Simon Barney has been diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer.
Just one day after Tamra Judge revealed she was stepping away from her role on The Real Housewives of Orange County because she needed to deal with something off-camera, her former husband of 13 years and the father of her three youngest children confirmed his cancer diagnosis and revealed his current treatment plan as Tamra shared her thoughts and offered an update on their family.
“I’m a private person, despite what my time on reality television might say,” Simon told PEOPLE on February 18. “But I wanted to speak before someone else does and uses their words, not mine. And to speak out about it so others can see how I’ve taken this fight on with optimism, and the good this has ultimately brought my life.”
Last May, Simon noticed his salivary glands were swollen on one side and went to the doctor to have them checked out.
Although doctors initially thought Simon was suffering from some sort of infection, an ultrasound and biopsy discovered other areas were also affected, including the side of his neck. A short time later, he was diagnosed with cancer. During a follow-up appointment, Simon learned the cancer had spread to his throat, tonsils, and lymph nodes.
Because the cancer was too spread out for surgery, Simon is going through an aggressive treatment plan of chemotherapy every three weeks and radiation five days each week for seven weeks.
“The process is the real bad part,” Simon admitted. “It basically attacks all of your organs. You’re like poisoned. It’s been killing me. If I had a choice, I probably wouldn’t have done chemo and radiation at the same time, but that’s what they recommended. It’s like hitting your head with a hammer and pouring gas on yourself. I was ready to end it the other day, the symptoms were so bad. It’s almost worst than the cancer.”
In addition to experiencing ringing in his ear, Simon has been struggling to eat.
“You have an appetite but you can’t eat anything because your taste buds are gone, or they taste and smell like chemo — this metallic, disgusting taste and smell,” he said. “My throat is swollen and bleeding which makes it difficult to swallow even water.”
After learning of his diagnosis, Simon chose to keep the news from his coworkers and friends until his treatment began but told Tamra and their kids, Sidney Barney, 21, Spencer Barney, 19, and Sophia Barney, 14, right away.
“He told me the news and we both literally started crying. I just couldn’t believe it,” Tamra said through tears. “My first thought was, ‘I don’t want to take my kids to their dad’s funeral,’ and immediately, any ill feelings between the two of us just vanished. At the end of the day, none of that matters. All we have to do is rally together to make it through this.”
As RHOC fans will recall, Sidney sided with Simon when he and Tamra split and Spencer sided with his mom, leading to a major divide in the family.
“It’s kind of like a new beginning for me and my family. It’s really brought everyone closer together,” Simon said. “When I told Tamra, she said she cried for like, two or three days. Things changed with our relationship from there, in a good way. We’re getting along in ways we haven’t in years. And she’s become close with my fiancée.”
Simon has been engaged to Catushia Ienni since shortly after his split from Tamra.
“That’s what I’ve always wanted,” Simon continued. “My fiancée, the same thing, she’s always wanted that with my ex-wife, for the kids. The kids would prefer it if we all got along. And they see that now, and it’s had such a powerful effect.”
Despite the grim diagnosis, Simon said he has hope for a recovery and is doing his best to stay positive.
“I’m a huge optimist; the glass is always half full, not half empty. And I’ve always been that way, the cancer just enhanced it,” he explained. “Everyone in my life has been so supportive and offered to drive me to treatments and take care of me, but my whole motto is, ‘Don’t treat me like a cancer patient because that’s not how I want to be treated.’ So I stay strong and don’t let this take me down. Because if your attitude sucks — if you start believing, ‘Oh my God, cancer’s a death sentence’ — then you’re done.”
Photos Credit: Instagram, Vince Flores/startraksphoto.com