The word "survivor" has taken on a whole new meaning for Jenn Lyon. One of the final four in the CBS TV series, Survivor: Palau, Jenn was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer shortly after the series aired.
"It was a total shock," says Lyon, who had been given a clean bill of health in order to be able to compete on the show. "I'd been healthy my whole life. When I went in for the check-up I felt the best ever."
That was in July 2005 and the next year proved to be a real life survivor challenge. Jenn had a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment that she completed in April. "No more blond hair," she laments playfully. "It all came out with the treatment and it came back much darker, and curly."
During her ordeal, Jenn made a commitment to use her experience to benefit others and has since become a vocal activist promoting cancer awareness and speaking especially to younger women who don’t always want to confront the risk. She has been featured on "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood" and in such magazines as "People," "TV Guide" and most recently in "Coping with Cancer" magazine. And she has been speaking at cancer walks, churches and community organizations. "I'm still not comfortable being a speaker," she says, "but if I can encourage someone by my experience, I know it is what I am supposed to be doing. So many people want to know what it’s like to be dropped off on an island in the middle of the ocean with a bunch of strangers and just the clothes you are wearing. I get to tell them that the entire Survivor experience was endurance training for my breast cancer."
A trained nutritionist, Jenn will sign autographs and share her experiences at the Grand Opening of the new Max Muscle Sports Fitness store in McCormick Ranch on Saturday, November 18 from 1 – 4 p.m. In the morning, she will help kick off the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk at Tempe Beach Park. "Wherever there's someone who needs some encouragement, I'll do my best to be there," she says. "All through my treatment I was blessed with lots of people who had been there before and were willing to share."