It turns out that Tamra Judge quitting The Real Housewives of Orange County was just a footnote in what her family is going through.
Simon Barney, the father of three of her children, has grim news: He has Stage 3 throat cancer.
"I'm a private person, despite what my time on reality television might say," Simon Barney tells People in a grave new interview.
"But I wanted to speak before someone else does and uses their words, not mine," he explains.
"And to speak out about it," Simon shares, "so others can see how I've taken this fight on with optimism."
He adds: "and the good this has ultimately brought my life." Simon is referring to his diagnosis of Stage 3 throat cancer.
"I think everything happens for a reason, I think your destiny is pretty much set for you, and you're here to learn lessons," Simon opines.
"This has been a tough lesson for me," the father of three admits. "And I'm hoping it can be a lesson for others, too."
It turns out that Simon first began to notice symptoms in May of 2019. At the time, his salivary glands were swollen on one side.
Doctors initially assumed that it was an infection. Unfortunately, an ultrasound and biopsy found other impacted areas, including the side of his neck.
The diagnosis ended up being cancer. It had spread to his throat, to his tonsils, and to his lymph nodes.
He did not begin telling most people about his diagnosis until last month, when his treatments began.
Surgery was not a viable option, which means a brutal regimen of radiation and chemotherapy -- in conjunction with each other.
Simon has chemo every three weeks and undergoes radiation every single day -- five days a week -- for seven weeks.
Obviously, Simon didn't wait to tell everyone. He told his fiancee of many years, Catushia Ienni (below).
He also told his ex, Tamra Judge, and their three children: 19-year-old Spencer, 21-year-old Sidney, and 14-year-old Sophia.
Sidney, who has been estranged from Tamra for years, began communicating again. So have Simon and Spencer.
Simon has even had more contact with 34-year-old Ryan Vieth (below), even though they basically never got along.
"He told me the news and we both literally started crying. I just couldn’t believe it,” Tamra Judge reveals to People.
Simon told her at a Starbucks, she shares, adding: “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," Tamra characterizes.
"At the end of the day, none of that matters," she emphasizes of past grudges. "All we have to do is rally together to make it through this."
"It’s kind of like a new beginning for me and my family. It’s really brought everyone closer together,” Simon reveals.
“When I told Tamra, she said she cried for like, 2-3 days," he shares.
"Things changed with our relationship from there, in a good way."
"We’re getting along in ways we haven’t in years," he shares. "And she’s become close with my fiancee."
Simon adds: "And that shift carried across the board with my kids, too."
"That’s what I’ve always wanted," Simon expresses. “My fiancee, 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," he adds. "And they see that now, and it’s had such a powerful effect."
While he looks on the bright side, Simon is the first to admit that the process of actually fighting the cancer is just awful.
"The process is the real bad part,” he admits. “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," he characterizes accurately.
"I was ready to end it the other day, the symptoms were so bad," Simon reveals. "It’s almost worst than the cancer."
"You go in Monday, you get the chemo," he narrates. "By Friday, Saturday, Sunday, all the steroids are wearing off that they give you."
The steroids wear off "and it really hits you,” Simon describes. “I just curl up in a ball for the whole weekend in my bed."
"And then pray that the truck gets off me," he continues. "Because I was run over by one."
"Then they give you a shot that’s supposed to help your white blood cells multiply."
"And that hurts your bones," he shares, "so you feel like you can’t walk."
“And then the radiation, basically they hit me in my neck, my throat, and the tonsil area," he details.
"It’s like a 9 out of 10 pain. It’s a lot of pain," Simon admits.
"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."
“My throat is swollen and bleeding which makes it difficult to swallow even water," Simon continues.
"I have hope,” he emphasizes. “Doctors have said I’m doing really well so far."
"They look at me and they go, ‘Man, you don’t look like you’re going through chemo.’ So that’s good, the prognosis is good."
"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."
Simon emphasizes: "If your attitude sucks -- if you start believing, ‘Oh my God, cancer’s a death sentence’ -- then you’re done."
"I think, if you had to pick out of from all my family, I was the right person to get it,” he expresses. “I can survive this, at least mentally."
"Listen, if it’s my time to die, it’s my time to die,” Simon adds. “I’ve lived a good life, and you can’t do anything about that."
"But if it’s not, then I’m going to fight this. I’m going to fight it with a smile and a laugh, and I’m going to beat it. It’s whatever my destiny is."