EEC SPOL Co-honorees Kathy Murray and Susan Lucci and Lisa Fuld

Stepping outside her comfort zone

EEC honoree Kathy Murray shares her breast cancer story to help other women prioritize their health.

At age 42, Kathy Murray was living her best life. The single mother of two had a thriving real estate business with Douglas Elliman in Manhattan. She led a healthy lifestyle enhanced with a nutritious diet. And she went to the gym five days a week. That’s why she wasn’t prepared for the news when she finally went for her first mammogram in February 2022. 

“My initial mammogram was scheduled for March 2020, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she says. “I lived such a healthy lifestyle and always felt great, so I delayed rescheduling until January 2022.”   

Unfortunately, she says, the results of her first mammogram revealed cancer concerns. 

An unexpected diagnosis

Murray has two aunts on her father’s side who had breast cancer later in life. But the connection is not close enough for doctors to say she has a family history of the disease. After her diagnosis, she also tested negative for the BRCA1 gene, the genetic mutation that significantly increases a patient’s risk for developing breast cancer. 

Still, doctors diagnosed Kathy with HER2-positive Stage 1A breast cancer. Although her prognosis was good, she went through a full battery of treatments. Surgery completely removed her tumor.   

She also underwent 12 weeks of chemotherapy. And, for a year, she took Herceptin®, one of a generation of commonly used cancer drugs made possible by technology developed at City of Hope®.   

Today, Murray is two years cancer free. Initially she resisted discussing her diagnosis outside of immediate family and close friends. Murray is a private person by nature, but also had concerns about the stigma of cancer and how she could be viewed differently and, as a single working mom, she feared it could negatively impact her business. She knew sharing her story though could help thousands of other women who receive the same news every year. As a 2024 East End Chapter/Jeanne Kaye League Spirit of Life® honoree, Murray is sharing her story widely for the first time.   

“During treatment, the toll on my energy was immense. Some days, I could barely get out of bed.  Chemo brain made it difficult to complete simple tasks like writing an email or even completing a conversation,” Murray says. “But, by speaking openly about my personal journey, I hope to inspire others to find their voice and prioritize taking care of themselves.”   

Support for groundbreaking research 

Even though Murray didn’t come to City of Hope for her breast cancer treatment, the hospital’s researchers still played an integral role in her therapy and outcomes. Groundbreaking work by Arthur D. Riggs, Ph.D., and his team at City of Hope with monoclonal antibodies in 1983 led to the development of Herceptin — a cancer drug widely used today to treat HER2-positive breast cancer as well as other cancers. Herceptin works by blocking the growth of breast cancer cells. It also signals to the patient’s immune system to attack those cells.  

“The link between City of Hope and Herceptin is extremely impactful for me. Herceptin has been a real game-changer for people like me with HER2-positive cancer." Kathy Murray

“And City of Hope is still going. They’re developing more treatments that are effective and changing people’s lives. I feel compelled to be involved with this work in some way.” 

Research shows patients are developing breast cancer  — and all cancers —  at much younger ages. Murray says the groundbreaking work at City of Hope is critical to winning the battle against the disease. The hospital’s researchers have the expertise needed to unravel the secrets of the disease and develop innovative, lifesaving and life-extending therapies.   

A call for self-prioritization 

Focusing on your well-being isn’t always simple, Murray says. Getting caught up with just the day-to-day activities of life and making sure everyone around us is OK, we often neglect our own well-being. 

“It’s easy to prioritize other things above your health when you’re feeling fine,” Murray says. “But we all need to stay on top of our health and to take care of ourselves. That includes going in for all the check up and doctor appointments that you’re supposed to have once you reach certain ages.”

Through her work with City of Hope, Murray says she hopes to continue raising awareness about the prevalence and impact of breast cancer. And awareness can increase screenings that lead to early detection, as early detection is crucial. The money that she helps the East End Chapter raise supports the investigators searching for breakthroughs to make many cancers more treatable. 

“Through my volunteer and advocacy work for City of Hope, I’m extending my hopes and dreams beyond my personal journey,” Murray says. “By stepping outside my comfort zone, I hope to expand education and understanding about the critical importance of cancer research and treatment innovations. I aim to contribute to the development of more lifesaving treatments that may lead, ultimately, to a world free from cancer.”