Robin Roberts marks milestone 'birthday': 5 years since her bone marrow transplant

Plus, Dr. Richard Besser discusses the new medical advancements that have been made over the past five years, which may offer hope to those who need a marrow transplant.
9:11 | 09/20/17

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Transcript for Robin Roberts marks milestone 'birthday': 5 years since her bone marrow transplant
September blood cancer awareness month and today, September 209 a inteshl day of celebration for all of us. It is. It was, well, five years ago today that I had my bone marrow transplant and that was after ten consecutive days of chemotherapy to get me ready for the transplant and it was considered to be a rebirth. And I definitely felt that I was getting another chance at life. Sometimes treatment for cancer can lead to other serious medical issues and that's what I'm facing right now. It is something that is called mds. My big sister is a virtually perfect match for me and she is going to be my donor. She's going to be my donor. Five years ago today surrounded by my family and close friends, I was given the gift of life. ??? Nothing can keep me from you ??? Reporter: With a bone marrow transplant. I feel all the love in here. All the love. We're keeping it going. Reporter: My transplant doctor, Sergio said a prayer for me as he inserted millions of my sister's sally-ann's stem cells into a port in my chest. I think now is a good time to say, go, Sally, go. Reporter: The weeks after my transplant were brutal. Spent mostly in isolation, when I was able to leave my room I had to wear a mask and gloves and everyone around me had to do the same. All in an effort to keep me strong as I recovered and built up my immune system. But at types I felt anything but strong. We got to stop meeting like this. ??? Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel ??? ??? we love you dear sister yes we do ??? ??? rejoice ??? ??? oh robin ??? ??? Reporter: After 30 days -- ??? since I laid my burdens down ??? Going home now! Reporter: I walked out of the hospital and felt blessed to take my first breath of fresh air. Ooh. After five years by the grace of god amber and my family I am thriving, healthy, strong and eternally grateful for life. Grooving. All right. I'm going to go over here. Robin. Reporter: To celebrate my anniversary I caught up with Dr. Sergio who was happy to share with me the advances in the bone marrow transplant community. He invited me to a brand-new housing facility for patients with blood cancers and disorders. The memorial sloan-kettering patient residence. So we said let's make a facility that allows them to heal better. I can't imagine having gone through it five years ago as I did and would have welcomed something like this. So this is like a community area. Correct. And how many patients can be here? We have 20 units or 20 patients with their family care givers. Reporter: The facility is an apartment building for patients who are recovering from transplants. Each unit is a home away from home. It's a part of memorial sloan-kettering's out patient and early discharge program. Does insurance cover this. Excellent question. We work with the patient's families and their insurance companies, most insurance companies pay, not everybody does. Other than that what qualifies a patient to be able to be eligible to be here? Patients have to, one, be doing it as an outpatient or be discharged early and have a caregiver 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and the other one they would have to be medically qualified. All of this is made possible because of a last five years the tremendous advances when it comes to the bone marrow transplant. Tell us about the significant medical advances. So, I mean there are many advances. These genetically modified t-cells. They get genetically modified in the lab to attack a specific protein that is expressed on their tumors then we give those cells back and lo and behold eight out of ten patients actually go in remission. The other big one is we've always said you were blessed that you have a donor and that one of the biggest barriers to stem cell transplantation was not having a donor in the family. Now even if your brothers and sisters don't match fully, we can do a transplant with their stem cells with similar results to what we got with a brother or sister who is fully matched. That's huge. That's huge. That's huge. Lynndell is being treated for non-hodgkin's lymphoma. Three weeks after her transplant she's back on her feet. Hello. Recovering here at the patient residence. What has it meant to you to be able to be here to recover? Oh, it's been everything to us. It's been a respite and simplified our life. As a caregiver while she's in the hospital it's close enough that I could, you know, go back and forth throughout the day, as you know, when you're in there, you're -- I don't want to say you're trapped there for awhile but you're there for awhile if how are you feeling? I feel great. I feel rested. I feel just wonderful. But I have battled this for 12 years and finally have a solution at the end that I could get the stem cell and move on to the next step. Well, thank you for sharing your story and your journey. And lyndell and her husband have been married for 49 years and already invited myself to their golden anniversary. I did, honestly. Okay. Got my whole family here. I got my family there. Part of my family there. Sally-ann who is my donor, my partner amber who was there every step of the way and I'm usually pretty composed. I'm going to lean on you a little bit, George. I got my whole family here. Somebody who left the nest, Richard Besser, Dr. Richard Besser is back with us Thank you. Now the president and CEO of the Robert wood Johnson foundation doing some great work and we'll talk to you about that but I had to say thank you. You and Diane sawyer were my beacons, you were my north star in helping me navigate so much and it's a given that your family are going to be there, your family and friends if you're blessed and it's a given that the importance that they have. But this, your family at work is so incredibly vital. Talk about the work of care givers. Yeah, it's so important. I mean, when I reflect back on that time, what you gave to all of us through letting us see your journey, the highs and the lows and letting us see your strength, that gave courage to people all over the country, all over the world. The ability you had to let people in to help you, people at work who stepped up to help you and the role of the caregiver. We think -- we often take the caregiver for granted but it's an incredibly important role. You can't get a transplant unless you have a caregiver who is willing to be there 24/7 and takes a person who has love but may not have medical experience and turns them into a medical professional whose job it is to keep you safe and we need to do more to make sure they're supported and have social support around them so in giving you what you needed -- They get what they need. You're a medal professional now, amber. I learned so much just every day just being there and being every step of the way. You're being thrown information and you're trying to keep it altogether. Sorry. What advice do you have for people in a similar situation? Definitely take care of yourself. You have to take care of yourself. Whether, you know, if you're being relocated and you're away from your home and during the days in your everyday life, if you exercise, go to the gym, find a yoga studio. Do something so you can just release all of this energy that you have built up from being around and being the giver and giving, giving, giving and it allows you to love and be able to be there and supportive. /P It was so great we had a lot of group of friends that came in and helped my sister and amber but I wanted to talk about my colleagues here. You filled in for me. You and Elizabeth vargas so much. We had Oprah. We had other people who came in. There were people that I heard from that said, we showed them -- we showed them how you care for somebody going through an illness like that and they are now doing job sharing too. To not have to worry about their job like I didn't have to worry about mine so I'm so grateful to you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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