Survivor Contestant Adam Klein Shares His Story
Winning Season 33 of Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X was the fulfillment of a dream that started when I was 9 years old, watching the finale of the first season with my family. For 16 years, we gathered once a week to watch our favorite show together as a family. Getting on Survivor was a family dream. My mom, Susie, and I came close to being cast on a family season of the show just over two years ago. At 58 years old, she would have been the 3rd oldest female contestant in Survivor history. She was not only physically cleared for the game, but was in incredible shape and would have run circles around me.
That’s why it felt truly unbelievable when my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer in August of last year. My mom never smoked, was a consciously healthy eater, and worked out every single day; in other words, she was a health nut.
My mom was always full of life, passion and love, even in the face of this devastating disease. She never once stopped thriving. She was the type of person that knew everyone in the neighborhood. They all knew her and her brilliant smile and energy. She danced constantly, even when no one else did, and to this day I feel her with me the most when I’m on the dance floor. With her encouragement and her ability to live fully ingrained within me, I applied again for Survivor, and this time, I was accepted.
Leaving my mom to pursue this shared dream of ours was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but there was never a doubt in our minds about what I should do. My brother, my dad, and my mom all encouraged me to go, and I knew that I could bring her more joy and more to look forward to by taking on this adventure than I ever could sitting at home. If my mom was going to keep living life to her fullest, I was going to follow her lead.
In May of this year, just an hour after I arrived home from taping the Survivor season, and a too-short, 9 months after her diagnosis, my, mom passed. We tried everything, including three different systemic treatments, none of which worked for even a day. When it comes to lung cancer, the answers just aren’t there yet for most patients. Lung cancer is by far the deadliest cancer, with more deaths per year than the next four leading types combined, but it receives a fraction of the funding.
It’s common for people to speculate on how someone got lung cancer. Did they smoke? Did they live in an area with smog? There is an implicit bias that makes people believe that they must have done something along the way to develop it. It’s an unfair assumption that keeps lung cancer out of the front-of-mind when considering what causes to donate to and support.
This stigma, combined with the relatively few lung cancer survivors available to champion the cause, has led to a tragic inequality in research funding. Per death, lung cancer receives just 1/14th of the federal funding dollars spent on breast cancer. The answer, of course, is not to decrease funding for other diseases, but to raise lung cancer up as an equal cause to champion.
It has been beyond challenging to watch myself on Survivor without my mom physically by my side. And yet, I know that she would be proud that her story is helping other families struggling with loss, and inspiring even more to end this terrible disease and live a life as full as she always did, all the way until her final days. If we can change and save even a few lives by sharing her story, we’ll have brought some meaning to what otherwise can seem meaningless.
In honor and in memory of my mom Susie Klein, I am proud to announce my family’s support for Stand Up To Cancer’s (SU2C) lung cancer research. SU2C is tackling lung cancer in a big way, including the SU2C-American Cancer Society Lung Cancer Dream Team that is researching the very same cancer mutation that made it so difficult to treat my mom’s lung cancer.
Now through December 31st, you can go to su2c.org/survivor to learn more about my story and donate directly to SU2C’s lung cancer research in honor of my mom and all our loved ones who have fought this disease. I also want to give a huge thank you to Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, a major supporter of Stand Up To Cancer, who is generously matching these donations up to a total of $100,000 to make our contribution to lung cancer research even greater! Bristol-Myers Squibb first collaboration with SU2C contributed funding toward the SU2C-ACS Lung Cancer Dream Team and their support has continued to grow in the fight against lung and other cancers with a focus on innovation in the promising field of immuno-oncology. It is thanks to incredible partners like Bristol-Myers Squibb, and donors like you, that SU2C is able to do amazing things to find new treatments so cancer patients can, one day, be cancer survivors.
The Stand Up To Cancer — American Cancer Society Lung Cancer Dream Team and researchers across the SU2C portfolio are at the forefront of some very promising lung cancer research, but we still have so far to go, and we need your help to get there. Please, help bring some meaning to our tragedy, and make a donation today. Then, to multiply your impact, ask your friends on social media to do the same. Together, we can help more and more lung cancer patients become real-life Survivors. Learn more and donate at su2c.org/survivor.