Most of us know self-made real estate investor Tarek El Moussa from his hit TV show Flip or Flop that’s now in its ninth season, but what most don’t know is that he beat cancer not just once, but twice.
He discovered he had thyroid cancer in 2013 when a registered nurse spotted a lump on El Moussa’s neck while watching Flip or Flop, and wrote to the producers that she believed it might be cancer. Unfortunately, she turned out to be right, and to make matters worse, a few weeks later he was also diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Today, El Moussa is cancer free and is an ambassador for the Movember foundation, which aims to raise awareness on common men’s health issues — including mental health, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer — that are overlooked far too often.
Speaking with Jacob Graye, the HGTV star opens up about how men can stay on top of their well-being, take care of their mental health, and what being a two-time cancer survivor has taught him about life.
What exactly is Movember?
“Movember is really all about helping men. They’re dedicated to the health crises men are facing. Most people don’t know the shocking numbers, but one out of nine men will get diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. So it’s a lot higher than men would think.
“The most shocking statistic is that the highest rate of testicular cancer is in men between the ages of 18 and 34. So that was shocking to find out as well. Young men are actually at the highest risk of testicular cancer, and Movember is about saving lives and spreading awareness. When it comes to cancer, early detection is key to success, so it’s really important for men to check themselves and be on top of their health.”
El Moussa touches on an extremely important point here. Prevention is the best course of action, always. There’s even a famous saying about it: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” All you need to do is take care of yourself in the best way possible by fueling your body with the best, most nutritious foods, exercising, and being mindful of stress.
And on top of that, catching any abnormalities early is the second best thing you can do. Checking yourself for any odd lumps or bumps or anything that’s feels a little off only takes a few seconds.
What is the biggest effort of the Movember foundation this year?
“It’s all about mental and physical health, and early cancer detection. We’re helping men live a healthier and happier life. A lot of times cancer can be detected early or even prevented. It’s important that men take action early — and take it seriously.
What are some things men can do to reduce their risk of developing serious health problems?
“Let me put it this way: your body is a machine. It’s like a car. If you don’t change your oil, if you don’t change your tires, if you don’t fix your car, what’s going to happen? It’s going to break down. Your body is like your car!
“Taking care of your body is really, really important. You need to watch what you eat, you need to take your vitamins, exercise and watch your weight. It all comes down to staying on top of your health.
“Think about a car that has not been treated the right way. After ten years, what happens to that car? The human body is no different.”
How can men stay on top of their health? How often should they see a doctor?
“Most 18 to 34 year old men think they’re invincible and think it’s never going to happen. I think the biggest issue at that age is that they don’t realize they’re at risk.
“They should be getting a physical once a year, and self examination is also very important. Men need to check themselves once a week. It only takes a couple seconds to check and stay on top of your health.
“That’s one thing i didn’t do; I didn’t check myself, and the reason is because I had no idea that at my age I’d be at risk for testicular cancer.”
How can men better navigate their mental health?
“It’s all about taking action. Mental health is such a big thing, and so many people — now more than ever — are feeling run down and it’s important to take care of that mental health. Your happiness is everything!
“The Movember foundation is great because men can go to their website and they can learn more about their mental health, and learn how to do self examinations for cancer, and there’s just so many great things about this foundation.”
Like he says, mental health really is all about taking action. If there’s a problem and you don’t feel like yourself, ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. It seems like a lot of men don’t get the help they need until it’s too late, so do yourself a favor and put your mental well-being first.
Self care comes in many forms, but the basics are to eat well, get enough and proper sleep, exercise regularly, drink in moderation, and take breaks when you need them. Most importantly, though, make sure to avoid stress.
What has surviving cancer taught you, and how has it changed your perspective on life?
“It’s given me this gratitude. It’s given me gratefulness. I’m grateful to be living, I’m grateful to have my family, I’m grateful to be alive and thriving. I’m just really grateful because it was really, really tough for a long time. On top of the cancer, I was struggling with mental health. They’re all really connected.
“It’s really important for people to take care of their mind and soul.”