More than seven months after undergoing a complex surgery to remove a golf-ball-sized brain tumor, Maria Menounos says she’s now happier than ever.
“I no longer feel the need to rush and stress and have all of this anxiety and all of that because I’m nurturing myself now,” Menounos, 39, said. “I wasn’t doing that before.”
Menounos, who exclusively revealed her brain tumor diagnosis to PEOPLE in July, got emotional and started to tear up as she explained that she thinks women don’t love themselves enough.
“We need to love ourselves and we need to nurture ourselves because we can’t give it to anybody else and that’s our purpose, as women, I feel,” she said. “We give birth, [and] we have to nurture everyone around us.”
She then turned to Seacrest and continued, “You know better than anybody because I ask this one all the time, ‘How do you do it?’ Every time I’d see him, I’d be like, ‘How do you do it, Ryan?’ And so I would look at him and I’d be like, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’ But I honestly couldn’t do it. I give up, I’m done, I’m tired.”
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In February 2017, Menounos started experiencing troubling symptoms. An MRI revealed she had a meningioma brain tumor that was pushing on her facial nerves. On her 39th birthday in June, Menounos underwent a seven-hour surgery that removed 99.9 percent of the tumor, which was benign.
Though the news came after her mother, Litsa, was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer, Menounos said nothing slowed her down until she had to face her own health crisis.
“Every day I thank God, I thank God every day for that brain tumor because it slowed me down,” she said. “It stopped me in my tracks. Nothing else was really doing it. My mom, unfortunately, was diagnosed with brain cancer a couple of months before and that slowed me down a little bit and I started to say, ‘You know what? That’s it. I’m going to sit and watch Dancing With The Stars with my mom tonight. And I’m just going to shut the phone off and I’m just going to enjoy my time and be present.’ It wasn’t enough and God just threw another brick at me and was like, ‘Alright, here it comes.’ ”
She continued: “It stopped me in my tracks and I’ve reevaluated everything in my life and I’ve never been happier in my life. From pain comes good if you look at things the right way.”
Menounos, who married her longtime boyfriend Keven Undergaro on live TV just before midnight on New Year’s, says she remembers a piece of advice from life coach Tony Robbins‘ when she has to battle tough times: “Life is happening for you, not to you.”
“It got me through everything, it gets me through everything,” she said. “Life is working for us. I’m just sitting back, and I’m happy to be here.”