Maria Menounos hopes to use her experience with pancreatic cancer to remind others why it’s important to “be the CEO of your health”.
The television journalist who is now cancer free and is expecting her first child via a surrogate mother, first treated her diagnosis in a poignant interview with People magazine this week. In a follow-up chat with Today which aired on Thursday, she said she was only able to diagnose her illness early after fighting off initial assurances from her doctors.
Menounos said her diagnosis came after she learned last June that she had type 1 diabetes, which runs in her family. However, just months later, she developed a “nagging” stomach ache after eating farro salad on a plane, leading her to believe she had developed a gluten intolerance.
But by November, she said, the pain had returned, along with “loose stools” or diarrhea for about a month and a half.
Watch Maria Menounos’ Today performance below.
“I’ve done all the appropriate things — I’ve done all the stool tests; nothing came back”, Menounos explained host Hoda Kotb. “Went to the hospital, they did a CAT scan. Everything was unremarkable, and every time I complained about it afterwards, it was like, ‘Well, we just scanned and everything was fine.’”
Still convinced that “something was wrong,” the former Extra and E! The news anchor opted for a full-body MRI in January, which revealed stage two pancreatic cancer.
“[My radiologist] says, ‘You need to go to the hospital right away,’ and he’s pale as a sheet and shaking,” she recalled. “My eyes started watering, and I just looked at him and said, ‘So I’m gone.'”
A subsequent biopsy revealed that Menounos had a stage 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, which is less fatal than the more common pancreatic cancer diagnosis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
Regardless, the diagnosis took an emotional toll.
“All that kept going through my mind was my baby,” Menounos said of the child she is expecting with her husband. Keven Undergaro.
Menounos underwent surgery in February to remove the tumor — along with the tail of her pancreas, her entire spleen, 17 lymph nodes and a uterine fibroid “the size of a baby”. Though her subsequent recovery was “painful,” she required no additional treatment other than annual scans for the next five years.
Still, she hopes to apply the wisdom of her experience to her latest professional endeavor as the host of “healing squad‘, a podcast dedicated to physical health, emotional well-being, relationships and other topics.
“I want to alert everyone that you need to be the CEO of your health,” she said. “You can’t leave that to anyone. This job is yours. you know your body You know what’s going on.”