Survivor's Sunday Burquest Diagnosed with Esophageal and Ovarian Cancer
Burquest, who was a pastor when she competed on Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X, confirmed to PEOPLE that she has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes and ovaries. She announced the news on social media on Sunday evening.
"Today I was told that I had both, that esophageal cancer started and traveled to my ovary," she shared. "It’s not a super great thing, of course, and not fun to hear."
"I do know that I have already survived cancer once and I will survive it again," she continued, pointing to her shirt that already says that she beat her diagnosis. “That is why I’m wearing this shirt and saying right now I survived it.”
Burquest battled breast cancer in 2012. She underwent multiple surgeries, as well as chemotherapy and radiation. She was declared cancer-free in time to compete on Survivor in 2016. Using her social skills and her ability to work well with younger contestants, she lasted for 35 days and finished the season in 7th place.
Burquest, a committed Christian, wrote a book in 2018 about her journey. Grit Girl: Power to Survive Inspired by Grace describes how she found peace in her faith — and how the "grit" in her life transformed her into a stronger, more resilient person.
Eight years later, she finds herself in a similar situation — and she tells PEOPLE that she intends to rely on her faith once again to help her weather the weeks and months ahead. She says she will undergo whatever medical treatment is most appropriate for her diagnosis.
But despite the uncertainty, Burquest knows that she's not alone.
"Many people are going through difficult times right now," she says. "I want to reach out and say, 'you can survive.' If we stick together and are there for each other, it makes the fight so much easier."
Burquest says that telling her children — including a son who is getting married in five weeks — about her diagnosis was "difficult," but that this is familiar territory for them. "They have seen me already survive. We are a house of faith, we put our hope in God," she says, "and we believe in hope."