Hoda Kotb Learned to Love Her Body After Mastectomy: 'Now I Look at My Scars and I'm Happy'

"I was horrified," Hoda Kotb said, recalling of how she felt when she first saw her scars after her 2007 mastectomy

Hoda Kotb
Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Hoda Kotb is opening up about how she learned to love her body again after undergoing a mastectomy in 2007 related to her breast cancer diagnosis.

During Wednesday's episode of Today with Hoda and Jenna, the mother of two revealed to her co-anchor Jenna Bush Hager that she went on "long" journey with her body after her cancer surgery.

"I did a surgery where it was a mastectomy but they also did a hip-to-hip incision to move some things around, the 57-year-old explained. "I remember afterwards having to get washed in the hospital and I hadn't seen it because I just hadn't looked at it. And a nurse came in to help me and she stood me in front of the mirror and I was horrified."

"You know when you look and you're like, 'That's me now? This is the body for the rest of my life that is going to carry me through?' " she shared. "You don't see it as, 'The cancer's gone' — in that moment, you just see the scar only and you don't think that you'll ever feel good about yourself because you're always going to be hiding."

Luckily for Kotb, she had someone special in her life who helped change the way she saw herself. "There was a person who was in my life at the time who saw me as really beautiful," said the Emmy winner, who announced her split from ex-fiancé Joel Schiffman earlier this year. "That was his purpose in my life."

"I remember feeling not pretty and not worthy," she said. "Then somebody tells you they don't see the scars; it's like somebody looks at you and doesn't see that and you're like, 'Oh, wait a minute.' And all of a sudden, your back's straighter, you feel better, and you made it through that hurdle."

"Now I look at my scars and I'm happy," Kotb admitted.

Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager
Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Another important moment on Kotb's journey of self-acceptance was when an older family friend pushed her to show off her scar.

"Her name was Harriet," Kotb said on Today of the woman. "She said to me, 'Let me see your scar. I had the same thing, let me see it.' ... And I go, 'Oh, no...' And she was, 'Yeah! Let me see.' "

After making their way to a back room, Harriet pulled up her shirt and showed Kotb her scars. "I was like, 'Oh my god, what's happening here,'" Kotb recalled thinking in the moment.

But Harriet's move inspired Kotb to lift her shirt and did the same. "It was the first time I had courage," Kotb said. "I did it and she was like, 'Now was that so bad? Now let's go out there.' We held hands and walked out. It was a very poignant and moving moment for me. It was really a life changer."


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Kotb and Bush Hager's conversation was sparked by Hillary Duff's new photoshoot for Women's Health where the How I Met Your Father star posed nude to represent how she's embraced her body.

"Think about what are bodies have done," Bush Hager, 40, said to Kotb. "Your body has survived cancer! Your body has guided you and healed you. Isn't that amazing?"

"It's so funny because my stomach is full of scars too from babies and other surgeries," she added. "And I look at it like, 'Oh my gosh, this is this proof of what came. This proof of this thing.' Don't you wish you could see yourself the way other people did?"

Kotb and Schiffman share daughters Haley, 4, and Hope, 2.

"He's a great guy," Kotb said of Schiffman in January, announcing their split. "He's a very kind and loving person, and I feel privileged to have spent eight years with him. We are both good and we are both kind of going on our way and our path. We'll be good parents to those two lovely kids."

Their breakup was not precipitated by any major event, she said. "It's not like something happened," Kotb explained at the time. "They say sometimes relationships are meant to be there for a reason, or a season, or for a lifetime. And I feel like ours was meant to be there for a season."

Today with Hoda and Jenna airs weekdays (10 a.m. ET) on NBC.

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