect of eating. But it's
never it's always accompanied by guilt or shame or the
judgment that I have no discipline or I shouldn't have
eaten that. Throughout this period of time, Katie's dating. She's

(14:49):
a young journalist on the rise, and though her career
has come first, she reaches a point at which she
wants to find a partner a real partner. I had
dated a out in my twenties, all sorts of different people,
but I had never gotten serious because I knew that
my job required me to move to different markets, and
I never wanted to put down roots, say in Miami,

(15:12):
where I dated a policeman, which was kind of a
fun different experience for me, one that my mom did
not approve of at all, to you know, going out
in Atlanta with the TV director and then an artist
who lived in the apartment below me. But I felt
like I wanted to find a partner, and so I'm

(15:32):
very intentional about most things in my life. When I
want something, I figure out how I'm going to get it.
And I was invited to a party and it was
full of like young twenty very young girls in their
early twenties, some even college dudents. Because I figured I
was going to meet some interesting people, especially some young professionals,

(15:54):
and I remember meeting Jay. We started talking and I
was immediately attracted to him. We just sort of started
this kind of fun conversation. I said I was the
oldest person at the party. He said, I doubt it.
And we showed each other our driver's license, and indeed
He was a year older than I, but we were

(16:15):
born two days apart. I was January seven, he was
January nine. Anyway, I just found him fun and funny
and intriguing and nice, and um, I asked him out
on our first date. I had his business card. I
called him. He hadn't called me for a few days,
and I said, I thought you were going to call me,
and he said, well, apparently I didn't have to. And
I thought, oh, what a cocky son of a bitch. Okay,

(16:38):
So we ended up having dinner at a Thai restaurant,
and you know, he was sort of I told him
pretty early on in our relationship he was everything I
was looking for in a partner. He was very smart,
He was dedicated and devoted to his family. He was
one of seven kids. He was kind of the go

(16:58):
to and his family. He was, you know, problem solver.
He was funny, he was charming. He had this kind
of old world elegance about him. He lived in a
basement apartment in Georgetown, but somehow it was just beautifully decorated.
You know, he had nice antiques and he just had
a real sense of style and very good taste, and

(17:21):
that appealed to me a lot. But of course the
most appealing thing was he was just really a kind person,
fun to be around, intellectually stimulating. We talked about leon
Uris's Trinity and he gave me sort of the history
of Northern Ireland over lunch, and I was thinking, oh wow,

(17:41):
this is this guy is intense and serious. I really
fell head over heels for him, and you know, he
was on the partner track at his law firm. Not
long after that seminal time meal, Katie and Jay get
together and get married. As Jay is advancing in his
law career, Katie is doing the same in her career

(18:03):
as a television journalist. She's dedicated to her work, she's
good at it, and she's solidifying her goals for the future.
I definitely saw myself as sort of the quintessential a
woman who wanted to quote unquote have it all, but
who wanted to, you know, have a fulfilling career. I

(18:24):
think because my mom didn't, and I think my goal
when I was a local news reporter in Miami, I
used to say, I want to be a network correspondent
by the time I'm thirty, and so I had a
very concrete goal that was my aspiration. So I saw
us as a two career couple. Maybe I'd be a
national correspondent working at NBC in Washington or one of

(18:48):
the networks, or covering Capitol Hill or the White House.
I just thought that I would be doing something that
was exciting and interesting and lucrative professionally. You know, my dad.
I remember I could have gone into radio, and I
actually tried to get a job at the Washington Post.
But then I started thinking, well, why not do television.

(19:10):
You make a lot more money, and you know, if
my face didn't stop the clock, maybe I could give
it a try. Yeah, you've got this great line in
your book, which is I smile big. I smile a lot.
Even my resting bitch face is a smile. Yeah that's true.
So it's true. I feel so unnatural and looks so

(19:31):
weird when I'm not smiling. We'll be right back. So
life is good for this young married couple, both building
their lives together and then quite literally building a life together.

(19:52):
They have their first child, a daughter, Ellie. I've just
gotten my job on the Today Show and I was
I think five months pregnant on my first day at
the Today's Show. So that's where I was when Ellie
was born, and it was you know, it was a
wonderful time because nobody likes a baby like the morning

(20:15):
show audience, right where everyone feels infested in your pregnancy
and excited and it's you know, it's a big milestone,
not only for you and your family, but in a
weird way for the audience, you know, where everything is
kind of a shared experience on morning television with all
these sort of para social relationships that are formed between

(20:36):
viewers and and the people who are on television, even
more so now because I never really talked about my
kids when I was on the Today Show. I tried
only at times when it seemed more natural, like showing
a photo of Carrie or Ellie when they were born,
or having them come in occasionally if Britney Spears was
performing or something like that. But um, this idea of

(21:00):
really really putting your kids out front was just not
done back then as much as it is now because
of social media and because you know, we live in
an oversharing culture, right. So anyway, it was a very
exciting time and everyone sort of celebrated Ellie's birth. It

(21:21):
was it was wonderful, But I went through a period
of time and I wanted to talk about this Danny,
because again, I think this is something people are ashamed
of and don't want to admit. I was really afraid
of hurting Ellie. I was afraid of dropping her, but
also kind of the feeling that you get some people
get when they're on a tall balcony and they think, oh,

(21:44):
I could just crawl over this railing and jump and
end it all, and you're not going to do it,
but you're scared that you could. I think some of
your listeners will think I'm out of my mind, and
others will say, I know exactly what you mean. And
so I think that translated into what if I like

(22:07):
Leevelly or I think it's this hyper vigilance you feel
as a parent. It's almost a primitive thing as a mother,
and it's almost like, gosh, you know, I have so
much responsibility. This tiny being depends on me for everything.
What if I fall short. I've never really thought of
it that way, and the sort of need to be

(22:29):
the you know, the good mother or the perfect mother.
So I struggled with that a little bit, but then
that went away. But I didn't really have anybody I
could talk to you about it. And I wanted other
mothers to say, oh, so this is normal. This is
sort of a form of postpartum depression, and um, I'm

(22:49):
not super weird having these scary thoughts, intrusive thoughts. During
this time, Katie is living in a kind of dual landscape.
On the one hand, she's more and more in the
public eye. On the other hand, she's experiencing the vulnerability

(23:09):
and newness of motherhood. And through the process of inhabiting
these two very different spheres, she's getting to know herself
in important ways. She enjoys, even embraces her new found fame.
But nothing is ever entirely wonderful. It's complicated. We worship
our celebrities in this culture, but we also don't see

(23:30):
them as quite human somehow, and Katie, Katie is human.
In fact, showing her humanness is her superpower. I think
because the Today's show showcased sort of my whole personality
and me and my sort of entirety, and it was working.

(23:51):
I thought, oh, this is good. You know, I can
do serious news, I can have fun I can be funny,
I can be compassionate, I can sort of show, the
multiple size of me. So I think in a way,
because I was getting so much positive feedback, it bolstered
my self confidence. And I think the only dichotomy between

(24:12):
my public life because I was very much myself on TV,
and I think that's what people responded to, was the
strain of having someone sort of just explode like a
rocket into the sky and everything that came with it,
you know, being on the cover of magazines, you know,

(24:32):
just that kind of weird stuff being written about and
and and of course at the beginning, it was all
very positive, you know, borderline fawning about me because I
was sort of a little bit of a new breed
of journalists on TV. I was normal looking, I was approachable,
I was very girl next door. I wasn't particularly glamorous

(24:56):
or unattainable. I was someone that people could really relate to.
And I think probably the private side was some of
the things that interfered with a normal life, and that is,
you know, being recognized, which is fine at first, and
then it just gets almost confusing, and it also creates,

(25:19):
I think, this weird imbalance in a relationship. I was
suddenly making so much money more than Jay and I
ever envisioned either would be making and that I think
can be quite destabilizing for a relationship. And back then,
in the early nineties, Danny, a woman making more than
her husband, believe it or not, was kind of an anomaly,

(25:41):
not so much anymore, but back then, the expectation was
that the man would always be the primary breadwinner, at least,
you know, generally make more money than the woman. And
so this was different. You know, both of us had
mothers that didn't really work, and suddenly I him like
bringing home the bacon and not so much the money,

(26:05):
but also the attention that that created when we were
out in the world. And the way people gravitate to
quote unquote, you know, public figures or fame or whatever
it is, hoping that that will kind of reflect back
at them. But the way well known people are treated

(26:26):
versus people who aren't necessarily in the public eye is
pretty extraordinary and pretty fucked up. So you would be,
for example, you know, at a party or at a reception,
and what would happen if the two of you were
out as a couple together. Well, I think too often
people would kind of ignore Jay. He was far more

(26:50):
intelligent and interesting, far more interesting than I, but they
would sort of give him a cursory hello, and then
they would turn back to me. And I think, by
the way wives of famous men probably feel this all
the time. People feel very diminished and it's gross the

(27:11):
way people react. But fame is a very strange thing,
and I think it makes people that crazy sometimes and
forget their manners. And then of course I would spend
my time worried that people were being attentive to Jay,

(27:32):
and then that would affect my level of enjoyment wherever
we were. It just made it hard. It's just one
of those things that couples have to grapple with both
that there's a big financial gap. You know, Jay was
doing well, but I was just making like silly money.
And I remember wanting to have a career because I

(27:54):
never wanted to be dependent on anyone else because the
power dynamic automatically changes, you know. I wanted an equal
voice in my marriage. I wanted to be able to
not be afraid. I didn't want to fear like someone
leaving me and being left high and dry. There's a
very good book called The Feminist Mistake by Leslie Bennett's

(28:15):
that had a big impact on me and and the
importance I think of women to be financially independent. So
it created some challenges in our marriage, and I think
it made Jay feel less then, which is the last
thing in the world I would ever want him to feel.

(28:36):
We'll be back in a moment with more family secrets.
Katie and Jay do their best to maintain the balance
in their relationship and family. They have another daughter. Katie's
career is skyrocketing. Then Jay becomes ill. He has cancer,

(28:56):
and the prognosis is grim. It becomes achingly clear that
no matter how much Katie researches Jay's cancer and identifies
experts and experimental treatments, he isn't going to survive this.
Katie is shocked and devastated by the news of Jay's illness,
and it becomes a twofold secret, a secret at home

(29:18):
and a secret on the air. Privately, neither she nor
Jay want the news to be true, so they avoid
talking about it, as if perhaps talking about it will
make it too real and publicly, well, this isn't something
she wants to share with the public, and why should she.
I felt it was so critically important to protect Jay's privacy.

(29:42):
You know, this was a family matter. This was something
that was really no one's business. And you know, I
shared a lot on the Today's Show, but this wasn't
mine to share. And as you can imagine, to go
from thinking you have a healthy husband too, and the

(30:03):
span of twenty four hours having a doctor say it's
very bleak, he's got colin cancer and it's all over
his liver. The prognosis is very bleak. Is is pretty astounding,
and you know it was it was something that that
I didn't want to share with the world. I mean,

(30:24):
the world ultimately found out during the course of his illness,
thanks to you know, find publications like the National Enquirer,
but I just you know, it wasn't it wasn't for
public consumption. And you know, my close friends obviously knew
all about it. People on the show knew all about

(30:45):
it and what was happening and what I was going through.
But I wasn't going to be I mean, I became
sort of Katie Kurk breathing widow because you know, you
can't basically keep a secret it that your husband died, right,
But during the course of his illness, it was just

(31:06):
nobody's business, and it was jay. It wasn't me. You know,
maybe if it's been me, you know, I would have
been more public like Robin Roberts was with her cancer.
But it wasn't my life and it wasn't my story
to tell. I think we all have our public personas
versus our private lives. And in a way, it was

(31:31):
a sanctuary to be on national television and to be
interviewing people about gosh, who knows what you know, the
events of the day, or doing a cooking segment, because
it required sort of my complete focus, and it's was
the only time of the day where I wasn't thinking

(31:53):
and worrying about Jay and trying to come up with
a cure for risk cancer and doing research and calling
pharmaceutical companies and universities and Israeli you know, pharmaceutical company,
and calling Bird Vogelstein who discovered the Ashkenazi eugene at
Johns Hopkins, and just anyone I could find. So for

(32:16):
those two hours, it was it was this escape from
this nightmare that we found ourselves in, and so it
was a relief to put on kind of my happy
face and to be this Really I felt like I
was an actor. I was taking on this role and

(32:37):
it felt surreal. It didn't feel like my life. And
then of course it was what was really happening behind
the scenes. We all have this dichotomy between who we
present ourselves or how we present ourselves, and what's really
going on inside. And I think that was just the

(32:59):
extreme case of that, where I was dying inside every
single day. But I wanted. I wanted to have some
kind of routine for my kids. I wanted to keep
my job because I didn't know what was going to
happen with Ja, and I wanted some escape from the

(33:20):
relentless anguish of dealing with the terminal illness. Of course,
the news does get out, as news tends to do.
Katie's with Jay at the hospital at one point and
a nurse points to the cover of a tabloid and says, look,
you're in the paper. The headline is Katie's private pain,

(33:42):
which is suddenly not so private, And the gossip isn't
just happening in magazines, It's happening in their community too,
among other families and acquaintances. I think a mother came
up to me on the sidewalk near Ellie and Carrie's
school and said, oh, you know, I heard. I heard
it's really bad, as if it's been the subject of

(34:06):
you know, after school gossip among the mobs, And it
just really infuriated me that someone was gossiping about my
husband and whether he was going to live or die.
It just seems so disgusting to me, And I just

(34:26):
remember feeling so infuriated at the idea that that Jay's
health was the subject of of their chatter as they were,
you know, having coffee in the morning after drop off. Yeah,
there's something sort of like carnivorous about it or something. Yeah,

(34:47):
that's a good word. The period of time that that
Jay was sick was how long? About nine months? Nine months.
During these nine months, the family spends a lot of
time together, particularly at their country house, which is a
happy place for Jay. At one point, Katie does have

(35:07):
to travel for work, though she's off to London to
cover the funeral of Princess Diana, a woman she had
met and admired. As Katie is there, reporting on the
scene that broke the whole world's heart of the two
young boys walking solemnly behind their mother's casket, Katie is stricken.
She's having a hard time holding it together. It was miserable.

(35:30):
And you know, that was sort of when the professional
and personal worlds collided. When you see the premature death
of a young, vibrant woman and her little boys walking
behind her casket with I think a little card that

(35:51):
said Mummy, I believe, and it just felt too real
and it was just extremely hard. Mean, it was so
such a sad time for so many people when Princess
Diana died, and a sad time for me because I
had met her and admired her. But it just reminded

(36:12):
me of what I was facing in the not too
distant future. Yeah, and what your girls were going to
be facing. Yeah, of course, of course. And you know,
whether a death is sudden or a death takes nine
months or a few years, you know, with some cancer diagnoses,
it's just so painful. And I think the process of

(36:36):
seeing someone slip away slowly. And you know, my husband
was so young and vibrant and so fun in the
life of the party, and such a good athlete, and
you know, had been a pilot in the Navy, and
he was just this living, exuberant person. And to see

(36:59):
what answer does to a healthy person, it's just it's
just devastating. It's devastating for the people who are witnessing it.
And of course, as Jay said, having cancer is the
loneliest experience in the world because I think, no matter what,
nobody really can understand what that feels like. Jay dies

(37:23):
at the age of forty two. Sometime after his death,
Katie finds a list he had made of all their
combined assets, a very meticulous and organized list about life, insurance,
and property and capital improvements. The list, Katie notices, is
dated three months before Jay died. He was trying to

(37:44):
put his affairs in order. He knew, so did she,
but they didn't talk about it. It's one of my
great regrets that we didn't say, you know, what are
your wishes, what are your hopes for the girls? How
can we make sure you stay present somehow in their lives.

(38:04):
Do you want to write them a letter, you want
to give them a video message? We never allowed ourselves
to go there, you know, which is another reason I
named the book going There. It's also about having hard conversations,
and the closest we got was when we were in
Millbrook one weekend and it was a beautiful day and

(38:29):
the girls were splashing around in the pool and you know,
it was just one of those perfect afternoons. And I said,
I don't know how I'm gonna be able to come
to this house if you're not here. That was the
only thing that I had said. And he said, well,
I hope it will be full of happy memories. And

(38:50):
that was the closest we came to accepting that we
weren't going to be able to fix it. And I think,
Gosh talk about lack of control and feeling powerless and
wanting to control the world. I thought, she, if I
just somehow get to the right doctors or find the

(39:12):
right research or clinical trial, I'm going to be able
to fix this. And I thought, for some reason TV
would ignore me from having something like this happened. I
don't know where that magical thinking came from, but you know,
I just really wish that we had had more honest
conversations that we were just I think we were both

(39:34):
too afraid. He was too afraid to honestly disappoint me
and leave me, and I was too afraid to talk
to him about the fact that he might not be
around and he might not win this battle. And I
think a lot of families really wrestle with this um
kind of this trying to find a bridge between hope

(39:58):
and reality and hope and acceptance. It's really, I think
the hardest thing in the world to navigate well, and
there's still a culture of silence around it. Yeah. After
Jay's death, Katie endures a series of tragedies and losses,
almost like dominoes, one after the other. Katie's father had,

(40:22):
unbeknownst to her, been suffering from Parkinson's. In an attempt
to protect her, her parents kept us from her because
they felt she had all she could handle on her plate.
A couple of years later, her sister Emily is diagnosed
with pancreatic cancer and she dies at the age of
fifty four. Her sister in law two dies at age

(40:43):
fifty four. The loss is enormous and to the grieving,
but Katie perseveres. She goes there, she heals, She takes
care of her daughters. She eventually remarries her husband, John,
and she continues to have a robust and prolific career.
At one point, she has the liberating epiphany that she

(41:05):
doesn't need to be forever popular and well liked. She
no longer needs to uphold a certain image, No longer
needs to be afraid to have the hard conversations. Grief
and loss I think makes you acutely aware that life
is fragile and we're all terminal. And I think it

(41:29):
makes you appreciate every day a little more. I mean,
you still fall into these traps where you take things
for granted, and you you're not as grateful as you
should be to wake up in the morning and to
feel good or feel fine. But I think that I've

(41:49):
always been a pretty authentic person and true to myself.
And this idea of of just yearning for approval and
yearning for popularity and for people to like me when
they don't really even know me um is just foolhardy

(42:12):
and feudal. And I think that I have tried to
embrace every stage of my life, whether it was in
my forties or in my fifties, and now I'm in
my sixties, and John really keeps me grounded. Whenever I'll
bitch about getting older, he's gonna He'll say, you know,

(42:33):
when you're seventy, you're going to say I wish I
was sixty five, So enjoy it while you can. He
always says things like, you're never going to get any younger.
So you know, I have a great partner who is
incredibly supportive and fun and just good company and just
you know, I just love being around. A lot of

(42:54):
my life is in my rear view mirror, but I
want to continue doing and challenging myself and asking questions
and hopefully being of service in any way I can,
whether it's through raising money for cancer research or hopefully
helping people contextualize the complicated world we're living in, or

(43:18):
just giving them some information that will lead to a
deeper understanding. I feel so fortunate. I feel guilty actually
that I've been so blessed, and there's so much suffering
in the world. So how do you combine enjoying life
but also being of service and supporting other people who

(43:40):
aren't in the same situation as you. I mean, I
think that's kind of the constant battle we all face,
and so I'm plagued by those things. But yeah, I'm
just trying to really have a life of purpose for
as long as I can. And I'm the kind of
person that I don't think I'll ever be able to retire.

(44:02):
It's just not in my d n a. I have
to feel productive. I think I got that from my mom.
Katie starts a new company, Katie Correct Media. She has
a newsletter, a podcast, a fantastic presence on Instagram, and
a best selling book. She's nothing if not productive. I'm

(44:24):
so excited to learn something new every day, you know,
I'm learning about thermonuclear weapons when I'm reading articles about
the Russian military and getting a deeper understanding and reminding
myself of what happened. Why was it called the Iron Curtain?
So like Google is my best friend, I look things up.

(44:45):
I just have this insatiable hunger for knowledge, and so
if I can share that, that makes me so happy.
And then but also I don't want to be so
myopic that I I don't appreciate the people in my life.
You know, Chase said him when he was sick. Now,
this was at the height of our careers, when we're

(45:07):
really focused on our careers and obviously our family. But
you know that early forties, right cuts when you really
are operating on all four cylinders. I always get that
expression wrong, But he said, nothing really matters but your
family and friends. And that was such an important reminder

(45:28):
that nobody is going to give a rat's ass when
you die right, you're If you're lucky, you'll get a
mention in the obituaries, and maybe you'll have to pay
for it, right, Who knows. But the things that lead
to a rich and fulfilling life are your relationships, so
I try to be mindful of that as well. It's

(45:49):
a work in progress every day to find the right
balance of what is a meaningful life. But I'm still
doing it and still working on it, and you know,
still loving every minute. We can never see the future.
We have no crystal ball. We just don't know what's
coming around the bend. All we can do always is

(46:13):
the best with what we have. Here's Katie reading a
beautiful passage from her memoir, an Elegy to a time
of innocence. With two little girls and all four of
our parents alive and thriving, we were in the happiness bubble,
buffer generationally by the people we loved most in the world.

(46:35):
Nothing made my heart sing like seeing a young couple
pushing a stroller alongside vibrant grandparents. My mom would visit
and come with me to pick up Ellie from school.
My parents stayed with us in Moriytown and Leader Millbrook.
We love double dating with them. Jay's equally fun folks
had a house in Rhogah's Beach. His siblings kids were

(46:57):
around the same age as ours, so it was always
cousin central when we visited. There's a funny photo of
me and Jay's sisters Barbara and Claire, and his brother
Chris's wife Cathy, all pregnant at the same time. They
had a piano and a fireplace. We bust out the
chips and salts and watch old movies like How Green
Was My Valley and Mrs Minever. At the time, it

(47:21):
didn't occur to me that one day the bubble would burst.
That's what bubbles do. Family Secrets is a production of
I Heart Radio. Molly Zukour is the story editor and

(47:43):
Dylan Fagan is the executive producer. If you have a
family secret you'd like to share, please leave us a
voicemail and your story could appear on an upcoming episode.
Our number is one eight eight Secret zero. That's the
number zero. You can also find on Instagram at Danny writer.
And if you'd like to know more about the story

(48:05):
that inspired this podcast, check out my memoir Inheritance. For

(48:25):
more podcasts for My Heart Radio, visit the I heart radio, app,
Apple podcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
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