Maria Menounos Says This Was the First Symptom of Her Brain Tumor
"My body was trying to send me signals and I was ignoring them,” she says.
You may know Maria Menounos as an entertainment reporter, author, actor, producer, or even as a professional WWE wrestler. But the multi-hyphenate entertainer now has something even more extraordinary to add to that list: today, she's a brain tumor survivor and health advocate. In 2017, just two months after her mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, the 43-year-old beauty was found to have a "golf-ball-sized" brain tumor, which was pressing on her facial nerves. The mother and daughter both underwent surgery and recovered together in the months that followed, as she shared in a video posted on YouTube this past April.
Fans were shocked by the news of Menounos' illness, given her youth and penchant for health and fitness. Now, she's opening up about the details of her condition and recovery—including the symptoms that first alerted her to the fact that something was seriously wrong. Read on to learn which symptom she noticed first, and to find out how she's been doing since the seven hour surgery that saved her life.
Menounos says bad headaches with dizziness were her first symptoms of a brain tumor.
Menounos says that she first realized she had a health problem when she began experiencing daily headaches and dizziness. "I was getting these really terrible headaches every day and I'd get very lightheaded when I'd get up off the couch. My vision was getting blurry," she told Today in 2018.
On some days, her symptoms would be more severe, but Menounos says she chalked it all up to stress, overexertion in her career, and the pressure of taking care of her ailing mother. The E! News host told the outlet that on occasion, she would even slur her speech. She recalled that in these moments, she would often joke about having a tumor, all the while believing herself to be largely healthy. "I never would have imagined in a million years that I had a brain tumor," she said.
Before that, she suffered much subtler symptoms.
Though the reoccurring headaches and dizziness were the symptoms that ultimately pushed her to see a doctor, Menounos says that she experienced subtle symptoms for at least two years before seeking medical attention. "I was exhausted and I didn't know why. Everyone told me it was because I worked so hard," she recalled to Today. Though she didn't take action at that time, she remembers that this explanation "didn't really sit right" with her. "I remember feeling like my whole body was shutting down. I didn't know what was wrong with me," Menounos said. "Now I look back and my body was screaming at me… My body was trying to send me signals and I was ignoring them because I was too busy," she reflected.
The TV host shared that when she developed an earache on top of her other symptoms, she could no longer ignore that something was wrong. As she listed her symptoms in the doctor's office, she finally had what she describes as an "aha moment"—the sudden realization that her own symptoms were not unlike her mother's. After a series of scans, her doctor confirmed that she did in fact have a large, benign vascular tumor known as hemangioma in the back of her brain.
She says the biggest takeaway from her diagnosis is that you can't brush off your symptoms if you suspect something's wrong. "When your body is making noises, go to the doctor—just like when your car makes noises, you take it to the mechanic. Don't stop searching for the answers," she told Today.
Her mother passed away from cancer earlier this year.
Sadly, due to her own five-year battle with cancer, Menounos' mother, Litsa Menounos, passed away in May of this year. The TV star shared the news via Instagram with a touching black and white photo of her mother during her final days. The caption read, "RIP mom. God loved her so much he took her on Greek easter."
Though Menounos was heartbroken by her mother's tragic passing, she shared in her April YouTube video that her mom's longevity far surpassed doctors' expectations. "It's been a crazy few years for us but mom has been a total miracle," she said. "We don't listen to statistics in this house but they all said she had an average of six to 12 months [left to live]. Well here we are almost five years later and she's had quality years," the E! News host added, a month ahead of Litsa's death.
While there may have been few silver linings to her mother's condition, Menounos revealed while speaking to People that witnessing her mother's strength while ill gave her the courage to cope with her own devastating diagnosis. "Every night I would pray, 'Please God, give me the strength that my mom had,'" she told the magazine.
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Today, the future's looking brighter for Menounos.
After her life-saving surgery, Menounous said she suffered a range of recovery symptoms, which impacted her vision, balance, ability to walk, and more. Thankfully, one year after her surgery, she shared with Today that her ongoing symptoms were minimal. "I feel good. There are little things, but nothing major," she said, noting that her prognosis is "great," with only a six percent chance of tumor regrowth.
Though the death of her mother surely looms large for the TV star, Menounos has shared that she and husband Keven Undergaro are now looking forward to the next stage in their marriage: growing their family. The couple has announced plans to pursue having children via surrogacy, a decision they made due to Menounos' complicated health history. "I want a baby desperately, but I don't want it to be at the risk of her health," Undergaro told People earlier this year. The couple added that while they are not yet expecting, they look forward to "sharing the good news" when they can.