Neural Science

‘I became wildly fearless.’ Hoda Kotb reflects on how cancer diagnosis transformed her career

When Hoda Kotb was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, she says she found a newfound “fearless” attitude that helped her land her current role on the fourth hour of TODAY.

The TODAY with Hoda & Jenna co-host shared the inspiring story on Thursday while chatting about a new interview where Julia Louis Dreyfus said she’s “living more mindfully” after beating cancer several years ago.

“I feel like anyone who’s ever gone through that cancer trip or journey, I feel like your life does snap into focus. It’s sort of like,  ‘Boom!’ And you’re like, ‘Ok, what am I doing right now?’” she said.

Hoda, who has previously admitted to thinking it was “the end” when she got her diagnosis, then elaborated on the sentiment.

“Think about if someone told you today that your life has margins. You know where it started and now you know where it could possibly end,” she said. “I thought this when I had breast cancer years ago. I remember thinking, ‘There’s a beginning and an end.’ And I hadn’t thought of that.”

After being diagnosed with cancer, Hoda said she decided to make some changes in her life.

“(I remember thinking) so here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna offload the things that aren’t good for me, serving me, working for me,” she said.

Hoda Kotb said she became fearless after being diagnosed with cancer.TODAY

Soon after, Hoda noticed a shift in her mindset.

“I became fearless, like wildly fearless. I was always concerned, I was a pleaser (beforehand). Suddenly, I was like, ‘It could be over,'” she recalled.

Around this time, the TODAY Show was adding a new hour — the fourth hour — to its lineup, and Hoda felt empowered to pitch herself as a co-host. She recalled paying an impromptu visit to the “head honcho” to do just that.

“I remember going up the elevator and I’m like, ‘I’m gonna ask for that job.’ I would never have dreamt that I was even deserving of that job (before),” she said.

Soon enough, Hoda learned that she had landed the gig and she couldn’t have been more psyched.

Sometimes it’s like the scariest thing in the world becomes the thing that makes you fearless.

Hoda Kotb

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, if I hadn’t gotten sick, I wouldn’t have been brave and if I wasn’t gonna be brave, I wouldn’t be there and I wouldn’t be here,'” she said. “Sometimes it’s like the scariest thing in the world becomes the thing that makes you fearless.”

Jenna Bush Hager was touched by Hoda’s story and applauded her for having such a positive attitude during a difficult period of her life.

“You weren’t like, ‘Poor me. Gosh, why did this happen to me?’ And spend your time in sort of this fog of self pity,” she said. “Instead, you thought, ‘How is this gonna change my life for the better?'”

Hoda couldn’t have agreed more and said, “All of a sudden, you feel brave. It’s like if you could take a pill and be completely brave, what would you do right now that you’re scared of? That’s what that gives you.”

Jenna went on to explain that her sister Barbara has always made her feel brave.

“And I think your sister does the same with you,” she said to Hoda. “She plants ideas in your mind that you might not ever say out loud to yourself.”

The two co-hosts got emotional while discussing their sisters and Jenna ended on the following uplifting note.

“I think that we should be raising our girls — and our boys too, let’s not forget Hal (her son) — to empower each other. And that’s (how it should be with) friends, too. We want our girls to be the type of girls that light up (their friends’ lives),” she said.

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