ABC Action News anchor Linda Hurtado tells audience she has breast cancer and will have surgery
When ABC Action News anchor Linda Hurtado was deciding whether to tell viewers she had breast cancer and would be leaving the air for five weeks to have a double mastectomy, there was one person whose advice made all the difference.
After a conversation with Robin Roberts, the Good Morning America anchor who announced in 2007 her own breast cancer and surgery, Hurtado knew she had to go public. And she had to do it during a live broadcast.
"She said she wanted to take ownership of her story," said Hurtado, 44, who spoke with Roberts just a few days before telling viewers of WFTS-Ch. 28 today. "It's ultra personal...I feel like the first few days when I come back, everyone's going to be looking at my chest."
In a shaky voice on the verge of tears, Hurtado told viewers of Tampa ABC affiliate Tuesday what she had known for a few weeks; that tests had found breast cancer in its early stages, and because her mother died in 1995 from the disease, she would have a double mastectomy.
She is scheduled to have the operation Wednesday.
"I have spent my whole adult life in fear of getting breast cancer...so when I was diagnosed with breast cancer about two weeks ago, it made me cry and it literally brought me to my knees," she told viewers. " I’m also the health reporter and it’s breast cancer awareness month. And over the last 17 years, I’ve asked so many of you to share your truth with me. So I can’t just disappear for a while without sharing mine with you."
The station then aired a story on Hurtado's diagnosis, covering her mother's death after chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. After learning she didn't carry the gene which signals a predisposition to the disease, Hurtado almost didn't get an annual mammogram; knowing that she always tells viewers to get tested, the anchor decided to go ahead with her own tests, eventually finding a cancer too small to feel and imminently curable.
Still, she decided to have a double mastectomy. "After watching my mother die and now seeing the fear in my own children's eyes, I decided to only dance with this devil once," she said in the story.
Talks with breast cancer survivors she once profiled as the station's health reporter helped Hurtado decide how to handle her own diagnosis. And she has created a website with a list of locations where uninsured or underinsured women can get mammograms.
"I was going to wait until I was already at the hospital for them to air the story, but I thought people need to see I'm okay," said Hurtado, an anchor at WFTS since 1995. "I just want women to have mammograms every year. If you catch it early, you still have a choice over what to do with you body -- instead of a diagnosis taking all the choices away from you."
Here's the words she delivered earlier today:
"Tonight I have some very personal news to share with you. I have spent my whole adult life in fear of getting breast cancer. I watched the disease ravage my beautiful mother. So when I was diagnosed with breast cancer about two weeks ago, it made me cry and it literally brought me to my knees. I’ve struggled with what I should say to all of you. Because so many of you are my friends. How much I should share – if I should share anything at all. But there are these big billboards of me all over Tampa Bay that say hey watch me at 5. Maybe you’ve seen them. And now I’m going to be gone for a while. I’m the health reporter and it’s breast cancer awareness month. And over the last 17 years, I’ve asked so many of you to share your truth with me. So I can’t just disappear for a while without sharing mine with you."