June 04, 2019

From Devastation to Transformation: Amy Robach Reflects on Life Before, During and After Breast Cancer

By Mallory Siegfried, e-Communications Specialist
While reflecting on a conversation with Captain Chesley Sullenberger and the passengers who were aboard U.S. Airways Flight 1549 – the Airbus A320 they were flying in struck a flock of geese and Sullenberger was forced to ditch the plane in the Hudson River; all 155 people aboard survived – Amy Robach was best able to summarize her keynote speech for the Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® 7th Annual Signature Event scheduled for June 13, 2019:
“One of the [Miracle on the Hudson] passengers said to me, ‘At one point in everyone's life, everyone experiences their plane crash,’” Robach remembered. “It doesn't have to be cancer. it doesn't have to be an actual plane crash. At one point in everyone's life, you reach a point where you realize that life is not guaranteed. That tomorrow is not guaranteed. That today is all we have.”
Inspirational, motivational and transformative, Robach’s keynote at the Musikfest Café at SteelStacks in Bethlehem will take the audience on a journey of how to live life, not how to live a long life, and how to live with an attitude of gratitude.

As a breaking-news anchor for "Good Morning America," co-anchor of ABC’s “20/20,” and a reporter across ABC News, Robach has one of the most recognizable names and faces in journalism. In addition to interviewing countless newsmakers and celebrities, Robach has traveled nationally and internationally to cover major news events. She reported on the terrorist attacks in Manchester, UK and in Brussels, Belgium, as well as the mass shootings at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX, Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Sandy Hook elementary school in Newton, Connecticut, and the targeting of police officers in Dallas, TX.

In November 2013, Robach was thrust into the public consciousness for more than her journalism. After receiving a mammogram on live television, Robach revealed on “Good Morning America” that she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

What follows below are lessons and change that Robach learned and implemented during and after what she calls a devastating, transformative and inspirational cancer journey.
As we are a Realtor® association, the room will be filled with a mix of real estate professionals and the public. For the real estate professional, how can your story and your journey not only help them in their personal lives, but also in the workplace and within the team and office setting?
It was my work and my job that got me through treatment, because you never realize how much it’s important in your life to have that structure, something to look forward to, something to accomplish. Having my job while I was going through cancer treatment actually ended up being this huge, amazing safe haven and oasis, which is not what I would have imagined.
When other people had gotten cancer and you heard stories, you think, “Why don’t you just go home and take care of yourself and relax?” What I realized was that, when you’re going through something that’s scary and frightening, when your security has been taken from you and you don’t know what is going to happen around the bend, you realize how important it is to have that incredible team around you and to have a place to go to each morning and to find joy in your coworkers and support. It was really a beautiful thing.
Going forward in terms of my career, everything did get put into perspective. When you enjoy your job, it’s such a completion of your life and why you want to get up each morning. But the other part of it too, and I joke about this, but it’s really true, is one of the biggest changes that I made when I came on the other side of this was that I take all of my vacation days.
I used to brag that I left vacation days on the table, that I’m such a hard worker. I realized at a certain point that it’s great to be a hard worker and I still am, and I love my job, but I also make sure that I have that work-life balance that I really, truly didn’t have before. So, I started by taking all of my vacation days. That made me a much more effective and productive person at work because I feel fulfilled in a way that I wasn’t allowing myself to feel. I’m more rested. I’m more energetic. I’m more excited about rolling up my sleeves and coming up with the next project.
It really does spark creativity, when you also take the time for yourself, to take care of yourself, to take care of your family, and to really carve out that time not only for vacation but also for exercise and diet. All of it equates into this great balance. I do think that when you take care of yourself in your me time, in your personal time, it 100 percent translates into your work, productivity and your ability to think outside the box. It’s a game changer when you start taking care of yourself in your personal life and in your work life. I was working myself into the ground. That was not an effective strategy in becoming a better journalist or in rising up through the ranks. It was actually counterproductive. It might be a counter intuitive thing to take all of your vacation days and to make sure you’re exercising every day, but those are things that actually make you a better employee.
67 percent of Realtors® are female… your career after college has followed quite the trajectory. In today’s climate with women really rising above and striving and thriving and making waves, what advice do you have for these women?
The number one thing is we have to start supporting each other, we have to start being able to count on each other and to trust each other… When you can work with other women and truly root each other on and truly be excited for other women’s success, we all have a much better landing pad when things go wrong. I think together we’re strong.
What I’ve done at work is I created what I call a “Girl Gang.” When we finish work, we lunch together, we work out together, we shop together. We really have forged these incredible friendships that have made me feel that when I walk into work, I walk into a family. My other family.
We’ve really created a healthy environment… We schedule our days around healthy activities that we do with each other so that it becomes a social and a healthy experience. Not only has it been a physical change, but an emotional and a spiritual change in me, too, because I just feel so supported. I have so much more love in my life than I did before. Everything from head to toe has changed for me in terms of how I feel.
Healthcare has been a hot topic for our real estate professionals. Most are independent contractors and many face very high insurance premiums. With this in mind, coupled with your story, we’ll be supporting two local cancer support organizations with a live and silent auction. These organizations not only lend support and information, but also help the uninsured and underinsured with various things needed during their cancer journeys. Did you have any experience with these kinds of organizations either during or after your cancer journey?
[Cancer support organizations] are vital.
I did have something pretty significant happen to me. I had my first mammogram in a Mammovan on live television in the middle of Times Square. I had it done and then it was a couple days later that I get a call from the imaging center saying, “Hey, we see something, it’s probably nothing, but out of an abundance of caution, you should get a follow-up mammogram with your own OBGYN.” … The night before my follow-up, I get a call from [NYU Clinical Cancer Center] and they say your insurance company – and I have Disney insurance, probably some of the best insurance in the country – has denied covering your follow-up mammogram… I thought in that moment of not doing it, and I have $800 [to cover the cost] to spare.
When I got the diagnosis, I thought back to this moment. I considered saying, ‘Eh, forget this follow-up. I’ll just do another one in a couple of years.’ And then I thought, for how many women is that money their rent money or the food that goes into their children’s mouths? That $800 is not something they can be flexible with. It wouldn’t be a choice of whether they said no. They would have had to say no.
When you’re a busy, working mom trying to make ends meet and you don’t have insurance, I can understand why women say, “What are the chances? It’s probably not going to happen to me. I’m just gonna punt.” It’s a real problem when women don’t have access to life-saving tests because they don’t have insurance. The fact that there are groups out there that women have access to, I think it’s so vital in the community… I applaud the efforts of the organizations that bring healthcare to women – and at no cost.
What’s next after Mt. Kilimanjaro? Do you have something major planned?
I do. That’s something that I’ve really put into practice, because I think when you walk this cancer journey there are a lot of valleys, and so you have to have those summits that you can reach – both literal and figurative. For my vacation with friends and my husband, we’re going to do a 100-mile trek through the Swiss Alps… and then I’m running the New York City marathon in November. That’s a huge personal challenge that I’m actually more nervous about than Kilimanjaro… I actually start feeling massive butterflies when I think about doing it, but I’m excited. I think we should always be a little bit uncomfortable and push ourselves to see what we can accomplish and what our bodies are capable of. I’ve found out the hard way what can happen to our bodies and I lost trust and faith in my body at a certain point. I’m kind of obsessed at proving how strong I can be and how strong my body actually is.
The Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® will hold its 7th Annual Signature Event on Thursday, June 13, 2019, at the Musikfest Café at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, Pa.

In addition to Amy Robach’s keynote, the event will include a charity auction in support of the Cancer Support Community of the Greater Lehigh Valley and the Women’s 5K Classic. Attendees will have the opportunity to bid on unique items that include a signed football, mini helmet and jersey by the Lehigh Valley’s very own Saquon Barkley, a round of golf for three at Lehigh Country Club, spa packages, in-home dinner parties with a private chef, vacations, housecleaning services, and much more.

There will also be a “Tree of Hope” display. Attendees will be able to purchase paper leaves, write messages to loved ones who have faced cancer, and place them on the tree. All monies raised will be split between the above organizations.

For more information on the event and/or to purchase your ticket(s), visit www.glvrandamy.com!