Jason LaVeris/Filmmagic; Albert Michael/Startraks
Michele Stueven
November 09, 2012 07:30 PM

There have been more than a few surprises at Dancing with Stars this season, but none bigger than host Brooke Burke-Charvet’s announcement of a cancer diagnosis.

“You would never have known she was going through this,” competitor Melissa Rycroft, who currently is atop the leaderboard, tells PEOPLE. “We all commend her for being brave and going public with it and I know she’s a fighter. She will pull through this.”

Rycroft’s pro partner Tony Dovolani adds, “As parents, we know exactly what she is going through. She has an incredible heart and a strong mind. In fact, she’s actually trying to be strong for all of us. Things like this bring us all closer.”

Burke-Charvet, 41, a mother of four, revealed on the Modern Mom YouTube channel that she will undergo thyroid surgery and a thyroidectomy after a cancerous nodule was discovered on her thyroid.

“I can relate to her on a mother’s standpoint,” Rycroft, mom of 19-month-old daughter Ava Grace, said during a break in rehearsals Friday. “She said something in her video that really touched me. She said, ‘I’m usually the one taking care of everybody. I’m the mom. I’m the wife. And now I need people to take care of me.’ I think that hits home with most women and mothers.”

“That’s our role,” adds Rycroft. “We put on that tough armor, which is what Brooke’s done for the past two months.”

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