Carole Radziwill has shared the heartbreaking story of her late husband Anthony Radziwill's battle with cancer in her bestselling book What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love and on The Real Housewives of New York City. However, Carole and Anthony mostly kept his illness a secret until his death in 1999, the RHONY author revealed in the latest episode of Sarah Brokaw's Shared Secrets podcast.
Anthony was diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare kind of cancer, right before he and Carole wed in 1994. "[Cancer] was seen as a death sentence. So it's not something that you wanted to talk about," Carole said. "No one would talk about it openly, even though there was many, many, many treatments and there were a lot of cures also for different cancers. But still it was that lingering thing, like, 'Oh, you have cancer.' And it was always said with a whisper. Still, even today it is, which is just interesting. That became our secret."
Carole said that this "became a secret that was kind of easy to keep," because Anthony "was really healthy except for the cancer." Anthony rarely missed work as a producer for ABC News. When he had to undergo two major surgeries, Carole said that they "used to schedule them like vacations," taking the shuttle down to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland on a Thursday, and Anthony would be released by the following Monday or Tuesday. "We could keep this secret for a very long time. Very few people knew about it. His immediate family, really, and a couple of close friends at work," Carole said. "We lived like that for almost four, really, of the five years he had the illness."
It became more difficult to keep this secret during the last year of Anthony's life as the cancer metastasized outside of his lungs and it had to be treated with chemotherapy and radiation instead of operations. "But we did manage. I remember that last summer, we were in Martha's Vineyard staying with his cousin John [F. Kennedy Jr.] and Carolyn [Bessette Kennedy], his wife. And what happens is when you have secrets for so long, you don't notice it right away, but your world starts to really shrink because even though we were able to have a pretty great life and do a lot of things, when you're carrying a secret like that, inevitably your world is going to get smaller and smaller and smaller because you're just not letting it grow," Carole explained. "So the people who know about the illness or the secret are really the ones you're gonna depend on, and then it becomes only those people."
Part of the reason why Carole and Anthony didn't want to open up about his cancer battle was also because it seemed like that would make it become more real. "There's a part of secrets where you don't want to say it out loud because you don't want it to be real. So the things we keep secret are the things we really don't want to think about. If we don't talk about it, it's not really true," Carole said. "And that, for Anthony, he didn't want to know he had cancer or think about it. We didn't even talk about it much between the two of us. It was something we did on the weekend at NIH, and then when we were back in New York, we were back to our New York lives."
Carole had a similar experience with this when she found out the news that John and Carolyn's plane had crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 1999. "I remember that night of the plane crash, I didn't want to tell anyone because I thought if it's just me making these phone calls to air traffic control people and calling John's friends and John's flight instructor and all of the people and calling his apartment and trying to leave messages, I didn't want it to be real. I wanted to almost keep it a secret," Carole shared. "And it wasn't until I had to call the coast guard to report the plane missing was when it really hit me because then I knew it could no longer be this secret thing where I was just in the kitchen making these calls at midnight. It had become real."
When Anthony passed away just three weeks later, Carole said that she hid her grief from others as well. "I didn't want to appear to be in grief. I just thought people are gonna tolerate it for a month or two months or three months even, and they did. There was a lot of calling and a lot of coming around and all that. But then everyone moves on with their life. I wasn't moving on with my life, if I was being honest. It was six months and eight months, a year. And I would go out and I would meet friends for dinner and stuff. And I remember, I would do my hair, put my makeup on, put on a great shoe, and be the life of the dinner for the hour or two I had to be out," she recalled. "And people were happy. And I was like, 'OK, this is a secret.' It's harder to grieve that way... There's too many secrets around it, so it's hard to get yourself out of that, what's real and what's not now. How am I supposed to be feeling? Is it the smiley Carole with a good shoe and a nice outfit, or is it this other Carole I see at home where it's still hard to get out of bed, and I still wake up in the morning, and I can't believe I've got to fill another day, and I don't know what I'm doing, and I left my job. It's hard. Secrets, they're hard to keep, and they're hard to sustain."
On RHONY, Carole has talked with Bethenny Frankel about her concerns about getting into a relationship because of the fear that she'll be abandoned again after losing so many people close to her. "When you hold onto secrets for so long, it's really hard to then open up to someone so completely and fully in the way that you need to in order to have healthy relationships moving forward," she said of the moment during the Shared Secrets podcast. "There's always this lack of trust or gnawing sense that you're not being completely honest about who you are."
Of course, RHONY fans know that Carole has been happily with her boyfriend Adam Kenworthy, so it looks like she has opened her life up to love again.
Check out more of Carole's life with Anthony, below.