If the last few Jeopardy! episodes have felt a little more emotionally heavy than normal, it might be because one of the contestants—a woman named Cindy Stowell—died just last week after a battle with colon cancer. As explained by a post on the Jeopardy! website, Stowell had passed the online eligibility test early this year, but when she found out the show had invited her to an in-person audition in the summer, she had to let the producers know about her cancer diagnosis. The Jeopardy! site shared a chunk of the message she sent, and it’s pretty touching all on its own:
Do you have any idea how long it typically takes between an in person interview, and the taping date? I ask because I just found out that I don’t have too much longer to live. The doctor’s best guess is about six months. If there is the chance that I’d be able to still tape episodes of Jeopardy! if I were selected, I’d like to do that and donate any winnings to…charities involved in cancer research. If it is unlikely that the turnaround time would be that quick, then I’d like to give up my tryout spot to someone else.
Jeopardy! producer Maggie Speak talked it over with the show’s other producers, and they told Stowell that if she passed the audition, they’d book her for the earliest taping they possibly could. Three weeks later, she filmed her first Jeopardy! episode—which finally aired yesterday—and won, unseating a seven-day champion and winning $22,001 for cancer research in the process. Stowell went on to defend her title in the episode airing today.
Only host Alex Trebek and some of the producers knew she was sick during the taping, and the Jeopardy! site shared a message from Trebek:
When Cindy Stowell taped her appearance on Jeopardy!, she had Stage 4 cancer. Competing on Jeopardy! was a lifelong dream for Cindy, and we’re glad she was able to do so. Sadly, Cindy died on December 5. Our condolences and best wishes to her family and friends.
You can see a simultaneously thrilling and heartbreaking video of Stowell’s win below: