When it comes to bad luck, few people in the news industry have had as much experience with it as Neil Cavuto. For over 20 years, the Fox News anchor has tackled multiple severe health challenges – but he’s still alive and kicking. And his remarkable story is proof of just how many odds one man can overcome.
For his part, Cavuto is one of the hardest working people in the world of journalism. As an anchor for the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, the reporter appears live on television for 19 hours each week. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the work he does when the cameras aren’t rolling.
Besides anchoring both channels, Cavuto also serves as Senior Vice President and Managing Editor of Business News for each one. Somehow, the journalist has even found the time to pen popular non-fiction as well. To wit, his books More Than Money: True Stories of People Who Learned Life’s Ultimate Lesson and Your Money or Your Life both made the New York Times’ best-seller list.
Nevertheless, the news anchor isn’t one to stick to the rules in spite of his success. In particular, Cavuto has become one of the few people on the right-leaning network to openly criticize President Donald Trump. In 2018 he even made ripples after calling out the commander-in-chief for alleged lies on air while in office.
“Now, I’m not saying you’re a liar,” Cavuto stated on Fox in March 2018. “You’re president. You’re busy. I’m just having a devil of a time figuring out which news is fake.” The anchor concluded, “I guess you’re too busy draining the swamp to ever stop and smell the stink you’re creating.”
Indeed, Cavuto has earned a sizeable reputation among his peers. And over the years he’s been called everything from “the best interviewer in broadcast news” by the Wall Street Journal to “the best interviewer on TV, period” by journalist James Glassman. He was even deemed one of the “Most Impactful Newsers of the Past 15 Years” by Adweek in 2019.
Cavuto’s achievements are all the more impressive when you discover the health scares the anchor has been through over the last several decades. Incredibly, each time the anchor has managed to pull through alive and kicking.
Meanwhile, Cavuto’s illustrious career started long before Fox News hit the airwaves. Indeed, before his lengthy career in front of a teleprompter, Cavuto studied mass communication at St. Bonaventure University. And around that time he began experiencing current events firsthand via an internship at the White House during Jimmy Carter’s leadership.
Cavuto later took a job at NBC where he contributed to both The Today Show and NBC News at Sunrise. In addition, he also worked for PBS and Investment Age Magazine. Eventually, the journalist would get an even bigger break working on Market Wrap and other programming for CNBC.
But what was supposed to be a jubilant victory for Cavuto would quickly be overshadowed by some terrible news. In the months leading up to his employment with CNBC, the anchor took a trip to his doctor. And there, he received the first in a long line of diagnoses – Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a form of blood cancer that begins in the body’s lymphatic system. This assists the immune system to battle infections and clear it of waste. And according to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate of stage four Hodgkin’s lymphoma sufferers – such as Cavuto – is only 65 percent. And, sadly, the anchor was only 29 years old when he received the diagnosis.
By all means, the news couldn’t have come at a worse time for Cavuto. Along with his wife Mary, the journalist had just welcomed his first child Tara into the world. Moreover, the anchor feared that his illness would work against him in the cutthroat world of the media. So he decided to keep his diagnosis secret from his colleagues.
“Sometimes when you’re diagnosed with something bad, you really have no choice but to get through it,” Cavuto told NJ.com in 2015. “And the fact that I tried to hide my cancer diagnosis at the time, for fear of losing my job, hardly seems courageous in retrospect… I was panicked and paranoid and always fearing in this Darwinian business [that] my weakness would be discovered and I’d be through.”
Naturally, Cavuto had his anxieties – but he was determined to pull through. Immediately, the journalist began looking into treatment options and he settled on a form of radiotherapy. With doctors firing strong radiation at the anchor’s body, the treatment was intense, to say the least – however, it was ultimately a success.
Nevertheless, the treatment wouldn’t nurse Cavuto back to full health. Over the course of therapy, the intense radiation would lead the anchor to lose half a lung. And for a man whose job depends so much on his voice, this had unintended negative results. He admitted to NPR in 2018, “I get pneumonia quite easily, or my bronchitis will happen.”
Still, Cavuto refused to slow down and in 1996 he got the chance of a lifetime when he was offered a hosting job on the fledgling Fox News Channel. Naturally, Cavuto accepted the role. But just one year later, illness would sadly strike again.
Indeed, Cavuto received yet another diagnosis following this huge job offer. This time, the illness was multiple sclerosis – a disorder which attacks the muscles and brain. Moreover, people with MS live around seven years less than the average person.
Nonetheless, Cavuto decided not to let this new illness scare him the way his Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis had. Crediting his late boss Roger Ailes with being understanding, Cavuto let his condition be known at the workplace. The journalist told NJ.com, “Maybe owing to the fact I had a tad more job security, I decided not to be so secretive or paranoid.”
That’s not to say that Cavuto’s illness didn’t affect his work, however. More so than perhaps Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple sclerosis impacted the anchor in ways he couldn’t have previously imagined. In fact, the host was even moved to pen an article for LinkedIn in 2016. There, he wrote, “What I didn’t realize was this new illness would completely redefine me and my role at work.”
“I’ve heard MS described as a mercurial menace in that it can rob senses and muscles indiscriminately, anytime and anywhere,” Cavuto continued. “It’s a disease that doesn’t much care about what you’re doing when one, or several, of its infamous exacerbations hits. All I know is it hits hard and to this day, I never seem quite ready when it does.”
Meanwhile, one of the ways that multiple sclerosis has hit Cavuto is through movement. Some days, it has left him unable to walk. The journalist continued, “Over the years, it has literally taken the legs right out from under me. There are times when I can’t walk [and] other times when I am walking [it’s] as if I’m dragging an anchor.”
More alarmingly, the disease has taken its toll on Cavuto’s vision. And now, the host distrusts his eyesight so much that he he’s stopped using teleprompters altogether. As a result, he now takes to memorizing everything from scripts to his guests’ opinions in case his vision completely fails during a live broadcast.
“These weren’t choices I wanted to make; these were choices I had to make. It’s all about compensating – and recovering,” Cavuto continued on LinkedIn. Nevertheless, he also argued that this makes him no more skilled than any other journalist. He joked, “It’s more like a desperate gambler trying not to have others see my very weak hand.”
Since first receiving his diagnosis, Cavuto has learned to live with MS and not let it dictate his life. He added, “Although my MS is progressing, so too is my career. I’ve had to make adjustments, but I’ve adjusted, through the weak legs and awkward gait, and neurologically taxed voice and eyes, I’ve recalibrated.”
Not only that, but Cavuto’s illness has made him fully embrace what he already has. He continued on LinkedIn, “Between a great family, and a great job, I’m very lucky.” Moreover – as the anchor added to NJ – it made him realize there’s more to life than a career. Cavuto added, “Both illnesses have taught me to value what matters, and not the silly and often shifting vagaries of work that invariably don’t.”
By all means, Cavuto had come out of his health scares with a new positive outlook on life. However, this new rosier approach to living would be pushed to the absolute limit in 2016. Indeed, during a routine check-up with his doctor, the journalist would face yet another health crisis.
It all started relatively normally with Cavuto undergoing a stress test on his heart. But when multiple doctors started checking his chart after the anchor’s results came in, Cavuto quickly realized something was wrong. The journalist told The Hill that same year, “One white coat walked in after another, like something out of a Woody Allen movie.”
Eventually, one doctor worked up the nerve to tell Cavuto what had actually happened. As the host revealed on Your World with Neil Cavuto in 2017, the journalist had something called, “a widow maker…a coronary artery so blocked that, at any moment, [I] could just drop dead.”
“I had low cholesterol, if you can believe it, because my food pyramid consists of Italian sausages and cannolis,” he chuckled to The Wrap in 2016. But the host’s illness was no laughing matter. And soon after his diagnosis, he was rushed to hospital.
With Cavuto’s left anterior descending coronary artery fully blocked, surgeons knew they had to act fast. And yet, there was still one thing getting in the way – multiple sclerosis. Due to the host’s prior ailment and the medicine he was taking to combat it, doctors had to delay the all-important bypass Cavuto needed.
Eventually, Cavuto would undergo this vital surgery several weeks after his initial diagnosis. Nevertheless, the time he spent waiting – not to mention his experience with cancer and MS treatments – did little to acclimatize the anchor to the after-effects of open-heart surgery. Indeed, when he woke up from the operation, the torment was almost too much to comprehend.
“I’ve developed a pretty high threshold for pain,” Cavuto revealed to The Wrap. “Before I had cancer, I was a wuss with needles. Once you have chemo you get over the needle thing. With the MS, I got used to constant fatigue, but this, this was a bitch… you come out of [open-heart surgery] just writhing in pain.”
Of course, the road to recovery is never easy for those who’ve undergone major surgery. Indeed, for someone like Cavuto – whose triple bypass completed a “hat trick” of life-altering illnesses – recuperation was incredibly tough. Naturally, the journalist was out of commission and he reluctantly put his career on hold for the whole summer.
But Cavuto’s illness couldn’t have come at a more unfortunate time for a journalist of such high esteem. The summer of 2016 saw one of the craziest election seasons the United States has ever experienced. And Cavuto – bed-bound and out of action – could only watch helplessly as events unravelled without him.
“It was the first time in 20 years I wasn’t covering the conventions,” Cavuto said to The Wrap in reference to the Republican and Democrat events. Still, as the anchor added to The Hill, his frustration gave his loved ones hope. He continued, “My wife was commenting on why I was throwing things at the TV set. That was her first clue that I was getting better.”
Meanwhile, Cavuto was missing out on some startling changes at his place of work. During the journalist’s absence, his boss and mentor Roger Ailes left Fox News over allegations of sexual misconduct. Cavuto added, “People have told me it was a good thing you were [out] at the time.”
So Cavuto had missed some momentous events during his recuperation over the summer of 2016. Moreover, the severity of his illnesses made him question if he should go back to work at all. He recalled to The Wrap, “I didn’t think I would be able to return, especially when new complications would arise.”
Ultimately, though, Cavuto said he was left “humbled” by his situation. And as he intoned on his show a year after the surgery in May 2019, the journalist once again learned to slow down and appreciate life. He theorized, “I discovered something… life was going on. The news was going on. The Republican convention, the Democratic convention, even the stuff here at Fox, they were all going on, just without me.”
What’s more, Cavuto was overwhelmed to discover that people from both sides of the political spectrum had sent their best wishes. In such a divided time, Cavuto was impressed to see people putting their differences aside. He told viewers, “I might have the scar, but you were the ones who showed the heart.”
Then in September 2018 the anchor reached a huge milestone – his 60th birthday. Certainly, it was an event that a 29-year-old Cavuto – just diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma – probably never imagined he’d get to see. Yet the reporter’s tenacity shows that – even though the odds may sometimes be stacked against us – sometimes it’s best to just keep pushing on.