Stories of Survival

Surviving Cancer: ‘[Cancer] Would Never Be My Life’s Story’

Article by Elisabeth McFarland

Robin RobertsThere are more than 14 million cancer survivors in the United States. Each of these survivors has a story. Robin Roberts’ story speaks of her upbeat attitude and her determination to never give up.

The “Good Morning America” anchor’s cancer story began in 2007 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Most people find out this news in a doctor’s office with family. Roberts, as she wrote in her recent memoir Everybody’s Got Something, received a phone call from her doctor about her diagnosis while on a plane, alone.

“When I boarded in New York, I was just Robin. Now, I was Robin with breast cancer,” she said in her book.

Roberts, however, did not let this disease define her. And, after surgery and several months of chemotherapy and radiation, it was a disease she eventually beat. “Cancer was nothing more than a chapter in my life’s story. It would never be my life’s story,” she wrote.

Roberts’ chapter on cancer reopened in 2012, when she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a bone marrow disorder, likely as a result of chemotherapy. She even had to take a leave of absence from “Good Morning America” to receive a bone marrow transplant.

Instead of feeling defeated, Roberts continued to fight.

She said in her memoir, “… when I was struggling and in doubt, I would simply take the next small step. I would stop and think: ‘No, life is not tied with a beautiful bow all the time, but it’s still a gift. I’m going to tear away the wrapping like a little kid at Christmas.’ ”

Roberts faced these battles with faith, courage and strength, and her positive attitude did not go unnoticed. She was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2013 ESPY Awards. In her acceptance speech, Roberts mentioned how she was present when Jim Valvano, her former colleague at ESPN, won the first-ever Arthur Ashe Award in 1993.

“I’ve been blessed to achieve things in life I could have never imagined as a little girl growing up in Mississippi,” she said in her speech. But most of all, I never imagined that I’d be standing here, 20 years after Jimmy V’s speech, and say that because of everyone who has responded to his challenge, because of all the donations, research and support, mine is one of the lives that’s been saved.”

Cancer research is especially important to Roberts, as she serves on The V Foundation’s Board of Directors and participates in Foundation events like The V Foundation Wine Celebration. At the 15th Annual V Wine Celebration, nearly $1.2 million was raised for MDS research in her honor.

Roberts, like Valvano, is an inspiration not only to those facing cancer but also to those dealing with all of life’s obstacles. As we celebrate Cancer Survivors’ Month at The V Foundation, we commend Roberts and the millions of others out there for “focusing on the fight and not the fright.”