There’s some channels that you always seem to put on when you want a little background noise or some casual, friendly entertainment. HGTV is one of those channels. Even if you don’t pay much attention to whatever home improvement show might be on, it’s fun to glance over once in a while and see a beautiful living space gradually come to life.
For HGTV’s “Flip or Flop” star Tarek El Moussa, he is extremely grateful that one of his show’s fans was actually paying attention, because she potentially saved his life.
In 2013, Ryan Reed, a registered nurse, was watching “Flip or Flop” when she spotted something odd—a lump in El Moussa’s throat. It concerned her enough that she sent an email to the show’s producers.
Reed didn’t want to sound like a crazy fan so she wrote to the production company, rather than El Moussa.
After the production company received the email, they relayed the message to El Moussa, and he took it as a sign.
“I was having a harder time swallowing, and this lump was getting bigger,” he told PEOPLE in a 2013 interview.
The “Flip or Flop” star had reportedly visited a doctor about it twice, but was told he didn’t need to worry about it. He attributed the lump and a persistent cough to his smoking.
But then he read the email from Reed, which said, “This is not a joke. I’m a registered nurse. I’ve been watching Flip or Flop. I noticed that the host Tarek has a large nodule on his thyroid, and he needs to have it checked out.” El Moussa immediately went to another doctor for a second opinion.
The doctor confirmed Reed’s suspicion that the lump in El Moussa’s throat was possibly cancer.
At first an ultrasound revealed that the lump in his throat had a five percent chance of being cancerous. He was scheduled for surgery.
“They said they would remove half of it and be done in an hour,” El Moussa said. “But it ended up being four hours. It was cancer, and they ended up removing my entire thyroid. When I woke up, my wife was crying, and the first thing I asked was, ‘It’s cancer, isn’t it? And she said, ‘Yeah.'”
Although doctors were able to remove the cancerous lump, El Moussa wasn’t out of the woods yet. Doctors discovered the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, and he had to undergo radioactive iodine therapy.
El Moussa underwent surgery to remove the cancerous lump.
In 2015, El Moussa and his wife, Christina, met Reed on “The Doctors.” Reed revealed that at first she didn’t believe what she saw, and she had to rewind the show. Once she saw El Moussa’s throat again, she knew she had to say something.
Recently on another episode of “The Doctors,” El Moussa revealed that only two months after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, he was also diagnosed with testicular cancer—he and his wife decided to keep the second diagnosis a secret.
Only two months after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, he was told he had testicular cancer.
He told PEOPLE that the reason he wanted to come forward with his second cancer diagnosis was that once he announced he had thyroid cancer, a number of people got checked out.
“A lot of people said they got tested because I shared my [thyroid cancer] story,” he said. “I thought this was the time to come forward because it could save some lives.”
El Moussa is currently cancer-free, although he realizes the cancer could come back. For now, he’s taking life a little slower and enjoying the time he has with his children.