Songwriter Kara DioGuardi became a household name as a judge on “American Idol.” Since leaving the show, she has continued to write hits for artists like Pink and Kelly Clarkson, but Kara has also been focused on her health — and her goal to remain healthy prompted her to take extreme measures.
“I had a 70-80 percent chance of breast cancer and a 20-40 percent chance of ovarian [cancer] in my lifetime,” Kara revealed in a new interview with Access Hollywood.
In December 2011, Kara heard a news report about the BRCA Gene – a mutation of which is linked to an increased risk of hereditary breast or ovarian cancer. Since her mother, Carol, died of ovarian cancer in 1997, Kara decided to get a blood test. Learning she did indeed have the mutation, Kara made the bold choice to remove her entire reproductive system.
“I had a complete hysterectomy in December of last year,” she told Access. “I arrived at that decision because I knew the statistics. I knew that if I had a prophylactic hysterectomy that it would diminish my chances of both breast and ovarian cancer. I’m actually going to go in for a prophylactic mastectomy and once I do that, it diminishes my chances to five percent that I would get breast cancer.
“The way they do things today — they take out your healthy tissue and they build you a breast,” Kara explained. “It’s kind of like a good boob job you know? I’m actually kind of looking forward to going up a size. I’m going to look at it that way.”
After her surgery, Kara said she had a candid discussion with her husband.
“I would say… to my husband [Mike McCuddy], ‘Do you think I’m still a woman?’ He’s like, ‘Honey, of course you’re still a woman.’ And it was nice to talk to him about it and he alleviated my fears,” she said. “I think the hardest thing for me was knowing I would never give birth to my own child.”
Kara began trying to have a baby at age 38. It was not an easy road. She suffered a miscarriage while on “Idol” and was actually in the process of fertility treatments when she got the BRCA diagnosis. So after one more unsuccessful IVF round, she decided not to wait any longer to have the hysterectomy – a decision that altered her road to parenthood.
“They tell you that you should have the surgery before you’re 40. I was 41,” Kara said, of when she decided to have the surgery. “So I thought, you know, I’m not going to mess around anymore. I’m going to ask this woman I know who would be an incredible surrogate and I’ll go through the IVF and I’ll transfer the embryos to her… [My surrogate] got pregnant on the first try.”
Kara is now happily enjoying motherhood at 42.
“Grayson is 3 months and he looks like he’s 6 months,” she said. “He’s got a huge gut! Everyone says, ‘What do you feed this child?’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. He likes to eat.’”
Kara, who continues to work as a songwriter, lives with her husband and son in Maine, where her stepdaughter lives. She has no regrets about her medical decision, largely because she wanted to spare her family the pain she went through with her own mom.
“I can feel my mom. I can feel her,” Kara said. “I think she would love my husband and I know she’d be all over my little son. And my son is named Grayson James Carol McCuddy, after my mother.”