(NEW YORK) — Robin Roberts made her return to morning TV Wednesday, once again saying “Good morning America” to viewers, 174 days after she underwent a bone marrow transplant.
“I keep pinching myself and I realize that this is real, this is really happening,” Roberts, 52, said at the start of the show, surrounded by the GMA anchor team. “Faith, family and friends have brought me to this moment and I am so full of gratitude.”
Roberts was greeted with a standing ovation at the Times Square studio from the staff and crew, who exchanged fist bumps with the anchor and cheered as she walked through the studio doors.
Amidst all the excitement, Roberts said she was nervous to be back and said even co-anchor Josh Elliott told her that her voice was “an octave off.”
“I was nervous,” Roberts said after the show. “But it felt good to have butterflies again after all this time … After doing the first block, [it was] like butter, like butter. It felt so right. I felt at ease. In the beginning, I just had this really bad cotton mouth. We even went to Google to see what to do if you have cotton mouth because I didn’t want to have one of those moments reaching over for the water.”
PHOTOS: Robin Roberts Returns to ‘GMA’
Roberts’ GMA return came five months to the day since she underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat the rare blood disorder myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, and a year after she began to first feel the symptoms of her illness at the 2012 Oscars.
The comeback show kicked off with a special welcome-back message from President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, whom Roberts will interview Friday to discuss the third anniversary of her Let’s Move! initiative. The interview will air next week on GMA.
The anchor appeared to pick up right where she left off. Producers placed a red bow on her anchor chair and before the show the GMA anchor team descended upon the desk, smiling for a photo before getting down to business as usual, but with the welcome addition of Roberts.
“Hi! It’s Robin! I have been waiting 174 days to say this… Magma!” she joked, using one of her favorite catchphrases, before exclaiming “Good morning America!” to open the show live on the air.
Sporting a close-cropped hairdo, Roberts explained after the show that she decided not to wear a wig on the air because it could have been a distraction for viewers. She also joked that her wig reminds her of the first lady’s now-famous new haircut.
“It was really funny because my hairstylist Petula had a really nice wig. She got it for me in early January. It has bangs and looks just like Michelle Obama, and I knew if I wore it people would say, ‘Huh?’ I couldn’t say, ‘I had it first,’” she said with a laugh. “No one would have believed that.”
Throughout the morning, the Times Square studio buzzed with excitement. A crowd of fans gathered outside of the studio, waving “TeamRobin” signs, including one in the shape of Robin’s signature wristband. During a commercial break when Roberts went outside, fans chanted, “Robin! Robin! Robin!”
When asked for their three words to describe the morning, co-anchor Josh Elliott said, “At Long Last.” Lara Spencer said “GREAT Morning America,” and GMA senior executive producer Tom Cibrowski said, “Dream. Inspiring. Courage.”
Social media websites were also flooded with an outpouring of messages welcoming Roberts back. NBC’s Today show sent a gift basket to the GMA studio and made a donation to the Be the Match Registry for bone marrow donation in her honor.
Buddy Valastro and the team behind TLC’s Cake Boss created a special cake for the celebration. The red velvet concoction, inspired by the color of her bracelets, is Roberts’ favorite.
“Now that I have [sister Sally-Ann’s] cells, I have a sweet tooth,” Roberts joked on the show. “It’s true. It’s working out really well.”
Roberts’ medical team and her sisters Sally-Ann Roberts — her bone marrow donor — and Dorothy Roberts McEwen were at her side to mark the occasion.
“This is a celebration,” Sally-Ann Roberts said on the show. “It brings up to me the tremendous feeling of accomplishment to be able to know that there’s something in your body that can help somebody else — in my case, my sister. I just want to get the word out to as many people as possible: please join the registry. Please join the Be the Match bone marrow registry because there is somebody out there who could use you.”
Roberts and her doctors – Dr. Gail Roboz of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Dr. Sergio Giralt of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center — will now take a day-by-day approach to her recovery and monitor Roberts’ body to determine how often she appears on GMA.
“We looked in each other’s eyes and we talked about this morning and how I would feel, and I know that a lot of it is adrenaline and I want to see how I feel,” Roberts said, adding she has her next bone marrow test in two weeks. “And he was very honest in saying some of the patients, they go back a little too soon and then the next morning they can’t get up. But I have to say, physically, I have better platelets than Sally-Ann right now, so I’m very grateful.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN
Brett Crandall, BYU-Idaho Communications