Michael Strahan finally explains ‘GMA’ absence: His 19-year-old’s brain cancer battle

“Good Morning America” anchor Michael Strahan has finally broken his silence on the personal matters that took him off the desk for several weeks last year.

On Thursday, the former football star joined his 19-year-old daughter Isabella for a candid interview revealing her brain cancer diagnosis, which rocked her loved ones. Speaking to co-anchor Robin Roberts, Strahan said he is “extremely proud” of Isabella for sharing her story, months after she first experienced symptoms.

“I know she’s going through it, but I know that we’re never given more than we can handle and that she is going to crush this,” Strahan said.

Isabella, a freshman at USC, said in late September that she began experiencing intense migraines that only seemed to get worse. She also felt nausea and had difficulty walking straight, prompting the teenager to think she was dealing with vertigo, she told Roberts. Then, she started throwing up blood.

In late October, Isabella said she informed her sister about the blood, and news about her health issues quickly spread to the rest of her family. Shortly after, she received emergency treatment at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where doctors discovered “a fast-growing, four-centimeter tumor” in the back of Isabella’s head.

“I don’t really remember much — I just remember trying to figure out how to get to L.A., ASAP,” Strahan recalled. “It just doesn’t feel reel.”

In early November, loyal “Good Morning America” viewers observed that Strahan had been missing from the desk. ABC News said that his absence would continue as he dealt with family affairs. He slowly made his return to TV — first to “Fox NFL Sunday” on Nov. 12 then to “GMA” on Nov. 15.

“It’s great to be back,” the 52-year-old anchor simply said about his return. At the time, he did not reveal more details about his absence.

Isabella was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a malignant brain tumor that affects the cerebellum, which is involved in muscle coordination, balance and movement, according to the Mayo Clinic. While medulloblastoma can affect people from any age, it is the most common cancerous brain tumor found in children.

One day before her 19th birthday on Oct. 28, Isabella underwent surgery to remove the tumor. Her recovery journey included learning how to walk again and several rounds of radiation treatment.

“It was great, it was very exciting because it’s been a long 30 sessions, six weeks,” she told Roberts, also a cancer survivor. Roberts took notice of Isabella’s shaved head, noting that she was “rockin’ that ’do.”

Since the surgery, Isabella has launched a YouTube series in partnership with the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University to share her story. She will begin chemotherapy next month.

“I’m ready to start, one day closer to being over,” Isabella added.

While Strahan sees himself as “the luckiest man in the world,” he said that his daughter’s diagnosis challenged the way he sees himself.

“You learn that you’re probably not as strong as you thought you were when you really have to think about the real things,” he said. “I realized that I need support from everybody.”

At the end of the interview, Isabella became emotional thinking about returning to a college routine and living her life amid her cancer battle. But Strahan reassured his daughter.

“Sixty, 70 years [from now] you’ll be bugging somebody, I don’t know if it’ll be me. I hope it is. But you’ll be here, baby.”

Strahan shares twins Isabella and Sophia with ex-wife Jean Muggli. He also shares Michael Anthony Strahan Jr. and Tanita Strahan with ex-wife Wanda Hutchins.

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