Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer: Soul Sisters
Fortunate and Blessed
Ladies' Home Journal: I love your new hair.
Robin Roberts: Oh, thank you. I can give it to you. You can have it.
LHJ: She'd give you the shirt off her back...
RR: ...and the hair off my head [laughs].
LHJ: I was wondering how you were going to handle growing your hair out on the show.
RR: At first I thought I'd wait for it to grow back almost completely before I would take off the wig. And then I decided, no, I will go on with it shorter.
LHJ: It's very flattering.
RR: Well, thank you. You never realize how much -- even though we're empowered women and all that -- it comes down to our hair. I think it's from our mothers, when we were yea high. They constantly are talking to us about it.
Diane Sawyer: Robin always does what she's feeling. So the idea that she has a strategy or plan could not be more removed. She really does what she's feeling is true in that moment. She is free of all expectations from the world.
LHJ: Robin, how are you feeling? You look so healthy and energetic.
RR: I'm very fortunate and very blessed. Being athletic did not prevent me from getting cancer but it has helped me in battling it. I think that's part of the reason why I have seemingly handled it as well as I have. I had some really rough times, though. I remember one Saturday morning when I couldn't get off the couch. Diane came over with her dog, Lila, then went to the store and got rice pudding, because that's about all that sounded good to me. There were a lot of days like that, that people didn't see. But I did feel a sense of responsibility to be truthful about how I was doing. Once I announced I had cancer, I knew a lot of extra eyes would be watching me. So I didn't want to fake it. I didn't want people to think, "Oh, cancer's a bed of roses." It's not. There are so many people living with cancer. I wanted to be able to change the face of what it really looks like.
DS: A surprisingly large number of people want to -- or have to -- go back to work while getting chemo. I think they look to Robin as one of the few people who has shown what it's like to do that.
LHJ: What message do you want people to get?
RR: One time I talked on the air about Diane's perfume. I had just had chemo, and my senses were really heightened. During the commercial break I made some comment....
DS: You were hyperventilating! I guess trying not to throw up on me.
RR: Exactly. I looked at her and said, "Love you, but you're killing me with the perfume." So we go on the air, and we actually have a little side conversation about it. After that, so many people said thank you, that they were working with someone who had cancer and didn't know that that could be an issue, so they wouldn't wear perfume to work anymore. So people have picked up on little things like that, because there's still such a mystery surrounding cancer: How do you live with it ? And how can you be a caretaker?
DS: I think what you've also communicated to everybody you work with is, don't make assumptions. Don't assume that someone is going to be 100 percent. But don't assume they're not going to be, either. Let them guide you. My husband [Oscar-winning movie director Mike Nichols] quoted someone the other day who said the greatest gift someone can give you is a change in yourself [looks to Roberts]. You have given all of us this, because you have taught us how to talk to you about cancer. And by being so funny all the time, you've taken the anxiety out of talking about it.
RR: I don't want pity. I don't want the tilt of the head. I tried to show that to my coworkers. And you know the best thing they did for me? They treated me like Robin. People have said to me, "How could you go to work?" I'm like, "How could I not?" I don't think I would be doing as well as I'm doing had I not gone back to work. Sitting at home eating bonbons wouldn't have been the answer.