Woman’s story on Jeopardy inspires those touched by cancer

By Melanie Mizenko - [email protected] | December 22nd, 2016 2:39 pm

The Cancer Research Institute, in New York, will receive an early Christmas present, courtesy of an inspiring woman whose story has reached millions because of her posthumous televised appearances on the game show “Jeopardy.”

More than $100,000 is being donated to the research institute because of the late Cindy Stowell, of Texas, and her incredible run on the show, which ended after Wednesday’s broadcast. Stowell was battling stage IV colon cancer while taping the quiz program in late August, and according to USA Today, none of her foes was aware of her disease.

Area cancer patients and those who have been directly affected by cancer were inspired by Stowell and her efforts.

Erin Pierce, who was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, said in an email that she finds Stowell’s perseverance in the midst of pain to be overwhelming.

“I don’t think I could do it,” said Pierce, of Bear Creek Township. “Stand there for hours on end and answer questions, all while going through a blood infection.”

Pierce noted she’d been in the hospital for several infections during her time as a cancer patient, and each time it wiped her energy level. “She’s got conviction, for sure,” Pierce said.

USA Today’s article on Stowell, 41, said her lifelong dream was to be on the show, but the contestant died a week before her successful run began airing. Stowell’s longtime boyfriend Jason Hess stated on Twitter that Cindy was battling a blood infection and was on painkillers during the taping.

For some, Stowell’s appearance is about positive impact. “She’s on a big stage, doing something great,” said Therese Kurilla, whose daughter, 4-year-old Ava, died of neuroblastoma.

Kurilla, of Larksville, said she sees a bit of her daughter in Stowell — strong willed and wanting to be a “normal” member of society. “They want to live their lives, be productive, or somebody’s friend,” she said.

Both Kurilla and Pierce stressed the opportunity for Stowell’s story to inspire.

“Cancer isn’t a death sentence, but it is a life sentence,” Pierce said noting, she’s been fighting the disease for four years, undergoing several cycles of chemotherapy.

Christine Krumich, operations manager of the Northeast Cancer Service Line at Geisinger Health System, said employees at the Henry Cancer Center are attuned to Stowell’s story. “Our team at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center’s Henry Cancer Center spends eight to 12 hours a day working with cancer patients just like Cindy, fighting for their lives while still trying to enjoy the time they have left,” she said.

Laura Toole, vice president of community and patient services for the Northeastern Regional Cancer Institute, said she is hopeful Stowell’s time on Jeopardy will spark a conversation at many dinner tables.

“Certainly a person with high visibility that is in some way affected by cancer can lead to increasing the conversation about cancer – whether it is a woman on a game show, the vice president’s son, or a famous actress like Angelina Jolie,” said Toole in an email.

Both Toole and Krumich were impressed that Stowell’s family is donating the money to cancer research.

“Funding for cancer research is critical in finding more effective ways to prevent certain cancers from occurring,” Toole said.

Krumich agreed, saying, “Without the generous donations from people like Cindy, we would be unable to battle this horrible disease.”

In this Aug. 31, 2016 photo provided by Jeopardy Productions, Inc., Cindy Stowell, right, appears on the "Jeopardy!" set with Alex Trebek in Culver City, Calif. Stowell, who competed on "Jeopardy!" while battling terminal colon cancer has died the week before her episode was set to air on Tuesday, Dec. 13, but prize money has gone to cancer research as she wished. (Courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc. via AP)
http://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/web1_jeopardy_one.jpgIn this Aug. 31, 2016 photo provided by Jeopardy Productions, Inc., Cindy Stowell, right, appears on the "Jeopardy!" set with Alex Trebek in Culver City, Calif. Stowell, who competed on "Jeopardy!" while battling terminal colon cancer has died the week before her episode was set to air on Tuesday, Dec. 13, but prize money has gone to cancer research as she wished. (Courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc. via AP)Courtesy of Jeopardy Productions Inc. via AP

By Melanie Mizenko

[email protected]

Reach Melanie Mizenko at 570-991-6116 or on Twitter @TL_MMizenko.


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