Air Force veteran on 'Survivor' lived through 'Grey’s Anatomy' type medical drama

Phil Briggs
September 27, 2019 - 4:37 pm
Air Force veteran Missy Byrd stars in Survivor on CBS


The hit television show Survivor returned for its 39th season on CBS and one of the first cast members to shine was Air Force veteran, Missy Byrd.

Byrd, a former Air Force Academy basketball star, was one of the first cast members featured, and judging from her comments she’s bringing a serious competitive spirit.

“I try to be the most observant in this game,” she said. “Looking around at the other players, I like the girls. It seems all four of the other women feel as though they’re not going to be subservient. They’re not going to do what people expect them to do. They’re going to do what benefits them. At this moment, what benefits all the girls is forming an all-girls alliance.”

Missy Byrd on Survivor season 39 on CBS
Robert Voets/CBS

But it was what Byrd shared in the opening of the show that gives us a glimpse into the kind of drive this Atlanta native is bringing to the game.

“I went into the military at 18 and played basketball for the Air Force team, and then about 3 years in I developed a brain tumor," said Byrd. "As it grew, it got worse, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk--I almost died.”

Missy Byrd played basketball for the US Air Force Academy
Air Force Academy

In a recent interview, Byrd revealed just how rough it was. 

She told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution during her junior year she began feeling strange, and couldn’t explain why. Her grades suffered and she stopped menstruating and even begin lactating. 

After losing her spot at the academy she moved to an Air Force base in Seattle, where she learned she had a brain tumor.  Among other negative health effects, the tumor had caused her body to think she was having a baby. "It was like a case for 'Grey's Anatomy'!" she told the Journal-Constitution. "I need to call [creator] Shonda!"

Byrd has gone through dark days and emerged with a bright smile that was visible during her first close up, “We tried some medication and I was really lucky because right now the tumor is completely gone. So now It’s kind of like a new life. That’s why I’m here now, I want to do something different with my life, I want to be the sole survivor. I wanna be the S-O-U-L survivor.”

As the new Survivor season unfolds each week, Byrd will be tested.  But as she said in her audition video, this Air Force veteran seems ready for whatever life throws at her.

“That tumor took me through a lot of chaos, I developed PTSD anxiety and depression. It was such a hard time, that no matter what goes on on the island, I know I can last 39 days,” she said,

"Survivor" airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

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