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Maria Menounos: My Brain Tumor Was the ‘Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me’

Maria Menounos in Women’s Health. JEFF LIPSKY

Maria Menounos has opened up about the major ways in which her brain tumor drastically changed her way of life. In an interview with Women’s Health, published on Wednesday, December 20, she said that the tumor has been “such a gift” after it helped her refocus on what’s important.

“Would you believe me if I told you that the brain tumor is the best thing that ever happened to me? It’s freed me from all of that anxiety of having to be perfect,” Menounos, 39, told the publication. “You can’t control everything; leave it to God and just say, ‘Okay, this is my journey.”

The entertainment journalist, whose career spans two decades, was diagnosed in May and underwent major brain surgery in June to remove the benign, golf-ball-size meningioma tumor. “Before the brain tumor, I was super type A. I was on top of everything. I was everything to everyone, but nothing to myself. I didn’t know it at the time, but there was no self-compassion, no self-love. I didn’t think I deserved it,” she said. “I had become a machine.”

Maria Menounos on the cover of Women’s Health. JEFF LIPSKY

The veteran TV host said she initially started to make changes in her life when her mother, Litsa Menounos, was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. “I started setting boundaries after my mom’s diagnosis. That’s when I said, ‘Things have to change. I’m going to spend time with her,’” she revealed. “But I’m also not perfect, so things would creep up and people would creep in. They want things and you feel guilty, so you do them. The universe took notice: ‘I’m going to throw a bigger rock at your head now and really put a stop to this.'”

The former E! News host said that prior to her diagnosis, she hadn’t seen a doctor in nearly nine years and put off her own doctor visits to take care of her mom. “Do you know how many times I postponed the MRI that found my tumor? At least three times! Just a few months after we found my mom’s brain cancer, I started having similar symptoms: blurred vision, light-headedness, headaches. I was having trouble speaking. But my mom’s tumor was growing, and I thought, I don’t have time to deal with my own issue, whatever it is.”

She added: “We’re so empathetic with everyone except ourselves. You see a sick person who’s family, a friend, a colleague, and you say, ‘How can I help you?’ But if it’s you, it’s, ‘I don’t have time for you, illness!’ My symptoms got so bad, though, that I had to deal with it.”

When she first found out about the tumor, Menounos said she didn’t cry and that the toughest part was sharing the news with her loved ones, but said they were all supportive. Before her surgery, she decided to write letters to both of her parents and her fiancé, Keven Undergaro. “I gave them to my best friend and said, ‘Pass these out when I’m under.’ In my dad’s, I wrote, ‘Listen, if I come out the other side, I’m going to live a different life, and you may not be able to brag, ‘Look at the amazing thing she’s doing now!’ I don’t have anything to prove anymore. I just want to live my life,” she said she wrote to her father. “‘I hope you’ll still be proud of me and love me for the person I’m going to become in this next journey, but I have to do it.’”

Maria Menounos and Keven Undergaro on The Howard Stern Show. The Howard Stern Show

Before the diagnosis, the TV personality was working 20 hours a day and while on bed rest, she decided she wasn’t going to live her life that way anymore and resigned from E! News. “The love I got from people I’ve worked with and interviewed over the years was unreal. Then, with nothing to do but stay in bed, I had plenty of time to think. Like: Why do I work 20 hours a day? To have more … to pay more … to owe more? What is life about? What really matters? Going the extra mile and depleting my health for some boss who’s never going to give a s–t? Not worth it!”

She concluded: “Now I found myself thinking, I’m almost halfway through my life, if I’m lucky, and asking: When you look back, have you really lived? Have you enjoyed your life? Or were you on your phone the whole time?”

Menounos got engaged to Undergaro in March 2016, and after putting off the wedding because of her hectic work schedule, she revealed that they are finally planning to walk down the aisle.