Cancer Awareness: Finding Hope with Robin Roberts

DSC_0204By Amanda Moses

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Two is where cancer ranks on the leading causes of death in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Three million women with a history of breast cancer live in the U.S., according to an estimate by The American Cancer Society.
Four is the largest cancer stage, according to the TNM staging system.

One. Two. Three. Four. Not even a full set of fingers on a person’s hand, and yet we can account for four different ways cancer affects our lives.

Cancer is an aggressive disease that kills millions of people every year; it is so vast that we can quantify it in meters of time, using a handful of stick figures to represent people affected and pie charts, but the most common measurement cancer patients will learn about are the TNM stages. The initials TNM represents Tumor, Node, and Metastasis, a system that measures the initial cancer, whether it has spread to the lymph nodes, and if it extends within different parts of the body.

Cancer Research UK reports that when a doctor diagnoses a patient with cancer, they first measure how big the cancer is and if it has spread using the TNM scale. According to Cancer Research UK, the TNM stages are as follows: Stage 1 identifies the cancer as being small and contained. Stage 2 shows that although the cancer has not spread, it has increased in size and may have spread into the lymph nodes surrounding or near by the tumor area. Stage 3 means the cancer is significantly larger and is spreading to the surrounding tissue and is present in the lymph nodes near the tumor. Stage 4 signifies that the cancer has spread from the organ where it was originally discovered and into other parts of the body.

Stages, numbers and other variables are much of the information that cancer patients will receive from their doctors or from personal fact-finding research. The important factor these statistics are trying to highlight is that preventive care is crucial. Screenings and other tests, especially regarding breast cancer, is a proactive approach in combating the disease.

Despite all of the calculations, we cannot add-up the precious moments families lose because their loved ones have passed away after their battle with cancer or the insurmountable fear and pain victims encounter while undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or another trial medication that just may do the trick.

Many of these patients have to rely on others for emotional support and look for someone or something to invigorate them with hope.

Hope can sometimes run as thick as the horse-sized medications someone takes to help reduce the nausea from chemotherapy, or as thin and fragile as a person’s skin after several rounds of radiation.
During these times of doubt and distress who do we turn to for guidance?

Many people look to their religious leaders or someone who has survived the journey. In light of the plight breast cancer has caused on the millions of New Yorkers, the Spring Creek Sun has chosen to highlight a well-known survivor as a role model to those undergoing a battle for their life—Good Morning America anchor, Robin Roberts.

Roberts is infamous for her steadfast faith, humanitarian efforts and her ability to delve deep into a story and unearth humanity. She is a profoundly positive individual that can be considered a source of inspiration because she is a survivor in every sense of the word.

In 2007, Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer. The lump was discovered during a self-breast exam, and she followed up with her doctors for both a mammogram and ultrasound. Roberts was told that she had an aggressive form of cancer called triple-negative breast cancer. According to the National Breast Cancer organization, triple-negative breast cancer involved “the three most common types of receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth–estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene. [These three receptors] are not present in the cancer tumor, which means that the breast cancer cells have tested negative for hormone epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER-2), estrogen receptors (ER), and progesterone receptors (PR). Since the tumor cells lack the necessary receptors, common treatments like hormone therapy and drugs that target estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 are ineffective.” Roberts was informed that the only way to treat this form of cancer was with chemotherapy.

During the entire ordeal, although she was shocked, she maintained her fighting spirit and did everything possible to beat the cancer. In a podcast interview with ABC’s Rebecca Jarvis’ show No Limits, Roberts confessed that she was afraid. However, she approached this illness with an athlete’s perspective, looking at the statistics and focusing on beating the odds. She also looked to others as a source of strength, following survival stories of those who have underwent a similar journey.

Roberts survived the treatment, but was later diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). This is a rare blood disease that is considered pre-leukemia (a form of blood cancer). The chemotherapy that Roberts was medicated with caused this rare form of cancer. Her distress was palpable when she described her experience over the podcast interview with Jarvis explaining that the very treatment that was supposed to save her life was now putting her in jeopardy.

Despite the odds, she continued to fight and was lucky enough to have a blood donor match from her sister. Roberts, like one of the 252,710 women in the United States diagnosed with breast cancer (according to the National Breast Cancer organization), faced this mental and physically grueling disease with hope in her heart. She did not let fear win and she continues to use her experience and her voice to spread cancer awareness.

Roberts considers herself a messenger, and not only shares the stories of people’s experiences on broadcast television, but also on her podcast show Everybody’s Got Something. She uses this platform to interview people from all walks of life, whether Roberts is talking with a couple who were both diagnosed with breast cancer or a man describing his experience overcoming abuse and immigrating to America. Roberts is a messenger of hope, trying to be the voice that encourages you to get back up and fight.

Spring Creek Sun’s Interview with Robin Roberts

After the panel, moderator Steve Jones Vice President and General Manager, ABC News Radio, Robin Roberts and Rebecca Jarvis Chief Business, Technology & Economics Correspondent at ABC News and Host/Creator 'No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis' Podcast, ABC News posed for a photo.

After the panel, moderator Steve Jones Vice President and General Manager, ABC News Radio, Robin Roberts and Rebecca Jarvis Chief Business, Technology & Economics Correspondent at ABC News and Host/Creator ‘No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis’ Podcast, ABC News and their staff posed for a photo.

The Spring Creek Sun caught up with Good Morning America anchor, Robin Roberts, after her guest speaker appearance at Advertising Week’s panel, “Podcasting: The New Battleground for Female Audio Consumers.” She discussed her experience as a storyteller and her work both as an anchor for Good Morning America and as the creator and host of the podcast “Everybody’s Got Something.”

Spring Creek Sun (SCS): How has podcasting changed your perspective as a journalist?
Robin Roberts (RR): It’s another tool. I look at it as a wonderful, creative, and in many ways, a more fulfilling tool. There is more depth there. I’ve used the example that I could do an interview with someone on broadcast and then turn around that same day and do an interview with them on the podcast and it is like night and day. The information and the comfort, because of the setting, [allows them to be] able to share, and what’s so important to me as a journalist, is making sure that whoever I’m talking to are able to deliver their message and that their message can be received to help people.

SCS: Is that what you want people to take away from your podcast?
RR: Yeah, it’s a tool that’s just like [my podcast] name says “Everybody’s Got Something” and I know that the people who are listening, they got their something. I don’t know what the something is, but I want them, at the end of hearing it going, “Oh my gosh, thank you. Somebody hears me.” It might be something totally different from their something, but success leaves clues and some people who are successful, and it’s not so much what you achieve, but what you overcome that’s really what you accomplish at the end of the day—it’s what you overcome. It’s beautiful storytelling and I take no credit. It’s the people that I’ve been blessed to sit down with and have them share their message and I love being a messenger. I want to keep delivering that message of hope, be resilient, and know that this too shall pass.
SCS: Is there a goal or dream that you have with podcasting?
RR: To use my colleague [Rebecca Jarvis’ podcast’s] phrase there are “No Limits.”

Photos by Dean Moses