“Survivor: Africa” winner and cancer survivor Ethan Zohn appeared on CBS’s “The Early Show” this morning to announce the launch of “Survivor’s” new initiative to raise money for Stand Up to Cancer.
Zohn, who recently overcame Hodgkin’s lymphoma, sat down with Fancast afterward to discuss this exciting new alliance, his own battle with cancer, and how “Survivor” fans can join the team.
Gordon Holmes: Former “Survivor” players teaming up with cancer survivors to raise money for cancer research seems like a perfect fit.
Ethan Zohn: Yeah, pretty cool huh? For so long the “Survivor” family has been raising money for other charities, as they should, because the brand is so powerful and there are millions of fans that can help raise money. But, this is exciting because it’s the first real long-term initiative that “Survivor” is doing. It’s the first reality show, the first show to sign up for Stand Up to Cancer. It’s just awesome to be able to leave a legacy like this that will last long after the television show is off the air. The show’s great, don’t get me wrong, I love it. But it’s just a game and this is real life. We’re making an impact and we’re going to save lives.
Gordon: Now, you yourself had a fight with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and if I remember correctly, you kicked its ass.
Ethan: I did! I kicked its ass, man! This last year of my life pretty much sucked. But I got through the stem-cell transplant. And I got some good news in April that the cancer was in remission.
Ethan: The reason I mention the stem-cell transplant is because that is some really incredible modern medicine and science, and that’s really where the money raised by this initiative is going to go. It’s going to go to cancer research to get these new therapies out of the laboratories and to the patients as quickly as possible.
Gordon: What kind of support can we expect to see from your “Survivor” brethren?
Ethan: It’s awesome that all of the television-show Survivors are coming together. We shot a PSA, we have people like Rupert (Boneham), Jenna Morasca, Jerri (Manthey), Boston Rob (Mariano), Russell (Hantz), Colby (Donaldson)…everyone came together to make an impact and help find a cure for this dreadful disease.
Gordon: Earlier this year we lost “Survivor: Palau” contestant Jenn Lyon to breast cancer. Does that add special meaning to this project for you and the rest of the “Survivor” family?
Ethan: Yeah, that really is what sparked everyone to get this going. This is really in her honor. I live each day in her honor, and this is a way that everyone can give back. She’d be really proud of us, I know she’s really proud of us right now.
Gordon: I understand that there’s a special donation page that “Survivor” fans can visit to donate money and show their support.
Ethan: It’s standup2cancer.org/survivor. You can go there and join our tribe. You don’t have to donate to join our team. I’ll be blogging there, other Survivors will be sharing their stories as well. We produced a special limited-edition “Survivor” buff and 100% of the proceeds from donations and sales of the buff, all that will go to cancer research.
Gordon: Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard that the lovely Jenna Morasca had a hand in helping you overcome your challenging year.
Ethan: (Laughs) Who was that? What’s her name?
Gordon: Jenna Morasca? I believe she won “Survivor: Amazon.”
Ethan: Oh, I know her, chocolate and peanut butter, right?
Gordon: Yeah, that’s her.
Ethan: Jenna has been a rock. She dropped her whole life and was there for every doctor’s appointment, pin prick, chemotherapy treatment. Without her, it would have been a horrible situation. She definitely gave me the power to make it through it.
Gordon: “Survivor: Nicaragua” is right around the corner. Have you been following it at all?
Ethan: I saw the announcement of the cast. And, I like the concept of old vs. young. That’d kind of be like me vs. Jenna. It’s going to be exciting. I love the show.
Gordon: Who’s your early pick?
Ethan: Of course I’m going to lean toward the guy who could rival me for the best hair on television, Jimmy Johnson. (Laughs) It’s going to be a battle to see who’s got the better hair.
Gordon: I don’t mean to brag, but I got to see Jimmy Johnson a couple of days into the game and…well…I don’t know how well his hair holds up.
Ethan: (Laughs) Oh really? Alright, maybe I’ll switch my pick.
Gordon: You mentioned the PSA that is planned, are there other promotional stages you can share with us at this time?
Ethan: Yeah, eventually we’re going to get as many Survivors as possible doing stuff. We’re going to be doing fun events across the country that people can get involved with. You know, it’s not just a one-time thing. This is a year-round initiative. People can get involved whenever they want, they can raise money whenever they want.
Gordon: Earlier we discussed the “Survivor” family, and it really is more than the 39 days you spent in Africa. There are tight bonds between the different seasons, and it’s become a very close-knit community. What does it mean to you to be a part of this extended family?
Ethan: It’s incredible. When I was on “Survivor” I don’t think I understood the magnitude of the show and the actual power that it had. But ten years later to be a part of this movement is unbelievable. And now that we can all come together it’ll be unstoppable. We have millions of fans and everyone on the show is so excited to do this. And “Survivor,” granted it’s just a game, but it’s exciting to be a part of something so special.