From “Survivor” to Surviving Hodgkin Lymphoma: How Ethan Zohn’s Log Challenge Raises Cancer Awareness


Growing up, my family and I faithfully watched Survivor each week. Although my parents stopped watching a few years back, settling in every Wednesday during the season is somewhat of a ritual for me. Recently, Survivor had its 40th season and a lot of big names came back. One person I was especially excited to see was Ethan Zohn, the winner of Survivor‘s 3rd season. Ethan was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma 11 years ago – and has conquered the cancer twice since then. Now, this year, he is working to raise awareness for leukemia and lymphoma.

As he told Cure, Ethan paired up with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for this year’s Big Virtual Climb. Part of what he’s bringing to the table is his Log Challenge, inspired (of course) by his time on Survivor.

Log Challenge

Every year, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society holds their Big Climb in San Francisco. During this event, participants climb 61 flights of stairs in the Salesforce Tower to raise awareness and money for cancer research. However, this year, the Big Climb was forced online. As many of you know, we’re currently in the middle of a global pandemic. COVID-19 has resulted in 6.93 million diagnoses worldwide and 403,000 fatalities, with 2.01 million diagnoses and 113,000 fatalities in the United States alone as of this writing. But not even COVID-19 could get in the way of raising awareness. So, the Big Virtual Climb was born. And with it came Ethan’s spin: the Log Challenge.

Survivor Inspiration

Season 40 of Survivor was ground-breaking; it brought back 20 show winners to compete for $2 million. Alongside amazing winners like Yul Kwon, Boston Rob, and Natalie Anderson, Ethan battled it out in Fiji.

Unfortunately, the “New School” players quickly took out the “Old School” players, and Ethan was sent to Edge of Extinction, where he could battle to get back into the game. On the Edge, players also competed in side challenges to win advantages. One of these was called Log Jam. Players raced across the beach and scattered rocks, then up a mountain, to collect logs. Whoever could transfer all 20 logs the fastest would win a reward.

But the experience was difficult for Ethan. He explains that he fainted after carrying his 16th log. But instead of the other contestants using that to their advantage, they stopped to help him. In fact, they even helped carry him up and down the hill so that he could finish. Inspired by their kindness, compassion, and support, Ethan wanted to recreate a similar challenge for the Big Virtual Climb.

Supporting Hodgkin Lymphoma, Leukemia, and Cancer: How to Participate

The aim of Ethan’s Log Challenge is to raise $20,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. All donations are tax deductible and will go towards blood cancer research, treatments, and advocacy. But if you can’t donate, don’t worry! You can still participate in the challenge.

First step: Register online here. Registration is open until the Log Challenge begins on Saturday, June 13th.

Next step: Participate in the Log Challenge! To do so, perform the following:

  • Find a log, any log. If you can’t find a log, grab a branch. Then if you can’t find a branch, grab a stick. If you can’t find any of those, look up a log on your phone. It’s symbolic and it still counts.
  • Holding your log, walk 200 steps. Then perform 20 step-ups.
  • Repeat that process 20 times.

Opening ceremonies will be streamed online at 9am Eastern, Central, and Pacific times. After 9:30am Eastern, challengers can join in as the Finisher Festival occurs online.

If you want to help Ethan raise awareness, tag any photos online with #BigVirtualClimb or #ClimbConquerCure.

Hodgkin Lymphoma

Also known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Hodgkin disease, Hodgkin lymphoma is cancer in the body’s lymphatic system. Basically, your lymphatic system runs throughout your entire body and is made up of a series of thin vessels. Your lymph nodes, spleen, and tonsils are also a part of this system. But within the vessels in your lymphatic system are lymph, a clear liquid full of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

In Hodgkin lymphoma, a genetic mutation tells lymphocytes to start multiplying. This abnormal growth crowds out healthy cells. Since your lymphatic system is part of your immune system, this also prevents your body from fighting infection. There are 4 main types of Hodgkin lymphoma: nodular sclerosis, lymphocyte depleted, mixed cellularity, or lymphocyte predominant.

Hodgkin lymphoma makes up less than 1% of all American cancer diagnoses. Those with this cancer usually develop it between ages 15 and 40, although it can rarely affect older or younger individuals. Symptoms include:

  • Night sweats, fever, and chills
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Increased alcohol sensitivity
  • Persistent and worsening fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
    • More uncommonly, swollen lymph nodes in the groin, abdomen, armpits, or chest
  • Organ enlargement
  • Bone pain
  • Intense itching
  • Kidney or gastrointestinal problems

Learn more about Hodgkin lymphoma here.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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