The late Jennifer Lyon -- fourth-place contestant on Survivor Palau (2005) -- had a true friend in host Jeff Probst.
In a touching remembrance of Lyon, who died at age 37 on Tuesday, Probst tells UsMagazine.com that they became "very close, very fast" after reconnecting a couple years ago. The inspiring reality star was frank with him about her battle with terminal breast cancer -- and, eventually, about accepting the end of her life.
For Lyon's last Christmas, Probst says, she "decided to open a Christmas tree lot so she could extend the holidays for as long as possible," donating all the profits to the Susan Love Cancer Research Foundation.
A former nanny, Lyon was surrounded by a "fantastic family," Probst praises. "Her sister, her brother and her parents were loving, positive and incredibly supportive of her needs."
The reality show host says that Lyon's family helped her relocate to a "beautiful spot on the Hood River in Oregon" last week, "where Jenn could enjoy some peace in a lovely surrounding." He and Lyon had remained in contact over the past several weeks via phone and text. "We had some beautiful talks about life and death. Jenn was so willing to share what she was feeling, including the very real and very scary parts of dealing with terminal cancer."
On the Tuesday of her death, Probst texted from California to ask Lyon's mother, Kim, to play a CD of music that he had given her. "I could feel Jenn holding my hand," he says.
"Jenn did such a good job of showing me how to love someone who is dying," Probst says. "If I learned anything from Jenn it is this: Don't be afraid to ask someone how they are truly feeling about dying...encourage them to let go of the expectations of others and give them permission to do what is right for them, even if it means letting go."