More than a year after Maria Menounos had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor while her mother was battling stage 4 brain cancer, the actress and journalist confirms that she and her mom are now both happy and healthy.
“It’s great! My mom’s doing great too, so we’re all feeling good,” Menounos tells PEOPLE.
Fully recovered, Menounos is now back to work hosting her SiriusXM radio show Conversations with Maria and preparing for a second wedding ceremony in Greece with her husband, Kevin Undergaro.
“I think whenever something bad happens in life you have a choice,” she says. “I was quickly in the mindset, like ‘Okay, why could this possibly be happening?’ Yes, it was a bit of a big pill to swallow, knowing that my mom had had chemo a few months before. But I realized that it was happening because I needed to change my life and I needed to adjust my priorities and that’s exactly what I did.”
Inspired by the nurses who helped Menounos and her mother through their health ordeals, the journalist and actress is partnering with Johnson & Johnson for the company’s new initiative to inspire nurses. The program, Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge, encourages nurses to submit their own ideas for improving healthcare. Johnson & Johnson will provide money and mentoring to the winning submissions.
“I think what Johnson & Johnson is doing is amazing,” Menounos says. “They’re encouraging nurses to bring their amazing ideas to the table and they’re going to help bring them to fruition. It’s a natural partnership because I’ve gone through so many things medically in the last few years and nurses have played such an integral role in my healing and in my mom’s healing.”
Menounos notes that nurses have been responsible for ideas including inventing the crash cart and finding a cure for jaundice.
“For me, it’s really important to empower these nurses because they’re on the front lines,” Menounos says. “They know what we need as patients. When you look at all the innovations from nurses in the past, you realize there is probably so much that is out there that hasn’t been developed because nurses are overwhelmed and too busy.”
Menounos also shared her advice for anyone else going through a health scare.
“I think that the most important thing you can do is try to remain calm and assemble a team around you,” Menounos remarks. “Whether it’s your best friend or your family or people that are going to help you. I would say a good therapist to lean on is always good, too.”