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Hoda Kotb Recalls Breast Cancer Struggle at BCRF Luncheon

Leonard and Aerin Lauder, as well as Jeanne and Herbert Siegel, attended the event.

The Lauder family, Hoda Kotb and a slew of scientists turned up for the Breast Cancer Research Symposium and Awards Luncheon on Thursday.

The event, held at the Hilton in Midtown New York, raised money for the foundation and drew attention to scientists with research that focuses on breast cancer. Scores of scientists were awarded grants at the event, and Nancy E. Davidson was award the Jill Rose Award for research excellence in the area of epigenetics and resistance to hormone therapies in breast cancer.

“I’m the daughter of two geologists, so my scientific roots go deep,” Davidson said, before dedicating the award to her patients.

In addition to the related scientific community, the event drew Leonard and Aerin Lauder, as well as Hoda Kotb, who spoke of her own breast cancer experience.

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“Ten years ago — you know when you think your life is going so well?” Kotb said. “I thought my life was going so well.”

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She was newly married and working at NBC’s “Dateline,” she said. “I thought things were perfect…[but] you know how life is — everything’s perfect on a Monday, and then on Tuesday everything falls apart.”

For Kotb, it fell apart in the presence of an intern, who was with her when she got the call from Mount Sinai, when her doctor told her she had breast cancer. “I thought to myself, ‘I run in Central Park, I am healthy, I have no problems, I know this is not a problem for me,'” Kotb said, before the call came in. She’d assured the intern it was fine to stay in the room, but after she hung up the phone the intern asked if Kotb needed her to leave.

But before she did, she asked for a favor — a hug.

“Can you imagine, the one thing I needed at that one moment came from this one kid who had no idea what I was going through?” Kotb said. She had her surgery, but still wasn’t open to talking about her cancer until a stranger on a plane pried it out of her with a series of increasingly personal questions, she said.

“He said, ‘don’t hog your journey. It’s not just for you. Think of how many people you could have helped,'” Kotb said. And so she stopped wasting time. “I held on so tightly to the things I loved, and I got rid of the things I didn’t — I got divorced, right then and there,” she said.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation was founded by Evelyn Lauder after she established an awareness campaign on behalf of the Estée Lauder Cos. 25 years ago. That campaign has an $8 million fund-raising goal this year, supported by pink products from its brands as well as efforts of its employees.

Leonard Lauder, chairman emeritus of the Estée Lauder Cos., opened the event Thursday by calling attention to the sharp decrease in deaths from breast cancer since the BCRF started. “We’re on the right track, and thank you so much for your investment in helping us prevent and cure breast cancer,” Lauder said.

He also addressed his visibly stiff neck on stage — “I have a stiff neck this morning, if I look funny. I got so busy turning left and right and left and right with this health care bill.”