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Hoda opens up about seeing her body after undergoing mastectomy: ‘I was horrified’

The TODAY anchor reveals her journey, from troubled to triumphant, with post-surgical body image.

Hilary Duff’s recent nude cover shoot for Women’s Health turned the topic of discussion to body acceptance during Wednesday’s TODAY with Hoda & Jenna, as the 34-year-old star spoke to the magazine about coming to peace with her body after having three children.

That led to co-host Hoda Kotb to recall her own journey to body positivity, one that came after a difficult blow to her health.

In 2007, Hoda underwent a mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer. And as she shared on the show, the journey from feeling troubled to feeling triumphant about her post-surgery body wasn’t an easy one — or a quick one.

Related: Hoda Kotb on post-cancer body image: ‘You live your life and you carry it with you’

"You don’t realize how long the journey is," she told Jenna Bush Hager. "I remember really clearly, after my cancer surgery — I did a surgery where it was a mastectomy, but they also did a hip-to-hip incision to do some moving things around — but anyway, I remember, afterwards, 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."

A nurse came in to help me and she stood me in front of the mirror, and I was horrified."

Despite the successful nature of her treatment, she wasn’t prepared for what came next.

“You know when you look, and you’re like, ‘That’s me now?! Like, this is the body for the rest of my life that’s going to carry me through?’” she continued. “You don’t see it as: The cancer is gone. Right then, that moment, you see it as this horrible (thing)."

And she definitely didn't see that feeling as temporary.

"You don’t think that you’ll ever feel good about yourself, because you’re always going to be hiding, hiding, hiding, hiding," she recalled.

Hoda credits two people with helping her see herself differently after all that she’d been through.

"Shortly after I had my surgery, there was a woman who was older, an aunt of my friend," she explained. "Her name was Harriet. And she said to me, ‘Let me see your scar. I had the same.'"

At that point, Hoda hadn’t let anyone else see her post-surgery body, and it wasn’t until the woman took her to a back room and revealed her own scars that Hoda finally felt she had the courage to do the same. 

“I remember I did it, and she goes, ‘Now is that so bad?’” the 57-year-old shared. "It was a very poignant and moving moment for me. It was a life-changer.” 

Related: Hoda Kotb recalls the challenges of freezing her eggs after cancer treatment: ‘I just sobbed’

And then she got a perspective change by seeing herself through someone else's eyes.

"There was a person who was in my life at that time who saw me as really beautiful," she said of a man she once dated. "That was his purpose, I think, in my life. I remembered feeling not pretty and not worthy, and then somebody doesn’t see the scars. Like, someone looks at you and just doesn’t see that."

It was what she described as a "wait-a-minute" moment.

"All the sudden your back is straighter, you feel better and you made it through that hurdle," Hoda noted. "Now I look at my scars, and I'm happy."