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Deborah Roberts Opens Up About Caring for Al Roker When He Was Sick: “I’m Still Tired”

How she's juggled being an accomplished journalist, loving mother and devoted wife

Known for her award winning and hard-hitting work in journalism, Deborah Roberts knows how to dig deep. Currently, the 62-year-old wife and mother of two, hosts Lifetime Live on Lifetime Television, but in her 41-year career as a journalist, she’s reported on everything from the White House to the Royal Family’s coronation.

Roberts started out in TV at a local television station in Columbus, Georgia. From there came positions at local stations in Knoxville, Tennessee and Orlando, until she finally joined NBC News as a general assignment reporter and eventually, a correspondent for Dateline NBC.  

When ABC knocked on her door in 1995, she moved to the network’s 20/20 newsmagazine program and also worked as an anchor for World News Tonight Weekend and Good Morning America

Over the years, Deborah’s work and dedication to her craft has earned her an Emmy Award and a Clarion Award, but recently her role has switched to being a dedicated caregiver for husband, Today weatherman, Al Roker, as he heals from cancer treatment and knee surgery.

Deborah Roberts and Al Roker’s love story

Deborah first met Al Roker in 1990 at the Today show. At the time, Roker was still married to his first wife, Alice Bell, however they amicably divorced a couple of years later. “Al was so sweet,” Roberts told People. “He showed me pictures of his daughter and talked about his family. But I just thought he was a nice guy and that was that.” 

After their initial meeting, the two kept in touch for a few years while Deborah’s reporting jobs had her moving to Miami and Atlanta. In 1992, Roker and his wife separated and Roberts moved back to New York to work on Dateline

While Deborah was away the summer of 1992 in Barcelona covering the Olympics, she asked Al if he could keep an eye on her apartment. “A day before she got back from her trip, I stocked her pantry, I stocked her refrigerator and left some flowers on the table and a note, ‘Welcome home,'” Roker said on The Kelly Clarkson Show. “And then I got my first date with her a week later.”

It was on New Year’s Day in 1994 while Al and Deborah were enjoying a Grand Canyon vacation, that Roker proposed and the following year, the couple married in New York City. The couple has two children and they now reside in Manhattan. 

Deborah Roberts and Al Roker on their wedding day, 1995Deborah Roberts Instagram

Deborah Roberts on caring for Al

Deborah Roberts has faced critical junctures in her 28-year marriage with Roker, but none have been so terrifying as the serious medical crises he has suffered over the last three years. In 2020, Roker underwent a successful surgery to have lymph nodes surrounding his prostate removed after a prostate cancer diagnosis was revealed on a routine examination. 

Following that came knee replacement surgery in April 2022, and then in November of that year, he was hospitalized for blood clots, which he was readmitted for in December. 

Speaking with Entertainment Tonight at the premiere of Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields last March, Deborah opened up about her role as her husband’s caregiver.  “I think a lot of people don’t realize that – and I never realized that – that being a caregiver is really taxing, exhausting, frightening, all of those things.” 

While Al was in much better health at this time, Deborah added: “It’s tough. I’m still kind of, I think, recuperating from this dark period.” She continues, “I’m still kind of tired. I’m still mentally exhausted. But I’m grateful and just trying to bask in the moment and just be happy that he’s well and we’re all well.”  

“You learn you can step up and do whatever you need to do. That whole fight or flight response is there for protecting your family,” she told AARP. “Running back and forth to the hospital and taking care of my family without falling apart — but you do what you have to do to help somebody in your life and restore them.  It’s very, very difficult.”

How Deborah Roberts learned to care for herself

During Roker’s healing journey, and especially after, Deborah realized she had to finally focus on her own health. “I realized I had to take care of myself. When I was Al’s caregiver, I thought okay, get it done, get him well, take care of him: That was my goal,” she told AARP. Deborah’s brother and a couple other people kept asking her what she might be doing for herself. 

“They were right and I did find moments where in the morning before I would see him, I would go for a run around the loop in the park and then in my workout clothes I would come straight to the hospital. Or sometimes I would just jog down to the hospital and see him. So I gave myself the benefit of a little bit of care and being outside and thinking, clearing my head and then going to check on him.” 

Deborah gives credit to her incredible support group of friends, family, and church. “I would say my faith, my spirituality got me through it,” she told ET. “My family got me through it, my colleagues got me through it. Colleagues lifted me up in times when I felt like I just couldn’t make it. People were there and texting and emailing and calling, and that made all the difference.”

Knowing Roker was on his way to better health, Roberts and her son, Nick, kicked off 2023 by heading into the gym and embarking on their fitness journey, admitting it was “time for a reset.”

Deborah roberts pink dress
Deborah Roberts New York City Ballet, 2022Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

What Deborah Roberts is working on now

To help further alleviate her caregiver stress, Roberts has been focusing her attention on another group of people who shoulder a lot of care for others: Teachers. In her new book Lessons Learned and Cherished: The Teacher Who Changed My Life, Roberts shines a bright light on the life-changing work of educators.

“I know that teachers are under the gun, feeling discouraged, dissatisfied, and devalued, and I thought, This is a great moment to highlight teachers and remind us all about what they mean to us.” Roberts told The Black Enterprise last month.

The curated collection of essays — with the help of celebrity friends from Spike Lee to Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey — features unique stories on how particular professors throughout the contributors’ lives imparted life lessons.

She also honors teachers because of the part they played in helping educate, care for and support her 20-year-old son, Nick, who deals with learning challenges and developmental disabilities.

“We were talking about Nick when many people didn’t want to talk about their children not being perfect. We both thought it was a unique opportunity to bring people into conversations and normalize the idea that no family is perfect,” she adds. “We just put ourselves out there because Al [Roker, her husband] and I have a unique opportunity to speak out about our struggles, strengths and apparent things in our lives.”

Thank you, Deborah for lending us your strength.

Bonnie Siegler is an established international writer covering the celebrity circuit for more than 15 years.  Bonnie’s resume includes two books that combine her knowledge of entertaining with celebrity health and fitness and has written travel stories which focus on sustainable living.  She has contributed to magazines including Woman’s World and First for WomenElle, InStyle, Shape, TV Guide and Viva.  Bonnie served as West Coast Entertainment Director for Rive Gauche Media overseeing the planning and development of print and digital content.  She has also appeared on entertainment news shows Extra and Inside Edition.

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