Linda Shaver-Gleason was told she had about five months to live after undergoing brain radiation — the average survival rate.
That was in late March, and it was unclear if the 34-year-old cancer patient would be able to live long enough to watch herself compete on her Jeopardy! episode.
A Lompoc resident who received her Ph.D in musicology from UC Santa Barbara, Shaver-Gleason viewed her appearance on the television quiz show Tuesday night.
“I am proud of how I did and I think I looked good on TV, though seeing myself in the wig is disorienting,” Shaver-Gleason said. “As for other game shows — we’ll see what opportunities happen. I’m not really one who seeks out trivia contests, usually.”
It all came down to the final moment and Shaver-Gleason finished in second place, wining $2,000.
The game show contestant and mother of one son was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2015.
She was experiencing unbearable back pain and when doctors caught the disease, the MRI results showed tumors throughout her spine and pelvis.
“I was pretty close to not making it,” Shaver-Gleason said. “We found it so late.”
Shaver-Gleason took her third attempt of the online “Jeopardy!” contestant test earlier this year.
In February, she received an invitation to come to the game show’s set in Culver City, California, for an in-person audition. At the time, she still had her pixie haircut.
Doctors told Shaver-Gleason the cancer had spread to her brain on the day she received the consistent confirmation email. The Lombard, Illinois native was afraid the treatment was going to damage her intellect.
“I’ve put so much of my life into being intelligent — that’s part of my identity,” Shaver-Gleason said. “I was scared.”
The same month the television show filming took place, Shaver-Gleason completed 18 treatments of brain radiation. She started to lose her hair after a few weeks.
“Going untreated isn’t an option,” Shaver-Gleason said.
She feared the cancer treatment would delay her response delivery on Jeopardy! — which is an important motor skill for the competitors.
Up to 75 percent of people with cancer have cognitive problems during treatment, according to Cancer.Net, a web site of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
“Speed is of the essence,” Shaver-Gleason said. “I had to react under pressure. I was afraid that I was going to embarrass myself. I didn’t want to mess up during the filming — fortunately, that didn’t happen.”
One of the Jeopardy! clues was about blood transfusions.
Clutching the black buzzer in her hand, Shaver-Gleason was ready to react at the correct moment.
“I got that one right, having received more than a few lately,” she said.
Shaver-Gleason faced a one-day defending champion.
Heading into the final question — the most high-stakes category of the show — Shaver-Gleason answered correctly.
“It was a close game,” she said.
Shaver-Gleason is an accomplished violist, pianist and writer.
She is a freelance writer and also critiques published writing on classical music and debunks historical myths on her blog, Not Another Music History Cliché.
She received UCSB’s Stanley Krebs Memorial Prize in Musicology and the Robert Chapman Prize in Music in 2009, has published two articles in the Journal of the American Viola Society and presented a paper at the North American British Music Studies Association conference in 2012.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.