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Posted on: October 13, 2019 at 8:24 pm

Jeopardy! show host and world-renowned TV icon, Alex Trebek says he may have to leave the show soon due to complications from his cancer treatments. In March this year, the 79-year-old Canadian-American opened up about his diagnosis with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and how he was fighting to “beat the low survival rate statistics” [1]. He announced in August that he had finished his scheduled chemotherapy and was prepared to go back to work. Sadly, he regressed so quickly that he needed another round of chemo.

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In an interview with CTV, the icon who has been at the center of the syndicated game show Jeopardy! since 1984 says he’s not giving up that easily [2]. Complications from his treatments are beginning to weigh down on him, but he’ll continue to give the best he’s got.

“I’m hanging in,” Trebek said. “So we’re back on the chemo and we’ll see if the numbers go down. And if they do… they can’t keep doing it forever of course. They’ll have to find a new protocol or whatever to administer. We’ll play it by ear and keep chugging along until we either win or lose.”

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Trebek’s heart lies with the show

Trebek said he’d been eager to start the 35th season of his beloved game show, but his health went on the decline before he could return fully to work [3].

Speaking to People, Trebek explained that although the survival rate of people with pancreatic cancer is only 9%, he’d responded marvelously well to treatment [4]. His doctors told him in May that he was near regression, and by August, he was gearing up to hit the stage again.

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“The doctors said they hadn’t seen this kind of positive result in their memory — some of the tumors have already shrunk by more than 50%,” he said. 

“Yup, [I] went all the way down to numbers that correspond with a normal human being without cancer,” he told CTV. “[But] then all of a sudden, it blew up and went 50% higher than when it was first diagnosed. Go figure.”

Complications from treatment

Speaking to CTV, the father-of-two says he lost 12 pounds last month and a lot of his hair due to the latest round of chemo. He now has to wear a wig even though his hair is growing back slowly. He suffers from severe fatigue and sometimes “excruciating pain”. His mental health isn’t on the mend either, as he admits to dealing with surges of depression and sadness now and then.

“It doesn’t last very long but it just takes over my whole being for a short period of time,” he told People. “I understand it more now so I can deal with it a lot better now than I did before. When it happened early on I was down on myself. I said, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t be reacting this way.’ I didn’t realize how fallible each of us is in his or her own way. I talk to the audience sometimes and I get teary-eyed for no reason. I don’t even bother to explain it anymore, I just experience it. I know it’s a part of who I am and I just keep going.”

Speech is also a problem for him these days because he has sores in his mouth from the chemo. The first charm of every show host is his diction. Alex explains although that his fans and viewers are very understanding of his plight, things may not stay so cordial forever.

“I’m sure there are observant members of the television audience that notice also, but they’re forgiving,” he said. “But there will come a point when they (fans and producers) will no longer be able to say, ‘It’s ok.”’

“I’ve got a couple million people out there who have expressed their good thoughts, their positive energy directed towards me and their prayers,” he told People in May. “I told the doctors, this has to be more than just the chemo, and they agreed it could very well be an important part of this.”

Trebek is facing his reality with a brave heart

Pancreatic cancer is the 11th most common cancer in women and the 12th most common in men. There were an estimated 460,000 new cases reported across the world in 2018 [5]. According to Dr. Angela Alistar of the Morrison Medical Center, pancreatic cancers are extremely aggressive “due to a mutational profile that makes it resistant to therapies that work better for other tumor types.”

Pancreatic cancer is particularly deadly because the symptoms do not often show until it has reached a critical stage, hence the low survival rates. 

Alex is philosophical and open-minded about his condition, stating openly that he is not afraid of the possibility of death.

“I’m not afraid of dying,” he said. “I’ve lived a good life, a full life, and I’m nearing the end of that life … if it happens, why should I be afraid of it? One thing they’re not going to say at my funeral, as a part of a eulogy, is ‘He was taken from us too soon.’”

  1. Drew Weisholtz. Alex Trebek reveals he has stage 4 pancreatic cancer: ‘I’m going to fight this’. Today. https://www.today.com/health/alex-trebek-reveals-he-has-stage-4-pancreatic-cancer-t149957. Retrieved 10-10-19
  2. Jeremiah Rodriguez. Alex Trebek tells Lisa LaFlamme ‘I’m not afraid of dying’. CTV. https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/alex-trebek-tells-lisa-laflamme-i-m-not-afraid-of-dying-1.4625438. Retrieved 10-10-19
  3. Scott Stump. Alex Trebek talks about losing his hair, struggling to enunciate due to chemotherapy. Today. https://www.today.com/health/alex-trebek-talks-about-losing-his-hair-struggling-talk-due-t164035. Retrieved 10-10-19
  4. Dave Quinn. Alex Trebek Says He Is Undergoing Chemotherapy Again After His ‘Numbers Went Sky High‘. People. https://people.com/health/alex-trebek-starts-chemotheraphy-again-pancreatic-cancer/. Retrieved 10-10-19
  5. Admin. Pancreatic cancer statistics. World Cancer Research Fund. https://www.wcrf.org/dietandcancer/cancer-trends/pancreatic-cancer-statistics. Retrieved 10-10-19
  6. Admin. Pancreatic Cancer Survival Rates. Pancan. www.pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/about-pancreatic-cancer/survival-rate/. Retrieved 10-10-19
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