Capital Health recently celebrated its Center for Comprehensive Breast Care’s accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). While the doctors, support staff, and patients were the stars of the event, Good Morning America News Anchor Amy Robach stopped by to join the celebration and shared her personal journey to survive breast cancer, inspiring the entire crowd.
The friendly atmosphere Capital Health provides is just one of the “little things” that make a huge difference to patients fighting cancer, Robach said. “They treat them as people, not just cancer patients, and that’s really important when you have cancer,” Robach said. Lisa Allen, M.D., the breast center’s director and a fellowship-trained breast surgeon, introduced Robach, listing her many achievements as a television journalist and then as a breast cancer survivor. “Just hearing you introduce me as a breast cancer survivor brings tears to my eyes because it is really my biggest achievement to date,” said 41-year-old Robach.
She recounted her fight with cancer from the beginning of the ordeal when she was asked by ABC to have an on-air mammogram as part of the network’s “Go Pink,” an effort to raise awareness about breast cancer and early detection in October 2013. Robach was initially turned off, thinking it might be perceived as a stunt since she didn’t have a family history of breast cancer. “But my producer brought me into her office and she said, ‘You’re 40 years old. You’ve never had a mammogram. You’re exactly the woman we are trying to reach,’” Robach recalled. After a pep talk from co-worker Robin Roberts, who had fought a public battle with breast cancer herself, she decided to go ahead with the mammogram. “I was not scared of having cancer,” Robach said. “I was 40. I was fit. And I was athletic. I was sure I didn’t have cancer.”
But doctors asked her to come in for follow up imaging and a biopsy, and five hours later she found herself face to face with her doctor with her husband, Andrew Shue, on speakerphone. “The doctor said, ‘Mr. Shue, I have to ask you a question. Are you driving right now?’ That’s when I knew I had cancer.”
Despite a diagnosis of cancer in only one breast, Robach decided to have a double mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy, which proved to be a wise decision since the [surgeon?] found breast cancer cells in the other breast and discovered the cancer had spread to her sentinel lymph nodes, which meant she had to undergo eight rounds of chemotherapy beginning in December of 2013.
Despite battling “chemo fog” and memory loss that was severe at times, Robach never missed a day of work and even reported from the Sochi Winter Olympics in February. But while she didn’t miss a beat, the chemo treatments, which she finished in April, took a major toll on her physically and emotionally, Robach said. It was the support she received from the public, her family, and her co-workers that got her through. “I sat in Robin Roberts anchor chair while she fought her cancer, not knowing the whole time I had cancer. When I arrived for my first chemo treatment, Robin was there, and she took me by the hand to the exact same chair she sat in when she got her chemo, and she said, ‘I heard you’re going to be sitting in my chair again.’”
Now that Robach has cleared the hurdles of surgeries and chemotherapy, the news anchor is making sure she shares the message she heard loud and clear—early detection of breast cancer can save your life. “I get really angry when I see the headlines that say you should wait till you’re 50 to have a mammogram. It gives women like me who are procrastinators an excuse to put it off,” Robach says.
And so she plans to dedicate her energy into encouraging other women to get tested because to Robach, it’s simple. “A mammogram absolutely—100 percent—saved my life.”