Cindy Stowell is the encouragement people need to see through these final days of 2016.
Although her six-game winning streak is far from Ken Jennings’ 74-win record, her run is remarkable for another reason.
Stowell battled Stage IV colon cancer while filming the game show. She’s been hailed as “brilliant” and “an inspiration,” though she won’t know the impact she’s had in peoples’ lives — she died on Dec. 5, a week before her first episode aired.
When the science content developer from Austin, Texas made her “Jeopardy!” debut on Dec. 13, she defeated a seven-time champion. Since then, she’s dominated the game. As of Dec. 21, she is a six-time champion and had won $103,803. She requested that her winnings be donated to cancer research.
Stowell’s “Jeopardy!” journey began in early 2016, when she passed the online contestant test and was called back months later for an in-person interview. Prior to the interview, she informed “Jeopardy!” contestant producer Maggie Speak of her illness — revealing she had approximately six months to live — and asked how long the process would take before her episodes would film. With help from Speak, Stowell was able to begin taping on Aug. 31, only three weeks after her in-person audition.
Virtually no one knew Stowell was sick during her appearances, except for host Alex Trebek and a small handful of staffers. Though she appeared poised and focused on stage, she was on painkillers and was fighting a high fever and had to rest during commercial breaks (five episodes are filmed in one day), according to her boyfriend Jason Hess. Even her “Jeopardy!” competitors praised her skill and fortitude.
“It was a privilege to compete against someone so brilliant,” wrote fellow contestant Julia Kite via Twitter. “Her family, friends, and @CancerResearch have a lot to be proud of.”
Another contestant Bridget McNulty added: “[S]he was an awesome person and brought a great cheering squad.”
After her fifth win, Stowell qualified for the annual Tournament of Champions. To mark the milestone, Jennings tweeted, “Cindy qualified for a Tournament of Champions she wouldn’t live to see. In 2016 ‘bittersweet’ is the best we can do.”
Tune in tonight to “Jeopardy” tonight to see if Stowell’s winning streak continues.