'Top Chef' Fan Favorite Fatima Ali Opens Up About Her Terminal Cancer Battle (Exclusive)

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Fatima Ali is staying strong

ET recently sat down with the former Top Chef contestant, who opened up about her heart-wrenching battle with cancer and the ongoing support from her TV family.

"I finished filming Top Chef last year. I had this pain in my shoulder, which was then diagnosed as a tumor," she explained to ET. "And that tumor, after it got biopsied, it was actually a form of cancer called Ewing's sarcoma."

Earlier this year, the 29-year-old was declared cancer-free, only to find out in September that the rare form of cancer had returned.

"We were all stumped, because how can the cancer come back in two months? I had clear scans. I was almost there, at the finish line, and now I was getting yanked back," she emotionally recalled. "When my doctor said that it is probably about a year without treatment, in my head I just knew I had to make this year count."

Ali opened up about her cancer returning in a candid, personal article. "Honestly being a chef, I'm so used to being in control of everything and all of a sudden I have no control over anything in my life," she continued. "So this was a way for me to actually kind of take back a little bit of control for myself."

Now, Ali is making the most of her situation and spending her time with loved ones, including Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi, who has been there for her during this tough time.

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Dear friends, I have seen @cheffati grow and blossom every day I walked into the @bravotopchef kitchen. I have seen Fatima’s ambition sharpen over weeks of competition, seen her soar along with all of you. Most of you will read Fatima’s writing for the first time in this @bonappetit piece. Since her diagnosis I have been fortunate enough to get to know her deeper and in a new light. Over these months, I have come to know her family. Her mother has shown me her older writing which is just as poignant. I am pleased to share my friend’s story with you all today. I am so proud of her. I can tell you that in these months I have not only seen her continue to find her voice, but been inspired by her exponentially. I have gotten to know most of her family and in them I see my own. I was in the hospital with her the morning she had surgery months ago and witnessed her courage. The day after my @nytimes piece came out, I went to see her, and she cheered me on by holding my hand from the hospital bed, assuring me I had not flayed myself in vain. I was with her last night as she went in for radiation and she still turned back to smile at her mother and me when the nurse with the wheelchair came. I hope that this year brings her as much as she can hope for. You’ve said on the show that growing up I inspired you. But Fati, now, it’s you who inspire me. Everyday. I love you Fati. Link in bio. #teamfati

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"[Lakshmi] has been amazing, she really has," Ali said. "She keeps sending me food all the time, whether I can eat it or not. She is always sending me food."

Lakshmi recently gushed to ET about her friendship with Ali, raving that the chef is "an extraordinary young woman, she's very brave, she's very funny. My job is just to be there for her."

Ali also made an appearance on Friday's episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where the host surprised her with $50,000 to fulfill her dreams of traveling the world and eating at the best restaurants. 

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