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From one woman's pain, hope for many

On Monday, Today show co-anchor Hoda Kotb bantered with colleague Kathie Lee Gifford, interviewed Alicia Keys, profiled a woman who shed 177 pounds and then flew to Washington for a one-on-one with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A day filled with celebrities, leaders and inspiring stories typifies Kotb's award-winning career. In addition to working on Today, Kotb has covered Hurricane Katrina, the Israeli-Palestine conflict and the 2004 Asian tsunami.

The achievements are notable because Kotb, 44, is a successful broadcaster who just happens to be a breast cancer survivor, not a survivor who just happens to work for NBC.

"Some people are shaped by breast cancer and some people are defined by it," Kotb explained during a telephone interview. "I don't diminish those who are defined by it because they often dedicate themselves to the fight.

"But I'm shaped by it. It's a part of me, it's not all of me."

Kotb found the courage to go public about her battle. Before a national audience, she shared segments from her personal video diary, allowed cameras to follow her on the day of her mastectomy and spoke through teary eyes about the experience.

On Saturday, she speaks at the Moffitt Cancer Center's 21st annual FACTors breast cancer education conference at the Hyatt Regency Tampa. Her message is simple: surviving cancer gives her the gift of fearlessness.

That fearlessness helped Kotb meet the challenge of going public. That and a conversation she had with a stranger on an airplane. She wasn't interested in sharing much with the passenger, but he prodded. Finally, she revealed she was recovering from breast cancer — worried about the typical look of pity.

"I said to him, 'I hope when you leave here breast cancer is not the first thing you think of when you think of me,' " Kotb said. "He looked at me like I'm insane. He said, 'Don't hog your journey, it's not just for you. Think of how many people you could help.' "

Today, Kotb advocates not just for survivors, but for a cure. When it comes to breast cancer, so much of the focus has been on prevention and diagnosis, but Kotb backs the efforts of pioneering doctor Susan Love, who is pushing for research that could eradicate breast cancer.

Love introduced her new effort, Army of Women, in an Oct. 1 interview with Kotb. The idea is to recruit healthy women for research efforts aimed at stopping breast cancer before it starts. More than 30,000 signed up at www.armyofwomen.org the day of the interview.

"It's 2008, and we're still talking about cutting it out or shrinking it," Kotb lamented. "Dr. Susan Love is saying work on the front end."

There is frustration in Kotb's voice, but there also is passion, hope and inspiration. She could have, as she says, buried her story and walked to the grave. Instead she chooses to share her journey.

She made the right choice.

That's all I'm saying.

Moffitt Cancer Center's FACTors conference

Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency Tampa.

Keynote speaker: NBC's Hoda Kotb, Co-Anchor, Fourth Hour of Today.

For more information: www.moffitt.org.

From one woman's pain, hope for many 10/09/08 [Last modified: Sunday, October 12, 2008 6:19pm]
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