How Hoda Kotb Learned to Be 'Happy' with Her Mastectomy Scars
Hoda Kotb just got candid about how her relationship with her body changed after undergoing a mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery following a breast cancer diagnosis in 2007. In a recent episode of Today with Hoda & Jenna, the co-host revealed that she was "horrified" the first time she looked in the mirror after her mastectomy. But with the love and support of people in her life, she experienced a "poignant" shift in her self image, sharing that she now feels "happy" in her skin, scars and all.
In a conversation about Hilary Duff's recent photo shoot for Women's Health, in which the Lizzie McGuire alum posed nude, Kotb and her co-host, Jenna Bush Hager, discussed their relationships with their own bodies. "Think about what our bodies have done and been through," Bush Hager told Kotb. "Your body has survived cancer. Your body has guided you and healed you. Isn't that amazing?" (Related: 3 Metastatic Breast Cancer "Thrivers" on Defying the Odds, Defeating the Disease, and Empowering Their Communities)
Kotb then opened up about her initial "horrible" reaction to seeing her body after her mastectomy. "I remember, afterward, 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," she said.
"You know when you look, and you're like: 'Wait, that's me now? 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 certainly isn't alone in her experience. One prospective study found that undergoing a mastectomy can have both positive and negative effects on a person's mental health, whether or not they also have breast reconstruction surgery.
The 57-year-old credited two people in her life for helping her mend her relationship with her body: a person she'd dated at the time and a friend's aunt, who also survived breast cancer. "There was a person who was in my life at that time who saw me as really beautiful," she recalled. "That was his purpose, I think, in my life. I remembered feeling not pretty and not worthy, and somebody doesn't see the scars...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."
An encounter with a friend's aunt was equally important to her. She pulled Kotb aside and asked to see her post-surgery scars, revealing her own as well. "It was the first time I had courage...I did [show her my scars], and she goes, 'Now was that so bad?'" said Kotb. "It was a very poignant and moving moment for me," she added. "It was a life-changer."
Here's to hoping that Kotb's candid words about her relationship with her body after undergoing a mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery help others feel comfortable and confident in their own skin. (Next up: Hoda shares why she'll always wear a bikini)