Motherhood After Breast Cancer
- News personality and proud mother, Hoda Kotb, 57, can’t believe she has been a mom for five years now.
- The breast cancer survivor was initially devastated at the effects of treatment on her fertility, but then chose to go the adoption route nearly a decade later with her partner at the time.
- There are always other options when it comes to wanting to be a mother, but it’s important to learn about fertility preservation just in case.
Hoda has two daughters Haley Joy, 5, and Hope Catherine, 3, with whom she shared another “amazing” Mother’s Day this year.Read More
Hoda said her sweet little girls “were beaming and it just reminded me what life is, it’s got nothing to do with anything other than just that, the most basic of things.”
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“‘Do you like it, Mama?'” they had asked for feedback of their thoughtful gestures. “I was like, ‘Yes!’ [The pan] was like a whole apple in it. It was amazing.”
“I mean, I’ve gotten five Mother’s Days,” she continued, clearly in awe of the joy that she gets to experience. “Look at me. Fifty seven and five Mother’s Days. I mean it takes my breath away to even think about it.”
Haley and Hope also planned some pre-Mother’s Day festivities ahead of the weekend.
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“Mother’s day came early. Lucky me,” the radiant news personality initially wrote with a “#melting” hashtag and heart emoji. The video begins with her two daughters holding hands in their pink pajamas, leading their mom down the stairs.
“They told me to go upstairs for like 15 minutes, which kind of scared me,” Hoda told viewers on the TODAY with Hoda & Jenna show, laughing.
The surprises start mid-way down, where a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ sign is scrawled with black marker on white paper, displayed on one of the stairs. Haley carefully assists little Hope on their trek to the living room, then whispers in her ear before leading her into a joint performance of “Happy Mother’s Day,” sang in the same melody of the traditional “Happy Birthday” song. (Hope accidentally sings “Happy Birthday” toward the end of the song, but quickly corrects herself.)
Kotb sniffles with happy tears throughout the entire capture, then discovers her girls also made coffee, with another little note displayed on the table. “That could have been a disaster,” Kotb said on TV in reference to the coffee, which Haley spearheaded on her own via her mom’s Keurig.
The journalist took the opportunity to remind others—and herself—that while she’s busy getting them ready to go to parties or Disneyland, sometimes the best moments are at home, with a simple piece of paper, a song, and a coffee. Essentially saying, happiness doesn’t have to cost money.
Since this is the first Mother’s Day she has spent as a single mother, it likely adds to the emotion. Kotb recently announced that she split with the girls’ dad, her longtime fiancé, financier Joel Schiffman, 64. The couple adopted when Hoda, at 52, decided she wanted to become a mom.
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Hoda Kotb’s Journey to Motherhood
Kotb received her breast cancer diagnosis in February 2007 after doctors discovered lumps in her breast tissue during a routine exam. She was 43 at the time and underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction followed by five years taking the drug tamoxifen (Nolvadex). Kotb was devastated when her oncologist explained the realities of her fertility after breast cancer treatment. But like many other cancer survivors, she found her own way to parenthood.
In a recent conversation with Good Housekeeping, Kotb opened up about her fertility struggles after her battle with breast cancer.
“I remember that my oncologist called, and we were talking about freezing my eggs,” Kotb said. “She basically said that given my age and (my breast cancer treatment), it was pretty close to a dead-end.”
Her reaction was, understandably, filled with sorrow. And at that moment, she doubted she’d ever realize her dream of becoming a mother.
“I was in my room, and I just sobbed. I thought, ‘Well, that’s that, isn’t it?,’” Kotb said. “Like, you almost blame yourself. ‘Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I do that?’ So I just pushed it away because the reality seemed impossible to bear. She thanks her ex, Schiffman, for providing the support she needed to become a mother.
“I don’t think I would’ve adopted if it hadn’t been for Joel,” she said of Schiffman. “Having a stable relationship in that moment was really important. Once that fell into place, it didn’t seem as scary to me.”
Fertility and Cancer Treatment
Infertility can be a side effect of some cancer treatments, but there are options to consider. Fertility preservation, for example, is available to women of childbearing age. Options for women include:
- Egg and embryo freezing (the most common practice)
- Ovarian tissue freezing
- Ovarian suppression to prevent the eggs from maturing so that they cannot be damaged during treatment.
- Ovarian transposition, for women getting radiation to the pelvis, to move the ovaries out of the line of treatment.
No matter what course of action you choose to take, it is important that all women feel comfortable discussing their options prior to cancer treatment.
In a previous conversation with SurvivorNet, Dr. Jaime Knopman, a reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM NY, says time is precious when dealing with fertility preservation for women with cancer. In other words, the sooner the better when it comes to having these important fertility conversations with your doctor.
“The sooner we start, the sooner that patient can then go on and do their treatment,” Dr. Knopman said. “A lot of the success comes down to how old you are at the time you froze and the quality of the lab in which your eggs or embryos are frozen in.”
When it comes to breast cancer patients specifically, there are some unique challenges for women with the disease. Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, outlines them in a previous interview with SurvivorNet:
Young women who need chemotherapy could have their fertility significantly affected because many chemotherapy drugs can damage a woman’s eggs. If women are on a medication to stop the hormones which feed their specific kind of breast cancer, they may not be able to get pregnant for several years—in some instances 10 years.
Many stage four breast cancers need estrogen to grow. Pregnancy is a very, very high hormonal state, so it’s not recommended in these cases, however, it’s important to do whatever feels right to you. Discussing these options with your care team will help you come to the right decision for you.