11/02/2011 at 02:35 PM EDT
When former Survivor
winner Ethan Zohn first learned that his Hodgkin's lymphoma had returned
, "I was just angry," he tells PEOPLE. "I was scared that I was going to die."
"I felt like defeated almost because I was back in action," Zohn continues.
Zohn and girlfriend of eight years, Jenna Morasca
, who also won Survivor
, had recently competed on The Amazing Race
and we were working on their own TV show, Everyday Health
, as well as book deals.
"My life was going like how I envisioned it," he says.
After his first chemo treatment on Oct. 18, Zohn noticed an immediate difference in terms of side effects.
"With this new drug SGN-35, they aren't nearly as bad as they were," he says. "Just lethargy, nausea, headaches for a little while, but now I'm feeling good and I'm continuing to train for the New York City Marathon."
Moving forward, Zohn plans to have his second treatment of chemo just two days later on Nov. 8.
"I think in the cancer world, the general perception is that there are winners and losers," he says. "[That] you either beat cancer and you win – or you don't and you die. But the reality of it is, I did everything in my power to beat cancer, and I did. But it came back. And that's okay, too."
Adds Zohn: "I'm not a failure. There are millions of people out there living with cancer and you can still have a fulfilled life
. You can go to work, raise a family, charge forward. That's what I'm doing here."
The support of his friends and family – especially Morasca – means everything to Zohn.
"It's good to know I have them by my side," Zohn says. "The best part about going public with this is that I get the support of fans and people out there, too. And I think that really helped last time."
"I just want to let others who are living with cancer know that I'm right there with them, living each day of my life, hopefully bringing more awareness," he says. "It's who I am, and I wanted to stand up for what I believe in."