- Hoda Kotb is one of a few broadcasters nominated for the Outstanding Live News Program Emmy award. This news comes after her triumphant battle with breast cancer.
- At age 43, she underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, and was then put on a regime of the drug tamoxifen (Nolvadex) for the next five years.
- After oncologists suggested freezing her eggs after the diagnosis, she persevered and adopted two daughters.
This nomination of Hoda’s comes after a triumphant battle with breast cancer, which she took a leave of absence at work for.
Hoda’s Cancer Battle
Although Kotb is back to work, it wasn’t so long ago that she was facing a major battle.
In February 2007, she was told that lumps discovered in her breast tissue during a routine exam were, in fact, breast cancer. At 43-years-old, she underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. She then was put on a regime of the drug tamoxifen (Nolvadex) for the next five years.
“Cancer shaped me, but it did not define me. It’s part of me, but not all of me,” Hoda Kotb said at an annual Breast Cancer Research Foundation New York Symposium and Awards Luncheon in 2017.
Hoda’s Experience with Motherhood
Her struggles didn’t end once she was declared cancer free. In her role as a public figure, Hoda Kotb has been very open about struggling with her fertility in the wake of her cancer.
“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?,’” Hoda 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 Kotb persevered and is now the proud mother of two adopted daughters. She, along with her now ex-husband Joel Schiffman, a 64-year-old financer, adopted Haley Joy, 5, in 2017 and two years later, adopted Hope Catherine, 3. Though she and Schiffman are no longer together, she has publically thanked him for supporting her during her quest 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.”
Reducing Anxiety After a False Positive
Although cancer is a major challenge, there is no shortage of stories showing the resiliency of humans facing daunting circumstances and persevering.
Danielle Ripley-Burgess, a two-time colon cancer survivor, is another resilient cancer survivor like Casey DeSantis. She was first diagnosed with colon cancer in high school and proceeded to beat the disease not once, but twice.
Understandably so, Ripley-Burgess has had to work through a lot of complex emotions that came with her cancer journey. Even still, she’s always managed to look at life with a positive attitude.
“As I’ve worked through the complex emotions of cancer, I’ve uncovered some beautiful things: Wisdom. Love. Life purpose. Priorities,” she previously told SurvivorNet. “I carry a very real sense that life is short, and I’m grateful to be living it! This has made me optimistic. Optimism doesn’t mean that fear, pain and division don’t exist – they do. Our world is full of negativity, judgment, and hate. Optimism means that I believe there’s always good to be found despite the bad, and this is what my life is centered around.”
After going through something as difficult as cancer, Ripley-Burgess now goes through life with a sense of purpose. Happily in remission today, she’s determined to, one day, leave the world better than she found it.
“We can choose to stay positive, treat others with respect and look for the light in spite of the darkness,” she said. “This type of attitude and behavior will lead to the kind of legacies I believe all of us hope to leave.”
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 more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
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 (such as Hoda Kotb was when she was diagnosed) 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.
Learn Your Risk and Listen to the Guidelines An Important Message About Breast Cancer Awareness
With files from Abigail Seaberg