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Maria Menounos: I Asked God to Give Me Cancer After My Mom’s Diagnosis

Maria Menounos and her mother, Litsa Menounos, share an unbreakable bond. Shortly after Litsa was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer, her 39-year-old daughter tried to strike a bargain with a higher power.

“I was getting really frustrated because she wasn’t fighting and she was doing worse,” Maria said of her mother in an interview on Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly that aired on Sunday, July 23. “I just remember praying and just saying, ‘God, I wish you gave this to me because I have the fight and I have the will to beat this stuff. She doesn’t.’ And, uh, be careful what you wish for.”

Maria Menounos and her mother, Litsa Menounos, arrive at Audi and Martin Katz to celebrate the 2012 Golden Globe Awards held at Cecconi's restaurant in Los Angeles on January 8, 2012.
Maria Menounos and her mother, Litsa Menounos, arrive at Audi and Martin Katz to celebrate the 2012 Golden Globe Awards held at Cecconi’s restaurant in Los Angeles on January 8, 2012. Michael Tran/FilmMagic

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Just a few months after Litsa’s surgery, Maria began experiencing headaches and dizziness, in addition to having trouble reading the teleprompter at her TV and radio jobs. Her symptoms mirrored her mother’s, so she made a trip to the doctor.

“He said, ‘I’m so sorry I have to tell you this because I know that you’re going through a lot with your mom, but you have a brain tumor. It’s called a meningioma, and you need to schedule an appointment with a neurosurgeon right away,'” the E! News host recalled. “And so, I was like, ‘OK.’ I started kind of chuckling because at that point it’s like, ‘This is a joke. How does this happen?'”

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Maria kept her diagnosis a secret from her loved ones at first. She didn’t inform her mother until just three days before heading to the operating room earlier this year. “It’s like you’re getting a punch in the face, or a hammer,” Litsa told Kelly of her reaction to the news. “You cannot process that. That was the worst thing for me. [My cancer] didn’t matter, honestly.”

After learning that her brain tumor was noncancerous, the TV personality began her recovery. She shared home videos during her NBC News interview of herself taking her first post-op steps in the hospital. “I watch that video of me trying to get up out of bed and walk and it’s very humbling,” she said.

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Now, the mother-daughter duo is looking ahead as Litsa continues to recover. “I just hope that we can make her one of the longterm survivors because I’m worried about her,” Maria said, breaking down in tears. “Nobody ever wants to lose their mom. I pray this next MRI is good so that we can all just take a breath, and I have some time to not worry.”

Through it all, Maria has relied on her fiancé, Keven Undergaro, who also sat down for an interview with Kelly. “My worry is that [the tumor] is going to come back and that [Maria] is not going to make the changes that she needs to make,” he said.

Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly airs on NBC on Sundays at 7 p.m. ET.

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