When Alex Trebek first shared his cancer diagnosis with the world in March 2019, fans and followers were shocked and saddened.
Stage 4 pancreatic cancer takes very few prisoners and yet Trebek has been honest with his fans and has persevered.
“There was one day a few weeks ago when Jeanie asked me in the morning, ‘How do you feel?’ And I said, ‘I feel like I wanna die.’ It was that bad.”
“I apologize to her and explain that it has nothing to do with my love for her or my feelings for her. It just has to do with the fact that I feel like I’m a terrible burden to her. And that bothers me tremendously.”
Trebek refers to his wife as a “saint,” commending her goodness, her commitment and her poise.
“She has so much goodness in her that she is always giving out, always putting out to help me get over difficult moments,” he confirmed. “And there have been some difficult moments. I’m just in awe of the way she handles it.”
The 79-year-old is currently receiving experimental immunotherapy treatment, the same kind that former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada — whose cancer is now in remission — used. Trebek’s doctor has faith that he still has time, time that Trebek hopes to use to continue his work.
“My doctor has told me that he is counting on me celebrating two years of survivorship past the diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer,” Trebek said.
“And that two years happens in February. So I expect to be around ’cause he said I will be around. And I expect to be hosting the show if I am around.”
“They do a blood test to see what my CA 19 numbers are,” he said. “And the CA 19 numbers are an indicator of how your pancreatic cancer is progressing.”
“Eight weeks ago, the numbers were at about 3,500. Now, they’re below 100. So I’m going in the right direction. The doctors have said they have never seen a chart like mine because there are peaks. I said, ‘What do you mean — you don’t — you haven’t — you don’t see that that often? What do you usually see?’ They usually see it going up. I’m a bit of an anomaly.”
Still, Trebek said that he had a difficult conversation with his family about how he was not interested in “heroic measures,” telling them that he was “not going to go to any extraordinary measures to ensure my survival.”
“They understand that there is a certain element regarding quality of life,” Trebek said, “and if the quality of life is not there — it’s hard sometimes to push and just say, ‘Well, I’m gonna keep going even though I’m miserable.”
Until that time, though, Trebek wants to stay active and part of the show he’s spent so much of his life hosting. He says he really enjoys his line of work and doesn’t plan on quitting until he’s forced to.
“It’s something that I can’t explain intellectually,” he said. “At a gut level, without even thinking about it, it just happens. I suddenly wake up and I’m able to perform and handle the show because I like it. It’s a good job.”
While he’s made it clear that when his time comes, it comes, he’s being realistic without losing all hope.
“So there’s something in the back of my mind that says, ‘Woah, hold on a second, host, breathe. Maybe you’re gonna be around for a little while longer,'” he said.
“And that would be so nice.”
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