NEW ORLEANS, LA (WLOX) - Good Morning America co-host and gulf coast native Robin Roberts has turned her recent diagnosis with a rare blood and bone marrow disorder into a message to help others. Robin was fortunate to find a donor match in her sister. But, thousands more are still waiting for a perfect match.
When Robin had breast cancer five years ago, she shared her message of hope with the country. She's doing that again with her latest illness, and its bringing awareness to the tremendous need for bone marrow donors.
Robin's sister and donor match is Sally-Ann Roberts. She's also a television celebrity at WWL in New Orleans, hopes her younger sister's message will lead to even more people signing up with the national bone marrow registry.
"Robin is truly my little sister who grew up to be my big sister, because she has so much courage and determination that I think it has encouraged the entire family," Sally-Ann said as we sat down and talked about Robin's fight and determination. Sally-Ann is proud because she feels Robin has encouraged her family, and the nation, not only in supporting Robin's fight for life, but countless others who are still waiting for a bone marrow match.
"I'm so happy that my sister has used her stage to help find those who do not have a match," Sally-Ann said. "And they are desperate for a genetic match."
It's no surprise that Robin is sharing her message to help others. Sally-Ann said the family matriarch, Lucimarian Roberts, taught them a long time ago, that by helping others you help yourself.
"She told Robin that 'your mess is your message'. And over the years she has always said whatever you're going through, turn it around and use it in a positive sense," Sally-Ann remembered.
That positive message is paying off. Since Robin's announcement that she had MDS in June, the National Bone marrow registry "Be a Match" reported that the rate of new registrants had more than doubled within a few short weeks.
There have been so many people across the country who have joined the registry and it has grown by leaps and bounds," Sally-Ann noted.
Robin's courage and determination is once again making a difference. And the family hopes even more people will be tested to help others find a potentially life-saving match.
"What I'm doing for my sister, I would do for a perfect stranger," said Sally-Ann. "I don't think most people could turn their back on a person in need."
And she says the need for donors is even greater among African Americans, because there are fewer minorities registered with the national bone marrow registry. "I think of nine million on the registry only about seven percent are African American which puts them at a severe disadvantage of finding a match on the registry," Sally-Ann said.
Finding a match and saving a life. Sally-Ann Roberts wears a bracelet in honor of her sister's battle with MDS. And she says she clings faith to find strength. "All of these things I grew up with, the scriptures, those are the rocks we cling to now, and Robin does as well," said Sally-Ann.
She knows that even with a match, Robin has a difficult path ahead of her. But, she's confident the bone marrow transplant will work. "Robin is gonna make it," Sally-Ann said. "The bottom line is, it's going to work out." When asked if Sally-Ann had all the faith in the world, she paused, smiled and said, "I do, I do."
The Roberts family will all be leaning on faith, and each other, to help them through Robin's latest battle. There's no set timetable for the bone marrow transplant, but Sally-Ann expects it will be sometime within the next few months.