Maureen Holloway's breast cancer story

Broadcaster Maureen Holloway had a singular response to her breast cancer diagnosis: live, laugh and learn.

The private battle goes public
Battling cancer is challenging enough when it's private. But the very public Holloway was expected back on the air bright and early Monday morning. Her employers knew nothing of her predicament.

"I was calm, but I was in complete shock. I had to let everybody know that I was going to be off," she says. And that, she and John, her husband of 22 years, decided, meant everybody – all friends and family, all of his coworkers and every one of the cohosts, producers, program directors and general managers she works with at nine different Corus Radio stations.

By the time she went into hospital later that week for a full mastectomy of her right breast, "I was buoyed on this whole tide of love," she says, "and it really helped alleviate the fear."

"Lopsided hugs"
At this point, it was only Holloway's inner circle, wide though it is, that knew of her ordeal. With the operation behind her, the vast majority of listeners were none the wiser as she continued bringing the ha-ha to the airwaves every day while signing her personal e-mails "Lopsided hugs, Mo."  But then, with a gruelling six-month course of chemo (two kinds) and radiation looming, it was time to bring the public in on her story. This spirited comedienne was not going to let the "C-word" stop her from dishing out The Last Word (as her entertainment reports are called).

Instead of venerating the rich and famous, Holloway exposes their foibles. It's a format she pioneered in the early 1990s while at MIX 99.9 FM in Toronto.  The hallmark of her segments is that she treats celebrity news and gossip with precisely the gravitas it deserves – none.  A recent example: "Jeff Foxworthy (entertainer and host of the TV show "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?") made $10 million last year. When he dies, he's leaving it all to his widow – but she can't collect until she turns 14."

So on that July morning when she announced her illness to hundreds of thousands of listeners, she had a new target for her scathing wit: herself.

Going public
"I said, ‘There will be days where I will be cranky, days when I'll be bitchy, there'll be days where I don't wanna show up – in other words, nothing will have changed."  That's the Mo the audience knows. Even though her stock-in-trade is "other people's business" (as the segments were originally called), 24 years on the air means the listeners know all about Mo and John, their two boys, Aidan, 15, and Ronan, 9, her cellphone mishaps and her vacation misadventures. Now they were to share in the hilarity only Holloway could bring to sporting a "giant fake boob" and being "bald as a cue ball," nauseous and thrust into premature, chemo-induced menopause "like someone took me by the ankles and slammed me against a wall."

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