Be the CEO of Your Health: Maria Menounos Teaches the Energy of Self-Advocacy

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Be the CEO of Your Health: Maria Menounos Teaches the Energy of Self-Advocacy


Coming up next on passion struck we have to take a lot more ownership over the health care situation in our lives because the doctors are overwhelmed you know your body better than anybody at the end of the day you have to keep fighting for answers you have to keep pushing if something isn't feeling right you got to keep going and getting a new.

Doctor if your doctor is maybe gaslighting you and that's happened to me too you just have to keep pushing if the pain persists so should you you got to keep looking welcome to Passion struck hi I'm your host John AR and on the show we decipher the secrets tips and guidance of the world's most inspiring people and turn their wisdom.

Into practical advice for you and those around you our mission is to help you unlock the power of intentionality so that you can become the best version of yourself if you're new to the show I offer advice and answer listener questions on Fridays we have long form interviews the rest of the week with guests ranging from astronauts to.

Authors CE EOS creators innovators scientists military leaders Visionaries and athletes now let's go out there and become passion struck I am so honored today to have Maria manuno on passion struck welcome Maria hi thanks for having me well I'm going to start us off by talking about.

Some of your foundations looking back at your upbringing how has being the daughter of Greek immigrants laid the foundation for the resilience and passion that you've shown throughout your life I think my parents whether it was through their culture or not were just Fighters and were hard workers and they just rolled with anything that came.

Their way and so I watched my dad as a severe type 1 diabetic growing up working his butt off to put food on the table as a janitor cleaning multiple nightclubs throughout Boston along with my mom and my brother and I and so we watched a hardworking man just push through a disease that was very challenging for him because he didn't.

Speak the language my parents are both immigrants and trying to get a grasp on a disease when you don't even speak the language is very difficult there were no Greek translators let's just say that so my dad would end up in the hospital constantly and rip the Iva go back to work and he never really committed to his disease he was never oh I'm a diab.

IC owning it I think sometimes we own our illnesses a little bit too much and it's one of my messages is be committed to possibility don't be committed to the illness or the disease and I watched him do that and then when my mom was diagnosed with gleo blastoma stage 4 brain cancer she had a smile on her face and she was never afraid she was a total.

Champion and I don't know where she got the strength because I know I got my strength watching her walk through this the way she did I don't think that I would have walked through the things that I did without seeing that model so whether it's my Greek foundation and our Greek roots or just plainly who my parents are as people that's I think.

What laid my Foundation down pretty well okay and I want to talk more about your mom in a second but this podcast in many ways is about how do you create an intentional life or how do you take action to unearth the life that you want to create and you are known for really having ambition and drive were there any defining moments or influences in your.

Early life that sparked that I think I was always mugging for the camera I always was on the stage so we used to clean this big nightclub called the Channel in Boston all the biggest acts would go through there and I would just be on stage performing for my family and they're just sweeping and mobing and cleaning and I'm like up there with.

Whatever drum said whatever I never learned how to play any of these instruments but it would always be performing I always wanted to be in in that Arena as I got older and started watching the news I love Joan London and I loved how prestigious her position was and how she was doing something important and I love chasing the fire.

Trucks I loved knowing what was going on I was curious so I think all of those things were just always in me and then just the tough times I think growing up with my dad almost dying on the regular with his low blood sugar attacks and different things I was really eager to get out and do something great to help my family and to make something of.

Myself and I have a question here for one of my listeners in an industry that's often criticized for superficiality how have you managed to stay true to yourself and your values H thank you well I appreciate that I have to give my parents a lot of that credit I think they did a great job raising me but also keeping me grounded throughout.

This I always had my parents here with me they would stay with me in California and my husband at the time my boyfriend or partner they were like my American Express card I wouldn't leave home without them so I would take them to the Oscars and I would take them to whatever event I was going to because to me it was not meaningful or fun unless I got.

To enjoy it with them and see it through their eyes almost like parents say they want to see things through their kids eyes my parents were immigrants from a village with no running water they didn't have shoes they didn't have toothbrushes they grew up hard so for me to get to see them live this Glitz and glamour that was exciting for me I.

Didn't care so much it was just more having them be a part of it so I think being around them all the time definitely helped keep me grounded okay and we're going to be talking about some of the low points that you faced but you've also had many high points out of all your achievements in the entertainment industry which one.

Do you hold closest to your heart and why my achievements in the entertainment industry I think well becoming a New York Times bestselling author twice over was definitely shocking to me I never thought in a million years I would write a book and even when I wrote it the publisher said don't even think about it it's not going to happen and when I made.

It and not only did I make it I was number three on the list in the toughest category advice and self-help I was just blown away so I think that for sure is something I'm not big on Awards but that meant a lot to me because that was all from within it was from scratch building something and then I think my work on Nightly News I think was a big.

Accomplishment to be a part of the most prestigious half hour of news when news is something that I was really passionate about pursuing was really exciting and that's where I got to interview the Obama family and that was historic because no one has had or had interviewed them as a family so I would say those two things aside from my WWE.

Performance I mean that's a given obviously being 4 and0 in the WWE and wrestling at WrestleMania is a highlight as well yes I hadn't really understood that about you but my dad is a huge fan and when I told him that I was interviewing you that was the first thing he brought up was your wrestling career.

So yeah yeah I grew up watching wrestling with my Dad loved it and then when I met my now husband he was friends with Shane McMahon and there was a moment where maybe he was going to go right for them and then I would maybe wrestle was a little stockier then so I could have really done some damage but U but I ended up moving to LA and pursuing.

All of the things that I did but it was always still there I always still wanted to do it and I'm just grateful they gave me the opportunity well I'm going to just ask you one question since the wrestling thing came up if you were to create a wrestling Alter Ego for yourself what would be your wrestling name and signature move well I was going.

To be the golden Greek that's where I really wanted to go with this but then I got a brain tumor and then that just didn't work out anymore but I wanted to be the golden Greek and I was going to have Greek dance into this Arena and have everybody Greek dancing with me because I think interaction with the crowd is so fun and maybe the signature.

Move would be the Bak laava or something I don't know or just smush them but yeah crack some nuts on their head or something walnuts well going back to your New York Times that is such an accomplishment I have my own book coming out in February so I know everything that comes with releasing a book and the pressure and.

Everything else so that's quite an accomplishment to do it twice thanks almost three times the third time I was just a couple books off but well I want to jump into both your journey through cancer and your moms as well and I wanted to First go into the area of reflecting and caregiving reflecting on your journey as a caregiver for your mom.

During her battle with G blastoma what were some of the most profound lessons you learned about caregiving and empathy that you can share with the audience oh well I learned a lot about kind of the journey that you can take it's so hard because it's a challenging Journey it's there's so much work and there's so much pain and there's so much.

Suffering and you're at some point I realized through my husband that I had been mourning her years before her even death because you lose a little bit of them along the way as they lose a little bit of themselves I had some really great people through my show heel Squad that were wonderful and helpful this woman Diane was.

Incredibly helpful she just shared with me that this was my mom's Journey not mine I think Gabby Bernstein shared that same sentiment with me a lot of people did that it wasn't what I wanted it's what she wanted and sometimes that was hard to reconcile because I wanted to push and fight and come on Mom get up let's move if you don't move we're not.

Going to keep it once you lose it that's it you won't be able to get those muscles back and at some point she just didn't want to do it anymore and I had to meet her where she was and I think that's really hard for a lot of us that are dealing with patients that we love we want them to stay forever we want to push them and ultimately we do we have.

To meet them where they are so I think that was the toughest thing along with once you're in the system that's when you start to see the flaws and the holes and we're so grateful for the incredible doctors that do incredible work but they are still working within a flawed system that's really challenging and again people don't know it until they face it.

I was helping a woman who reached out through my show this morning and the email just made me sick to my stomach it was like nobody knows what's happening I've lost 30 pounds I've got my stomach bloated out to here my dad died of pancreas cancer I have no appetite every doctor is a three-month weight a referral here fighting for a referral.

There this one saying it's nothing no one listening to me and so it's really hard and when I started to even deal with hospice I didn't know that they're given a certain budget a month and whatever they get to save they get to keep so that means maybe my mom won't get certain things because they'll deny her so that they can keep that money all.

Of a sudden I'm having to pay for blood work out of pocket which I shouldn't have you start to see all of these things and so caregiving is a whole journey journey in and of itself whether it's through the physical caregiving or the emotional caregiving you know sometimes you're scared to talk about the things you're scared about those.

Were big moments for me there's my mom looked to me like I was her Tom Brady I was her quarterback and I never wanted to show her fear but there was one moment when I was really scared and the tumor had come back and I think it was John Edward my friend who's a psychic was like you need to keep having conversations with her and he really.

Pushed me and I'm so grateful and I went downstairs and I sat next to her on the couch and I just turned into her daughter and just cried and said I'm scared I don't know what's going to happen I share that for people to know that you can do those things on her last days I had felt guilty about the times I was short or mean or.

Stressed and I apologized to her and I filmed it because I wanted to remember that I did it and I wanted to remember what she said God bless her she was like Mone everything you did for me please she was just so forgiving and so quick but that saved me so much heartache over these last few years since her passing because I'll think of a moment where I.

Got short with her and then I remember she forgave me and she releases me of it every time but we don't have those conversations because we're scared but we need to and that's part of the whole process it's a tough process but you definitely learn a lot and you grow a lot I'm going to ask you a couple follow on to that especially around having.

These difficult conversations and I know for me when my grandmother was in hospice for her lung cancer and I showed up she actually smiled at me and said why are you wasting your time with me here you could be out with your friends um but it was one of the memories I cherish the most but as I was talking to you before we came on for the.

Past 3 four years my sister has been battling pancreatic cancer and last last year my fiance's father lost his battle with lung cancer and during both of those Evolutions I have had to ask a lot of tough questions my fiance has had to ask a lot of tough ones and they're not easy to do when it came to discussing these tough topics related to your mom's.

Health how did you approach these conversations who usually initiated them and what is your advice to navigating them if a listener is going through something like this with my mom it was me initiating them but my mom had some moments where she wanted to ask me for my forgiveness for things like little things she felt guilty about growing.

Up and I was like Mom you're holding on to this and carrying this I don't even remember that I fell or whatever it was so I think we both were having those moments for me I just had to muster up the courage and just do it and I just share it with people all the time because like I said the guilt we carry later is just too painful and so.

Unnecessary because if we can just muster up the courage you probably will be released of any of it very easily so you just have to do it just be like Nike just do it and for me on my end I remember even when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor I didn't tell anybody but my husband and my best friend and then at some point my husband said you need.

To tell a few of your other friends you need more support it was so weird I cried every time I told somebody feeling bad that I'm telling them this because I'm bringing bad news to their doorstep when I hadn't even cried about the diagnosis or anything else so they're just they're awkward things and you have to just do it that's it one of.

My favorite episodes I did this past year was with my friend Chris Carr who you may know and we discussed her latest book which is really all about breathing and emot ions what is your recommendation for listeners having navigated the grieving process with your mom on how if they experience something like this they can find healing and.

Peace themselves I think the grieving process is different for everybody I think everyone Grieves differently so just remember that and whatever that looks like for you is okay if you just need to cry it out for a couple of weeks cry it out let it out if you want to barar yourself in work everyone's going to do it in a different way I don't.

Think there's a wrong way to really do it I do think that trying to face as much of it as you can early on will help you later so that you can move on quicker and then try to carry their memory in a more positive way so for me I was like a walking zombie for just a couple of months I just really sat in it and I think there was just so much.

Disbelief like when you're taking care of someone for so long and then they're gone and now your identity is gone I was a caretaker for so many years I was in charge of someone's life in a big way so there are adjustments that have to happen and you have to find yourself again and figure out where you want to go now and what you're going to do and.

Reestablish new relationships like my dad I realized so much of my relationship with my dad was through my mom you know you talk to your mom on the phone oh Mom what about Dad this and then you say hello to your dad but a lot of it was navigated through her so I had to reestablish a new relationship with him and ironic the pancreas cancer I.

Think was the way because we got to spend real time just together in a special way while I was healing so yeah I think you just the more you can sit with it I think the better and you know I kept a picture and still have a big picture of my mom in my kitchen so that every day I can put my hand on her chest and say hello and feel like she's still.

There with me every single day find ways to keep their memory alive I talk to her throughout the day I asked her questions I hear her answers so yeah I think that's a very important thing to talk about because I earlier in the year had Rebecca Rosen on the show who's a psychic and she talked about just how much you were able to communicate with.

The loved ones that you have and how you can get answers from them in so many different ways so that's really A fitting way to for you to handle that so thank you for that and I know and it's so hard for me to believe but while your mom was going through her health challenge you also discover that you have a brain tumor how in the world did.

You balance caring for your mom while also having to take care of your own health that was definitely my biggest concern but I have a wonderful husband who really helped and my dad really took charge I sent them on a cross country trip at one point because my dad was coming into my room seeing me just recovering from brain surgery is rough.

And he would just burst into my room and cry and so I looked at my husband I go send them on a road trip he's like what I go it's their dream send them on a road trip I can't heal if I have to keep faking that I'm okay for him so we sent them back to the east coast and I got my time to heal and they got a really great trip out of it so everybody.

Else just stepped up well one of the things I really wanted to talk about and I've done it in a couple episodes that I've had had panan Executives pancreatic cancer action at work Executives on the show is early detection and I know for my sister for a time she felt like something was wrong her energy levels were depleted but she really just.

Couldn't put a finger on it and I know you also faced a number of initial symptoms that prompted you to seek medical help however you weren't getting the answers that you seek at that time can you talk about that yeah for at least a year I was feeling stuff I was super bloated I'd always had flat stomach flat abs and all of a.

Sudden I've got a basketball and I would take pictures of it in the mirror and be like what is this what's going on but just documenting and then I got an endoscopy and colonoscopy they found some stuff but nothing connected to that then I started having severe abdominal pain couple of flights or one flight I had severe abdominal plane I thought it.

Was the salad I was eating or whatever then I think it was in October or November maybe I was in severe pain went to the hospital they did a scan they said everything was fine so thereafter anytime I complain of pain my doctor which made sense he we just scanned your body you're fine there's nothing there but the radiologist had missed it and so.

There was a 2 cm tumor on my pancreas at that time it wasn't until I did a scan with an outside facility in January that they discovered it and so so I went back and you know was confirmed and I had to have surgery so they took the tail of my pancreas spleen 17 leftt nodes and a fibroid off my uterus all in one surgery got it all out and pathology came back.

Cancer hadn't spread anywhere it was a neuroendocrine tumor and that was it I was luckily able to catch it before because by the time we found it in January 2 months later it had doubled in size so it was on the move even from biopsy it was grade one in biopsy and then grade two in the pathology now they said.

That sometimes in different places it'll be a different grade but who knows yeah well what went through your mind during this process especially when tests like the CT scan initially showed that everything was fine but you inherently knew it wasn't it's weird because it comes and goes so there were moments where I felt great I was working out and.

I was feeling good I'm like okay and then it would hit so it's a very sneaky little disease or illness or situation whatever you want to call it but I knew I had to keep pushing and maybe my mom sent that woman to me because I had tried everything at that point well one of my good friends Bill Potts has beaten cancer six times.

And he has written a great book called up for the fight where he advocates in the book for The Importance of Being the CEO of your own health and I know this is something that you also like to talk about can you elaborate on how your own intuition and self- advocacy played a critical role both in your diagnosis and treatment and why this is so important.

For other people to understand yeah I mean it's the basis of everything I do every day with this show my podcast heal Squad I'm telling everyone every day we have to take a lot more ownership over the health care situation in our lives because the doctors are overwhelmed and you know your body better than anybody at the end of the day so you.

Have to keep fighting for answers you have to keep pushing if something isn't feeling right you've got to keep going and getting a new doctor if your doctor is maybe gaslighting you or that's happened to me too you just have to keep pushing if the pain persists so should you you got to keep looking and sometimes you have to go to an outside.

Facility like I did I had done everything at that point that I thought was possible I did not consider are getting a second opinion on the CT scan which is what I should have done and so in the future if you feel like you got a scan and you're still having pain take it to another facility and get a second opinion because maybe they missed it.

People are exhausted people have intense lives maybe they're dealing with a caregiving situation at home and they're still trying to do their shifts at the hospital there's so many situations that could be going on people aren't being negligent it's just they're human so you really have to be educated in this financial literacy is really important I.

Think health literacy is really important now yeah and I would just wanted to shortly tell the story of my sister's experience because she initially was found to have a 2 cim tumor like you described on her head of her pancreas and then where they do CT scans and they had shown that it had metastasized and that she wasn't.

Eligible for it anymore but she felt great she didn't feel like their test was accurate and so she advocated she had UT Austin do an MRI which showed that it hadn't metastasized but still MD Anderson wasn't buying it so she had to go through having to get a liers su they did an MRI it didn't show anything they then went in to take a piece of it to.

Examine whether there was anything on her liver they didn't find anything and then they reluctantly agreed to do the Whipple surgery and the doctor told her afterwards that he imagined after about 5 minutes he was going to have to sew her up but as it turns out they didn't find any evidence of it and she was able.

To have the Whipple so my thought just like you is if you have intuition if you use whatever resource you have because we ended up listening the help of a board member at panan who actually went to a doctor he knew at MD Anderson who got the oncologist who were treating her to do a board to review it everything but if that had never happened she.

Probably would have never had that surgery so what did they say about the MRI that had all the metastasis on it was it somebody else's they can't explain it they can't explain if it was a bad reading or what exactly happened and I also have a hard time understanding why they only rely on CTS and will not look at MRIs um they at.

MD Anderson they only use CTS yeah and the CTS they said aren't clear enough yes it is the whole thing is so confusing to me yeah well one of the areas yeah I wanted to go into with you is I understand that you were able to diagnose your cancer because you had access to a full body scan and for the average person Insurance let's face it.

They're not covering these although I am seeing more companies that are providing them for a person who doesn't have access to things like that what is available for them to detect pancreatic cancer and what would you Sugg suggest if they did want to do a full body scan so it's really hard right now it's definitely a mission of mine to get.

These covered for people because it makes sense for insurance companies to do this but there's it's just you have to keep pushing and I think an MRI is going to be your best bet is getting somebody to give you that MRI to check whatever you're feeling because a CT scan isn't going to be clear enough if you can negotiate a financing plan with.

One of these outside scan companies that's an idea doing gofundmes people do that all the time with success where there's a will there's a way we have to fight and that outside scan saved my life so I don't know what I would have done if that wasn't available yes well I just hope that we start using these things it more.

Prevalently because to me you spend a lot less money when you detect something early than when they have to spend all the money and resources to fight it longer on MAR this is another question from a listener and they wanted to ask you when the days were really tough those really hard ones where you feel defeated what was the motivation you had.

To overcome and be the strong Warrior that it took you to overcome this and how did you remain positive there were definitely moments I was on my knees and not thinking I was going to make it and really scared my husband was a great resource of strength for me but I also have such a strong relationship with God and our healing Saints St nectarios and.

The Virgin Mary and I prayed to all three of them every day and I asked for help I asked for guidance like I always do and I know they gave me strength and I started to realize that I was predicting an ending to a story and it's not my choice there's nothing I can do and so I had to leave it to God and I had to believe that there was possibly A.

Better ending I had a baby on the way I had to focus on that I started using this technique called choose wonder over worry so I would say I wonder what it's going to be like when the doctor calls me with good news next and he would I wonder what it's going to be like when I get through surgery and I'm okay and I'm safe and so I just kept doing that you.

Have to use tools in these moments you have to use quotes you have to use movies whatever inspiration you can get that's why with the show I'm so passionate about what we do because we're bringing in experts that are are sharing those tools that are giving us these different ways to look at things these different ways to go through these.

Devastating Journeys I think that we need more examples of people going through things in a different way for example I had a moment recently where I thought something was going south and I said I wonder if this is if we just instead of looking at things like oh my gosh can you believe this is happening oh my gosh I have this horrible.

Diagnosis what if we started looking at it like what what if it's God redirecting us what if it's God showing us that we need to pay more attention to this area or to something in our lives that's hurting us that's not good for us or something like that and then once I thought that I started using it and it really helped me a lot well I can.

Completely relate to that because it was that same exact situation that caused me to do what I'm doing today and I really leaned into that relationship that I have with God and I've learned that I wasn't doing what he wanted me to be doing which is what I'm doing today and speaking of those sayings that you brought up earlier I know that you have.

A really strong connection to the teachings of Dr Joe despenza whom I greatly admire myself can you share in addition to those thoughts some of the most effective techniques or tools you've adopted from as work connect with your body and soul for healing and understanding your body's needs I think Dr Joe's techniques have been game.

Changer Tony Robbins as well it's funny he and I were chatting the other day and I was just saying how grateful I am to him again because if I hadn't gone to his seminars I wouldn't have gathered those tools that helped me through these challenging moments that was more Foundation being laid down life isn't happening to you it's happening for you.

With Dr Joe it was a whole other level of calming my nervous system down and really changing my thoughts I had a lot of really fear-based thoughts that were ticking over my brain a lot and I was able to really make incredible change in my head what goes on between my ears and then of course that had its effect on my nervous system and took anxiety away and.

So much so I credit both of them uh immensely with helping me pour a New Foundation because the foundation we get as young people is what you got to keep pouring I have additions I'm building additions to my house can you tell us about your journey to becoming a mother and how it has changed your outlook on.

Life well my priorities are in a whole other place for example I have to go right now because I have to go be with my baby she is the light of my life uh it's been a 10-year journey to get to her and I know that she's ushered in a whole new chapter where me and my family it's just pure joy she's the greatest thing that ever happened to me she's my.

Greatest blessing and I'm going to teach her and I am teaching her by example every single day to be the CEO of her health well Maria thank you so much for doing this it was such an honor to have you on the show thank you so much have a great day appreciate it what an incredible interview that was with Maria manuno and.

I wanted to thank Maria and panan for the honor and privilege of having her appear on today's show you're about to hear a preview of The Passion struck podcast interview that I did with Jen gotley a powerful figure in the world of personal branding and an authentic Communicator Jen has an illustrious career as a VH1 host Broadway actress.

And co-founder of super connector media and she brings a tapestry of her experiences to the table her bestselling book be seen is not just a title it's a Manifesto for those seeking to make a difference in their field I'm very guilty of like saying like oh I can't do that I'm not good enough enough at I'm not good at that but if you just take.

The word yet and you tie it on to any sentence and you say I'm not good at that yet all the sudden you give yourself a little bit more like you can do it a little bit more courage I'm not good at that yet because maybe you're not good at it but you absolutely can get good at it you absolutely can and if you look backwards for proof that you.

Are good at learning and implementing and sticking with the commitments that you make with yourself and you have done really awesome things in your life then you can always bring that part of you back the fee for this show is that you share it with family or friends when you find something useful or inspirational if you found today's episode with maram.

Manuno useful or interesting then definitely share the show with someone who could use her advice the greatest compliment that you can give us is to share the show with those that you love and care about in the meantime do your best to apply what you hear on the show so that you can live what you listen until next time go out there and become.

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