In honor of American Heart Month, TODAY's Carson Daly is opening up about his mother, who died of a heart attack in September 2017. Carson wants to raise awareness about the connection between Type 1 diabetes and cardiovascular events. As Carson points out in this moving essay, heart disease is the leading cause of death for people in America.
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 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."
I still can't even relive that moment because of the double pump of it all. It was such a head fake. I was expecting it to be about my dad and it wasn't about my dad. It was about my mom, out of left field.
October 24, 2017, 4:42 p.m. She would die seven or eight hours later, after midnight, this night. This is the last text she wrote me: "We love you, the best son on the planet Earth. So happy to have a light out in front." I had changed a light bulb before I left the house. "Thanks for all you did and do to make our lives better and to make us so proud of you. Hope you're having a wonderful dinner with Siri," — this is us eating before the Emmys — "and a great day tomorrow together. All of our love always, Mom and Dad."
I don't even know how to articulate my relationship with my mom. The only solace I take is that I have a great sense of faith. And the love that we had was so strong, and is so strong, that I'm 100 percent sure that we'll be reunited again. I'm 100 percent sure. Independent of religion or anything like that. That's how strong our bond was. The feeling of hugging my mom? I'm 100 percent sure I will know that feeling again.
After she passed away, I found a letter that she had written us when she was in her breast cancer fight. And she really must have been having a really bad day and wasn't sure if she was going to make it through. She wrote us this incredibly hard-to-read letter about how my sister and I should always take care of each other and always walk with the Lord, and to remember our faith and to love one another. It was almost like a goodbye letter. And I never had seen it. And I found it in her desk drawer after she died.
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.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.