Robin Roberts Faces Cancer With Courage, Grace

One additional thought that I think is important to keep in mind:

When I started practice in the mid 1970s, we didn't have particularly good mammograms. We didn't have adjuvant chemotherapy, and we were just being introduced to medications like tamoxifen that treated breast cancer with fewer side effects in women whose breast cancer was sensitive to estrogen.

Today, that picture has changed considerably.

We have much better mammography equipment, along with other tools like MRI and ultrasound, better surgical approaches to the treatment of breast cancer and better radiation therapy. We have new drugs to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer, and new ways of determining whether a woman will benefit from targeted therapies to substantially reduce the risk of recurrence.

We also have many more survivors of breast cancer today than we had in the 1970s, because of all these advances.

We have much more hope for our patients today than we did then. We can now offer life, when before we too frequently couldn't avoid tragedy.

I recall the images of Roberts during Hurricane Katrina, and especially when she made her way to her family's home in Pass Christian, Miss.

I can still remember watching her while that morning, mesmerized by her recollections of her youth, the importance of her family and the meaning of the devastation that was all about her.

But what I remember most was her optimism that her family was OK, and that they would be OK. The strength of Roberts' faith literally brought tears to my eyes at that moment.

As I have said before, celebrities represent all of us, especially when they share some of their most personal life events. Few have done so with such grace.

Robin, we wish you well.

Len Lichtenfeld is deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. You can view the full blog by clicking here.

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