Lawrence resident raising awareness about colon cancer after famous brother's death

Sally Monahan Zogry, left,  is wearing a Vineyard Vines shirt layered under a fleece vest from Weaver's at the Douglas County Medical Alliance fashion benefit Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010, at Van Go Mobile Arts, 715 N.J.

Sally Monahan Zogry, left, is wearing a Vineyard Vines shirt layered under a fleece vest from Weaver's at the Douglas County Medical Alliance fashion benefit Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010, at Van Go Mobile Arts, 715 N.J. by Kevin Anderson

Lawrence resident Sally Monahan Zogry talks about the importance of colon cancer screenings every chance she gets.

Thirteen years ago, her older brother Jay Monahan died of the disease at age 42. He was a lawyer and MSNBC News legal analyst and husband of Katie Couric, who now anchors “CBS Evening News.”

Monahan Zogry, 43, development director at Health Care Access, said the colon cancer diagnosis stunned her family because her brother watched his diet and exercised regularly.

But in hindsight, she said there were clues. He had a lot of stomach upset and heartburn.

“We used to joke that he had a pack of Tums in every coat pocket,” Monahan Zogry said. “The month before he was diagnosed, I saw him and he was so thin. He said he had lost weight because he didn’t feel well. He said it felt like he had the flu.”

She said he was getting ready for a family beach vacation and joked that the sun would “bake it out of him.”

Jay Monahan ended up doubled over in pain in the emergency room, and that’s where doctors discovered a mass the size of a softball in his upper colon. They determined that his cancer was advanced and had started to metastasize, most notably to his liver.

Nine months later, he died on Jan. 24, 1998.

Jay Monahan and his younger sister, Sally, visit during a family Christmas gathering in 1982. Jay Monahan died at age 42 of colon cancer. Since his death, his family has raised awareness about colon cancer and the importance of early detection. Sally Monahan Zogry is a Lawrence resident and works at Health Care Access as development director.

Jay Monahan and his younger sister, Sally, visit during a family Christmas gathering in 1982. Jay Monahan died at age 42 of colon cancer. Since his death, his family has raised awareness about colon cancer and the importance of early detection. Sally Monahan Zogry is a Lawrence resident and works at Health Care Access as development director.

Monahan Zogry, the youngest of his six siblings, was 30 at the time. She had her first colonoscopy before he died, and has had one every three to five years since.

“I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve never had any pre-cancerous polyps,” she said. “But, all of us (her siblings) have had polyps removed.”

She credits Couric for raising awareness about colon cancer — a disease that wasn’t talked about much before Jay Monahan died.

“We are so much more aware now that it is preventable and treatable if caught early,” Monahan Zogry said. “We are not as afraid to talk about it. I can proudly say that my brother has saved many lives, probably thousands of them.”

Monahan Zogry shared her in-depth story as part of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month on WellCommons.

Tagged: colon cancer, National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Comments

Marilyn Hull 7 years, 4 months ago

Wow. What a tragedy.

My cancer was detected during a routine screening. I was way overdue for that mammogram. If I had stayed on schedule with my screenings, we might have caught the cancer earlier and my treatment plan could have been simpler and shorter.

If you are one of those people who thinks cancer will never happen to you, wake up. Denial is not an effective form of prevention. Get your screenings.

Paula Kissinger 7 years, 4 months ago

My mother died of colon cancer in 1993. I began having horrible lower abdominal pains in 2001 and had my first colonoscopy then. I discovered I had diverticulitis and began a new life of living with diverticular disease. Since then I have been religious about what I eat and have "regular" colonoscopies. I love and miss popcorn, corn, okra and other foods but love my colon more and hope to be able to salvage it throughout the rest of my life. Everyone needs a baseline colonoscopy at 40...period...earlier if there is a family history of colon problems.

Kat Christian 7 years, 4 months ago

I was instructed to have one 2-3 years ago but when I found out that my health insurance only paid for a small part of this test and I would end up with a huge bill that had to be paid right then and there I had to decline it. No choice - if I can't afford it I can't afford it. Made too much money for Medicare help and not enough for health insurance coverage. Caught between a rock and an hard place as usual. Just like a lot of other people in this town.

whatupdown 7 years, 4 months ago

Last month I noticed a picture of a beautiful young lady in the Topeka obits so I read it, student, aruond 20, colon cancer, wow!

Kat Christian 7 years, 4 months ago

Easier said then done. Until the cost of such a test is lowered people just can't afford it even if they have heatlh insurance, because insurance does not cover this test 100% and still there is a $3-500 bill. Survisors are those who can afford the treatment. This test or treatment is not an option for the general public. Its nice to think so but in reality the general public just can't afford the test or the treatments. Life's a B!T@H and then you die! That's it.

Karrey Britt 7 years, 4 months ago

I am just starting to work on a story about what EXACTLY is covered under preventive care services under the Affordable Care Act. Not sure if colon cancer screening does or not, but will find out.

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