It’s been a hard few days for Nick Cannon. The 41-year-old is currently enduring a suffering like no other – the pain of losing his youngest son with Alyssa Scott, Zen, who lived to be five months old.

The San Diego-born star chatted with PEOPLE about how he’s been coping with the tragedy, as well as why he and Scott made the decision to forgo chemotherapy for the duration of their baby’s short life. “We started asking, ‘Is there a way to prevent this? If not, how long do we have?’” he recalled.

“The conversations quickly turned to, ‘How can we give him the best life for the time that he does have?’ It could be weeks, it could be months, it could be years.” Seeing as Canon had previously undergone chemotherapy to help treat his autoimmune condition, lupus, he knew first-hand how hard it would be on his infant child.

“We could have had that existence where he would've had to live in the hospital, hooked up to machines, for the rest of the time. From someone who's had to deal with chemotherapy before, I know that pain. To see that happen to a 2-month-old, I didn't want that. I didn't want him to suffer,” the Monster House voice actor explained.

Scott and Cannon first picked up on an issue with their son days after his birth, noting his “super calm” behaviour and an off-sounding breathing pattern. “It sounded like he had fluid in his lungs, like a sinus infection or something,” he told PEOPLE. “[The doctors] didn't think it to be anything too concerning.” Just a few weeks later, doctors noted that Zen’s head seemed to be growing faster than normal.

Following his diagnosis, Zen’s parents were determined to “create moments of joy every day” for their baby. “We focused on Disneyland, our favorite place,” the father of seven shared. “Every month we would celebrate his birthday, just really seeing it as a victory every time he had a milestone that he was still here with us.”

Cannon admitted that he could feel his youngest child’s struggles. “He was gasping for air. We'd wake up, and he wouldn't be breathing for maybe five to 10 seconds at a time, and then he'd let out a huge gasp. You could see it frightened him. It was the scariest thing I've ever experienced,” the entertainer confessed.

Following his loss, America’s Got Talent host got some ink dedicated to baby Zen – read more about that here.