GMA'S Robin Roberts talks about loss, love, and faith

Melanie Lawson Image
Sunday, June 8, 2014
Crossroads, Segment 1, June 8, 2014
Robin Roberts with her mother whom she discusses in her new book 'Everone's Got Something'

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Robin Roberts is one of the most popular faces on morning television, but the anchor of Good Morning America has faced death twice in less than a decade.

Roberts was first treated for breast cancer in 2007. Then less than two years ago, she was diagnosed with a rare blood and bone marrow disease called Myelodysplastic syndrome, commonly known as MDS. It's also been described as "pre-leukemia". Roberts was given the shocking news that without a successful bone marrow transplant, she had only one to two years to live.

Roberts has now written a book about her story of loss, love, and faith called "Everybody's Got Something". It was one of her mother's favorite sayings to explain how so many people have to deal with their own challenges.

While in Houston last week for Major League Baseball's Civil Rights Game, Robin talked about the physical and emotional rollercoaster she rode while going through treatment. On the very same day she was diagnosed with MDS, the anchors and staff of Good Morning America learned they'd taken first place in the ratings, after more than 16 years of trailing the Today Show.

"That morning, having a champagne toast with my colleagues and friends and that afternoon, being told that unless I found a match, it was going to be difficult," Roberts said. "I didn't know that same day, I'd get a dire diagnosis that I had a year or two to live."

Then came some miraculous news: her older sister Sally-Ann Roberts, a veteran anchor in New Orleans, was a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant. But while they were only days away from the procedure, more devastating news - her beloved mother, who was recovering from a stroke, had taken a turn for the worse.

Robin and her sister flew home to Mississippi, just in time to watch her mother take her last breath.

"I said I'm not leaving, I'm not leaving because I knew if I left and had the transplant, I couldn't get back to her if she needed me," Roberts said. "Everybody else left the house and I was alone with Mom, and she passed. It was almost like she said, you know, daughter, you need to do this and I need to do this. I'm going to go somewhere where I can watch over you and you don't need to worry about me and I don't need to worry about you."

Robin says it's the first time she's ever gone through anything this excruciating without her mother, and calls it the most difficult time of her life.

"I had to put my grief on hold, but as time has passed, I realize it was my mother showing me that I was stronger than I thought I was," said Roberts.

After an incredibly painful series of treatments and procedures, Roberts was kept in isolation at the hospital for a month, then remained more or less quarantined at home for several more months. When she returned to work five months to the day after her diagnosis, she was much thinner and with a lot less hair, but incredibly grateful to everyone who helped in her recovery, including all the viewers who lifted her up.

"Knowing that people from all walks of life and all faiths have taken the time to lift you up in prayer, and I know that's a major reason why I'm here today," Roberts said.