Watching her mom suffer from stage 4 brain cancer was devastating for Maria Menounos.
So when the TV and Sirius XM radio host (and sometime WWE wrestler) received her owndiagnosis of a benign brain tumor this spring, she could not fathom having to break the news to her parents, Constantine and Litsa. â€œDeciding to tell [them] was the toughest part,â€ Menounos tells PEOPLE in this weekâ€™s exclusive cover story.
She continues, â€œIf my mom was stable, it would have been easier. But because her tumor was growing [at the time], it was really depressing. It was awful because we were all living in this house and keeping this secret.â€
- For much more from Menounos, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE and watch her emotional interview in PEOPLE Cover Story: Maria Menounos on the People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to People.com/PEN or download the PEN app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device.
Three days before her surgery, Menounos, 39, and her fiancÃ© Kevin Undergaro, 51, sat down with her parents, who are living with them at their home in Los Angeles. â€œWe went into their room and I said, â€˜We have something to tell you.â€™ Every time I say it, people say, â€˜Youâ€™re pregnant!â€™ And itâ€™s like, â€˜No, itâ€™s not a good thing,â€™ â€ says Menounos, who has been undergoing IVF in hopes of starting a family. â€œI said, â€˜I want you to understand that you have brain cancer, but not all tumors are cancerous. We found a tumor in me. Weâ€™re going to have surgery on Thursday.â€
Both her mom and dad â€œjust welled up. They were just in shock,â€ Menounos adds. â€œBut we kept reassuring them it would be fine.â€
Now healing after her June 8 surgery, during which renowned neurosurgeon Keith L. Black removed a golf ball-sized meningioma brain tumor that was pushing on her facial nerves, Menounos continues to find inspiration from her motherâ€™s battle.
â€œShe has smiled through the whole thing,â€ Menounos says of Litsa, whose latest MRI shows her tumor is stable. â€œSheâ€™s always been positive. Always â€˜I feel great,â€™ just a champ. My goal was just to be as happy and calm as possible because I didnâ€™t want it to be hard on everybody. I really prayed, â€˜Please God give me the strength that my mom had.â€™ Because she gave us that gift.â€