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ABC anchor Robin Roberts has become an icon for breast cancer survivors after bravely battling the disease in front of
the cameras

For Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, life after cancer is about thriving, not just surviving

soothing and empathetic demeanor has long made Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts a fan favorite. But it wasn’t until she began chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2007 that she became something else: an icon. By publicly chronicling her health battle—which in 2012 became even more complicated with her diagnosis of myelodysplastic syndrome, a disorder in which the bone marrow doesn’t make enough healthy blood cells—on TV, Roberts has grown into an unofficial poster woman for breast cancer survivors.

Roberts’ new memoir, published in April 2014

 

“It’s humbling,” Roberts says of her status within the cancer community. “That’s the word. I can’t think of a day, today included, that I don’t realize it. A woman comes up to me, and she’s an 11-year survivor, and she’s sharing her story with me. And she’s vibrant, and she’s in Times Square, and she’s part of this wonderful sisterhood, and I tell them, they are the role models, and they’ve lived before me. I know we use this word survivor, and I respect that, but I like to use the word thriver. To be among that number is quite humbling.”

The ABC anchor’s reach as a broadcaster, with an average daily audience of nearly 5 million viewers, gives her a powerful platform. “We love to discuss our hair and fashion and boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses. Why can’t we discuss breast cancer with one another?” After discovering a lump in her breast during a self-examination, the 53-year-old understands firsthand the importance of cancer awareness, particularly knowing what to look out for and keeping an open dialogue with one’s doctor.

Of women who are too afraid or reticent to speak with their doctor about cancer risks, Roberts says, “I just never understand when people say, ‘I would rather not know.’ Give yourself a fighting chance! People are very good about donating to Susan G. Komen and all these walks. Pick up the literature. It’s great you’re raising money. It’s great you’re getting out and walking, but pick up the literature as well.”

“A woman comes up to me, and she’s an 11-year survivor. And she’s vibrant and part of this wonderful sisterhood, and I tell them, they are the role models.”

oberts’ harrowing yet successful fights against breast cancer and myelodysplastic syndrome, both experienced in the public eye, seem to have had a positive impact on her career, as they made her more relatable to audiences. The day she returned to the set from her medical leave for her myelodysplastic syndrome treatments, Good Morning America reported a huge spike in viewership. Her battles with illness have also shined a spotlight on her indefatigable strength: Along with her role as an anchor, in April 2014 her New York Times best seller Everybody’s Got Something was published, and in September 2014 she announced that she will be launching her own production company, Rock’n Robin Productions. Still, hers was not an easy road, as all those struggling with
cancer—whether as patients or by the side of loved ones—understand.

While overcoming illness, “you figure out what your new normal is,” Roberts says. “And that’s what I’ve done.”

 

“Many of us go through a period of depression, myself included,” she admits. “You are very grateful you’re still here, you’re going through chemo, different kinds of treatments, someone is always watching you. Then you’re on your own, and then you figure out what your new normal is. And that’s what I’ve done.”

Roberts’ new normal? “Staying in the moment,” she says. “People always say to me, ‘You’re so brave,’ and I say, ‘Am I really?’ We’re always a little bit stronger and braver than we think we are. I didn’t know how I’d react to the diagnosis that I received.”

Now, because of her trials, tribulations and triumphs, Roberts says, “I’m much more open. I’ve shared so much more of my life post-cancer than I did before. I’m uninhibited. That’s the new normal.”

 

Carson Griffith is a contributing editor at Town & Country and also has written for Billboard, the New York Daily News and The Wall Street Journal. She lives in New York City.

  • Photograph by Ida Mae Astute; courtesy of Disney ABC Television Group/Getty Images
  • Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
  • Photograph by Ida Mae Astute; courtesy of Disney ABC Television Group/Getty Images
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