Robin Roberts, who made an emotional return to her co-anchor chair at ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday, is taking it one day at a time. "My doctor is saying the test is tomorrow," Roberts said in an interview at ABC's Times Square studio after her first show back. "When I wake up am I going to want to come in and go to work?"
Just making it back on the air after 174 days away to battle myelodysplastic syndrome — a condition that required a bone marrow transplant — was a personal triumph. "I wanted to really get back before the Oscars because it was at the Oscars last year that I started to go down hill," she said. "For me psychologically and talking to my doctors — they said it would be a tremendous boost to know that in a year's time that I was back there and well on the road to recovery." Roberts will head to Los Angeles to be a part of GMA's Oscars coverage again.
Roberts remained a presence on the No. 1 rated program during her shorter than expected leave. The producers felt confident about promoting her return based on the strong reports Roberts received from her doctors after the first 100 days of her treatment. It led to a heart-felt payoff on Wednesday. "It was beautiful," said her co-anchor George Stephanopoulos. "I think mentioning her every day made a difference to the viewer. She was very grateful for all of us for making her feel wanted and needed. She's a big part of our team."
Roberts was comfortable with how the story of her medical travails were handled on the air. "I can't be off of television for six months and not have an explanation," she said. "There is no handbook for this but I'm pleased with how we handled it. We did it the best way we knew how. That was to be authentic." Why come back to the rigors of morning television while her health is still fragile? "I love my work," she said. "I want to be here. I want to be with my friends. I want to join in the fun."
While Roberts didn't miss a beat in handling the opening of the program, she is still experiencing some problems with her vision — a side effect from her medical treatment — and was unable to read the TelePrompTer 45-minutes into the program. It's an issue she'll have to deal with going forward, she noted. But the joy of being back got her through the first morning. "Today it was from the heart," she said. "I didn't need a script."
The show is taking measures to protect Roberts as her immune system is rebuilding. Hand sanitizer is now mandatory on the GMA set. "When I see someone sneeze or go to reach for a door handle I'm a little bit concerned," she said. "I take proper precautions.
Roberts did sport a new look, deciding to go with her short natural hair while it grows back instead of wearing a wig as she did after returning from her bout with breast cancer in 2007.
"My hair stylist had a really nice wig," Roberts said. "Got it for me in early January. It has bangs and looks just like Michelle Obama. And I knew if I wore it people would go, 'Aha!' I couldn't say I had it first. No one would believe believed that." But she's happy with the hairstyle choice.
"It's freeing — it really is," she said. "And the audience has already seen me like this."
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