Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer: Soul Sisters
Hearing the Truth
LHJ: Diane, was there ever a time when you felt protective or overprotective of Robin, that you wish she had listened to you?
RR: Oh, I'm gonna love this one. Go ahead, be honest.
DS: I felt a couple of things. I didn't feel she should have traveled.
RR: I know, I know. [Roberts traveled to the Middle East while she was getting chemotherapy to do a report on the stigma of breast cancer in Muslim societies.]
DS: I was also concerned that she not be pressured into doing anything publicly. That if she wanted to stay completely private, she could do that, too. That she did not do anything for the world before she took care of herself. And I was just a little worried, because in our business, and in our world, suddenly you're dealing with this as a public event when what you really need to do is fold in and just protect yourself. You want to make sure that you've heard your own thoughts. You don't get back your chance to think through how you really feel as opposed to telling other people how you feel. I didn't want her to suddenly have to be on a treadmill of interviews and publicity, unless she wanted to.
LHJ: Robin, at what point did you tell Diane that you had found a lump?
RR: I was on vacation and e-mailed her about finding a doctor, because I had moved and was in between doctors. I didn't want to tell her what it was about. My mom has often said, "We're lumpy people. Don't worry about it." So I just said, "I need a doctor. Just inquiring, just need a checkup." But I also knew that Diane's mind was going, Whooooooa! Who on vacation asks about a doctor?
DS: I'm a BlackBerry addict, and that was one of the few times I was out and did not check it till the next morning.
RR: So I got in touch with Deborah Roberts [a correspondent at ABC News] and went to see her doctor when I got back. I happened to be on assignment when I got the call that the biopsy showed that it was cancer. I was in the public eye for, like, 12 hours before I could get back home. I had to talk to my family in code, because I didn't want anybody to know yet. I was going, "Remember the thing I was gonna get checked out? Well, that thing isn't so good." Finally, the next day, when I came home I walked in and just collapsed on the floor and cried. Just cried and cried. And that night I told Diane.
LHJ: Can you both recall that conversation?
RR: As you can imagine, it's a blur to me -- that whole period of time. All I remember is just this calm, this absolute calm, coming from Diane. [Roberts pauses here to collect herself.] Diane is the type of person who makes you feel everything's going to be all right. That she is going to will it for you. The conversation I do remember vividly was after my surgery when we got the test results back and they weren't quite as promising as we'd hoped. The cancer was more aggressive and more advanced than we initially thought and I was going to have to have chemotherapy. I'm crying on the phone to Diane. And she still is just very calm, compassionate. She had been up calling doctors on the West Coast. I can already hear her dialing doctors on her second phone [turns to Sawyer]. When I was paralyzed with fear and couldn't make a call, it was so comforting to know that you were gathering all this information for me. I knew I was going to have the best possible care, and the best possible outcome.
LHJ: Diane, what's your memory of those conversations?
DS: [Looking intently at Roberts] I remember the first conversation. Your voice caught, but you were very matter-of-fact. That you had a lump, it was cancer. And it was the two of us saying, Okay, this is the news today. And everything is going to be great. I knew it, I knew it. And then I did start calling. I called every place, the middle of the country, the West Coast. So I could tell you what they were telling me, which was, "This is going to be okay." To me, when you're in the middle of a crisis, one of the hardest things is to ask the questions you're meant to ask.
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