Focusing on the Positive Amid Cancer
- TV host Maria Menounos, 45, is still adjusting to motherhood after a grueling decade-long struggle with infertility and battling stage 2 pancreatic cancer. Thanks to a surrogate, she and her husband are parents to a beautiful baby girl. Through her ups and downs, she believes her willingness to keep a positive mindset helped her through tough times.
- For cancer patients, feelings of fear can weigh heavily throughout the entirety of the cancer journey. However, experts say focusing on positive emotions can make a difference and even positively influence your prognosis. Your support group also helps you navigate your emotions which may be fluid as you cope with your diagnosis.
- Gynecological oncologist Dr. Dana Chase recommends cancer patients make time for things that make them happy because it spawns positive thoughts and good emotional health. This can help fuel a positive attitude.
- Research on mental illness indicates people who learn to live with gratitude tend to have more happiness and experience less stress. Menounos says she now lives with added gratitude after battling cancer and the birth of her daughter. SurvivorNet experts also say cancer patients anecdotally do better amid treatment with a more positive mindset.
Beloved TV host Maria Menounos, 45, is embracing motherhood to her adorable baby girl after an epic decade-long struggle with infertility that includes battling stage 2 pancreatic cancer. She says she kept a positive mindset throughout her health challenges rather than focusing on her fears to make it through tough times.
View this post on InstagramRead More“You can’t let fear get in the way. I had that moment where I thought I was a goner—but I’m okay because I caught this early enough,” Menounos said to People Magazine.
Having feelings of fear and anxiety can creep into the minds of cancer patients, but like Menounos, focusing on positive emotions can make a difference. SurvivorNet experts add that having a positive mindset can also help your prognosis.
Raising a newborn can also be scary, but Menounos says the journey into parenthood has been easy-going so far.
“We look at each other like, ‘Why does this feel normal?” Menounos said in an interview with “Today” noting how at ease she and her husband have been since their daughter Athena Alexandra arrived thanks to a surrogate.
As the grateful couple settles on how to raise their daughter, they ponder whether to be strict with her or more relaxed. They have less uncertainty in how they will instill good wholesome values.
“Bringing my daughter up in the Greek community is going to be really important, giving her those strong roots, going to church, and letting her know it’s (good) to have and be a good member of the community,” Menounos added.
The popular TV host believes she’s able to cherish and fully appreciate this joyous moment in life because of the string of adversities she managed to overcome leading up to this point. Her experience includes a run-in with a brain tumor, diabetes, and cancer.
“Mom gets a brain tumor, then me, two brain surgeries later, then both my parents are hospitalized with COVID, then I lost my mom, then I got diagnosed with type one diabetes, then a neuroendocrine tumor on my pancreas…some other crazy stuff in between too,” Menounos said in an Instagram post.
Fear and Anxiety Can Weigh Heavy on the Mind
For cancer patients, feelings of fear can weigh heavily throughout the entirety of the cancer journey. From diagnosis, to scan anxiety and worries about recurrence, fear is a common emotion. However, your mindset can influence how much impact fear has on your thoughts. For Menounos, she’s choosing to focus on the positive. This is a useful tip some experts SurvivorNet spoke to also recommends.
Dr. Dana Chase, a gynecological oncologist at Arizona Center for Cancer Care, says people with cancer should make time for things that make them happy because it spawns positive thoughts.
“We know from good studies that emotional health is associated with survival, meaning better quality of life is associated with better outcomes,” Chase said.
“So working on your emotional health, your physical well-being, your social environment [and] your emotional well-being are important and can impact your survival. If that’s related to what activities you do that bring you joy, then you should try to do more of those activities,” Dr. Chase explained.
“We’re so good at catastrophizing and allowing fear to have its way with our minds…Gratitude is the greatest place to be emotionally … so when I have a fearful moment — and I’ve had many — I will choose positive thoughts,” Menounos said.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, multiple studies have indicated that learning to live with gratitude can lead to more happiness and less stress.
One way to exercise gratitude is to take time to think about things you appreciate every day. One way to exercise gratitude in your life includes writing down those things in a journal.
More on Mental Health
- How to Be Realistically Optimistic: Coping With Mental Health Long-Term
- Mental Health and Cancer — The Fight, Flight or Freeze Response
- Mental Health and Cancer: New Survey Shows Over a Third of Patients Aren’t Getting the Support They Need
- What's Mindfulness? And Can It Help Improve Mental Health?
- Your Mental Health Data Is For Sale Says New Report — The Fappening Of Mental Health — How To Protect Yourself
Menounos’ Resilient Journey
She is known for her infectious vibrant personality on-screen while hosting “Extra” and “E! News”. Off-screen, the TV journalist has dealt with a series of health challenges.
In June 2017, she underwent a seven-hour brain surgery on her 39th birthday to remove a golf-ball-sized non-cancerous tumor, she explained to NBC’s “Today.”
Then, in 2021, Menounos’ mom passed away from brain cancer.
In November 2022, Menounos started experiencing abdominal pain and diarrhea. An MRI and biopsy revealed the TV host had a stage 2 pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (NETs or islet cell tumor).
“I’m like ‘How in the freaking world can I have a brain tumor and pancreatic cancer?’ All I could think was that I have a baby coming,” Menounos previously told People Magazine.
WATCH: Pancreatic cancer and early detection.
Menounos was lucky to catch the disease early. Pancreatic cancer, which begins in the pancreas, is known as the “silent disease.”
Symptoms of the disease rarely show up until it has advanced and metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body.
“Unfortunately, pancreas cancer does not get diagnosed until later stages because it remains asymptomatic until it gets to the later stages,” Dr. Syed Ahmad, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine said to WLWT News.
Additionally, the Cleveland Clinic explains that early-stage pancreatic cancer tumors typically don’t appear on imaging scans.
When pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in later stages, which it most often is, it becomes more difficult to treat.
“I need people to know there are places they can go to catch things early,” Menounos exclusively told People. “You can’t let fear get in the way. I had that moment where I thought I was a goner but I’m okay because I caught this early enough.”
She underwent surgery to have the tumor, her spleen, part of her pancreas, 17 lymph nodes, and a large fibroid removed this past February. Additionally, her doctor and surgeon said she would not need to undergo chemotherapy or other forms of treatment.
Menounos, who needs to get yearly scans for the next five years, is now incredibly “grateful” for being able to overcome cancer, adding, “God granted me a miracle. I’m going to appreciate having her in my life so much more than I would have before this journey.”
Questions for Your Doctor
If you are facing a pancreatic cancer diagnosis, you may have questions but are unsure how to get the answers you need. SurvivorNet suggests asking your doctor the following to kickstart your journey to more solid answers.
- What type of pancreatic cancer do I have?
- Has my cancer spread beyond my pancreas? If so, where has it spread and what is the stage of the disease?
- What is my prognosis?
- What are my treatment options?
- What side effects should I expect after undergoing treatment?
- Will insurance cover my recommended treatment?