Jennifer Lyon, who placed fourth on "Survivor: Palau" in 2005, died at her home in Oregon Tuesday night, PEOPLE has confirmed. She was 37.
The reality TV star was first diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer a few months after she wrapped "Survivor," and opted for a modified, radical bilateral mastectomy, followed by courses of chemotherapy and tamoxifen, a drug used to prevent recurrence.
"In the summer of 2004, I felt something in my right breast that didn't feel normal," Lyon told PEOPLE in October 2005. "I thought it was probably scar tissue related to my breast implants. So I let it go — for a long time."
Being on the CBS competition boosted her spirits and provided an inner strength to battle her disease. "'Survivor' taught me there's an end in sight," she told PEOPLE. "As hard as it is, it will be over, and you have to appreciate every day."
Her "Survivor" castmates remember her as kind and courageous. "She is the model of grace, and has been so brave," fellow contestant Ian Rosenberger told PEOPLE at the "Survivor" 10th anniversary party on Jan. 9.
Despite her illness, Lyons hosted many fundraisers for breast cancer research. Most recently, she opened a Christmas tree lot with proceeds designated to her cause.