The co-anchor of Good Morning America spoke about her experience when she was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome.
In a wide-ranging, moving and often funny talk, broadcaster Robin Roberts spoke about her parents, her career, her experience as a cancer patient, health equity and inclusion today at the annual meeting of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP).
In a comfy-chair, interview format with AMCP CEO Susan Cantrell, the co-anchor of “Good Morning America” was on stage for about an hour at a large hall at the Henry B. González Convention Center.
Roberts, who became famous as an award-winning sportscaster at ESPN before “Good Morning America,” was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 2007 and was then diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome five years later. She drew a connection between the two, saying that she was grateful that her breast cancer was treated aggressively but “it came at a cost.”
Prompted by Cantrell, Roberts recalled her split feelings on the April 19, 2012.
For years, she recalled, “Good Morning America” was second to the “Today” in the morning television ratings. “We have been chipping away, chipping away at their lead. We wanted to be No.1,” said Roberts.
That day they found out that they had, in fact, surpassed the “Today” show. But Roberts said that day she also had a doctor’s appointment when she found out that she would have only one or two years to live if she didn’t have a successful bone marrow transplant. (Later she received the transplant from her sister Sally-Ann, who was a perfect tissue-type match.) Roberts she kept the sobering news to herself at a joyous rooftop party that evening to celebrate the ratings victory.
“It was one of those life lessons. You better enjoy the journey. Don’t get so caught up on the destination. You think — you have this idea — on how you are going to feel (when you achieve a goal) and you just don’t know.”
Roberts also described her medical care, which included a 30-day hospitalization and losing so much weight that she ended up weighing just 100 pounds. She said she was impressed by how the doctors she had respected the nurses “because they knew what was working and what was not working.”
She recalled being surprised by how many medications she had to take after the hospitalization. “I remember the pharmacist coming in — that pillbox, I have never seen something so big in my life.”
Roberts said her insurance pretty much covered the cost of her medication. “And I thought to myself, how could somebody else, if they don’t have what I am blessed to have … I am fighting for my life. I don’t have to worry. How does somebody, you shouldn’t — your care should not be dictated by your ZIP code. It should not. It should not.”
Roberts and Cantrell also spoke about inclusion. She thanked Cantrell for using the word “inclusion” rather than “diversity.”
“Diversity is being on the team. Inclusion is being in the game,” she said.