Tarek El Moussa is a fighter and hopes to inspire others with his personal story of battling cancer.
The Flip or Flop star was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2013, just one month after finding out he had thyroid cancer. Now as an ambassador for the Movember Foundation, which aims to raise awareness for men's health issues including prostate, testicular cancer and suicide prevention, Tarek is reflecting on his fight with cancer and the importance of creating awareness.
"The last few years were horrific for me," Tarek candidly tells ET about sharing his personal experience with the world. "I got done with one cancer and then right after that I got another cancer. And then a few months after I was recovering from that, I hurt my back and I was in terrible pain for 10 months. Then I had a surgery with complications. For a few years, I went through mental and physical help. It was very difficult, but at the same time, I did everything to stay positive."
"I knew I had to keep working, I knew I had to do all these things for my wife at the time and my daughter. That really motivated me to keep moving forward," he adds.
In the U.S., one in every eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, three million are currently living with prostate cancer and 605 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each day, according to men's health stats from the Movember Foundation.
Prostate cancer is also the second most common cancer in men in the U.S., with approximately 8,850 new cases of testicular cancer diagnosed each year. With these stats in mind and his own story, Tarek feels it's dire to spread the word about getting checked.
"The most important thing is about saving lives, meaning you need to get checked out and you need to be aware of cancer," Tarek expresses. "What's great about Movember is they work with testicular cancer and there is a lot of things that people don't know about it. One of the big things is that it has actually increased by 50 percent over the last 20 to 30 years. So it's been a huge jump in testicular cancer cases. Also, the highest age group that actually gets testicular cancer is in their 20s and early 30s, which I never knew I was at cancer risk."
"None of my friends knew they were at cancer risk, so that was shocking to hear that. I never, never knew that at this age that was a possibility," he adds. "The biggest part about creating awareness is letting people know that the odds have gone up and that in your age category it can happen to you. Furthermore, the biggest push that needs to be out there right now is checking yourself. It's very simple to check yourself. The problem is, even myself, you can check yourself, but a lot of the times the guys don't know what they're checking for. They're checking for something, but they don’t know what to check for, so they stop. That’s one of the big things. Creating awareness will definitely help do that."
Meanwhile, Tarek also doesn’t shy away from sharing the fears he had throughout his process, even thinking at one point that he was going to die.
"I think I've said it before, I'm a fighter, and when I found out I had [thyroid cancer], I didn’t feel sad for myself. I didn’t get depressed, I just said, 'You know what, we're going be beat this thing,"' he explains. "And I went to work, and that was pretty much how I looked at it. That was my thyroid cancer. Then when I found out I had testicular cancer, that was a whole other story because, again, I didn’t know much about cancer, and the next thing you know, I'm dealing with two different cancers at the same time."
"That was very scary for me. At the beginning I thought I was going to die, but I overcame that as well," he continues. "I would say that the most difficult part through all my cancers is the aftermath, meaning living without a thyroid and adjusting medication. It can cause anxiety, depression [and] mood swings. You can be really lethargic, tired and lazy. I was such an active guy going into a period of my life where I was just exhausted all the time. And I did a lot of work with different doctors, different medications and different levels. And today I can say that I feel better than I've ever felt in my life."
Now, Tarek's main focus with the foundation is to create awareness and, above all, explain that "the earlier you catch [cancer] the better it is."
"If we can get out there and create awareness, it can save lives," the reality star insists. "It's not that it could save lives, it will save lives because you can catch it at stage one versus stage five, where it's all over your body."
"If throughout this process, if we only get a few thousand people to do it, and if a couple people have cancer, then we save some lives," he adds. "Who's to say how many will or won't do it, but it's about creating awareness."
"With myself, I thought I was invincible. I thought that I could conquer the world, and then the next thing you know, you get cancer. The biggest thing that people need to realize is that they’re no different than the person standing next to them. No matter who you are, or what you do, healthy or not healthy, businessman, school teacher, unemployed, it doesn't matter. It can happen to you and that's why you need to understand cancer and the high risk of cancer. And for men, that's why you need to check themselves."
For more information on Movember, including a hands-on guide to learn how to check for signs of cancer, visit us.movember.com/mens-health/testicular-cancer.
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