Inside Hoda Kotb's Heartbreaking Experience With Cancer

Hoda Kotb was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2007. According to Cancer Connect, her gynecologist found lumps in her breast during a checkup when she was only 43 years old. After learning about the options available to her, she decided on the route that she wanted to take. "I think the good thing was I only really had one choice for treatment (surgery) ... I opted not to do chemo because it wasn't in my lymph nodes." And after doing the mastectomy and reconstructive breast surgery, she also decided on a hormonal treatment plan after her operation. 

Kotb shared, "The healing from the surgery was hardest." She also revealed on Today that she had a lot of support in the days after her mastectomy. She said, "I remember after my surgery and the cancer was out, my sister said that I immediately looked healthier." The mother-of-two reflected, "I think sometimes when you have something inside of you that's poisonous and terrible, until it's out you don't realize you got the light back in your eyes, the color in your face." Kotb was on the mend physically and was grateful for all the support that she had. 

Kotb would soon learn that cancer would affect her body image and how she saw herself. She had to accept the way her body had changed. And as if that wasn't enough to deal with, she made another shocking discovery about her reproductive health after her cancer surgery. 

Hoda Kotb struggled with her body image after surgery

Very soon after Hoda Kotb's surgery, she was confronted with the reality of her surgery. She had incisions on her chest and a scar that ran from one hip to the other. In an essay for Today's "Love Your Selfie" series, she wrote, "I remember a moment in the hospital when a nurse said she needed to help bathe me and I had to be standing up, in front of a mirror. I told her, 'Please, just turn me around. I'd rather not see it.'" 

Kotb also spoke on "Today" about her experience, recalling, "I was horrified." She had a tough time reconciling her body before and after surgery. She remembered thinking to herself, "That's me now?! Like, this is the body for the rest of my life that's going to carry me through?'" She felt that she was always going to hide her body away because "[y]ou don't think that you'll ever feel good about yourself." 

Luckily, she had two people who helped her to view her body differently. Her friend's aunt also had a mastectomy scar and they could compare their warrior's marks with each other, and "this one guy I met who couldn't keep his eyes off my chest." As she healed, she also realized, per the "Love Your Selfie" series, "You don't care about the scars. You are just happy to have this body, a healthy body."

Cancer treatment affected Hoda Kotb's fertility

When Hoda Kotb was diagnosed with cancer, she didn't know her treatment plan would affect other areas of her life. She was only 43 when her doctor discovered the lumps, and she and her ex-husband, Burzis Kanga, did not have any children. (However, she would later appear on the Minnie Driver podcast and reveal, "In this weird span of a week I found out that I needed a mastectomy, and at the same time I found out that the guy who I was married to was being unfaithful" (via Today).) 

Kotb soon discovered the medication she was taking after the mastectomy would impact her fertility. She told Cancer Connect, "Probably the hardest part about taking the pills is that they shut down your reproductive system." Kotb knew that she wanted children, but first needed to take care of her health.

For a while, Kotb suppressed her longing for a child. She appeared on People's "Me Becoming Mom" podcast and admitted, "I still yearned for [having children] because it seemed like wanting to go to the moon, it's not happening, so don't even bring it up" (via Yahoo!). It was only after a friend assumed that she didn't want any that she realized, "Oh my God, I do want to have children, right now." She later adopted two daughters with her ex, Joel Schiffman. While cancer profoundly impacted Kotb's life, she has also been blessed with children and a greater appreciation for life.