Like many smart people, Cindy Stowell always wanted to appear on “Jeopardy!”
She was certainly intelligent enough, but she was busy earning a doctorate in chemical engineering and working a demanding job as a science content developer in Austin.
Then tragedy struck – Stowell was diagnosed with breast cancer. Among the many things in her life left unfinished, one of them was appearing on the popular game show. So she took the online contestant test earlier this year, the first step in applying for the show.
Then, this summer, she received an invitation to come to Oklahoma City for an in-person audition, the next step in the process. But she also knew the devastating truth: she was running out of time.
Doctors told her she had about six months left to live.
So she wrote a difficult note to the show’s contestant producer Maggie Speak, asking how quickly they film the show after the audition. She told Speak that she wanted to donate her winnings, if there were any, to “charities involved in cancer research.”
The show posted the note on its website. Here it is, in full:
“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 6 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 try out spot to someone else.”
Speak quickly responded, asking Stowell to attend the taping. If she qualified, Speak told her, they would rush the filming of her episode as quickly as possible.
The soonest they could film was three weeks later, on Aug. 31, but that would be enough time.
And it proved to be enough time.
She appeared on the show and fought hard against two opponents unaware of her circumstances.
That episode will run on Tuesday, Dec. 13. But, sadly, Stowell won’t be around to see it.
She died on Dec. 5., a mere week before it’s set to air.
“When Cindy Stowell taped her appearance on ‘Jeopardy!,’ she had Stage 4 cancer,” said “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek in a statement. “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.”
Her parents Carole and Greg and longtime boyfriend Jason Hess, who on Twitter called her the “best friend, partner and pub trivia teammate a guy could ask for,” also released a statement.
“Cindy came on Jeopardy! to play the game she loved and in doing so, she was able to make a contribution to cancer research in the hopes that no one else would have to go through what she did.”