Robin Roberts' Breast Cancer Roundtable

Robin Roberts, who was diagnosed with breast cancer this year, and her oncologist Dr. Ruth Oratz recently sat down with four African-American women of different ages who were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The women's stories were first chronicled in Essence magazine.

Read their stories below.

Meka Flowers, 27

Many see breast cancer as a disease that affects more mature women. But as 27-year-old Meka Flowers discovered, breast cancer isn't limited to women in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

Doctors diagnosed her cancer when she was just 25 years old, a time when most women are just starting their family lives and careers.

"The most difficult part for me was not being able to be the mother that I was to my daughter, not being able to give her a bath," said Flowers of her daughter Ronique.

She said, though, that "cancer has made me -- it made me a better mother, a stronger person. It's just making me push and do things and go and get things that I want now."

For Flowers and the thousands of other women diagnosed with breast cancer, the disease is uniquely personal, said Oratz, Roberts' oncologist.

"At the beginning I think the first question is, 'Am I going to live? Am I going to be OK? How am I going to get through this,'" Oratz said. "After patients get through the initial news, they begin to question how they will get their lives back."

Doris Saunders, 54

Breast cancer survivors must really look within themselves for strength, said 54-year-old Doris Saunders of Princeton, N.J. "Just pull yourself up and get yourself together and say, 'I just have to do this.'"

But tackling cancer wasn't always easy for the orthopedic nurse -- even the thought of a positive result frightened her.

"I was really in denial when I first found the lump, " Saunders said. But with the help of her family, particularly her husband, fighting cancer became a little easier.

"He was there when I got the diagnosis. He was in the recovery room," Saunders said of her husband. "He was there when I was feeling nauseous."

Even with determination and a supportive family, a cancer diagnosis can disrupt even the most structured and calm lives. Parents often begin to wonder what will happen to their children if they don't survive.

Maimah Karmo, 34

One of the first things on 34-year-old Maimah Karmo's mind following her cancer diagnosis was her daughter Noelle.

"For me, one of the most important things was leaving my daughter a legacy," she said. "I vowed that I would do everything in my live power. I'm going to live the most purposeful life I can live now."

Karmo has been able to do just that in part, she said, because of her own mother's help.

After chemotherapy, when her hair fell out and she came to grips with the fact that she might never be able to have more children, Karmo began to wonder who the woman staring back at her in the mirror was.

"You realize that you're a woman who is not defined by what you look like," she said. "It's defined by your heart and your soul and your spirit."

Read more of Karmo's story on her Web site.

Sometimes it's just a fiery spirit that allows women to see the positive side of cancer -- they continue to have optimistic outlooks despite the diagnosis.

Donna Lindsay, 47

Since 47-year-old Donna Lindsay was diagnosed with breast cancer, she has come to view the disease as a positive.

"Cancer probably has been the most positive thing that has happened in my life," she said. "I think that God has put me on this Earth […] to help other women understand that this is a highly treatable and curable disease."

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