Positivity & Support During the Cancer Journey
- During a speech for cancer support organization WeSpark, TV host Maria Menounos, 45, said she couldn’t have reached remission after a shocking stage 2 pancreatic cancer diagnosis without her friends and family helping her stay positive.
- 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 positively influence your prognosis.
- 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.
After a rough few years, TV host Maria Menounos, 45, says this holiday season will be different. She now undergoes annual PET scans to ensure her cancer does not come back, and her latest were clear. With the birth of her new baby girl and positive scan results, she says she has plenty to be grateful for.
Recently, WeSpark, a cancer support organization, awarded Menounos the “Heart of WeSpark” award. While accepting the honor, she expressed her gratitude for the blessings she’s been afforded and the army of supporters who helped her along the way.
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The former “E” host said pancreatic cancer has become a personal issue to her, and she goes out of her way to advocate awareness about the disease. Amid her speech, she thanked her doctor, who she says “helped save [her] life.”
She also credited other members of her support group, including lifelong family and friends, for helping her navigate her health battles.
Helping You Manage your Mental Health
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- Mental Health and Cancer — The Fight, Flight or Freeze Response
- How to Handle the Emotional Toll of Caring for a Loved One With Cancer: Prioritizing Your Mental Health
- Mental Health and Cancer: New Survey Shows Over a Third of Patients Aren’t Getting the Support They Need
Menounos really relied on her support system to help her throughout her journey. If you were recently diagnosed with cancer, you likely know about the wide range of emotions that news can bring. This is one of the most difficult phases of the cancer journey to overcome.
However, it’s during these early stages that a team of supporters can be most useful. Your supporters can be made up of close family members and friends. Your support group can also be filled with people from outside your inner circle.
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“But for people who feel like they need a little bit more, it is important to reach out to a mental health professional,” she added.
One of the benefits of having supporters includes helping alleviate stress and anxiety following your diagnosis. Supporters can also help advocate for you during treatment.
Sometimes, it is not always easy to share news you have cancer, even among loved ones. You can seek a trained professional to center your support group around such instances. Mental health professionals can help fill this space because many are trained to help you navigate your cancer treatment.
Keeping a Positive Mindset
Menounos said one of the ways she was able to get through her cancer journey was to focus on the positive. “I choose wonder over worry, believe in hope and possibility for my diagnosis,” she said.
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.
Menounos’ Journey Toward Remission
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.
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?