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:
Maria Menounos through the years
Maria Menounos through the years
BOSTON - FEBRUARY 25: Dane Cook and Maria Menounos have been frequenting the NBA Finals playoffs and attended game 4, in which the Boston Celtics play the Los Angeles Lakers in Boston, Mass. on Friday, Feb. 25, 2000. (Photo by Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Maria Menounos from 'Entertainment Tonight' and Ja Rule (Photo by KMazur/WireImage)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 14: Music Television (MTV) personality Maria Menounos arrives for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show November 14, 2002 in New York City. (Photo by Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images)
Maria Menounos during Seventeen Magazine's New Star Showcase at Roseland Ballroom in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Maria Menounos during 2002 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
Maria Menounos and Mark McGrath during M&M's Candy Black and White Launch Party On New Years Eve- Arrivals at Lobby in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage for Fingerprint Communications)
Maria Menounos during 31st Annual American Music Awards - Arrivals at Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
Maria Menounos during 'The Matrix Revolutions' Premiere at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Maria Menounos at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 4: TV Personality Maria Menounos attends Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs 35th Birthday Celebration on November 4 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)
Maria Menounos during Mercedes Benz Presents the 16th Annual Carousel Of Hope Gala - Arrivals at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, United States. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
CULVER CITY, CA - OCTOBER 19: Maria Menounos attends Rock & Republic 'Love Rocks' Spring 2006 Collection - Runway at Sony Pictures Studios on October 19, 2005 in Culver City, CA. (Photo by Chad Buchanan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - OCTOBER 11: Maria Menounos attends Party Celebrating The Launch of the New Big TV Guide at Home and Guest House on October 11, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Will Ragozzino/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3269 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actress Maria Menounos and former President Jimmy Carter pose prior to the show on December 11, 2006 (Photo by Margaret Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Maria Menounos during JoJo and Sean 'Diddy' Combs Visit MTV's 'TRL' - October 17, 2006 at MTV Studios - Times Square in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic)
Actress Maria Menounos arrives at the 'Hollywood Life Magazine Hollywood Style Awards' at the Pacific Design Center on October 7, 2007 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
TV Personality Maria Menounos arrives at VH1's Save The Music 10th Anniversary Gala at The Tent at Lincoln Center on September 20, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 30: Actress Maria Menounos attends the Blackberry Bold launch party at a private residence on October 30, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)
Actress Maria Menounos arrives at The 30th Annual Carousel of Hope Ball at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 25, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 8: Maria Menounos arrives at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Viacom hosted 'Get Schooled' conference and premiere of TV documentary at the Paramount Pictures Lot on September 8, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 12: 71st ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS -- Pictured: Tv personality Maria Menounos arrives to the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 12, 2014 -- (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/NBC/NBC via Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - DECEMBER 31: Maria Menounos is sighted on December 31, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Uri Schanker/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 20: Television personality Maria Menounos is spotted wearing Theodora & Callum scarf designed to benefit the Child Mind Institue at The Grove on December 20, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/WireImage)
THE 85TH ACADEMY AWARDS(r) - RED CARPET ARRIVALS - Oscars(r) for outstanding film achievements of 2012 are being presented on Oscar Sunday, February 24 (8:30 p.m., ET/5:30 p.m., PT), at the Dolby Theatre(tm) at Hollywood & Highland Center(r), live on the ABC Television Network. ((Rick Rowell ABC/ via Getty Images))
PASADENA, CA - DECEMBER 07: Maria Menounos attends 2012 American Giving Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on December 7, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 02: TV Personality Maria Menounos was seen at Universal City Walk on December 2, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 05: Producer Keven Undergaro (L) and TV Personality Maria Menounos (R) attend 1st annual Digi-Ball benefiting 'Take Action Hollywood' at Project Hollywood on December 5, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: Maria Menounos is seen on October 16, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by DVT/Star Max/GC Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 12: Actress Maria Menounos arrives at Cosmopolitan Magazine's 50th Birthday Celebration at Ysabel on October 12, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 30: Maria Menounos arrives at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on August 30, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/Getty Images)
Actress Maria Menounos attends the premiere of Universal Studios "Sing" at Microsoft Theater at L.A. Live, Los Angeles, on December 3, 2016 (Photo by Neca Dantas/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 19: TV personality Maria Menounos participates in the Tapout Fitness WWE Special Event at Tapout Fitness on August 19, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/WireImage)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18: Television personality Maria Menounos attends the premiere of Universal Pictures' 'Jason Bourne' at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Maria Menounos shows her new engagement ring at AOL Build Speakers Series - to discuss her cookbook 'The EveryGirl's Guide to Cooking'at AOL Studios In New York on March 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Maria Menounos (ring detail) and longtime boyfriend Keven Undergaro get engaged on 'The Howard Stern Show' on Howard Stern's exclusive SiriusXM channel Howard 100 at SiriusXM Studios on March 9, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - APRIL 30: TV Personality Maria Menounos attends the 44th annual Daytime Emmy Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on April 30, 2017 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 12: Maria Menounos arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere 'The Promise' at TCL Chinese Theatre on April 12, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 02: Maria Menounos is seen walking in midtown on October 2, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Maria Menounos is seen on September 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Maria Menounos (L) and CEO of DCD Customs David Tonapetyan attend The Jeep Wrangler Celebrity Customs Reveal Event at Optimist Studios on September 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Jeep)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 25: Maria Menounos attends The Jeep Wrangler Celebrity Customs Reveal Event at Optimist Studios on September 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Jeep)
Television personality Maria Menounos poses at the world premiere of the film "Sing" in Los Angeles, California, December 3, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
TV personality Maria Menounos arrives at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
Actress Maria Menounos arrives at the premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Hollywood, California December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian
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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.