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 own diagnosis of a benign brain tumor this spring, she could not fathom having to break the news to her parents, Constantine and Litsa. “Deciding to tell [them] was the toughest part,” Menounos tells PEOPLE in this week’s exclusive cover story.
She continues, “If 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.”
Three days before her surgery, Menounos, 39, and her fiancé Kevin Undergaro, 51, sat down with her parents, who are living with them at their home in Los Angeles. “We went into their room and I said, ‘We have something to tell you.’ Every time I say it, people say, ‘You’re pregnant!’ And it’s like, ‘No, it’s not a good thing,’ ” says Menounos, who has been undergoing IVF in hopes of starting a family. “I said, ‘I want you to understand that you have brain cancer, but not all tumors are cancerous. We found a tumor in me. We’re going to have surgery on Thursday.”
Both her mom and dad “just welled up. They were just in shock,” Menounos adds. “But we kept reassuring them it would be fine.”