Viewers of the couples hit Style Network show Giuliana & Bill know the story well: Giuliana went through three IVFs (one she miscarried; one didnt 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, its back to work.
Congratulations on Duke! Whats your favorite thing about him?
I love when I feed him in the middle of the night. Those moments are incredible, when its so quiet and theres just a little bit of a light on, just looking at his little face.
The road to baby was a tough one for you. Youve 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 didnt think 35 was old! So when the doctor said, "Its 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 Im not healthy in that department?
So would you have done anything differently?
I dont think I wouldve frozen my eggs. A lot of people throw that out there, like, "Oh, just freeze your eggs." That is major. Its surgery! As a 25-year-old making not a lot of money, youre 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 pregnantthat 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 didnt work." That was the most shocking. I would go, "Im a good person, and I could give someone the greatest life of all, but yet I cant 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 youre going, what? None of that made sense to me.
Had you known what was coming, would you have chosen to keep any of this private?
Had you given me a crystal ball when we were signing on to do the reality show that said, "This is whats coming up, do you want to do it?" I wouldve said absolutely not. You couldnt pay me enough. But, looking back, Im so happy that I did do it. As I would question God, "Why are you doing this to me, why me?" I think God knew I was a loud-mouthed Italian girl who would get out and share my story, not tuck it under a rug.
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 didnt 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 dont 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, were making a plan here." He took over.
Focus on the positive. Whenever I was so sad, when I was on the floor kicking and screaming and crying, the best way I could pull out of it was when I would remind myself: Even with this happening, youre still better off than a lot of people. For me, it was saying, "Yes, I have breast cancer. Yes, I had to have a double mastectomy." But, you know what? Thank God Im going to a good doctor. Im so fortunate I found it early. Im so fortunate to have Bill. Im so fortunate that I have a boss who understands.
What is your cancer prognosis right now?
As of this week, Im a one-year survivor! I get checked every three months, and Im 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.
What is the best way to support a friend after a miscarriage? Allison McDonald, Bainbridge Island, WA
"If you havent been through a miscarriage, just listen. Dont say, ‘Its going to be OK. Just give your friend a shoulder to cry on, and say, ‘I can only imagine what youre 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 youll 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 theyre going to say? ‘No, no, Im 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 doctors appointment, do you mind if I come watch your kids? Or, ‘Im just going to drop off groceries; you dont even have to come to the door."
As a breast cancer survivor, I hated the ordeal, but Im 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 cant, 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."
Giuliana's good-mood workout: Walking!
"I used to run, but after my mastectomy, I couldnt run. When I started walking, little by little, I realized, this is just as good! I would walk longer than I would run. Ive already started strolling with the baby, but I cant wait to be able to take long walksto exercise and be with him at the same time. I find that when Im fit, I have more energy, and I like what is in the mirror, which makes me happier."