"Life is good, I gotta be honest," laughs Giuliana Rancic.
She’s in her apartment in Chicago with her husband, Bill. And who’s napping in his room? Their baby boy, Edward Duke.
"I’m in baby heaven," says the Italian-born TV host and fashion designer, sounding surprisingly calm considering that one year ago, after four years of struggling to conceive, she got the devastating news that she had breast cancer.
Viewers of the couple’s hit Style Network show Giuliana & Bill know the story well: Giuliana went through three IVFs (one she miscarried; one didn’t take), and then, at 36, was diagnosed with cancer. She had a double mastectomy. Unable to carry the embryos from her third IVF (due to her cancer medication), she enlisted a gestational surrogate, who gave birth to their son on August 29. Come November, after a few months of baby-bonding, it’s back to work.
She is still starring on E! News and Fashion Police, just launched her G by Giuliana Rancic collection on HSN, and will host NBC’s spring show Ready for Love with Bill. Now, she tells Health what she’s learned about staying positive when your world turns upside down.
Congratulations on Duke! What’s your favorite thing about him?
I love when I feed him in the middle of the night. Those moments are incredible, when it’s so quiet and there’s just a little bit of a light on, just looking at his little face.
The road to baby was a tough one for you. You’ve said you were blindsided by how difficult it was.
It was a big shock! I always say how I chased my career instead of chasing guys. And everybody was patting me on the back. No one ever told me, "Oh, by the way, your eggs change when you reach a certain age." I didn’t think 35 was old! So when the doctor said, "It’s not as easy as you thought it would be," it was a real blow. Because I felt so young. I mean, this is a girl who was running six miles a day, and eating healthy, so how can you tell me that I’m not healthy in that department?
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So would you have done anything differently?
I don’t think I would’ve frozen my eggs. A lot of people throw that out there, like, "Oh, just freeze your eggs." That is major. It’s surgery! As a 25-year-old making not a lot of money, you’re not just going to go through all that and freeze your eggs.
Were you ever frustrated to see other women getting pregnant?
My first IVF I did get pregnant—that was the miscarriage. But the second one, I did not get pregnant, and that was the biggest kick in the stomach, because I just could not believe you go through so much to get those eggs and put them in, and when the doctor calls you, to hear, "Oh, sorry, it didn’t work." That was the most shocking. I would go, "I’m a good person, and I could give someone the greatest life of all, but yet I can’t get pregnant." And then you watch these TV shows, 16 and Pregnant, and these girls who want nothing to do with their babies are pregnant. And you’re going, what? None of that made sense to me.
After finding your cancer, did you know what your next steps would be?
No way, are you kidding? I was shell-shocked. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t know that if you find breast cancer early enough, you have a 98 percent survival rate. I went to work right after finding out and did E! News. I recently watched that episode and I don’t know how I pulled it off. Afterward, I ran into my dressing room and started hysterically crying. Bill was really the one who had to pick me up off the floor and say, "Hey, we’re making a plan here." He took over.
What is your cancer prognosis right now?
As of this week, I’m a one-year survivor! I get checked every three months, and I’m looking good.
Where do you feel your absolute happiest?
Taking a long walk on the lakefront of Chicago with my husband and my baby boy.
You asked, Giuliana answered!
What is the best way to support a friend after a miscarriage? —Allison McDonald, Bainbridge Island, WA
"If you haven’t been through a miscarriage, just listen. Don’t say, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ Just give your friend a shoulder to cry on, and say, ‘I can only imagine what you’re going through.’ And, ‘You have every right to feel sad.’ Let her talk, let her cry, and let her just be. It was very difficult [for me] when people were telling me, ‘Next time you’ll get pregnant.’ Well, how do you know that? It just made me angry."
What made you decide to go with a surrogate versus adoption?—Traci Holton, Miami
"Adoption was something we were very open to, but when we did the third IVF, we got the embryos and I would have put them into myself, but that was when we found the breast cancer. Part of the treatment is five years of tamoxifen, which can cause birth defects. So we said, ‘Dr. Schoolcraft, what now?’ He said the next step should be surrogacy because we had the embryos. As Bill likes to say, they were ‘on ice.’ So we met this lovely French girl who was living in America and she carried our baby for nine flawless months. We are still open to adoption if we decide to have more kids. But we do still have some embryos on ice, so if we wanted to try surrogacy again, we could."
How can you best help a friend who has cancer?—Kate Gallagher Leong, Valley Forge, PA
"If you call and say, ‘Can I do anything for you?’ nine out of 10 times, do you know what they’re going to say? ‘No, no, I’m OK.’ When you are going through cancer, you feel out of control, so you overcompensate. So basically, you insist. Call and say, ‘While you have your doctor’s appointment, do you mind if I come watch your kids?’ Or, ‘I’m just going to drop off groceries; you don’t even have to come to the door.’"
As a breast cancer survivor, I hated the ordeal, but I’m ultimately glad I had cancer, as it shifted my priorities. Were there any good parts for you?—Diana Tumminia, Brooklyn, NY
"If I could erase all this, I would. But I can’t, so I look at the positive. It made me a stronger and a better person. It definitely shifted my priorities. But I still love my career. I so love fashion and makeup and designing."