Four months after undergoing surgery to remove a golf-ball-size brain tumor, Maria Menounos says the health crisis was “the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“This whole thing has been such a gift,” Menounos, 39, tells Women’s Health for their Jan./Feb. cover. “This happened for a reason.”
“Before the brain tumor, I was super type A. I was on top of everything. I would know when your birthday was and make sure you had your flowers. I was everything to everyone, but nothing to myself,” Menounos, who exclusively revealed the news of her brain tumor with PEOPLE in July, says. “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 was so absorbed with caring for the people around her, primarily her mother, who has stage 4 brain cancer and also had a brain tumor, that she didn’t even notice that she was having similar symptoms.
“Do you know how many times I postponed the MRI that found my tumor? At least three times!” Menounos says. “But my mom’s tumor was growing and I thought, ‘I don’t have time to deal with my own issue, whatever it is.’ We’re so empathetic with everyone except ourselves.”
She says the toughest part of her own diagnosis was telling her family and friends about the news. “The only time I cried was when I told people.”
After a successful surgery in June that removed 99.9 percent of the tumor, which was benign, Menounos started reevaluating her life.
“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—? Not worth it!”
Menounos has since ditched her smartphone for a low-tech version that only holds ten numbers, and she now feels “much more present in life,” she says.
“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. You can’t control everything; leave it to God and just say, ‘Okay, this is my journey.’ ”