How Al Roker and Deborah Roberts' Love Got Them Through His Cancer Diagnosis: ‘She’s Been a Real Rock’
Today co-host Roker and his wife, ABC News correspondent Roberts, talk about keeping each other strong in PEOPLE's first ever Love Issue
Deborah Roberts is more of a texter while Al Roker, her husband of 25 years, likes to pick up the phone and call her — quite often, Roberts tells PEOPLE with a laugh.
"Al calls me a lot throughout the course of the day, just to tell me something very simple or something very silly," Roberts says during a recent Zoom interview at Manhattan's Crosby Street Hotel for PEOPLE's first-ever Love Issue.
"Sometimes he's just rambling, and I'm like, 'Is there a headline here, because I'm in the middle of something,' and he'll say, 'Nope, I just thought I'd call,' " says Roberts, ABC News' senior national affairs correspondent.
Given how communicative Roker usually is, Roberts grew worried when she didn't hear from him immediately after he visited his urologist's office last September for a follow-up to an MRI and biopsy he'd had on his prostate.
The truth was, Roker had some troubling news to deliver, which he was still making sense of himself.
"I get in and the doctor closes the door, and he says, 'I don't like to have these conversations over the phone,' " the longtime weather anchor on NBC News' TODAY, 66, tells PEOPLE. "That's was my first inkling of, 'Oh wait, what?' "
The doctor told him he'd been diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
"He said that was the bad news," says Roker. "He said that the good news is that it looks like we'd caught it early."
From the car, he called Roberts telling her he wanted to discuss "some stuff" the doctor said he should be "concerned about" when he got home.
Roker was not looking forward to breaking the news to Roberts or the rest of their family: his daughter, Courtney, 33, from his first marriage, and their daughter, Leila, 22, and son, Nick, 18.
RELATED VIDEO: How Al Roker and Deborah Roberts' Love Got Them Through His Cancer Diagnosis
Roberts took it hard at first. "My heart just sank to my toes because it never even occurred to me that there was anything serious," she says.
"When he said, 'It's cancer,' she says, "I just lost it."
Watch the full episode of The Love Issue: Al Roker and Deborah Roberts on PeopleTV.com or the PeopleTV app.
Roker told Roberts how his doctor reassured him that his prognosis was good, which is what they told the kids in a family Zoom call later on. "There were tears but they rallied around," Roker says.
From that moment on, Roberts was at every appointment with Roker, asking questions and making sure the couple fully understood all of Roker's options.
"I just remember just looking at him and…just seeing us in our life and just seeing everything sort of pulsate through you as you were sitting there taking all of this," Roberts says softly.
"It was very emotional for me," she continues. "What if he is not going to be here with me much longer? You really let your mind go there, you cherish and you clutch and you hold on."
Roker looks at Roberts, who's sitting close to him with her hand tucked around his arm. "When somebody you love happens also to be your best advocate, that's just a bonus," he says. "So that helps you a lot to get through. That can make all the difference."
On November 9, Roker had surgery. In January learned that his Prostate-Specific Antigen levels had gone from 7 down to .05.
"That's considered undetectable," he says. "Every six months I'll get blood work and that'll be for the next five years."
He says he is grateful to his family, friends, co-workers, fans and well-wishers, and of course, to his wife for being there for him.
"She's been a real rock," he says.
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