What We Know About The 2021 Death Of Survivor Contestant Sunday Burquest

Sunday Burquest was a youth pastor from Otsego, Minnesota who appeared on the reality TV series "Survivor" in 2016. Her season was dubbed "Millenials vs. Gen X" with the then 45-year-old Burquest — that season's oldest woman, per USA Today — a member of the Generation X Takali tribe (per CBS).

Several years after her time on "Survivor," Burquest announced that she had received an esophageal cancer diagnosis, and eventually the disease spread to her lymph nodes and ovaries as well. This came after she had survived a previous battle with breast cancer. At the time of her diagnosis, Burquest was given only months to live.

"Here's my thinking," she told People soon after her diagnosis. "No one knows how much time you have left. Accidents can happen. Miracles can happen. Someone healthy can die unexpectedly, and someone sick can live for much longer than expected. So I don't think of this as a death sentence; I think of this as something that has happened, and is now a part of my life. And I'm going to live my life as fully as I can."

Sunday Burquest on Survivor

Sunday Burquest said that being on "Survivor" was a dream of hers. According to CBS, she was asked why she wanted to be on the show. "My primary motivation is of course a $1 million!" she said. "Second, I want to prove to myself that I can do it. As a fan of the show from the very first season, I've spent hours dreaming about being on the island, making alliances, finding hidden Immunity Idols, and, most of all, walking away with the title of Sole Survivor!"

Burquest wound up securing a seventh-place finish on the show, and when her run on "Survivor" came to an end she told Entertainment Weekly she never regretted going on the show, even when things were difficult. She added, "I remember our first night sitting in our quickly made shelter in a horrible storm for what felt like an eternity." 

Burquest continued by saying, "We were miserable, freezing, and soaking wet. I kept telling myself, you signed up for this, you asked for this as cold rain was going down the back of my neck all night. Even at that, I never regretted going on the show. My seven days in the hospital and two surgeries never made me regret it for a second ... There is so much about 'Survivor' that is a part of my life and I am still a huge fan, I'll never regret getting this opportunity."

Sunday Burquest faced a second bout with cancer

On the show, Sunday Burquest was popular with both fans and fellow contestants. She also remained active in the community by meeting "Survivor" fans and making appearances at charity events. In addition, Burquest wrote a book in 2018 about how her faith had helped her in her battle with breast cancer, titled "Grit Girl: Power to Survive Inspired by Grace," according to People.

Burquest leaned on her faith once again after announcing she was facing a second battle with cancer in 2020. "Things happen to you," she said to People, "but you can handle it with strength and faith. And my faith gives me strength. I will fight this. The stage has been set for God to do great things, no matter what."

Tragically Burquest died on April 18, 2021, at the age of 50. The announcement of her death drew tributes from many with ties to the "Survivor" franchise including the show's host, Jeff Probst.

"Sunday Burquest had one of the brightest smiles of any person to ever play Survivor," Probst wrote in a post to Instagram. "She radiated kindness and understanding to anyone lucky enough to be in her presence. She seemed to understand better than most, that life is for living, so say yes to life whenever possible. My condolences go out to her family and friends during this difficult time.