Kathie Lee praises Hoda Kotb in emotional tribute: She 'made me a better person'

Kathie Lee Gifford's heartfelt speech about her Today co-host Hoda Kotb at an American Cancer Society luncheon on Monday brought many in the crowd to tears.

Kotb was honered as the American Cancer Society's Mother of the Year, and Gifford talked about how the two met during her introduction for the 53-year-old anchor. Gifford said she met Kotb nearly a decade ago, when NBC tried convincing her to return to television after her 15-year stint on Live With Regis and Kathie Lee.

"I fell absolutely, madly in love with this life force called Hoda, who just made me a better person," Gifford said, sharing that she knew immediately that she had made a lifelong friend.

Gifford, 64, continued to gush about Kotb's famously upbeat personality.

See photos of Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford together:

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Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford together
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Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford together
TODAY -- Pictured: Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on Thursday, October 12, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford and Billie Jean King on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Dylan Dreyer, Jenna Bush Hager, Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford and Al Roker on Wednesday, September 6, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on Monday, September 5, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Kathie Lee Gifford, Lionel Richie and Hoda Kotb on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on Thursday, Aug.10, 2017 -- (Photo by: Zach Pagano/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: Hoda Kotb (L) and Kathie Lee Gifford (R) are seen on July 18, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by VMAL/Star Max/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: (L-R) TV personalities Sheinelle Jones, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford attend the 'DUNKIRK' New York premiere at AMC Lincoln Square IMAX on July 18, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on Monday, June 23, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 07: Hoda Kotb (L) and Kathie Lee Gifford attend the 2017 CMT Music Awards at the Music City Center on June 7, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 07: Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford attend the 2017 CMT Music Awards at the Music City Center on June 7, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images For CMT)
NASHVILLE, TN - JUNE 07: (L-R) Hoda Kotb,Jason Derulo, Luke Bryan and Kathie Lee Gifford backstage during the 2017 CMT Music Awards at the Music City Center on June 7, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on Monday, June 5, 2017 -- (Photo by: Zach Pagano/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford attend the 2017 Matrix Awards at Sheraton New York Times Square on April 24, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
TODAY -- Pictured: Hoda Kotb And Kathie Lee Gifford on the Today Show. Wednesday, April 19, 2017 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford appear to celebrate the BELLA New York Holiday Issue Cover Party and Holiday Shopping Event on December 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)
NBCUNIVERSAL UPFRONT -- '2016 NBCUniversal Upfront in New York City on Monday, May 16, 2016' -- Pictured: (l-r) Kathie Lee Gifford, Hoda Kotb, 'The Today Show' on NBC -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 31: (L) Kathie Lee Gifford dressed as her former co-host Regis Philbin, and Hoda Kotb, dressed as Kathie Lee Gifford from the morning talk show, 'Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee,' during NBC's 'Today' Halloween at Rockefeller Plaza on October 31, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 08: TV personalities Hoda Kotb (L) and Kathie Lee Gifford attend the Variety's Power Of Women: New York 2016 at Cipriani Midtown on April 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Kathie Lee Gifford, Jennifer Lopez, and Hoda Kotb appear on the 'Today' show on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
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Megyn Kelly Unintentionally Shades Hoda Kotb on 'Today' During NBC Debut -- See Kotb's Priceless Reaction

“The only thing bigger than her smile is her heart,” she said. “Hoda Kotb is my Egyptian sun goddess. You have to be very careful around Hoda because she’s the most contagious human being on the planet. She will infect you. She will make you happy. She will make you start singing really crappy songs. That’s what she does. She can’t help it. She just shows up and the room changes.”

"It is my great honor and privileged to give this to one of my dearest, dearest friends who is one of the finest human beings I've ever met in my life," she continued. "I adore you, Hoda Kotb."

Kotb was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2007, and underwent a mastectomy. A decade later, she announced on the Today show that she had adopted a baby girl named Haley Joy Kotb.

Hoda Kotb Shares Adorable Morning Photo of Haley Joy 'Just Because'

RELATED: See "Today" show hosts through the years:

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Today Show Anchors
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Today Show Anchors
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Jenna Bush Hager, Willie Geist and Natalie Morales appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Ryan Phillippe appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist and Natalie Morales appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Al Roker and Natalie Morales with the Harlem Globetrotters appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Moderator Chuck Todd, left, and Willie Geist, 'Today Show' co-host, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Al Roker, Willie Geist and Jamie Oliver appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 03: (L-R) Al Roker, WillIe Geist, Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson, Natalie Morales Carson Daly and Robin Roberts during the TODAY Show at 30 Rockefeller Center on September 03, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Olympic Mascot from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Usher and Tamron Hall appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 02: Today Show hosts Willie Geist, Natalie Morales and Matt Lauer enjoy themselves when Counting Crows perform on NBC's 'Today' at Rockefeller Plaza on September 2, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Vincent Piazza appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales and Usher appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Joshua Jackson appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Hoda Kotb, Natalie Morales, Al Roker, Phillip Phillips and Carson Daly appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Maria Celeste, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Dylan Dreyer, Carson Daly and Kate Snow appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, and Al Roker appear on the 'Today' show on Thursday, October 31, 2014 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: (L-R) Carson Daly, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist and Dylan Dreyer speak on stage during NBC's 'Today' at the NBC's TODAY Show on September 1, 2014 in New York, New York. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: (L-R) Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden, Adam Levine, PJ Morton, James Valentine, Carson Daly and Willie Geist speak on stage during NBC's 'Today' at the NBC's TODAY Show on September 1, 2014 in New York, New York. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- 08/20/2014 -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Al Roker, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Tamron Hall, Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Willie Geist -- (Photo by: Michael Loccisano/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Matt Lauer, Dylan Dreyer and Craig Melvin appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Dylan Dryer and Carson Daly appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Carson Daly, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Dylan Dreyer and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Al Roker and Ryan Tedder appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Ian Ziering appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist and Tamron Hall appear on the 'Today' show on Thursday, October 31, 2014 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Savannah Guthrie and John Legend appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 10: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist and Samantha Guthrie host John Legend's performance on the NBC's TODAY Show on July 10, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/FilmMagic)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Savannah Guthrie, Bobbie Thomas, Willie Geist and Matt Lauer appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 20: Al Roker (L) and Willie Geist celebrate the launch of TODAY Show Radio at SiriusXM Studios on June 20, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 26: (L-R) Willie Geist, Austin Mahone and Natalie Morales attend on NBC's TODAY Show on May 26, 2014 in New York, New York. (Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist and Dolly Parton appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Gina Neely, Pat Neely, Willie Geist and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Al Roker, Hoda Kotb, Willie Geist, Kathie Lee Gifford and Natalie Morales appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Willie Geist appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Mary Sue Milken, Susan Feniger and Tamron Hall appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist and Jeff Goldblum appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Al Roker -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Hoda Kotb, Kathy Lee Gifford, Carson Daly, Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Tamron Hall -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Al Roker from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Al Roker, Dr. Nancy Snyderman from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Kathie Lee Gifford and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Al Roker, Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Natalie Morales and Sarah Paulson appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Michael White, Willie Geist and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Jenna Bush Hager, Willie Geist and Courtnay Smith appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Hoda Kotb and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Charlie Palmer, Brooke Shields and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tara Lipinski and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Willie Geist and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) NBC News' Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Al Roker and actor Orlando Bloom appear on NBC News' 'Today' show on December 13, 2013 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Carson Daly as Officer Jon Baker, Erik Estrada, Al Roker as Mr. T, Kathie Lee Gifford as Wilma Flintstone, Hoda Kotb as Betty Rubble, Natalie Morales as Shirley Feeney, Savannah Guthrie as Laverne De Fazio, Matt Lauer as C.J., Carmen Electra and Willie Geist as David Hasselhoff's Mitchappear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie and Tamron Hall appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Carson Daly, Natalie Morales, Jamie Oliver and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 21: Natalie Morales, Olivia Newton-John and Marlen Lanvin perform during Olivia Newton-John's residency 'Summer Nights' at the Flamingo Las Vegas on August 21, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Savannah Guthrie appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Natalie Morales appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Jason Mraz -- (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Natalie Morales appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Al Roker and Natalie Morales appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Hulk Hogan and Natalie Morales appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Natalie Morales from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
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