After competing on the 25th season of “Survivor” in the Philippines -- which she called "the hardest thing I've ever done in my life” -- and divorcing her husband of 24 years earlier this year, Whelchel announced that she is now battling West Nile Virus.
It has not yet been reported whether Whelchel contracted the illness while filming the show, which wrapped up in April. More than 5,000 cases of the West Nile Virus have been reported in the United States this year alone, according to the Center for Disease Control.
"Dr. just called with blood test results ...” Whelchel said in a tweet on Tuesday. “I have West Nile. Ugh. I'm fine, just tired. Takes a year to recover."
Whelchel was instantly met with a flurry of well wishes from supporters, including Rob Cesternino, who previously competed on two seasons of “Survivor.”
“Sorry to hear about the Prognosis. Keep your head up! Hope you're feeling better soon,” Cesternino tweeted.
Whelchel responded a day later, saying, “How sweet that you care. I'm honored. Thanks for taking the time to send get well wishes. Grateful.”
The 49-year-old mother of three is perhaps best known for her television role from over 30 years ago, on the 1980s sitcom “The Facts of Life,” where she played the spoiled and preppy Blair Warner. But despite her convincing portrayal of that snobbish character, in real life, Whelchel says that she has dreamed of being a “Survivor” contestant since the show first premiered.
"I've watched every episode! Any episode I missed was only because TiVo missed it, then I went online to research what happened," the self-described “superfan” said in an interview with US Weekly. “A friend of mine said, 'Let's just film a little iPhone video of you and you can put it on your Twitter and ask all your followers to retweet it. And maybe they'll contact you and know you want to be on the show.' And that's what happened!" she added in another interview with Entertainment Weekly.
Despite her adamant declarations that she was “born to play,” Whelchel has admitted that competing on the reality show was “the hardest thing she’s ever done.”
"I don't think "fun" is the word I would use to describe my experience," Whelchel wrote in a blog post after filming had wrapped. "It pushed me to my extreme limits physically, mentally, spiritually, and especially, emotionally. I'm so very grateful for the opportunity and I'm so glad I did it but I think it's like childbirth ... I may need to put a few years behind me and some perspective in front of me before I would ever consider doing it again."
Although Whelchel expects that it will likely take a year to recover from the illness, she sent out another tweet on Wednesday, reassuring fans that she is expected to make a full recovery.
“I've been very touched by all the sweet tweets,” Whelchel said. “Other than tired, I'm feeling fine & expecting a full recovery. So grateful for you. Thanks!”