Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer: Soul Sisters
Diane and Robin, Real Friends
That's the cure for cancer, right there," says Robin Roberts, looking at Diane Sawyer, her co-anchor at ABC News' Good Morning America, as we sit around a small table in a cavernous photo studio in Manhattan just five days after Roberts has had her last radiation treatment for breast cancer. It has been roughly a year since Roberts made the then shocking news of her diagnosis to some 4.5 million GMA viewers and then proceeded to document her own treatment and recovery in ground-breakingly intimate ways, including taking cameras with her when she shaved her head and had a chemotherapy IV in her arm. Her struggle moved, empowered, and awed all of us, whether you've had breast cancer, know someone who does, or ever had a jolt of fear that you might one day, too.
But how did Roberts get through it, really? In their first-ever joint interview on the subject for a magazine, Roberts and Sawyer let us glimpse the "never underestimate the power of a woman" quality of their friendship, which is, apparently, not only real (as skeptics sometimes wonder when watching the pair's warm camaraderie on air) but is in fact quite extraordinary. During the whole interview Roberts has a lone tear tracking down her cheek from the corner of her right eye, though some private code of dignity seems to compel her to ignore it. And yet this is a conversation that is punctuated by frequent laughter, as the two friends make easy puns at each other's -- and their own -- expense. Sawyer speaks so softly that one must strain to hear her ("Yes, she's a low talker," Roberts remarks), and this -- plus the searingly intimate topic -- adds to the feeling of being an eavesdropper on a private exchange. Sawyer is watchful and meditative yet quick as an Olympic figure skater on her feet with a joke. (And -- just as the last time we met for an interview -- she is feeling chilly and asks for my tossed-aside coat, huddling gratefully into it as we speak.)
During the cover photo shoot just an hour earlier, the two women burst out of the gate ready to have fun. They started dancing and mugging to the blasting Motown like a pair of elegant sorority girls just finished with finals, and surprisingly, it's Sawyer who is the most full of high jinks. "There she goes, trying to lead!" says Roberts in a faux-miffed tone as Sawyer grabs her hand for a twirl. Roberts is sporting a new chic wig that will approximate the length of her actual hair on GMA as this issue of Ladies' Home Journal hits newsstands. Indeed, the very next week after this dual Dancing Queens performance, Roberts will go on national television without any wig at all. So naturally, it is the place where we begin our conversation.