Carson Daly has been open about the toll of losing both his mother and stepdad a month apart. He wrote a personal essay for the Today Show for American Heart Month about losing his mom in 2017 to a heart attack. The thing was, she had already survived breast cancer and had type 1 diabetes so everyone focused on that part of her health instead of her heart. Only after she died did Carson learn of the correlation between diabetes and heart disease. So he’s bringing the topic up now because he doesn’t think enough people are paying attention to women’s heart disease.
I never would have guessed that my mom was going to die of a heart attack. She had some health issues — nothing in the heart. No symptoms. Never saw it coming. So I find myself this month being hyperaware about women and their health, as it pertains to the heart. Heart disease is the most common cause of death in American women. And I have been directly impacted by that.
My mom was a Type 1 diabetic. Through the years, she had really good health and good doctors. My biological father had passed away from cancer. She was very dialed into the cancer community. A lot of our friends are doctors. And so this is somebody who has great access to information.
Then she was diagnosed in the late ’90s with breast cancer. She had a single mastectomy. She opted for a chemo supplement. That threw her blood sugar into a bit of a tizzy, but she had that all worked out, squared away. She was cancer-free. Beat it. We’ve talked about that in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So it’s funny that I’m here in February talking about heart disease as it pertains to women, because ultimately, that would be the thing that would get my mom.
She died of a heart attack. We subsequently found out that the correlation between Type 1 diabetes and heart disease is very, very, very high. And I just never knew that.
I got the phone call late at night. It’s never good when the phone rings in the middle of the night. We know that. I had just left my mom, my (step)dad and my sister five or six hours prior to that. I was in Los Angeles for the Emmy awards, sleeping with my wife in a hotel and the phone rang. It was my sister.
I answered the phone saying, “Is Dad OK? Did he fall?” Because I was convinced it was about my father, whose health we were all so hyperfocused on at the time, because of an end-stage cancer diagnosis. And she goes, “No, it’s not Dad. It’s Mom.” And I was like, “Mom? I just left Mom. Mom’s great. No one’s worried about Mom. What happened?” “She had a heart attack and she’s gone.”
That’s what this is all about — educating each other, sharing our experiences. As painful as it might be for me to talk about this publicly, if it helps one other son who’s out there … my advice is to look out for heart disease. It’s literally killing women in this country more than any other thing. And we never see it coming.
Carson’s right. Heart disease is and has been the number one killer among women for some time and that keeps getting swept under the carpet. I’ll be willing to bet a good number of you reading this have had some sort of heart episode that you ‘waited out’ because you figured it was stress and didn’t want to bother anybody *raises hand.* So please look after your own heart health and ask the women around you to do the same. You can read Carson’s full essay here. I had a hard time excerpting it because it was really beautiful and I wanted to include all of it. I settled on just the health bits because of how important and unmentioned women’s heart health is.
I got goosebumps about his saying he’d just left his mom the day she died. This happened to my mother with her brother. She’d been visiting him in Florida, where he was a Navy pilot. He drove her to her flight home and when her plane touched down in California, her friend was waiting for her with the news her brother had been killed in plane crash. There’s something eerie but poetic about death allowing you a final goodbye. Carson included some texts his mom sent him hours before she died. He also mentioned a letter she’d written to him and his sister during her breast cancer battle on what he assumed had been a very bad day and she didn’t think she’d pull through. She told them she loved them and they should take care of each other. But then she lived and he never knew about the letter until after she died. It sounds like Carson and his sister, Quinn, took her advice. Quinn lived in California close to their parents. After both parents died, Quinn moved her entire family back east and now lives a block from Carson and his family. They realized they were all they had left and didn’t want to spend that time apart.