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TODAY   |  February 04, 2014

Hoda profiles people facing adversity in book

TODAY’s Hoda Kotb chats about her book, “Ten Years Later,” in which she searches for people who faced grave life challenges to find out how they fared a decade later. “I set out to find some people that had game-changing moments in life,” she says. Read an excerpt at TODAY.com.

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>>> through a difficult experience and wish you could know how it would all turn out later? like fast forward ten years?

>> well, our pal hoda kotb shares some stories in her book "ten years later." six folks who faced adversity and transformed their lives and it's out in paperback today. congratulations.

>> how fun to be on the 9:00 with you crazy kids. so these people had game-changing moments in life from illnesses to job loss and unspeakable tragedy. and a decade later, i wanted to see how their lives changed in ways they never could've imagined.

>> reporter: during tough times, have you ever wished you could fast forward through your life and just maybe that view of the future would give you hope? well, many people deal with sorrow and loss, but also dream of a brighter tomorrow. like amy barnes . more than a decade ago at almost 500 pounds, this mother of two battled low self-esteem and felt trapped in an abusive relationship . how would she break away and finally lose the weight? or ron clifford who on september 11th escorted a burned woman to safety after the towers were hit only later to discover that his own sister and niece were passengers on united flight 175 which hit the world trade center on that tragic day. how would he find peace to move on with his life? and lindsay beck, at 22, she fought two bouts with a rare cancer only to learn that the life-saving chemotherapy treating her would probably leave her infertile. how would she conquer cancer while holding on to the hope of having children in the future? ten years later, the endings to the stories may not only surprise you but inspire you, as well.

>> i love this.

>> if you could look through the looking glass --

>> yeah.

>> life gets better. what was it you wanted to do to inspire people with this book?

>> i think sometimes when you hit a road block like that, you think you're stuck in the weeds and wonder, am i ever going to get out of here? so when we found these six people, we thought, you know what, if they can do this, what they are able to accomplish in this book, i can do whatever i'm worried about because what these people have been through is remarkable. and you wonder, does your life really change or are you still who you were before? and i think this explores that and shows i think we sort of are the essence of who we are.

>> for example, amy barnes , 500 pounds --

>> can you believe?

>> mother of two.

>> she weighed 500 pounds, was in the worst relationship, horribly abusive and, you know sometimes you're so scared you don't know what else is out there that might be better than where you are. and one day, her -- the person she was living with just beat her senseless. she was bloody in the bathroom and her son walked in and with a bath mat tried to mop her face off and said, mom, i want you to be beautiful again. and this woman turned her life around. if you're struggling with weight loss or abuse. look at her after picture.

>> amazing.

>> and her exterior is a tiny part of how she's changed. she's changed from the inside out.

>> she's empowering other women who suffered in abusive relationships, as well.

>> she's so strong. makes you feel like you can make it through anything.

>> i love the story of the woman in the book who founded a product.

>> can i tell you something? she was fired twice as a waitress, had a couple of kids, no husband, everything was terrible, she's driving down some country road . she sees a guy with a beard, this guy, looks like a lumber jack and he's got a pickle jar full of honey and said what is that. and he said, i'm trying to sell honey. she helps him package it. so they're selling this honey, it's going like hotcakes, making candles. and she said what should we call this and goes out to the beehives and it's called burt's bees. and that guy's face is on all the products.

>> it's like he's one of the smith brothers .

>> he went on to sell it for multimillion --

>> how about your life? you have transformed your life. which was terrific to begin with, but you've gone through a lot of adversity from illness to personal tragedy.

>> yeah.

>> and you've come out of the other side.

>> i think when you're in that spot and you go through an illness like i did. everyone has their cross to bear, you wonder what am i going to be like later? and every time someone said to me, i got stronger because of cancer, i was creeped out -- but you guys know yourselves, if you've been through something, it did change the path of my life. do you guys have something in your lives?

>> well, i think for me, it was, you know, i actually had secondary infertility. after having josh, we tried years to have a child and took us four years and then finally one day i just near christmas time in 2007 , i said you know what, i'm going to give ourselves a christmas present and we're going to make this happen. i thought it had to be the natural way, it doesn't. i went in for medical intervention and thankfully we got pregnant. i can't imagine not having my second son.

>> i had infertility issues and adopted courtney who is now 27 and a chef. and then through ivf had nikki and leila.

>> can i tell you? what a great family. and we had -- remember at the ivy. new year's eve, we had dinner with the rokers, baby, they're fun.

>> this is such a great --

>> thank you for having me on. i appreciate it.

>> it is a great inspirational message for all of us.

>> thanks, guys.

>> you can read the excerpts from ten years later, head