Find Love After Cancer
- NBC’s Hoda Kotb recently shared the optimism she feels regarding her future love life as she navigates being a single co-parent to her two little girls she adopted with ex-fiancé Joel Schiffman
- Kotb, 58, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2007 at age 43 after doctors discovered lumps in her breast tissue during a routine exam. She then underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction followed by five years of taking the drug tamoxifen (Nolvadex).
- Many survivors talk about how hard it is to find love, or repair relationships after cancer; so please don’t feel alone.
- Cancer survivors of all types, but especially women who’ve been through breast cancer, often say they that the desire to feel loved is part of feeling whole again.
Kotb announced her split from Schiffman earlier this year. But the two have seemingly maintained a successful relationship as co-parents to their little girls: Haley Joy, 5, and Hope Catherine, 3. Kotb adopted Haley in 2017 and Hope two years later with Schiffman.Read More
“For everybody who is at a phase in their life where they may or may not be with a partner. My sister said to me once, ‘Are you afraid of being by yourself?’ And I know this is so weird, but I said to her, ‘I am not going to be by myself,'” she recently said on Today with Hoda & Jenna. “Like, I actually know it, as sure as I’m sitting next to you at this desk. I have two beautiful daughters who I am wild about, obviously.”
Kotb even went so far as to say that she can can even “feel” her future partner at times.
“But I know with certainty — and it’s the strangest feeling to know that,” she said. “Like, I can sometimes feel him, but I don’t see what he looks like, but I feel like it will happen.
“So if someone is like, ‘Maybe you’ll meet someone by Christmas….’ Maybe! I’m not on the hunt, but I have a weird, like, tingly Spidey-sense about it.”
And while it’s inspiring to hear Kotb’s take on life and love, this positive outlook should come as no surprise to people that follow the TV host. In fact, we saw the same kind of optimism after her battle with cancer.
Hoda Kotb’s Breast Cancer Journey
Hoda 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 of taking the drug tamoxifen (Nolvadex).
“Cancer shaped me, but it did not define me. It’s part of me, but not all of me,” Kotb said at an annual Breast Cancer Research Foundation New York Symposium and Awards Luncheon in 2017.
She’s still cancer-free today, but Kotb has since opened up about her fertility struggles following her breast cancer battle.
“I remember that my oncologist called, and we were talking about freezing my eggs,” Kotb told Good Housekeeping. “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.
“How do you survive knowing you can’t have what you desire and what you feel like you actually physically need?”
But fast forward to today, and Kotb loves taking care of her two girls, Haley and Hope. And she thanks her ex-fiancé, 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.”
Understanding Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a common cancer that has been the subject of much research. Many women develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer too – though it is much more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include:
- A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
- Change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
- Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
- A newly inverted nipple
- Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin
- Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange
It’s important to keep an eye out for these symptoms while remembering that having one or many of them does not necessarily mean you have breast cancer. Regardless, you should always speak with a doctor promptly if anything ever feels off or you’re experiencing one or more of the signs listed above. You never know when speaking up about your health can lead to a very important diagnosis.
Screening for breast cancer is typically done via mammogram, which looks for lumps in the breast tissue and signs of cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) says women should begin yearly mammogram screening for breast cancer at age 45 if they are at average risk for breast cancer. The ACS also says those aged 40-44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year, and women age 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms.
It’s also important to be on top of self breast exams. If you ever feel a lump in your breast, you should be vigilant and speak with your doctor right away. Voicing your concerns as soon as you have them can lead to earlier cancer detection which, in turn, can lead to better outcomes.
There are many treatment options for people with this disease, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.