Using Adversity to Strengthen Your Purpose
- HGTV house flipper Tarek El Moussa, 42, recounts his battles with two different cancers that coincided with the divorce from his first wife playing out in tabloids affected him both physically and mentally. He admitted he had to work on himself to reclaim his mental health and reach a place of happiness.
- In 2013, El Moussa was diagnosed with thyroid cancer after a watchful viewer on his TV show noticed a lump on his neck. A few years later, he dealt with testicular cancer, which typically has symptoms like swelling or discomfort in the scrotum. El Moussa had a testicle removed amid treatment.
- Coping with a diagnosis or some other stressor in your life can be an emotional experience that affects your mental health. Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik suggests people facing these kinds of challenges tap into their support group to help navigate their emotions.
- Genetic testing can help patients cope with their mental health following a diagnosis and help doctors determine the best course of mental health treatment. This may be especially helpful for people struggling with anxiety and depression.
HGTV house flipper Tarek El Moussa, 42, says between his public divorce from ex-wife Christina Hall and battling two cancers, he dealt with “massive” struggles before he managed to build himself back up to a place of happiness. His journey to reclaiming his mental health is the focus of a new book detailing the adversity he faced.
“I was at the peak of my game,” El Moussa said in an Instagram video promoting his book “Flip Your Life” before explaining how his life seemingly went to “hell.”
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He noted how well his career and life were going up until an unsuspecting lump on his neck led to an eventual thyroid cancer diagnosis. From there, a series of events unraveled the reality TV star’s life.
“I was diagnosed with two different cancers and going through a very public divorce,” he said in the video.
He and Hall married in 2009 and had two kids together before they separated in 2016. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2013, meaning strife with his marriage coincided with his cancer journey. According to the National Cancer Institute, thyroid cancer occurs when cancer cells form in the tissues of the thyroid gland. The thyroid is located at the base of the neck and produces hormones that regulate your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and weight. A lump or swelling in the neck is a common symptom of this type of cancer.
“From 2013 to 2016, it was hell,” El Moussa told Fox News Digital during an interview.
“You know, hitting rock bottom in 2016, when my ex-wife decided that she wanted to end things, you know, that’s when I had to dig deep and really figure out who I was and who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go and how I was going to get there. So, I did a lot of work on myself to get to where I am today,” El Moussa said.
He was hit with another cancer diagnosis, testicular cancer, in 2017. Symptoms for this type of cancer may include “swelling or discomfort in the scrotum,” according to the National Cancer Institute. El Moussa worried that the cancer would impact his fertility since he had one of his testicles removed during treatment. Testicular cancer survivors may encounter fertility issues after overcoming the disease, but this is not always the case.
Removing one testicle may not always affect fertility for men, according to the Moffitt Cancer Center. Men may be able to maintain their fertility after. However, if both testicles are removed, the man will not maintain their fertility.
“Testicular cancer commonly occurs from ages 20-45, but it can occur at any age,” Dana-Farber medical oncologist Dr. Bradley McGregor previously told SurvivorNet.
Meanwhile, other cancer treatments like chemotherapy can damage sperm in men, and hormone therapy can decrease sperm production, according to the National Cancer Institute. Radiation to the reproductive organs or nearby areas can potentially lower sperm count and testosterone levels, causing infertility.
El Moussa noted how he would feel tired more frequently, leading him down a path of consequential treatment.
“I was tired, and my thyroid levels – I thought it was from my thyroid, or I thought it was from my testicular cancer, so I went to this Botox doctor, a hormone clinic that my ex said to go check out and next thing I know I’m shoving a needle in my a—and I’m taking steroids…It was awful…way too much testosterone,” El Mousa told Fox News Digital.
El Moussa’s candid recounting of the last few years of his life is part of his journey to reclaiming his sense of self and good mental health.
“You know, I fought two cancers, I fought back surgery. I was dealing with all these hormone problems. And honestly, I lost my way. I lost who I was. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t know who I was anymore,” he said.
A couple of years after his divorce from Hall and reaching remission from his bouts with cancer, El Moussa coupled with Heather Rae Young, and the two married in 2021. They share Tarek’s third child, who was born earlier this year.
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He’s since reached a point in his life where he has truly found happiness with his life, family, and real estate career. His book aims to help fuel others who may have faced similar adversities with hope and inspiration.
“You know, I love being in my forties. I love being established. I love my family. I love my wife. I love my kids. Like, I couldn’t be happier, and that’s the truth,” he said.
More on Coping with a Diagnosis and Mental Health
- Coping with Anxiety after an Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis
- Living With Cancer: Coping With Hair Loss & the Anxiety it Brings
- Mental Health and Cancer — The Fight, Flight or Freeze Response
- Mental Health and Cancer: New Survey Shows Over a Third of Patients Aren’t Getting the Support They Need
- Genetic Testing Can Empower You With Important Information
- Genetic Testing Can Match Those Living With Anxiety, Depression & More With Proper Medication
Managing Your Mental Health in the Face of a Health Challenge
El Moussa’s journey through overcoming his various health challenges and a very public divorce surely affected him emotionally. A diagnosis of a cancer or disease or some external stressor like a troubled relationship can offset your mental health in ways you least expect.
Psychiatrist Dr. Lori Plutchik says your emotions will be fluid when facing a diagnosis. SurvivorNet has some tips to help keep your mental and emotional health in a good space if you find yourself coping with a stressful situation.
The National Institute of Mental Health says you should seek professional help if you are experiencing severe or distressing symptoms that have lasted two weeks or more, such as:
- Trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- Struggling to leave bed in the morning because of your mood
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of interest in things you usually enjoy
- Inability to perform normal daily functions and responsibilities
Equally as important is recognizing the value of self-care. The National Institute of Mental Health offers practical guidance on how to boost your weekly self-care routine.
- Regularly exercising
- Eating healthy, regular meals
- Staying hydrated
- Prioritizing sleep
- Exploring relaxation programs or techniques
- Setting goals/priorities
- Staying positive
- Connecting with others
WATCH: How genetic testing can help improve your mental health.
Genetic testing can also help people wrestling with their mental health. It has been shown to match people with the best medication for mental health treatment. While genetic testing has helped make treatment plans for other diseases, such as certain types of cancer, the ability to use it to help people suffering from anxiety and depression is relatively new.
“Doing the genetic testing has absolutely transformed the landscape of psycho-pharmacology,” psychiatrist Dr. Plutchik tells SurvivorNet.
“It’s something that I highly recommend for anybody that is taking medication, whether they are being treated for cancer or not … I recommend it for children who are taking medication. I recommend it for elderly people. Anybody who is taking medication, I think, can greatly benefit from genetic testing,” Dr. Plutchik added.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you are not feeling your usual self and are facing a diagnosis or some other traumatic event, you should consider contacting your doctor to see if your mental health needs a boost.
- Should I consider going on medication to help with mental health struggles?
- Would genetic testing help determine the best treatment for me?
- What is the likelihood that the test will recommend the proper treatment?
- What can we do if I don’t succeed with the recommended treatment?