“I thought, ‘If I can get through cancer, I can get through anything. I don’t care about sleeping in the dirt. I don’t care about not getting food. I don’t care about being away from home for so long. I can do this because I’ve already won the biggest fight of my life,’ ” Burquest, 45, tells PEOPLE of competing on the CBS reality competition four years after going through five surgeries, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 28 days of radiation to beat her cancer.
Now back home in Otsego, Minnesota, after being eliminated on Wedensday’s episode of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, the youth pastor and mother of four reflects on the blindside that sent her home, how her health battle inspired her to compete and why her kids look at her as a “warrior” now.
Did you have any idea you were going to be voted out when you were?
It was a complete shock. I never went into tribal with 100 percent certainty that I was safe. I was always humble enough to think it could be me going home. But walking into that tribal, I’d had conversations with Adam and Hannah during the day and I really thought I knew what was going to happen. The first time my name came up, I thought, “Okay. That could just be random.” But the second time I saw my name, I knew I was going home. All I could think was, “Why me?” David and Jay — all these threats — were sitting there. I don’t understand why they felt it was my time to go.
What was it like watching your elimination at home with your kids?
It was difficult. My kids obviously didn’t know it was coming and they were like, “We cant wait! You’re going to make it through again!” It was hard to sit there knowing what was about to happen. But that’s the show and they were so proud of me. The loved when I made people think we were going to vote Ken the time we all had to draw rocks. My boys made sure to point out how well or not well I did in the challenges, but we would laugh about it. We’ve been watching the show together since the very beginning so it was special for them to see me on it.
Did surviving breast cancer play a role in your decision to apply to be on the show?
It was for sure. We’ve been watching since the beginning. Eight years ago I said, “I’m going to be on that show,” and my kids just laughed at me. But I’d survived breast cancer and I was about to turn 45 and I thought, “Now is the time.” There were days that were hard and I would think, “How did I get here? Why am I doing this?” But then I would think, “No. You can do this. You got through eight rounds of chemo and all these surgeries. You can do this.”
The Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X finale airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.