Hoda Kotb Overcame Divorce & Cancer Battle at Once Years Before Her Engagement ‘Right on Time'

Gaone Pule
Dec 16, 2021
10:20 A.M.
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TV host Hoda Kotb conquered complex challenges involving health and love life. Her first marriage ended abruptly, but she found love again and said it was forever. 

Hoda is an American Broadcast Journalist known for her stint on NBC's long-running news and morning show "Today." Before hosting the beloved show in 2007, Kotb was a news anchor for a local station in New Orleans.

That is where she met her first husband, Burzis Kanga, a former U.N.O. tennis coach. The pair met on Valentine's Day at a fundraiser for the American Heart Association.

(L) "Today Show" host Hoda Kotb discusses her book "Where We Belong: Journey's that Show Us the Way" at AOL Build Series at AOL Studios on January 6, 2016 in New York City. (M) Hoda Kotb and her fiance Joel Schiffman are pictured all smiles. (R) Hoda Kotb's ex-husband Burzis Kanga. | Photo: Getty Images, Instagram/@hodakotb and Facebook/@burziskanga

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FIRST MARRIAGE

They had a whirlwind romance with Burzis popping the big question in May 2005, and the couple got married that December in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Kanga and Kotb had been dating on and off for years before getting hitched. After reconnecting years later, they were officially husband and wife, and  Kotb said at the time:

“And married life has been great! If I had known it was this much fun, I probably would have done it a long time ago!"

Hoda Kotb promotes "Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer, and Kathie Lee" at NBC Experience Store on July 22, 2011 in New York City | Photo: Getty Images

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THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL

Kanga is a New Orleans native and has lived there for twenty-six years of his life. After Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2006, he found his apartment flooded.

Additionally, Kanga had to deal with personal hardships during their marriage, and it was not long when the union went downhill, with Kotb serving him divorce papers.

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A decade later, Kanga spoke out about their separation in an interview and reportedly revealed the challenges they faced that eventually led to a divorce:

“We had some differences. My father was ill. She was ill. It was a difficult time. Those were personal reasons for both of us.”

Kotb filed for divorce on February 15, 2007, and it was finalized on February 6, 2008. When the television personality announced her breakup, she also revealed that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Her ex-husband also admitted that the two of them had a "level of immaturity" to each of them that attributed to their eventual breakup.

Kanga emphasized the divorce occurred under challenging circumstances, adding that looking at their situation in hindsight, there was an immaturity level on his end because of the mistakes he made:

“It was unfortunate we were married for a short time. It’s a shame it transpired that way.”

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DEALING WITH CANCER

The former couple was only married for two years, and despite what they went through, Kanga only had good things to say about his ex-wife and shared Kotb is the epitome of class, and he thought the world of her. Kanga added he would always cherish the memories they made together.

Meanwhile, the author spoke frankly about dealing with a cancer diagnosis amid their divorce. At first, Kotb revealed she felt branded by her diagnosis and was scared to talk about it.

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The TV star avoided thinking about it, and all she wanted was to have her surgery over. But that all changed after she had an exchange with a stranger on an airplane:

“In my early 40s, I was sick, I was getting divorced, and I was in a job that I wasn’t suited for.”

The Oklahoma native said cancer shaped her into who she is today but did not define her even though it is still a part of her life story.

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FINDING LOVE AGAIN

In March 2007, Kotb underwent a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery for breast cancer and became an advocate for breast cancer awareness.

The 57-year-old fell in love again in 2013 with New York financier Joel Schiffman. The duo met after Kotb spoke at an event for Wall Street professionals.

In September 2019, Kotb revealed in an episode of the "Today Show" that Schiffman was the first to say, "I love you." She recalled that after he said it, she paused for a moment to digest it and told him that she loved him too.

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After dating for six years, the couple got engaged on a beach in Mexico. Kotb previously called their romance "the most natural one I've ever been in," adding, "I'm going to be with Joel until my last breath."

She announced the exciting news on November 25, 2019, shocking her co-hosts live on "Today" that she and Schiffman were engaged to be married. Kotb admitted to the panel that she was surprised by the engagement because he had a good poker face.

The stunning engagement ring features an ice-white diamond surrounded by blue sapphires. The jewel has an estimated value of over $250,000.

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STARTING A FAMILY

Before the engagement, the two were already living together after getting an apartment in October 2016. Schiffman and Kotb started a family together and adopted a child in 2017 called Haley.

They gave their daughter a sister and adopted Hope in April 2019. The lovebirds are now ready to walk down the aisle but have not revealed their wedding plans yet. 

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