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The Independent UK

Hoda Kotb opens up about body image struggles after undergoing a mastectomy: ‘I was horrified’

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Hoda Kotb has spoken candidly about her struggles with body image after she underwent a mastectomy to treat her breast cancer in 2007.

The 57-year-old television host discussed her surgery during an episode of Today while she and Jenna Bush Hager were talking about Hilary Duff’s recent nude photoshoot for Women’s Health.

According to Kotb, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction to treat the disease, she was “horrified” when she first saw her body after the surgery.

“I remember really clearly, after my cancer surgery, I did a surgery where it was a mastectomy, but they also did a hip-to-hip incision to do some moving things around,” she recalled. “I remember, afterwards, having to get washed in the hospital. I hadn’t seen [the scarring], because I just hadn’t looked at it. A nurse came in to help me and she stood me in front of the mirror, and I was horrified.”

Despite the fact that her treatment was successful, the Today anchor said that she couldn’t help but question her looks and see her body as something “horrible”.

“You know when you look, and you’re like: ‘That’s me now?! Like, this is the body for the rest of my life that’s going to carry me through?’” she said. “You don’t see it as: The cancer is gone. Right then, that moment, you see it as this horrible [thing].”

Kotb acknowledged how, at the time, she constantly felt like she needed to be in “hiding” because of her looks.

“You don’t think that you’ll ever feel good about yourself, because you’re always going to be hiding, hiding, hiding, hiding,” she said.

However, she said that dating someone who viewed her as “beautiful” helped her change her perspective about her scar, as she can now look at it and be “happy”.

“There was a person who was in my life at that time who saw me as really beautiful,” she explained. “That was his purpose, I think, in my life. I remembered feeling not pretty and not worthy, and then somebody doesn’t see the scars. Like, someone looks at you and just doesn’t see that.”

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“And you’re like oh: ‘Wait a minute.’ All the sudden your back is straighter, you feel better and you made it through that hurdle,” she added. “Now I look at my scars, and I’m happy.”

Kotb also described a moment where she met another woman, who encouraged her to show her scar.

“There was a woman who was older, she was an aunt of my friend, her name was Harriet,” she explained. “And she said to me: ‘Let me see your scar, I had the same’. And she was a real trailblazer.”

At the time, Kotb had yet to show anyone her scar, so she had denied Harriet’s request. However, Harriet still said: “Yeah, let me see.” According to the television host, the woman then took her to a separate room and said: “Show me, I’m going to show you mine.”

“She pulled up her shirt, and I was like: ‘Oh my god, what’s happening here?’” Kotb said. “And it was the first time I had courage... And I remembered I did it [showed the scar], and she goes: ‘Now was that so bad? Let’s go out there.’ We held hands and walked out.”

“It was a very poignant and moving moment for me,” she added. “It was a life-changer.”

Kotb has previously opened up about how her breast cancer treatment impacted aspects of her health, including her fertility. During an interview with Good Housekeeping last month, she recalled how she didn’t have the opportunity to freeze eggs because of her breast cancer treatment.

“I remember that my oncologist called and we were talking about freezing my eggs,” she said. “She basically said that given my age and [my breast cancer treatment], it was pretty close to a dead end.”

“I was in my room and I just sobbed,” she continued. “I thought: ‘Well, that’s that, isn’t it? Like, you almost blame yourself. Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I do that?’”

She also said that she struggled to accept the “reality” that she couldn’t get pregnant. “How do you survive knowing you can’t have what you desire and what you feel like you actually physically need?” she said.

Kotb and her ex-fiancé, Joel Schiffman, share two children, Haley, four, and Hope, two, who were both welcomed via adoption.