Perhaps Maria Menounos chalked it up to stress at first. After all, back in February, when the E! News coanchor began feeling faint, she was doing her best to buoy the spirits of her mother, Litsa, who was battling Stage 4 brain cancer. Then Maria’s symptoms worsened, interfering with her work to the point that she could ignore them no longer. She sought help from the same top-notch physician who treated her mom — and it’s a good thing she did. Maria learned that she, too, had a brain tumor!
On June 8 — her 39th birthday — the star had surgery to remove the growth. And on July 3, the brave brunette announced her decision to leave E! News to make her health her No.1 priority. “Maria is extremely confident that she will fully recover but knows that it will take time and rest,” a source close to the star reveals. “She’s doing what she has to do to get well.”
A Surreal Discovery
Massachusetts-born Maria, the daughter of Greek immigrants who had toiled as janitors, has achieved success far beyond her parents’ wildest working-class dreams. She sprang from beauty pageants to celebrity news coverage for Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and Extra before signing on to E! News in July 2015.
Yet the journalist’s brilliant career took a blow five months ago. “I’d been getting light-headed on set and having headaches,” she explains. “My speech had gotten slurred and I was having difficulty reading the teleprompter.”
That was Maria’s wake-up call. She scheduled an MRI, which found a golf-ball-size meningioma brain tumor pressing on her facial nerves. Upon hearing the shocking news, Maria says, “I didn’t cry. I actually laughed. It’s so surreal and crazy and unbelievable that my mom has a brain tumor — and now I have one too?”
Fortunately, Maria was already in contact with neurosurgeon Dr. Keith L. Black, who’d cared for her mother. “He said, ‘I’m 98 percent sure it’s benign, but we won’t know until we get in there,’” Maria says. And so, with the support of her family and longtime fiancé, broadcast businessman Keven Undergaro, she scheduled the operation.
The Road to Recovery
Maria’s complex surgery lasted some seven hours, but Dr. Black managed to remove 99.9 percent of the tumor, which proved to be benign. After nearly a week in the hospital, Maria is now healing at home. “My face is still numb [and] I don’t have my balance fully yet, but as long as I’m holding on to Keven, I’m sturdy and fine,” she says. “This is something that takes at least a month of healing, but I’m getting stronger and stronger every day, and I’ll be back to normal very soon.”
The response of fans has aided the healing process. “People have been inundating Maria with positive messages — thousands are pouring in,” says the source. “She’s overwhelmed with gratitude.” Maria took to Instagram to tell folks: “Thank you all for the well wishes, prayers and support. I want you all to know that I’m OK!”
Maria has been spending even more time now with her beloved Litsa, and both are cautiously optimistic about the elder Menounos’ latest round of tests. “I don’t need any further treatments, but I can’t say the same about my mom,” Maria shares. “So please keep her in your prayers.”
And Maria herself isn’t entirely out of the woods yet. “There’s a 6 to 7 percent chance that we’ll see it come back,” she reveals about the tumor. “But I’ll take those odds any day.”