It’s been a time full of constant headlines for “Jeopardy!” In addition to the naming of new hosts and the historic run of Amy Schneider, who became the winningest woman in the show’s history, a new champion is using her platform on the game show to end the stigma around cancer treatment.
On the show that aired Feb. 28, Christine Whelchel — at that point a three-day “Jeopardy!” champion — looked strikingly different than she had in her previous days on the show. The piano teacher from Tennessee went from bouncy blonde waves to a cute pixie cut seemingly overnight.
When she chatted with host Ken Jennings during the show, she revealed that the short cut was actually the result of her hair growing back out after she’d undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer. (She is now cancer-free!)
“After the winnings, I decided that I didn’t need to hide behind a wig anymore, and I wanted to normalize what cancer recovery looks like,” she told Jennings on the show. “Jeopardy!” shared a clip of the moment on Twitter, calling her “a strong ‘Jeopardy!’ player and an even stronger person.”
A strong Jeopardy! player and an even stronger person. pic.twitter.com/NQqJS2uAs1
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) March 1, 2022
On Monday, Whelchel’s winnings grew to a robust $73,602 after four days. (Sadly, her run ended Tuesday, just one win shy of qualifying for the annual Tournament of Champions.)
A “Jeopardy!” player being open about her experience with cancer was particularly touching given the show’s own tragic brush with the disease. Longtime host Alex Trebek died in 2020 after living with pancreatic cancer for nearly two years while continuing his work on the show.
And pop culture, generally, is getting more realistic about cancer and its treatment. Celebrities like Shannen Doherty and Selma Blair have openly discussed their health struggles and chemotherapy. (Blair underwent the treatment for multiple sclerosis.)
Here’s Blair looking totally fierce after chemo in 2019 — “That’s how I roll,” she wrote.
— Selma Blair (@SelmaBlair) August 11, 2019
According to the Mayo Clinic, hair loss is just an unintended side effect of chemotherapy. Chemo drugs target fast-growing cells in the body — unfortunately this means hair cells get hit along with cancer cells. Hair usually grows back after treatment is completed.
As we’ve seen, Whelchel’s hair is returning and she’s on the mend from her ordeal. Here’s to her, her honesty and her super smarts!