The Unexpected Symptom That Finally Led to Maria Menounos' Brain Tumor Diagnosis
Taking care of a loved one with a serious illness is hard enough—but picture facing a health crisis of your own in the midst of doing so. That's exactly what happened when Maria Menounos was diagnosed with a meningioma brain tumor while caring for her mother, who was suffering from stage 4 brain cancer.
“I didn’t cry. I actually laughed,” she told People. “It’s so surreal and crazy and unbelievable that my mom has a brain tumor—and now I have one too?”
The former E! News host underwent a seven-hour surgery to remove the mass on her 39th birthday. One year later, Health had the chance to talk to Menounos (as part of Rally Health's "Rally on the Road") about how this health scare became a wake-up call to change her life.
On what was going through her head the exact moment she received her diagnosis
Menounos now looks back and sees just how out of whack her priorities were.
"When I got the diagnosis, I was definitely shocked," she says. "But my biggest concern instantly was, Will I ever work again," she continues. "Isn't that messed up? I called up my lawyer who's like my brother, and I was like, 'Oh my god, no one's ever going to hire me ever again.'"
It wasn't long before Menounos realized exactly what was wrong with her reaction to the health scare: "I didn't tell anybody, and then I quickly realized how messed up it was that all I'm worried about is work, not my health. And so that has been a complete change in my life since."
On the warning signs she missed
"I missed a lot of warning signs because I was so busy working like a crazy person and thinking it was cool to be a workaholic," Menounos says. "I was really exhausted. I was having a lot of pain, and I didn't know why."
Instead of stopping to think about what might be wrong, Menounos made herself push through any pain. "When you have pain you're like, 'I gotta be tough! I gotta tough it out!'" she says. "And so there were a lot of warning signs. My speech was slurring on set. The headaches were terrible, the dizziness, the lightheadedness... finally it was the ear pain that got me to go to the doctor."
On learning to put herself first
"I was suffering for like a solid two years," Menounos says. "I was in a lot of pain, but I didn't know what it was, and I certainly didn't have time to take care of it or find out what it was. And that's why I am on a mission to teach people that we have to put our health first. Because what's the point of having lived the life of a workaholic only to just die of something?"
This mission has led Menounos to completely reevaluate the way she spends her time. "We have to live in the present more," she continues. "And so that is my everyday goal... to live in the present, not to be on [my phone] every two seconds, and to look up and enjoy and smell the roses and just take care of my emotional and mental health, too."
On the hardest part of her recovery
Nothing has been harder for Menounos than accepting how long her recovery will take. "I remember they said four to six weeks, and I took that as gold," she says. "Like in four to six weeks I can get back on a plane, I can get back to work. And at first that was such a goal."
But then Kate Walsh, who also had a brain tumor, reached out to Menounos with a wake-up call: "She was like, 'Maria, it takes a year... They say four to six weeks like you can actually function and move around.'"
At first Menounos was upset because she had already started scheduling things for after that recovery time. "And that's when I realized, 'Wait, Maria, you're not getting it. You really can't do all of this!' And so I had to learn. You can't just change overnight. It just doesn't completely happen. Your intent is to change overnight, but it takes time to really practice. You have to practice being mindful of your health and your wellness. You need to build your toolkit."
On how she is changing her lifestyle now
"I’m abandoning the need to be perfect," says Menounos. "So if you’re in my life and you're giving birth or something awesome is happening in your life, I don’t feel the need anymore to be perfect and have flowers at your doorstep the next day."
On the healthy habits she is adopting
"One of my favorite workouts is something I've been taking up lately and it's called pickleball. It’s a new sport you play with a ping pong racket and a Wiffle ball, and it’s super fun."
Menounos is also focusing more on eating well and starts each day with a banana coffee smoothie.