Olivia Munn Says Not Being Able to Pick Up Son After Mastectomy Was 'One of the Hardest Things’ (Exclusive)

Olivia Munn Says Not Being Able to Pick Up Son After Mastectomy Was 'One of the Hardest Things’ (Exclusive)

The actress shares her son Malcolm, 2, with partner John Mulaney

Olivia Munn has cherished moments of sweetness with her young son during a year filled with medical challenges.

In this week's cover story, the actress, 43, gives PEOPLE a glimpse into her breast cancer journey, which has included four surgeries, a double mastectomy, and medically induced menopause. While it's been a difficult 12 months, Munn has been able to get through it by leaning on her "strong little family" of three.

But when she returned home three days after her double mastectomy, the star, who is mom to son Malcolm, 2, with partner John Mulaney, 41, was devastated to have to tell her baby (then 1), that she couldn't pick him up.

"When I woke up, it was really painful and I was really out of it, and I had actually lost a lot of blood and my surgery went from what was supposed to be an 8-hour surgery to a 10-hour surgery because of that blood loss," Munn shares, noting the first day after surgery was a "rougher time" because of that.

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<p><a href="https://www.instagram.com/ryanwestphoto/?hl=en" data-component="link" data-source="inlineLink" data-type="externalLink" data-ordinal="1">Ryan West</a></p> Olivia Munn and son Malcolm

Ryan West

Olivia Munn and son Malcolm

Related: Olivia Munn’s ‘Terrifying’ Breast Cancer Diagnosis After Baby Joy: 4 Surgeries in 10 Months, and Medically Induced Menopause (Exclusive)

"So the first part is tough because it's just a lot of pain. You've gone through a massive surgery and I didn't really at that time think about what I had lost, because you're all bandaged up," she says.

But it began to sink in when Munn was discharged.

"Then when I get home, three days later, Malcolm runs up and he said, 'Mama, pick [me] up?' " Munn remembers.

<p>Olivia Munn/Instagram</p> John Mulaney, Olivia Munn and son Malcolm

Olivia Munn/Instagram

John Mulaney, Olivia Munn and son Malcolm

"And I said, 'Oh I can't pick you up.' And I squatted down to give him a hug, and then he just sat on my leg and goes, 'But Mama, pick [me] up!' That was probably one of the hardest things because all you want to do is pick up your baby."

Munn underwent reconstructive surgery early last fall, and in November, began hormone suppression therapy to lower her risk of cancer returning, which has put her into medically induced menopause.

As she has navigated her recovery, "I think the hardest thing is that I've spent a lot of time in bed," she says, dealing with exhaustion from her surgeries and the medicine she has been taking. "One time I asked Malcolm, 'Where does Daddy work?' And he ran to his office and pointed to his desk. And I said, 'Where does Mommy work?' And he ran to my bed, and that crushed me."

Things are improving, says Munn. "I'm finding more energy and he's happy, so it makes me happy."

Related: What Olivia Munn's Doctor Wants You to Know About Your Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Score (Exclusive)

The actress says today she feels the most joyful in the little moments with her son.

"When I'm with Malcolm, it's really the only time your brain doesn't think about that you're sick," Munn says. "I'm just so happy with him. I'm just so happy in life. I mean, he's just the most fun little person."

She continues: "He's so communicative and fun and laughs so much. And it really puts a lot of stuff into perspective. Because if my body changes, I'm still his mom. If I have hot flashes, I'm still his mom. If I lose my hair, I'm still his mom. That's what really matters to me, I get to be here for him."

For more of Munn's exclusive interview, pick up this week's issue on PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.

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