It's been exactly one year since Maria Menounos underwent brain surgery, and she's "so much happier" than she's ever been.
The former E! News co-anchor, who also turned 40 today, revealed in People magazine last summer that she had undergone a seven-hour surgery to remove a benign, golf ball-size meningioma tumor from her brain. In the year since, Menounos' outlook on her career and life has been totally altered, as she realizes what's truly important to her.
"At times it's been lonely and confusing and scary, but the truth is that I'm so much happier now," Menounos told AOL.com's Gibson Johns during a recent sit-down interview. "I'm just trying to figure out how to balance this new perspective with the demands of a schedule, where I want to go and what I want to do and being okay with that not maybe including TV. And, if it does, great."
"I don't really care anymore, and I don't know if that's stupid or not, but I just want to live," she explained. "I want to be happy, and I want to be free. I've been un-free and unhappy for a long time, so I'm just going slow."
But for Menounos, who has worn many hats throughout her career, taking things slowly and day-by-day wasn't necessarily a natural approach for her. Forcing herself to give herself ample time to recover was something that she needed encouragement from others to do.
See photos of Maria Menounos through the years:
One of the people that guided her to this realization was "13 Reasons Why" actress Kate Walsh, who quietly underwent brain surgery back in 2015.
"I remember Kate reached out to me and confided in me, because she hadn't told anyone about [her surgery]," Menounos told us. "I remember her coming and talking to me, and when I started to get into my recovery, I called her and I was like, 'I'm not getting better! Is this normal?' You just want to feel normal and you get so nervous that that's not going to happen. She was just like, 'You've got to give yourself a year.' So I gave myself a year break and told myself that I'd do what I can, when I can. I just took it as slow as I can."
Menounos "just started" getting back into exercising and cites pickleball as a current favorite workout of hers, because she finds herself enjoying "social workouts" and sports more these days than traditional exercising.
In addition to focusing on her own recovery, Menounos has also made sure to use her own experience to help others in recovery and going through what she went through. At the end of last month, she helped kick off Rally Health's "Rally on the Road," a 10-city tour that's encouraging people to take charge of their own health.
"[Our] mission is to help inspire people to take care of their health," she explained of her two-year partnership with Rally Health. "After my surgery, I said that I only wanted to pursue work that was purposeful or fun. Nothing in-between."
Watch our full interview with Maria Menounos at the top of the page.
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