News anchor tells us why mammograms matter
Good Morning America reporter takes on breast cancer awareness after unexpected diagnosis.
Johnny Woodhouse Published: 6/6/2017
Amy Robach had just given birth to her second child when she underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor in one of her ovaries. A few years later, the hard-charging TV reporter found out her heart was in a constant state of misfire.
But those health scares were mere blips on the radar compared to the day when Robach found out she had breast cancer.
The award-winning news anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America chronicles her difficult but illuminating 12-month journey to survivor status in her 2015 book, "Better: How I Let Go of Control, Held On to Hope, and Found Joy in My Darkest Hour.”
A self-admitted “workaholic,” the best-selling author, who was a keynote speaker at the 2016 Good for You Girls' Day Out event in Jacksonville, didn’t let anything slow her down as she climbed the ladder from morning traffic reporter to national correspondent. Then, at the age of 40, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“My self-worth was tied to my job. It defined me beyond the point of healthiness,” Robach writes in her revealing, 256-page memoir. “When I was diagnosed, I felt my sunny outlook had been stolen.”
When Robach agreed to have her first mammogram on national TV, she was buoyed by the fact that there was no history of breast cancer in her family. To her surprise, the test revealed a malignant tumor on her right breast. Her doctor removed 13 of her lymph nodes before he found a second tumor. She immediately underwent a bilateral mastectomy, followed by six months of chemotherapy treatments.
“Turns out I was the poster child for mastectomy, but no one knew it ahead of time, because my lymph nodes ‘looked’ normal in the sonogram and my tumor seemed isolated,” recounts Robach, a recipient of the End Cancer Award from Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center.
A Michigan native who moved to Georgia when she was 12, Robach volunteered at nursing homes as a teenager and was a high school beauty queen when she went off to college to study broadcast journalism at the University of Georgia. Inspired by an aunt who worked as a TV anchor in Tennessee, she fell in love with reporting while working for a campus station.
“It was an honor to tell people’s stories and capture their unscripted moments,” she adds in the book.
After her third of eight chemo treatments, Robach, who spent nine years at NBC, including six as a weekend anchor for Today, boarded a plane to cover the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. It was her way of “fighting” the cancer that had “ravaged” so much of her identity.
But being a cancer survivor didn’t dawn on her until she took a much-needed family vacation to Tuscany, following reconstructive surgery.
On a warm and lazy July afternoon just outside the picturesque town of Siena, Robach ran along the rolling countryside, past lush, sun-splashed vineyards, until something stopped her dead in her tracks.
Placing her hands on her knees, Robach said she realized that she wasn’t just running, she was “running on a new path, a path that had a real future.”
“I was completely caught off guard. I actually forgot all that I had been through this year,” the book says. “Emotion flooded me, but as I fought back tears, I felt empowered. I would never be the beaten-down, hopeless cancer patient I’d often felt like over the last eight months. I was a survivor. In that instant, I had hope and a vision of what I could still become.”
Now that she has “looked beyond the veil,” Robach said she hears a clock ticking in her head. She’s on a mission to spread the word about the benefits of early detection. When you have walked through the valley of the shadow of death as she has, there is no turning back - only a path going forward.