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Omaha Magazine

Waverle Monroe: Remaining Unapologetically Herself

Dec 27, 2022 10:02AM ● By Leo Adam Biga
Waverle Monroe on KETV studio.

Photo Provided.

Since joining ABC affiliate KETV in 2017, viewers have come to know Waverle Monroe as a high-energy Omaha native with a passion for community storytelling. Now they know her as a cancer warrior, too. 

Last July, Monroe shared on social media her stage 1 cancer diagnosis, regularly updating followers about her chemotherapy regimen thereafter. Well-wishes inundated KETV, especially when she sported a bald head and beaming smile on camera—exhibiting the bold, positive attitude she displays on-air to this fight.

“I am always trying to be 100% authentically me. That’s what you see on the screen, at my desk, at home or out with friends. I am that sassy firecracker... It’s how I move about in the world,” said Monroe, who since 2019 has co-anchored the weekend newscast. 

She truly appreciates the public’s outpouring of love, especially the encouragement from those likewise touched by cancer. “It really helps make me feel like I’m not alone.”

She also appreciates her colleagues rallying behind her. 

“It’s great to come into a workplace and know that people really do care and are concerned about my health. It feels like I have a second family.” 

A close friend is weekend co-anchor Jonah Gilmore. They shared the distinction of anchoring the market’s first all-Black newscast last Juneteenth. He’s taken aback, he said, by “how, from the jump, her attitude has been don’t be upset or sad or cry for me; just be here with me along this journey because I’m going to beat this.”  

Added Gilmore, “We get so many messages about how inspiring and uplifting she is to people. She teaches us how to be strong, how to stand in the face of adversity with a smile, and hope for the best.” Being with her through the experience, he said, “has built our bond even more.” 

Health trauma is nothing new to Monroe or her family. Her late father suffered heart and kidney issues, while her mother survived a bout with breast cancer. At 16, Monroe developed sudden-onset kidney failure during her junior year at Burke High. She went on dialysis while awaiting a match from the organ transplant list. 

“You’re thinking about going to college, worrying about your ACT scores, or what party you’re going to get invited to, and then you get the news that basically stops your life,” Monroe recalled. “You feel like everyone’s moving on around you and you’re just standing still.”

After six months in limbo, a donor was found. On December 29, 2010, she received her new kidney at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“I celebrate it every year as a birthday because it not only gave me my life back, but this perspective on not to take life for granted,” Monroe said. “I can’t express how grateful I am because I don’t think I would be able to be who I am today without that transplant. Since then I’ve truly tried to live life with no regrets.”

Following an interest in broadcast journalism stoked during her time at Alice Buffett Middle School, Monroe studied communications at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. As a WOWT intern, she found a role model in one of the station’s then-anchors, Serese Cole. However, a year into her first professional gig in Duluth, Minnesota, a kidney infection prompted her to return home for treatments. 

Monroe was five years health-crisis-free when diagnosed with cancer. Yet, this new challenge hasn’t diminished her optimism.

“Like, I have other stuff I have to do, frankly, and I’m not going to let this slow me down,” she affirmed. 

Drawing inspiration from morning news icon and cancer survivor Robin Roberts, Monroe embraced her new appearance after chemotherapy caused her hair to fall out. 

“I threw a rooftop party surrounded by people that love me and cheer me on,” she recalled. “We had mimosas and played Beyonce and Lizzo. We shaved my head. It was really fun. That’s what set the tone for how I was able to say, ‘This is what it is.’” 

Still, she’s surprised by the scope of public embrace.

“It’s amazing and lovely. It’s a little scary, too, because I didn’t realize I was reaching that many people,” Monroe confessed. “But I’m not scared to lead the path and open doors. If people are silent about it, then people continue to be in these dark places.”

Monroe remains open to where her career may take her next.

“I don’t try to put a map on my life because then I think you put up barriers and close yourself off to other opportunities.” Used to being on the go, she said, “I’m learning to be less hard on myself, to give myself a little grace, and to just take a beat, take a breath.” 

Even though her cancer fight continues—and a second kidney transplant is likely in her lifetime—self-pity isn’t her style. 

“I know deep down in my heart this isn’t going to stop me or define me. I’m not my medical issues.” 

Visit facebook.com/waverlemonroeketv/ for more info. 

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To subscribe, 
click here. 

Photo Provided.

 

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