Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts have been through a lot in 25 years of marriage, but nothing could have prepared them for Al's prostate cancer diagnosis last fall.
"It was a gut check," the TODAY weatherman and co-host, 66, told People in a new cover story about the couple's enduring bond.
"My heart just sank to my toes. I love this man," added Deborah, 60, a senior national affairs correspondent for ABC News.
Al revealed he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer on TODAY on Nov. 6. Days later, the beloved TV personality underwent a five-hour surgery at New York City's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to remove his prostate along with some surrounding tissue and lymph nodes.
Now, three months after the surgery, Al is thriving again, with no signs of cancer in his body. But he recalled being stunned and frightened when his doctor first told him of his diagnosis.
"When you first hear someone someone say, 'You have cancer,' you're like, 'Wait, what? Are you serious?' The good news is they caught it early. So it makes you grateful for life."
When Al shared with Deborah that he had cancer, she broke down in tears.
"When he got home after the doctor's, we went upstairs and had a moment, and he said, 'It's cancer.' I just lost it," she recalled. "I grabbed him and started crying. It was very emotional for me because you let your mind go there: What if he's not going to be here with me much longer?"
Next, the couple had to tell their three children — Al's daughter Courtney, 33, from his first marriage and his and Deborah's daughter, Leila, 22, and son Nick, 18.
"We just decided to have a family Zoom," recalled Al. "It was difficult, there were tears, but they rallied around. And we kept stressing to them we're all in this together — your dad's going to be fine."
Al recalled his doting wife supporting him in multiple ways throughout the ordeal: A warm and loving partner at home, Deborah relied on her professional skills during meetings with doctors.
"Her journalistic instincts kicked in," Al said with admiration. "She was in every meeting asking all the questions. When somebody you love also happens to be your best advocate, that's just a bonus. That can make all the difference."
"Knowing that Deborah was there," he added, "was the greatest source of comfort."
For Deborah, rallying to help her husband was just something that came naturally to her.
"At the end of the day, I love us, and I'm determined to cheer us on and be there for us," she explained. "You cherish and you clutch and you hold on."
The new issue of People magazine will hit newsstands Friday.