Robin Roberts Transitions from Cancer Survivor to Caregiver

By Pat Carragher - March 07, 2022

Robin Roberts is no stranger to cancer. The “Good Morning America” anchor was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. A cancer survivor, Roberts will now take on the role of caregiver as she recently announced her longtime partner Amber Laign has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

My sweet Amber wanted me to tell you something that shes been facing. At the end of last year, Amber was diagnosed with breast cancer, Roberts revealed in a Twitter video. She had surgery last month and this morning will begin chemotherapy. Thankfully, the prognosis is good.

According to Kori Hatfield, an oncology social worker at Moffitt Cancer Center, there are a lot of changing roles when a patient received a cancer diagnosis.

“Women are naturally in caregiver roles in multiple areas of life,” Hatfield said. “She’s been in that patient role where she’s been taken care of. She understands what it feels like as a patient to go through this experience, but that role is shifting again where she’s now becoming a caregiver to her partner.”

Hatfield says the challenge that many survivors face when shifting to the caregiver role is trying not to compare their own experience or coping to that of the person they’re now caring for.

“Their diagnosis and treatment might look different,” said Hatfield. “They might have different feelings about it and be coping differently. It can be hard to turn off that internal knowledge of your experience and be there to support someone who’s going through something similar but potentially in a very different way.”

Caregiver relationship differences also exist with Roberts being Laign’s partner. According to Hatfield, roles can also change in a different way compared to family or friends.

"She understands what it feels like as a patient to go through this experience, but that role is shifting again where she’s now becoming a caregiver to her partner."

- Kori Hatfield, Social Work

“Family members and friends are also going through their kind of own separate coping,” said Hatfield. “But when youre potentially living together and you have a romantic relationship, that caregiver role is involved in more aspects of your life than it would be with a family member or friends in terms of everyday life. Being in the house together, dividing chores, dealing with finances, and physical and emotional intimacy can all be affected.”

Roberts has been open about her health in the past. Five years after her breast cancer diagnosis, she was diagnosed with a rare blood and bone marrow disease called myelodysplastic syndrome and needed a bone marrow transplant.

“She and I have been together almost 17 years and have helped each other through our challenges like my journey with cancer. Its my turn now to be there for her like she was for me,” Roberts said. “And that means Ill be away from GMA from time to time like this morning as she starts chemo. We know many, many are facing cancer and other challenges, like my mama said, ‘Everybodys got something. Please know that you are in our prayers and hopefully were in yours, too.”

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