Former ‘GMA’ Anchor Joan On Her Cancer Battle: ‘The Hair Part Really Isn’t So Bad’

In 2014, former Good Morning America anchor Joan Lunden was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer. She and her family met the trial with grace and grit.

Joan Lunden
Joan Lunden | Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Now cancer-free, the 69-year-old Lunden wants to inspire other women in this situation to face it with optimism and empowerment.

Her triple-negative cancer diagnosis

In the summer of 2014, Lunden was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. This is an aggressive form of cancer that typically requires an equally aggressive treatment. She was diagnosed through an ultrasound following a routine mammogram.

She told CancerConnect in Jan. 2020, “Honestly, when I first sat across from the breast surgeon— who had just been delivered the results of my biopsy—and was told I had triple-negative breast cancer and that I would have to have aggressive chemotherapy, my first question was, ‘You mean I’m going to lose my hair?’ “

“And as you go down this path of the battle with cancer, you are continually confronted with choices and with the realization that as the patient you have to make the decision; it’s really scary.”

Lunden chose to shave her hair off. It was her way of taking control of a situation that had taken over her life.

“. . . I had decided that I would shave my head before my hair fell out, and I did that,” she revealed. “I wanted that power. . . I walked into a salon and had someone shave my head. Then I put the wig right on and went about my day. . . I thought, The hair part really isn’t so bad. I adapted pretty quickly.”

Her book, ‘Had I Known: A Memoir of Survival’ and her changed view of that pink ribbon

Lunden published a memoir about her experience, Had I Known: A Memoir of Survival, which she wrote in 2015 based on a journal she kept throughout her treatment and recovery. It’s written to encourage anyone going through the disease.

Joan Lunden
Joan Lunden | Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Her book also offers practical advice, for instance, making sure to have someone – an unemotional, level-headed someone close to you – accompany you on your first doctor visits because of the shock a newly diagnosed person tends to be in.

On Today in 2015, Lunden spoke with Hoda Kotb and Matt Lauer about her journey. “I used to see everybody in pink and I don’t think I ever got it. Well, believe me, I now get it. I mean, I understand there’s an incredible healing in the power of just everybody reaching out.”

What she wants written on her epitaph

The mother of nine isn’t being morbid when she discusses what she would like to see her written on her tombstone. She’s just staying ahead of the game and defining how she wants to be remembered.

She told AARP earlier this month, “I can give myself a little applause for life well lived. I can take stock of what I’ve done in my life. . . [W]hen you take that kind of assessment, and you embrace it, it becomes your guidepost for how you’re going to walk forward in the rest of your life.”

As for what her tombstone epitaph would be? “She was classy, sassy, and a bit bad-assy.”

Read more: Former ‘GMA’ Anchor Joan Lunden on Getting Kicked Off the Morning Show and the Realities of Aging