Hoda Kotb

Hoda: Breast cancer gave me courage to ask for my job

Aug. 23, 2013 at 11:33 AM ET

If there's anyone we want career advice from, it's Hoda, since her morning routine of sipping a cocktail and chatting about life with Kathie Lee seems like one of the Best Jobs Ever.

But while Hoda's work may look easy, it turns out that one of the hardest moments in her life helped her get where she is today.

Hoda
Peter Kramer/NBC

"Six years ago when I had breast cancer, it was like one of those moments where your life snaps into focus, just like that: boom," she told TODAY.com. "You live your life one way, you complain about things ... and then suddenly you realize what’s worth complaining about, and fighting for."

Once something of a shrinking violet, Hoda says her experience fighting cancer taught her to speak up for what she wanted.

"I was always someone at work who just waited to be noticed," she said. "I never raised my hand. I just thought, 'I’ll work hard and they’ll see me, I’m right here.' After I got sick and got better, I had this real epiphany at work, and it was in everything, really, in life, and it was, 'You can’t scare me.'"

Those four words became her mantra, and gave her the courage to ask for what she really wanted: a seat on the newest hour of TODAY. "I thought, you know what? I’m going to do something I’ve never done in my lifetime, ever," she remembers. "I’m going to go up and I’m going to ask for that job."

Video: TODAY’s Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb take a look back at Hoda’s journey to health and healing after being diagnosed with breast cancer, and Dr. Erin Dupree and Dr. Freya Schnabel discuss the importance of early protection.

And we all know how that story ended! Lucky for all of us, Hoda landed in the co-host seat, alongside new bestie Kathie Lee. Her experience can serve as a pick-me-up for anyone going through a tough time — a little light at the end of the tunnel, if you will. 

"I think sometimes, what is the worst time in your life ... triggers you to do something you didn’t know you had the courage to do," Hoda says. If she hadn't gotten sick, she thinks, she might never have ended up where she is now: "I think I would have been too afraid to do it."

Even if you're at home "in the fetal position," Hoda says what really matters is how you handle the moments that make you want to quit.

"Life isn’t about the falling down portion, it’s about what happens after," she says. "Some people stay down, and it’s understandable. But if you can manage to pull yourself up, and if you’re standing, and even if you’re teetering, as long as you’re upright, you can do something."

And your next big move might be something you haven't even dreamed of. "You never know what’s ahead of you if you don’t push yourself a little," she says.

The bottom line is, follow your passion and even the tough days won't get you down too badly.

"I think everyone has highs and lows at work, and sometimes you get down in the dumps, and you say, gosh, why am I doing this," Hoda said. "But you have to really love the essence of what you do, so that when you have a bad day, it's just a bad day — it’s not a bad career choice or a bad decision."

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