Prioritizing Your Health
- TV host Maria Menounos has been through a lot, but she’s still taking the time to remind us all that our health, and yes, mental health, comes first.
- In May, Menounos, 43, lost her mother to brain cancer. Her mother, Litsa, had a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma; she battled the disease for five years before her death on May 3.
- Dr. William Breitbart, chief of psychiatry at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, tells us that people tend to feel shame after being diagnosed with cancer; that shame comes from a sense of vulnerability that can be hard to feel.
In May, Menounos, 43, lost her mother. Litsa, to brain cancer. Litsa had a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma; she battled the disease for five years before her death on May 3. As if that wasn’t scary enough, Menounos had a battle with a brain tumor herself while she was taking care of her ill mother. Her doctors discovered she had a golf ball-sized benign — meaning non-cancerous — tumor that required a roughly seven-hour surgery in June 2017.Read More
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“I’ve never heard anyone in the hospital say I wish I worked harder for that promotion. I have heard, and have been the one to say — wtf was I thinking?! Why didn’t I take care of myself? Why was I too busy to go to the doctor? Soooo, this is your reminder to get your annual physical set!” she wrote.
Menounos’ own struggles have helped her to shed light on the importance of prioritizing our health before it’s too late.
Glioblastoma has been called the “perfect storm of cancer,” and it’s the most common brain tumor in adults, according to the National Cancer Institute; glioblastoma accounts for about 15% of all brain tumors and occurs in adults between the ages of 45 and 70 years.
It grows pretty rapidly and is located in the brain, the most protected part of the body. This means that surgery should be performed swiftly; there are few drugs that can even reach the tumor, given the impenetrable blood-brain barrier.
The cells of glioblastoma cancer are also heterogeneous — each cell must be individually targeted to slow tumor growth. On top of all that, surgery can’t remove all of the cancer because of the way the tumor burrows into a person’s brain, so the tumor starts to grow again immediately after surgery.
With treatment, the average survival rate is 15 months — a milestone Litsa crushed without hesitation. The average survival rate is less than six months if left untreated, according to the National Cancer Institute. This cancer has a roughly 6% five-year survival rate. (The five-year survival rate means that people who have that cancer are, on average, about 6% as likely as people who don’t have that cancer to live for at least five years after their diagnosis.) But those people will never be free of cancer and must continue treatment for the remainder of their lives.
Prioritizing Your Health and Mental Health
Dr. William Breitbart, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Services at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, tells SurvivorNet that people tend to feel shame after being diagnosed with cancer; that shame comes from a sense of vulnerability that can be hard to feel.
“What I will often point out to people is that we have the ability to choose how we respond to this vulnerability,” Breitbart says. “We can be ashamed of it, or we can use it to create a sense of empathy.”
Menounos wasn’t diagnosed with cancer herself, but she has used her struggles, as well as her mother’s death from cancer, to create that sense of empathy Breitbart tells us about. She’s using that empathy to remind us all that it’s so important to take care of ourselves.