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‘Jeopardy!’ contestant ditches wig to ‘normalize’ cancer recovery

Breast cancer survivor Christine Whelchel ditched her wig on 'Jeopardy!' after a few nights of play. Courtesy / Jeopardy!

What a way to celebrate being cancer-free.

Jeopardy! contestant Christine Whelchel first appeared on the show last week with what appeared to be dirty-blonde hair fashioned into loose curls.

Read more: Calgary man selected to appear on ‘Jeopardy!’ works on buzzer reflexes and U.S. presidents

When the champion returned to screens on Monday, however, something was different.

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Instead of the bouncy ‘do, Whelchel was sporting a shorn pixie cut, no more than an inch or two long.

The piano teacher and church organist from Spring Hill, Tenn., explained to host Ken Jennings that she had ditched a wig in an effort to “normalize what cancer recovery looks like.”

“After the winnings, I decided that I didn’t need to hide behind a wig anymore,” she said.

Whelchel is a breast cancer survivor who completed her treatments for early-stage disease last year.

“I was diagnosed in March of 2021, and one of the first things I did a couple of weeks after being diagnosed was take the Jeopardy! test,” Whelchel told Jennings. “And I ended up getting my audition the night before my surgery in May.”

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Read more: Amy Schneider’s history-making ‘Jeopardy!’ run comes to an end

Plenty of breast cancer survivors applauded Whelchel for her decision to ditch the wig.

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Early-stage breast cancer patients typically lose their hair due to aggressive forms of chemotherapy that damage rapidly growing cells. These drugs attack both good and bad cells – including those at the hair root.

Whelchel had a good run on the show – she collected US$73,602 in her four-game winning streak – but was bested by contestant Margaret Shelton during her fifth appearance.

She shared some words of hope in an interview with the show after her fourth win.

“Just keep going forward with your dreams. Don’t let age or cancer or your life circumstance, or anything, limit you.”

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Unfortunately, Whelchel’s loss cost her a spot at the show’s annual Tournament of Champions.

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