Newsmakers

Robin Roberts’ Candid Conversation With Diane Sawyer on MDS, Being a ‘Symbol of Hope’

Newsmakers


Robin Roberts made her return to “Good Morning America” Wednesday, five months to the day since she underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS, a rare blood disorder.

For the “GMA” anchor, anchoring again after 174 days was a major milestone. From coming to terms with her life-threatening diagnosis, to intensive chemotherapy, to the transplant and recovery process, the last year has been the toughest fight of her life, she said. She went through 30 days of complete isolation to protect against infection. There were days when she struggled to eat, to drink, and others where she was in a coma-like state.

Roberts sat down with her friend and colleague, ABC News’ “World News” anchor Diane Sawyer, before she returned to the anchor chair and the morning television world she left behind, opening up in a candid conversation about how far she’s come.

“When you wake up in the morning, what’s different now?” Sawyer asked.

“It’s hard to explain to people how much better you feel every day, but to actually wake up and go, ‘Boy, I thought I felt good yesterday. I really feel good today’ -- it’s something I’ve never experienced before,” Roberts, 52, said. “I’ve always been athletic and in good health and [doing] yoga and Pilates and those types of things, but I can never remember a time when I was so aware of how I was feeling and for so long.”

Watch "20/20" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET for a behind-the-scenes look at Roberts' journey.

Through her recovery, Roberts has relied on the support of family, friends and viewers, who followed her health and offered well-wishes on social media. For other patients battling MDS or fighting illness, Roberts’ story served as an inspiration.

“I’m so grateful that people see me as a symbol of hope,” she said. She told Sawyer of an encounter last weekend on Twitter with a young man whose mother is fighting MDS.
“I talked to a woman over the weekend. Her son tweeted me … it said, ‘My mother’s going through MDS. She’s in the hospital. Her sister was a match. It would mean everything if you would just call her.’ So, I told him, ‘Give me a number and I would talk to her,’” she recalled.

When Roberts called, the woman was walking around the nurses’ station – just as she used to do. “The nurse answered the phone and said … ‘She’s walking,’ and I thought, ‘This is great, she’s up, she’s out! You know?’And so we had this wonderful, wonderful conversation that only the two of us can understand.”

“Many people want to help [but] unless you’ve gone through that,” Roberts said, “I could tell her little things that I did that were effective and that. I hang up the phone and I go, this is why. Okay, I got it. I got it. I didn’t know anybody. I couldn’t pick up the phone and call anybody. I didn’t know anybody who had gone through this. ….. It makes it worth it. This really makes it worth it.”

Having fought so hard to regain her strength, Roberts said she relies on imagery and visualization now to take her to her happy place, Key West, Fla., where she goes to rest and renew her spirit.

“I actually will close my eyes and my happy place, my safe place is Key West… is seeing the sunrise. Having my Cuban coffee in one hand, watching the sun rise and the beginning of a new day. And I think that’s partly because I’ve been associated with morning shows for the majority of my career. I love the morning. Momma always used to say this: ‘It’s like a clean slate!’ You get to start all over again and when I do have those dark moments, another thing that Mom said: ‘If you’re having a bad day, end it. Go to bed.’”

READ MORE: Next Steps in Robin's Recovery

To find out more about bone marrow donation and sign up for a registration kit from the Be the Match Registry, CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE to Follow Robin's Journey

View Comments (6)

Recommended for You

  • How China is upsetting the old global economic order

    With its huge new infrastructure bank and its ambitions for a globalized renminbi currency, China is leading the upending of a 70-year-old global order built on American economic power. Beijing's rise was confirmed this week at the Spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund…

    AFP
  • Ohio woman's search for birth mother leads to co-worker

    YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) — A 38-year-old woman's quest to find her birth mother ended in a surprising place — the company where she works.

    Associated Press
  • Ohio officer praised for restraint, refused to shoot suspect

    NEW RICHMOND, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio police officer is being praised for holding his fire even as a slaying suspect charged him, saying repeatedly, "shoot me."

    Associated Press
  • Thousands in Germany protest against Europe-U.S. trade deal

    By Noah Barkin BERLIN (Reuters) - Thousands of people marched in Berlin, Munich and other German cities on Saturday in protest against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that they fear will erode food, labor and environmental standards. Opposition to the Transatlantic…

    Reuters
  • Man who went on 9-day killing spree in 1977 denied parole

    SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A convicted California serial killer who went on a nine-day rampage that claimed the lives of four people has been denied parole and cannot reapply for seven years.

    Associated Press
  • Play

    Missing Woman's Husband Admits to Police Wife Is Dead

    Act 4: Michael Wilkie tells a detective that Shelby Wilkie killed herself and that he cremated her.

    ABC News Videos
  • One man's last wish, 'Don't vote for Hillary Clinton.' Will it matter?

    Larry Darrell Upright died this week. "In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Shriners Hospital for Children .... Also, the family respectfully asks that you do not vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. We promise not to vote for Hillary," one mourner wrote. A CNN poll released Monday shows that…

    Christian Science Monitor
  • California prepares for historic mandatory cutbacks on water

    California water officials drafted a slate of mandatory conservation regulations Saturday, part of a first-ever attempt at mandatory rationing for the state, which is facing its fourth consecutive year of drought.

    Yahoo News
  • Saudi soldier killed in Yemen border clash

    Fighting along Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen has killed a soldier from the kingdom, the Saudi-led coalition spokesman said on Saturday. The soldier is the seventh to die since coalition aircraft on March 26 began air strikes in Yemen to stop a southern advance by Iran-backed Huthi rebels.…

    AFP
  • Phelps roars from last to 1st in 100 free at Arizona meet

    MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Michael Phelps roared from last to first on the final lap to win the 100-meter freestyle against rival Ryan Lochte on Saturday night in the Arena Pro Swim Series.

    Associated Press
  • Missouri drops charges against officer indicted in shooting of man

    By Kevin Murphy KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) - A Missouri prosecutor on Friday dismissed charges against a Kansas City police officer indicted in February by a grand jury for the non-fatal shooting of a 37-year-old man last summer. The dismissal comes amid heightened attention to police shootings…

    Reuters
  • Play

    Torrential Rains Drench Texas

    ABC News meteorologist Rob Marciano reports the latest weather across the U.S.

    ABC News Videos
  • Diplomacy out, blunt talk in as Obama gets tough on GOP

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Diplomacy is out, blunt talk is in as President Barack Obama and his White House team single out Republican lawmakers by name for criticism over their words and actions on Iran, Cabinet nominations and climate change.

    Associated Press
  • Eight essential nutrients for the aging brain

    Warding off cognitive decline as we age could be a question of getting enough of eight nutrients that Linda Milo Ohr, contributing editor of the journal Institute of Food Technologies (IFT) has singled out in a recent paper. Found in cocoa beans and abundant in servings of dark chocolate, a recent…

    AFP Relax News
  • Fish found in suspected tsunami debris boat quarantined

    PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The wreckage of a fishing boat that appears to be debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami was carrying some unexpected passengers — fish from Japanese waters — when it was spotted off the Oregon coast.

    Associated Press
  • Mugabe 'shocked, disgusted' by South African anti-immigrant violence

    By MacDonald Dzirutwe HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Saturday expressed shock and disgust at attacks on immigrants in neighboring South Africa and said his government was working to bring back home affected Zimbabwean citizens. At least four people have been killed in a…

    Reuters
  • Americans Are Changing Their Minds About Pot Legalization

    A new Pew Research Center poll has found that 53 percent of Americans believe marijuana use should be legalized. Twenty-one percent of Americans surveyed by Pew have changed their minds about marijuana and no longer oppose legalization. Meanwhile, a new poll from Bloomberg Politics shows that 58…

    Takepart.com
  • Athens-Moscow to sign gas deal: Greek official

    Athens and Moscow are set to sign a deal extending a planned gas pipeline to Greece in exchange for billions in advance payment to the cash-strapped eurozone country, a Greek official told AFP Saturday, a claim denied by the Kremlin. Russia would make an advance payment worth billions for the…

    AFP