Robin Roberts Revealed

Robin RobertsA bout with cancer. A frail parent. Robin Roberts opens up about how she shifted her priorities and found a whole new kind of happy. Read an excerpt from our interview with Robin in the June issue of Good Housekeeping.

On her killer Oscar dress and going commando on the red carpet:
Her dress kept riding up; her stylists determined that the Spanx she had on were the culprit, so she had no choice but to remove them. Though none of the millions of viewers had any idea, she was bantering with A-listers with no underwear on. Because the Oscars commentators tend to leave no detail of celebrities' looks un - remarked upon, some insisted that Robin's great figure was courtesy of derriere-enhancing briefs. She pretends to be insulted that she didn't get credit: "I'm old school! I did squats at the gym for six weeks for that! I wasn't wearing anything!"

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On going public with her cancer diagnosis:
Robin flew to Atlanta on a brief assignment. She turned on her cell phone as soon as the plane landed, and got a call from her doctor. All she remembers hearing, through the words of reassurance, is "Robin, it's cancer." She felt an immediate shift. She had boarded the plane in New York City as "just Robin. Now I was Robin-with-breast-cancer," she recalls. She put on her sunglasses so no one around her could see her tears.

With the help of her dear friend and then co-anchor Diane Sawyer, Robin made the decision to go public with her diagnosis. ABC World News anchor Peter Jennings had died of lung cancer two years earlier; Robin wanted GMA's fans to know that "cancer" didn't mean you couldn't continue to work and lead a vital life. And so, she says, as "Diane reached over and grabbed my hand (because she could tell I was going to lose it)," Robin announced her diagnosis to the show's viewers.

On deciding to shave her head in front of the camera:
"I chose this day to lose my hair; you" - meaning cancer - "are not telling me," she explains. Still, after that, on the air she dutifully wore "my trusty wig, with the little anchorwoman flip."

On covering Fashion Week bald:
Robin got dolled up in an Isaac Mizrahi gown and - wig securely in place - started toward the runway. "I looked in the mirror, and I'm like, Nah, that's not me. And I took the wig off and walked the runway bald. It was a really profound moment."

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On how cancer changed her:
"I'm not one of those people who say, 'Cancer is one of the best doggone things that ever happened to me,' " Robin says. "I was appreciating life. But [the disease] has made me far more patient than I've ever been in my life. And I'm more in the moment with people. I know I missed some real opportunities" - nieces' graduations, girlfriend dinners, hanging-out time - because of work. I was not a really good friend, because I [often] had to cancel."
On putting herself first:
"I was not feeling well yesterday - I was tired from having been traveling. I raised my hand. I said, 'I can't come in tomorrow. I need to sleep.' This is something I would not have done before cancer. "I was a 'never let them see you sweat' kind of person. You know how you see this person above the water's surface, looking calm, but underneath they're" - she makes a gesture of furious pedaling. "Outside I was, 'I'm as cool as the other side of the pillow.' But, boy, internally? I was, I gotta be this, I gotta be that...! This is a very stressful, very competitive industry."

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On faith as her rock:
At one point or another during her busy day - every day, without fail - Robin reaches for the devotional book Streams in the Desert - "I have a copy in my dressing room at work and one by my bedside." There's a prayer for every day of the year; she reads it as her daily devotional. Now, Robin goes to her bedroom, fetches the book - this weathered copy belonged to her grandmother - and opens it. On the passage for today, her grandmother had penciled in, in a touchingly shaky hand, I have no other help but you, Lord. And I trust you.

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