Good Morning America co-host and Mississippi Gulf Coast native Robin Roberts is preparing to fight her next big battle. As we told you last month, Robin has been diagnosed with a disease of the blood and bone marrow called Myelodysplastic Syndrome, or MDS. She needs a bone marrow transplant, and lucky for Robin she has already found the perfect match; her oldest sister, Sally-Ann Roberts.
The Roberts family is well known on the Gulf Coast, not only because of Robin's success, but the success and strength of an entire family. And while a second battle for her life in just a little over five years may not seem fair, the tight knit Roberts family rallies around one another using their courage, determination and faith to get them through.
Sally-Ann Roberts co-hosts the most watched morning show in Louisiana; WWL-TV's Eyewitness Morning News in New Orleans. She's also Good Morning America's co-host Robin Roberts, oldest sister. News of Robin's latest health battle after beating breast cancer five years ago, has rallied support from the nation including those here at home, where bone marrow registry drives have already been held in honor of Robin, and more are planned.
Robin's sisters, Sally-Ann and Dorothy, were the first to be tested when they learned Robin would need a bone marrow transplant.
We sat down with Sally-Ann after her morning news show to talk about her youngest sister's latest battle. Sally-Ann reflects on learning the news, saying, "All of a sudden out of nowhere comes this devastating news and you have to deal with it."
Devastating news, that brings an already close knit military family even closer.
"We are so grateful we had Lucimarian and Lawrence as parents. They showed us by example how to get through tough times, and just watching their resilience has given us; and seeing their faith in action has given us courage."
Robin showed that courage to the nation when she fought breast cancer five years ago. "She got through that, went through chemo, lost her hair, bounced back, and then found out that the chemo that saved her life, caused her MDS."
Finding a bone marrow donor was critical, and not usually an easy task even within your own family, which is a person's best chance of finding a match.
"Only 30 percent who need a bone marrow transplant find it within their family, only 25% find it within their siblings."
All three of the Roberts siblings were more than willing to help, but it was Sally-Ann who got the phone call from Robin. "She said by the way we're a match, and I said hallelujah and had a thank you prayer."
Even though bone marrow donation carries its own risks, Sally-Ann is quick to point out she doesn't consider her willingness to help her sister heroic in any way. "People say this is a great thing you're doing and I say no, anyone would do this for their sister or anyone would do this for their brother. It's a no brainer, it's not heroic, it's a sister helping a sister".
But even though they are a match, Robin has a long way to go. She's undergoing chemotherapy now, and waiting for her body to reach a state in which it's most likely to accept a transplant.
Looking at the difficult road ahead for her little sister isn't easy to talk about. When asked about her sisters chances for recovery, she pauses and collects herself, before saying, "I want Robin to be well, I want her to go on with her life and I want this to be behind her. I'm praying every day please save my sister, save my sister."
There is no set time for the transplant, but Sally-Ann is ready to fly to New York at a moment's notice and expects the transplant will take place sometime within the next few months.