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Today show star Hoda Kotb recalls emotional encounter that changed her life

The TV presenter co-hosts Today with Savannah Guthrie

Hanna Fillingham

Today show host Hoda Kotb is renowned for her positive attitude and has helped so many people after opening up about her cancer battle. The mother-of-two was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and had to undergo a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. The star initially kept her illness a secret from the public, but everything changed after she met a stranger on a plane. Recalling the emotional moment on The Thrive Podcast with Arianna Huffington in 2018, Hoda explained that she had met a man called Ken Dwayne on a flight back from Ireland, while still healing from her surgery and not feeling herself.

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VIDEO: Hoda Kotb celebrates birthday with daughters and mum

She said: "On the plane, I wanted to curl up, I was crying, I didn't feel myself. I knew it was a mistake [travelling]. I didn't think I would feel whole again.

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Today's Hoda Kotb recalled an emotional encounter with a stranger that shaped her life

"And I was about to fall asleep on the plane, and I won't forget this. A guy next to me goes 'How you doing? I recognise you, from one of those shows. Which one is it?'"

Hoda continued: "He was asking all these questions, but there was something about this guy that was captivating and interesting."

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Hoda with her daughters and mum Sami on her birthday on Sunday

Ken then pointed to Hoda's compression sleeve and asked what was on her arm. The TV star explained it was from a medical procedure after having an operation, and he asked her what the operation was for.

Hoda answered: "I can't believe I'm about to tell you this as I don't even know you. But I had breast cancer. But I hope when you get off the plane you don't tell all your friends that you sat next to a girl with breast cancer. I hope you have other things to say."

Ken responded with words that helped inspire Hoda, so much so that she chose to go public with her courageous cancer battle.

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The Today star is isolating with fiancé Joel and their daughters Hayley Joy and Hope Catherine

She recalled: "He said, 'What is wrong with you? Breast cancer is part of you. It's like getting married or going to college or working for NBC. "'Don't hog your journey, it's not just for you. Think of how many people you can help."

Hoda continued: "I was like boo-hooing and having this moment with a stranger. And I thought, maybe he is right.

"His name was Ken Dwayne, I found him later. When you find someone who changes the cause of who you are.

"So that's why I even talked about it at all. I couldn't believe how freeing it was, it was like talking about a secret and the secret not being that scary any more.

"He taught me that it can be part of you but not all of you. It can shape you but not define you."

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