Kathie Lee Gifford Honors Best Friend Hoda Kotb With Touching Tribute: She 'Just Made Me a Better Person'

Kathie Lee Gifford opened up about her friendship with Today cohost, Hoda Kotb, while honoring her at the American Cancer Society's Mother of the Year on Monday

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Photo: Nathan Congleton/Getty

Kathie Lee Gifford opened up about her friendship with Today co-host, Hoda Kotb.

Kotb was honored as the American Cancer Society’s Mother of the Year Monday at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City.

In a heartfelt speech, Gifford struggled to hold back tears as she described her friend by saying of Kotb, “The only thing bigger than her smile is her heart.”

“You have to be very careful around Hoda because she’s the most contagious human being on the planet,” she said. “She will infect you. She will make you happy. She will make you start singing really crappy songs. That’s what she does. She can’t help it. She just shows up and the room changes.”

Describing the first time she met Kotb, Gifford recalled being introduced to the mother of one when NBC tried to convince her to return to TV.

“I fell absolutely, madly in love with this life force called Hoda, who just made me a better person,” Gifford said, adding that her only regret was that the two hadn’t met sooner, as she would have been there to support Kotb when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Kotb, who adopted daughter Haley Joy in February, spoke about feeling as though she would never have children after she got divorced and received her cancer diagnosis.

“I thought that that had passed me by, just because that’s the way life is — you don’t get everything,” she said. “And I was okay with it. I totally made peace with it.”

Despite coming to terms with not having children, Kotb said she kept seeing “signs” having children would happen to her.

RELATED VIDEO: ‘Today’s’ Hoda Kotb Opens Up About Emotional Adoption at 52 After Cancer Left Her Unable to Conceive

The Today cohost also thanked her boyfriend of four years, Joel Schiffman, for his support.

“I said, ‘I would like to explore adoption with you,’ and he said, ‘I don’t need a day,'” she recalled.

As for meeting her daughter for the first time, Kotb says “she fit right here,” patting her bent left arm.

“I said to my friend, ‘Can you believe I’m 52 and I have a baby?’ and she said, ‘Do you know what that baby is? That baby is right on time,'” she said.

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