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USA Insider Race to Survive: Alaska

All The Reasons To Love 'Race To Survive: Alaska' Competitor Favia Dubyk

Favia Dubyk is a cancer survivor and former "American Ninja Warrior" who is out to show "Race To Survive: Alaska" viewers how far she's come.

By Tyler McCarthy
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While all the contestants on “Race To Survive: Alaska” are some of the toughest, most competent survivalists, adventure racers, and athletes the world has to offer, Favia Dubyk has stood out as a fan-favorite thanks in large part to all she had to overcome just to be alongside everyone else. 

How to Watch

Catch up with Race to Survive: Alaska on the USA Network app.

Favia is joined in the race by her best friend and fellow climbing enthusiast, Genevive Walker. They originally met at a climbing festival and bonded over the fact that they both have a background in medicine to go along with their love of the outdoors and climbing things that would completely scare off the average person. 

That’s kind of Favia’s whole life philosophy, though. She climbs and overcomes obstacles far beyond what most people think is possible.

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To help curious fans root for her and Genevive on their upcoming adventures in “Race To Survive: Alaska,” we thought it might be a good idea to run through the inspiring journey that led her to the wilds of the United States' harshest and most unwelcoming wilderness.

That's Dr. Favia Dubyk to you

Amid all the hype surrounding her relevant skills as an outdoor athlete, some may forget that Favia is a Harvard-educated doctor who is a practicing attending physician in addition to all the other things she’s got going on. She received a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Public Policy at Harvard before moving on to get her master’s degree in nutrition from Columbia University. Finally, she graduated from medical school at Case Western Reserve University and, after a delay (more on that later) completed her residency program in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology at the University of New Mexico. 

While at Harvard, she was a Divison One sprinter and held the 100-meter dash record for seven years. 

She is also the founder and CEO of a clinic designed to help people understand their medical test results so they’re not in the dark about their own diagnosis as they face the unfortunate circumstance of having to jump from doctor to doctor looking for an explanation for what’s troubling them. 

This is something that, unfortunately, Favia has a lot of experience in. 

Favia Dubyk is a cancer survivor like no other

Favia mentioned in “Race To Survive: Alaska” that she’s motivated by showing her husband, cancer survivors, and Black women what she’s made of. Regardless of how she performs on the show, she’s already proven that she is a survivor through and through. 

She has been vocal about her cancer battle in the past, noting that she was in her third year of medical school when she started to feel sick. Being a doctor and an athlete, she could tell that whatever was happening to her wasn’t normal fatigue or stress. Once it began to impact her ability to climb, she knew she had to take action. 

She spent a long time going to doctors, undergoing tests, and trying to figure out why she was losing function in her arms and struggling to breathe. Eventually, they found a mass in her lungs that was “the size of a very large grapefruit.” After more tests, she learned it was advanced-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Favia spent six months undergoing chemo, but by the time she started, her body function was already not the same. According to her, at its worst, she didn’t have functional use of her arms or her legs. The pain from her illness made the former Division One athlete and professional rock climber completely reliant on her boyfriend (now her husband), Brian, for all things she needed physically, including eating. Fortunately, with Brian’s help, she recovered in a big way. 

Favia Dubyk recovered into an American Ninja Warrior

Six miserable months of chemo later, Favia’s tumor shrunk significantly and she was declared in remission. While most would claim victory there, that’s not Dr. Favia’s style. First, she finished medical school. Next, she set her sights on getting her athleticism back. She had to relearn how to use her arms and legs after months of not being able to. She told "The Daily Rally" podcast (via "Outside Magazine") that the experience made her realize how essential climbing was to her life. So, everything she did was in service of getting back to peak climbing shape. 

Eight months later, she was back in the climbing gym and failing to finish its easiest wall. At this point, though, Favia was no stranger to setbacks. Months later she climbed that wall and every other wall she put herself in front of. Now, she makes a point to climb an even harder outdoor rock every year in her wedding dress to celebrate how far she and her husband have come since those sad days of undergoing chemo. 

He and her family were even in attendance the two times she appeared on “American Ninja Warrior,” where she told her inspiring story and competed on national TV for the first time for a chance to show the world what people like her can accomplish if they simply don't quit. 

Today, she boasts of being a better climber than she was pre-cancer and even celebrated 10 years since remission on Instagram with a video of herself doing front levers on 10mm. However, her life is not without its medical problems. As she mentions in the show, her body was changed forever. Thanks to an injury, had to lay off her legs once again and, once again, relearn her climbing once she healed. Now, she’s taking the body she’s so thoroughly gotten to know over the years through good times and bad on the adventure of a lifetime with her best friend to add one more accolade to her long list of physical and mental accomplishments. 

Why does she do it? As she put it to "Outside Magazine," it's about remembering that the ability to do all these things in the future isn't a guarantee. 

"Live every single day as if you don’t have a tomorrow, because you may not have a tomorrow, a lot sooner than your peers," she said. "And that’s how I’ve lived my life. It’s a little bit exhausting, but I have packed so much into every single day that if I got cancer tomorrow or got hit by a bus, I would know that I have lived life to the fullest, that I have probably lived three lives already."

Catch Favia on “Race to Survive: Alaska” Mondays at 11/10c on USA Network. You can catch more survival shows on Peacock now. 

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