Tragic Details About Robin Roberts

There's no doubting Robin Roberts is one tough cookie. The "Good Morning America" anchor is made of some seriously resilient stuff after weathering more than her fair share of storms in her life, though she's still managed to keep a positive mental attitude that we can't imagine anyone wouldn't admire. As Roberts told People in 2015, "It's been ten years of immense sorrow, but also joy. You pick yourself back up and you keep moving forward as best you can."

And it sounds like a lot of that sheer grit and determination comes from her strong connection with her family and sheer determination to love life and live it every day. "My sweet mama taught me that when you are knocked down, it takes courage to believe that the best is yet to come. This too shall pass," she shared with the publication. "I've lived through hard times and I am stronger for it — and I'm here. I get up every day and do what I can to be strong." But what exactly are the "hard times" that made Roberts the strong woman she is today? Read on to find out.

Robin Roberts' cancer diagnosis

One of the most high-profile struggles Robin Roberts has faced has to be her breast cancer diagnosis, which she confirmed back in August 2007. Roberts announced the tragic news in an essay for ABC News and shared she'd already undergone surgery. She went in depth about her cancer journey, sharing that she discovered a lump during a self-examination triggered by the death of her colleague, Joel Siegel. She then had the news confirmed by a doctor, describing the moment as "surreal."

According to Cancer Connect, Roberts underwent a grueling schedule of surgery, eight rounds of chemotherapy, and nearly two months of radiation therapy. She told the outlet she "just wasn't present" while she went through her treatment, and it "really hurt" her to "not be engaged in anything."

Roberts has also been open about how much losing her hair affected her, inspiring her to ditch her wig on "Good Morning America" in April 2008 to proudly show off her natural look. She then chose to shave her head to take back the power she felt she'd lost to cancer, telling Cancer Connect, "I decided; cancer didn't, chemo didn't — I did that. I was going to lose my hair that day." And it sounds like the star will continue to inspire others for years to come. "As a survivor, I have a sense of responsibility," she said. "When you are blessed to get through it, you want to become that person for others."

Robin Roberts was told she had a couple of years to live

Robin Roberts' breast cancer diagnosis isn't the only time she's received devastating medical news. In June 2012, Robin was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare blood cancer that required a bone marrow transplant. Robin's condition was so serious that she would have only "had a year or two to live" if she couldn't get a transplant, as she explained on "Rachael Ray" in September 2021. 

Fortunately, Roberts found her guardian angel in her sister Sally-Ann Roberts. "My other siblings were not a match. My doctors had already told me there was not anybody on the list that matched me. It came down to my sister Sally-Ann," Robin recalled on "Rachael Ray." "When I got that news, it was like Christmas times 1,000, because anyone who knows what it's like to wait for that kind of news realizes the trauma," Sally-Ann told WWL (via CNN). "If Robin had not found a match within her family, she would have been one of those 6,000 people to be searching for a match."

Robin opened up about the procedure on "20/20" in 2013, sharing she "was in another place" when it happened following 10 days of chemotherapy. "I had nothing left," she said. Thankfully though, everything went well and Roberts returned to "Good Morning America" in February 2013, iconically telling viewers, "I have been waiting 174 days to say this: 'Good Morning America.'"

The tragic death of Lucimarian Roberts

Robin Roberts endured a family emergency around the same time she received her myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) diagnosis. According to ABC News, Robin started her medical leave a day early in order to be with her ailing mother, Lucimarian Roberts, in Mississippi. Her hometown was still reeling from Tropical Storm Isaac, and the TV anchor ended up "forging through flooded and blocked roads to be with her beloved mother in time to see her." Lucimarian died on August 30, 2012.  Robin's sister, Sally-Ann Roberts, also went home, even though she was in New York City with Robin preparing to donate her bone marrow.

Robin reflected on the tragic time to People in 2015. "'GMA' finally becomes number one in the [ratings], and the same day I'm told I have two years left to live if I don't find a bone marrow donor," she said. "Answering a prayer, my sister is a perfect match. Then, days before my transplant, I have to rush home to be by my beloved mother's side. I was the one holding her hand when she took her last breath."

Robin has since reflected on how much she misses her mom and what she'd make of everything she's accomplished in the wake of her death. "I think she'd be cheering me on from her heavenly balcony, that's what I think," she told ET in 2021.

Robin Roberts has faced racism at work

Robin Roberts has reportedly had to deal with racism in the workplace. In June 2020, HuffPost reported that former ABC News exec Barbara Fedida was put on leave by the network after she apparently made racist comments about Roberts following reports she wanted a pay raise.

Fedida was officially let go the next month. In a statement from Walt Disney Television obtained by Variety, the network's investigation concluded that she made "some of the unacceptable racially insensitive" comments and "on occasion, used crass and inappropriate language." 

Speaking prior to the allegations, Roberts shared that racial prejudice is something she's been aware of from the start of her career. "There were times that I really felt that it was going to be difficult, and it was, to get hired, initially," she told NPR in April 2007, also sharing that being a woman created another big hurdle while trying to break into sports journalism. As for who kept her motivated? Her mom and dad. "My father... had the nerve as a child in the 1930s to dream of flying a plane when blacks in this country had very few rights," she explained. "My mother had very humble beginnings to go on to be the first in her family to go to college at Howard University."

Did she clash with George Stephanopoulos?

Though Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos appear to have one of the closest working relationships on TV, there was a time it was claimed they had drama. This all went down in August 2021 when Roberts and Stephanopolous allegedly had a pretty serious falling out over a lawsuit filed against one of the "GMA" producers. Things apparently got so bad for the (former?) friends that they were even "at each other's throats," according to the Daily Beast. As for how things got as bad? Well, it apparently went down after former "GMA" senior executive producer Michael Corn was accused of condoning a "toxic work environment" and sexual assault in a lawsuit from a former staff member. According to Deadline, Corn filed to have the lawsuit dismissed in October 2021.

According to the aforementioned Daily Beast report, Roberts was supposedly "incensed" by how things were handled. On a conference call with "GMA" colleagues, she reportedly said, "If this happened to someone on my team, I would have burned the place down." That was thought to be a subtle dig at Stephanopoulos after it was alleged he may have been aware of the allegations against Corn for years prior, which apparently left Stephanopoulos "livid." An ABC News spokesperson denied the reports, claiming the two were "fine" and had cleared the air, saying, "[Roberts] told him personally that she wasn't referring to him and called the team the next day to reiterate that her comment was not about any one individual."

Robin Roberts lost a coworker to COVID-19

Robin Roberts was no stranger to the trials and tribulations a lot of people across the globe felt amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. One of Roberts' most tragic brushes with the virus came in April 2020 when – while co-hosting the show via video link from home – she became visibly emotional while paying tribute to a "Good Morning America" cameraman who had died from the disease.

"We loved every single moment we were blessed to spend and share with Tony. Our condolences to his family in Chicago," Roberts said as she choked back tears, adding, "He was kind, he was thoughtful, he was always a gentleman." George Stephanopoulos and Michael Strahan, who were in the studio, also shared their own tributes.

Roberts was diagnosed with the coronavirus in January 2022, which caused some confusion about her whereabouts. The star had an unexplained absence for a few days before confirming on Twitter that she had tested positive but was doing okay. "Appreciate the concern about my absence this week on @GMA. Unfortunately I tested positive for Covid," she wrote on the social media site. She added that she was "grateful [her] symptoms have been mild" and noted that she was "doing well," sharing she was waiting to be able to get to work after her isolation period.

The sudden death of Robin Roberts' dad

Robin Roberts has certainly endured her fair share of tragedies, and sadly had to experience many of them without her beloved father, Lawrence Edward Roberts, by her side. He died suddenly in 2003 following a heart attack. Robin shared her dad's legacy in the 2021 documentary "Tuskegee Airmen: Legacy of Courage," calling the project "a proud moment to shine a light on the airmen and for my father to be there standing with me as I was doing it" while speaking to Essence in February 2021. She also noted how much she wished he was alive to see it. 

In a 2007 interview with NPR, Robin got into the significance of the path paved by her father. "He had the nerve as a child in the 1930s to dream of flying a plane when Blacks in this country had very few rights," she said. "And yet, he — that's what his dream was. And you know what? He did it."

As for how Roberts was affected by her father's passing, she's shared an insight into the hole her dad's death left in her life in social media. For Father's Day 2021, she shared a collection of photos of her dad on Facebook, telling fans, "Today and every day I do my best to honor my father's legacy. Forever grateful for the lessons he taught me & my siblings through his kind words and deeds. Comforting to always feel his heavenly embrace."

The destruction of Robin Roberts' hometown

Though she may be a Big Apple woman today, Robin Roberts' love for her Mississippi hometown is certainly no secret. In what's arguably become one of the most famous moments in her career, a highly emotional Robin famously broke down in tears while reporting on Hurricane Katrina for "Good Morning America" in 2005. Tears streamed down Robin's face as she attempted to hold herself together, saying her family was okay but their house was "not so good."

In an essay for ABC News, Robin said she didn't actually head home with the primary intention of reporting, but wanted to check her mom, Lucimarian Roberts, was okay as she was "too ill" to evacuate the area. "My heart was pounding seeing houses completely destroyed," Robin recalled, sharing she only went on TV to report after some encouragement from her mom.

Robin revealed to TV Insider in 2015 that she refused to go on air until she knew her family was safe, but also thought her emotional moment could have cost her job. "The reason why I broke down on television like that was because I was grateful that I found my family, but I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, many people are tuning in and they are feeling just like I felt, not knowing [if their] loved ones are OK,'" she said. "It was surreal, looking around, especially as it became morning, and seeing the mess, destruction everywhere."

Robin Roberts' unfulfilled dreams

Robin Roberts is a co-anchor on "Good Morning America," an ESPN legend, the head of her own production company, a super rich lady, and so much more. Needless to say, she's accomplished a lot over the course of her career, but it hasn't always been the path she's had in mind. Robin's initial big career goal was to become an athlete, as the 10th Honorary Harlem Globetrotter even headed to Southeastern Louisiana University on a tennis scholarship. She hoped to go pro in the sports world, but she determined that wasn't in the cards.

"I want to be a professional athlete ... [but] there's this little thing called ability and I didn't quite have it," she told Essence in October 2020. "Everyone always says, 'Follow your passion.' Well, I'm passionate about sports. I had an interest in journalism and I thought I'd marry the two."

In 2007, Roberts told NPR that while she was there on a tennis scholarship, she "played basketball instead" in college. Though she dreamt of going all the way with the sport, she eventually changed course. "When I realized that I was not going to be that professional athlete and I started to panic a little bit," she recalled, confirming that she felt inspired to combine the two by her sister Sally-Ann Roberts, who was pursuing a career in journalism herself. It seems like Robin Roberts has certainly learned how to turn tragedy into triumph.