(NEW YORK) — ABC News’ Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts said she is “beaming in gratitude” as she marks the 10th anniversary of her return to GMA after undergoing a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.
On Feb. 20, 2013, Roberts returned to the GMA set after spending nearly six months off the air while undergoing treatment.
“I have been waiting 174 days to say this, ‘Good morning, America,"” Roberts said in her first on-camera remarks upon her return.
Nearly one year prior, in June 2012, Roberts announced to GMA viewers that she had been diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a condition that occurs when blood cells don’t form and don’t work properly, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Roberts, who years earlier had beat breast cancer, would go on to endure months of treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
On Sept. 20, 2013, Roberts underwent a lifesaving bone marrow transplant using stem cells from her sister Sally-Ann Roberts, who was her perfect match.
“I was blessed to have the perfect match, the greatest gift from my sister Sally-Ann,” Roberts said Tuesday on GMA. “In those challenging moments to follow, focusing in on the fight and not the fright during my intensive treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering.”
Roberts shared her health journey with GMA viewers, following a lesson she said she learned from her beloved mother, Lucimarian Roberts, to “make my mess my message.”
Her hope, she said, in sharing her own story was to “help others through their own journey.”
That hope continued for Roberts when she returned to the GMA anchor desk on Feb. 20, 2013.
“Those 174 days there was a lot of challenges. There was a lot of fear,” Roberts said. “I was really grateful to be able to once again say, ‘Good morning, America,’ and also grateful and hopeful that by being back, I could somehow be a symbol to others going through something that this too shall pass.”
In the decade since her return to GMA, Roberts has continued to “make her mess her message” by raising awareness about the need for bone marrow donation.
While Roberts’ sister was luckily her perfect match, about 70% of patients on bone marrow registry lists do not have a family match and rely on anonymous donors for a cure, according to the Be The Match registry, a nonprofit organization operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, which manages the world’s largest bone marrow donor registry.
Even then, a patient’s chance of having a matched, available donor on the Be The Match registry ranges from 29% to 79%, depending on the patient’s ethnic background.
Over the past decade, Roberts and GMA have continued to report extensively about blood stem cell transplants, which can cure or treat more than 75 different diseases, such as leukemias and lymphomas, and spread awareness of the importance of the Be The Match registry.
Now more than ever the need is urgent as over 12,000 people are diagnosed each year with conditions that require a blood stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor, according to Be The Match.
Be The Match reports regional and national recruitment efforts decreased 36% during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, and that only 50% of people on the registry will go on to make a donation when they’re a match for a patient in need.
Be The Match has put a call out in particular for younger donors under the age of 40, as research has shown younger donors help improve overall outcomes for patients, according to the Mayo Clinic.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Roberts’ return to GMA, the show partnered with Be The Match to host bone marrow registry drives across the country.
The effort focused particularly on college campuses in order to reach donors under the age of 40.
“Still a decade later, our hope is to inspire others to help others be a match,” Roberts said Tuesday, adding that she is “filled with gratitude” for the “love, support and prayers” she has received over the years.
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