The 20/20 co-anchor on how the experience inspired her to tackle new challenges
Most people recognize journalist Amy Robach for her work on 20/20 and Good Morning America, but just last year she took on a different role: mountain climber. Amy trekked Mt. Kilimanjaro last year with her family —and this year, in another impressive feat, she’s training to run the New York City marathon in November. We chatted with Amy ahead of the season premiere of 20/20 (airing Friday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC) about how her battle with breast cancer has inspired her to be more active — and helped her develop a new life motto.
Katie Couric: You’ve had such a great career in broadcast journalism, and 20/20 is a must-watch program for so many people. What drove you to pursue journalism?
Amy Robach: I grew up performing and fell in love with theater in high school, but I also had a strong passion for writing, so broadcast journalism just felt like the perfect combination of the two. When I walked into my first newsroom at WCBD-TV2 in Charleston, S.C., I knew I was home. It just felt right and I actually couldn’t believe that I was being paid — $22,000 a year — to do what I loved. I never minded the long hours, the missed vacations and holidays because I was pursuing my passion. I was oftentimes the first one in the newsroom and the last one to leave and I said “yes” to every assignment.
It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve now been in the business for 24 years and I hope that I have many more years ahead of me. I love my job.
What was the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out in your career?
The best piece of advice I received was this: Take the first job you’re offered doing what you love, no matter how far away it takes you from your family and no matter how little money you make. Doing what you love will lead to a career that you can be proud of, but wasting your time chasing money and status typically leads to frustration and disappointment.
Your memoir “Better” is such a powerful and candid look at the period after you announced on air that you had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the treatment that followed. Why did you want to share your story? What reaction have you received from other breast cancer survivors?
I never even hesitated sharing my story because I knew I had to pay it forward. If my friend and coworker Robin Roberts hadn’t been brave enough to tell her story and convince me to have an on-air mammogram, I wouldn’t have received the early diagnosis that helped save my life. I knew by sharing my diagnosis, women would be encouraged to take their own health seriously. I knew there would be women who would make their long overdue appointments because of what happened to me and would, in turn, receive the best opportunity to survive any potential cancer diagnosis.
Wow, have I heard from those women — too many to count actually. Women who have said that they found their cancer and received treatment because of my story. And I have Robin to thank for that, for giving me the guidance and courage to keep speaking, to keep reminding women that we have to take care of our bodies, and that we have to make and keep those annual appointments. Cancer does not discriminate and the earlier you find it, the better chance you have of surviving it. Period.
You seem to be constantly challenging yourself to tackle the next big thing — you climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro last year and now you’re training for the New York City marathon. Did your experience with breast cancer bring you a new appreciation for being active?
YES! When you survive cancer, many of us live with the threat of recurrence. Instead of being paralyzed by the fear, I choose to be motivated by it. I live like a country music song — I live like I’m dying. Because the truth is, we are all one day closer to our death, so why not treat every day like your last? I am enjoying every moment and pushing my body, my mind and my soul to places I never dared to even think about, let alone conquer! I’m taking on all of these challenges with my family and friends, too. So all of my adventures have been made even more beautiful because I’m sharing them with people I love. Cancer gave me the gift of perspective and this is my life motto now: Don’t die before you die.
What are you doing right now to train for the marathon?
Training for the marathon is a full time job! I’m running four days a week, with two days of cross training and one day of rest. I run with my husband and/or my friends on all of these training runs, and I’ve been listening to audiobooks and podcasts instead of music, like Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth” and Oprah’s “Super Soul Conversations”. Running isn’t just physical — it’s mental as well. Feeding my soul while I’m pounding the pavement has helped encourage me when I feel like I don’t have it in me. This year’s NYC marathon is just a few days past my six year “cancerversary” — I was diagnosed on October 30th — and that milestone will be pushing me through each and every mile.
You are a mom and stepmom to five kids. (That’s a lot!) Are your kids impressed by all the amazing things you’ve done — interviewing world leaders on TV and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro — or are you still just regular ol’ mom to them?
I am a mom first, and I’m not sure they even realize most days what I’m doing! In fact, they’re constantly video chatting me when I’m on the set of Good Morning America as they’re getting ready for school. Sure, I think my kids are proud of me, but I hope they’re also proud of themselves. They climbed and summited Kilimanjaro, too, by the way, which impressed the heck out me! Most importantly though, they’re incredibly compassionate kids. I think when you see your mom go through something as traumatic as cancer and have to deal with that level of fear and empathy as a child, you see the world from a very different lens.
And lastly, 20/20 is returning on September 27. What are some of the stories you’ve worked on for 20/20 that are still sticking with you today? And what can we expect in the new season?
We have an exciting fall lineup of true crime, two-hour programs each Friday night that are incredibly compelling. Our first story of the season features an exclusive interview with Siegfried & Roy. What I love about 20/20 is that we have the time and the platform to really explore and explain the headlines. Not just what happened, but how and why it happened — and in some cases, how we can hopefully prevent future tragedies. For me personally, sitting down with Leanna Taylor about the hot car death of her son Cooper will never leave me. She remarkably stands by her ex-husband, Ross, who was charged and convicted in Cooper’s death. Hearing her pain and trying to understand her ability to forgive was just remarkable, and I hope parents remember her story every time they put their children in the back of their vehicles. Too many children continue to die in hot cars and telling these stories of tragedy can hopefully remind people that the unthinkable can happen to them too.
This interview originally appeared on Medium.com
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