Robin Roberts continues to 'climb that mountain'

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 19, 2012 at 6:27 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 19 at 11:30 PM

Sally-Ann Roberts / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS -- As Air Force brats, my brother Butch, sisters Robin and Dorothy and I traveled to many diverse places around the world. But the journey we embarked upon this year was unlike any this family has ever experienced.

Robin, the baby sister I had watched grow from a child into a strong, courageous woman who beat breast cancer in 2007, was now, five years later, dealing with an illness I had never heard of -- myelodysplastic syndrome, or pre-leukemia.

But the doctors were hopeful that if Robin could find a genetic match for a bone marrow transplant, she could be cured.

We were ecstatic when I was declared a perfect match and I prayed my body would be able to produce.

“I just want this body to send out all of the stem cells, the millions of stem cells that are necessary. I’m saying ‘Body, work,’ and I’m looking forward to, when this is all over, going back to my old diet," I told Robin, in a video produced by the staff at "Good Morning America."

"Our diets have been just a little different," Robin laughed. "And so when you’re eating a cheeseburger, I’m looking like ‘I’m eating a cheeseburger,’ because what's going into you is eventually going to go into me!”

I went through a battery of tests because the doctors wanted to make sure I was healthy enough to donate the needed stem cells from my bone marrow. Robin and her “Good Morning America” producers and photographers were there to encourage and record every step of the process.

“It's all good. Height, weight, blood pressure. The journey begins. We're going to climb this mountain, Robin. We’re going to climb this mountain.”

Then the day of donation arrived. I was attached to a machine for about seven hours over two days. From a port that had been surgically implanted in my chest, blood was recycled, drawing out the necessary stem cells.

"See, the color here is starting to darken which means we are starting to collect white cells," they told me at the hospital.

The very next day after my stem cells were collected, we lost our mother. We managed to get home in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, to be with mama just before she died.

Within days of the funeral, Robin began excruciatingly intense chemotherapy to wipe out her immune system. Yet she remained positive.

“This journey is as much about the mind as it is the body,” Robin said in a video aired on GMA.

Then, Dorothy and I were there when Dr. Sergio Giralt injected the vial of my stem cells into our sister Robin, and we celebrated.

And we celebrated a month later when Robin was released from the hospital.

She wept as she felt the breeze on her face and then later, on the ride home, was filled with wonder at the sights most take for granted.

Finally, Robin was home at last. The journey not yet over, but hopefully, prayerfully the best is yet to come.

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Sally-Ann just returned from New York where she visited with Robin.  Find out how Robin is recovering in her first extensive interview, with Sally-Ann, tonight at 10 p.m. on Channel 4.

It was recorded on Friday, after Robin concluded a brief hospital stay for observation because of a virus.  Her immune system is still coming back from the transplant and so infection is a concern for her and other MDS and bone marrow transplant patients. 

Click here for more on becoming a bone marrow or organ donor through WWL-TV's Perfect Match campaign supporting Sally-Ann & Robin.

Special thanks to Good Morning America for footage used in this story.

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