Julianne Moore, Katie Couric, and Julianna Margulies: Ladies Who Give Back
Anchor for CBS Evening News
Katie Couric is already planning her obituary. Not that she'd like to see it running anytime soon, but the first woman ever to anchor a network evening newscast knows what she wants the lead paragraph to include: "that I contributed to decreasing the mortality rate for colon cancer." Her fight has been a personal crusade since 1998, when her husband -- lawyer and legal analyst Jay Monahan -- died of the disease at 42 after a yearlong battle. In 2000 she famously televised her own colonoscopy on the Today Show as a way to demystify a procedure that many people were too embarrassed to discuss. "I've heard every colonoscopy joke there is," she says. "People might feel like, 'Shut up already. Here she is, talking about colons again.' But I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives."
Indeed, as a cofounder of the Entertainment Industry Foundation's National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, Couric has not only helped raise more than $33 million for colorectal cancer research and opened the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health, in New York City, but she's also been credited with "the Couric effect."
Soon after her on-air procedure, there was a 20 percent uptick in colonoscopies in the United States. Couric has also broadened her fight against all cancers with her involvement in Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C), an organization that raises funds for cutting-edge cancer research. After one year SU2C bestowed research grants totaling $73.6 million. "I felt like I was being selfish focusing only on colon cancer, because people are affected by so many other cancers," says Couric, 53, whose family was stricken again when her older sister Emily, a Virginia state senator, died of pancreatic cancer in 2001. "I thought, Why can't we do something like the Jerry Lewis telethon for cancer, with all the networks involved?" And so, along with folks like Hollywood producer Laura Ziskin, she launched the star-studded SU2C telecast.
"Cancer has changed me in all the ways you would anticipate," she says. "I try to appreciate every day that I am healthy. But it also makes me frustrated and angry that we haven't slayed this dragon."
Getting the Word Out
"It would be criminal not to take advantage of these professional gifts I've been given. I have a bully pulpit from which to communicate a message and educate people. Helping to raise awareness and research dollars is my way of putting my fingerprint on the world in a positive way."
The Healing Power of Giving Back
"Getting involved in the fight against colon cancer offset the helplessness I felt. My daughters got involved, too. They would have bake sales or lemonade stands and all the money would go to colon cancer research. Now whenever I see a lemonade stand, I want to know if the proceeds are going to a charity. I guilt the kids out."