Giuliana Rancic has had a year filled with the highest highs and lowest lows.
The E! News host was forced to abandon her third in vitro fertilization attempt last year when she learned she had breast cancer. Rancic had a double lumpectomy in October, but the surgery did not remove all of the cancer, and she underwent a double mastectomy two months later.
Still hopeful for a family, her husband, Bill Rancic, attended the implantation of the couple’s embryo into a gestational carrier less than a week after his wife's second surgery in December. In a happy turn to a difficult year, the couple’s son, Edward Duke Rancic, was born on Aug. 29 in Denver.
Rancic, 38, reflected on the bittersweet time in her life on TODAY Wednesday.
“In one year, so much has happened,” Rancic told Savannah Guthrie. “This was the best year of my life because of the baby and it was the worst year of my life because of the breast cancer.
“But it just goes to show that if you’re strong and you’re positive, great things can come out of the darkest time in your life,” she said.
A teary Rancic left little Duke, as she calls him, for the first time in his short life for her TODAY appearance. Sitting in same space where she shared her health and baby news over the past year, she said her time away from her little one is for a good cause: Thursday is Do it for the Girls Day.
“We’re encouraging women to give themselves a breast self exam and really think about early detection,” Rancic said. “Early detection is everything. It’s what saved my life. If you detect breast cancer early, you have a 98 percent five-year survival rate.”
Rancic recalled how she had no family history of breast cancer when she was diagnosed at age 36. It was her fertility specialist who ordered the mammogram that detected the cancer, and she has said she had to be dragged “kicking and screaming” to the test.
“Thank God I did it,” she said.
Rancic noted the importance of self exams.
“So many women come up to me and I say, ‘How did you find your breast cancer?’” she told Guthrie. “And they found it themselves. A lot of women do find it themselves. You've got to do breast self exams. You have to do it once a month.”
Rancic also urged women to talk to their doctors about when they should get a mammogram and ask what else they should be doing to help combat breast cancer. “It’s these sorts of questions that can save your life,” Rancic said.
She also talked about motherhood, and credited her apparent lack of undereye bags to lots of makeup. In fact, Rancic says, she loves feeding her little boy, now eating about every four hours, at night.
“Bill and I fight over who’s going to feed him, just because we struggled so long to have a baby that now that he’s here, we’re not going to complain,” she said on TODAY. “You’re never going to hear us complaining. I just love spending every second I can with him.”
She and Bill love to stare into Duke’s big eyes, and their little boy, three weeks old today and growing more alert by the day, loves to stare back. “He’ll just stare at you for like 10 minutes at a time,” Rancic said. “It’s just unbelievable.”
The Rancics are very close with their gestational carrier and they were in the delivery room when Duke was born. With two children of her own, giving birth to baby boy Rancic “was pretty easy for her,” Rancic said.
“She gave us the greatest gift in the world,” Rancic said. “When he came into the world it was like we just started hysterical crying tears of joy. It was pretty emotional.”
The difference between a gestational carrier and a surrogate parent is that biologically the child is Bill and Giuliana's; the gestational carrier brings the baby to term, but is not genetically related to the child she gives birth to.
Rancic thinks little Duke resembles her husband.
“I think he looks more like Bill, which is a good thing,” she said. “I don’t want a boy version of myself.”
Like any new mother, Rancic said she's been overwhelmed by the experience.
"Everyone tells you it's going to be incredible and it's, it's beyond. It's beyond words," she told TODAY's Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb in an interview later. "It's a different type of love. It's so true motherhood is the greatest job in the world. It's the greatest honor in the world."