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What Neil Cavuto Learned From Heart Surgery 5 Years Ago: ‘Don’t Be a Schmuck’ (Exclusive)

“Life is so short. Is it worth it, being an ass? I don’t think it is,” the longtime Fox News anchor tells TheWrap

Something interesting happens when Neil Cavuto misses a day or two on air at Fox News or Fox Business Network, where he’s worked since 1996: Viewers take notice, get worried and send out inquiring tweets. Here at TheWrap, behind-the-scenes stats show an uptick in clicks on years-old stories about Cavuto and his battles with cancer, multiple sclerosis and “the widow maker” heart disease. TheWrap inevitably reaches out to Fox News only to learn it’s all good and he just scheduled time off to be with family.

There’s reason for the concern, of course. This week marked five years since the open-heart surgery that resulted from that “widow maker” diagnosis, and while Cavuto was pretty busy during that time not only recovering, but covering the Trump administration, COVID-19 and plenty else, he had time to reflect on what he’s learned from his health struggles. Boiled down, it amounts to this: “Don’t be a schmuck.”

Though his Stage 4 cancer diagnosis and subsequent remission came early in his adulthood — and, so, around the beginning of his career in news — and the MS and heart condition diagnoses followed, he still sees life as “more good than bad” and considers it all humbling, he told TheWrap this week.

“When I started my career, I was selfish and egotistical. Now, I’m just egotistical,” he joked before turning serious. “You can step on people’s hands as you move up the ladder and that was me. I think cancer told me, ‘Slow down. Quit stepping on hands. Don’t be a schmuck. Don’t be so enamored of yourself that you don’t think all of this can go in a moment, which it can.’ I think that has taught me some basic rules of life. Appreciate it and appreciate those around you. That’s the best I can do.”

As for how his recovery is going five years after the big surgery that he once told TheWrap had him worried he might never return to a news studio, he said, “I think I’m doing OK. I mean, you never know what’s one thing versus another.” At times, he said, it’s difficult to determine if he’s feeling run-down because of his heart or his MS, so treating it all can be “a balance.”

There’s also the fact that across Fox Business and Fox News, he hosts 17 hours of live television a week in addition to serving as both networks’ senior vice president, anchor and managing editor of business news.

His kids and wife keep him humble, too, he added, and remind him to take breaks and focus on family, which he maintains is the most important thing in his life. Ultimately, he said, he’s learned to take everything one day at a time and not get bogged down by anything divisive or negative, which is an approach he’s brought to his work.

“All these issues and political fights and extremes on the right and the left… All of that is so fleeting and the one thing that binds us is our humanity. I think, at our core, we’re all decent human beings I and I think I try to harken to that,” he said, noting that he avoids featuring “yelling and screaming” on his shows in favor of treating his guests with respect. “The illness — and even the heart issue five years ago — reinforces that life is so short. Is it worth it, being an ass? I don’t think it is. I think that these things have made me who I am, for good or ill, but they’ve also made the try to be much more diligent at my job, to be fair to everyone and to be decent to everyone.”