Alex Trebek celebrates surviving one year after pancreatic cancer diagnosis

In a video posted to Twitter, the "Jeopardy!" host shared a heartfelt message and some jokes with fans

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published March 4, 2020 2:19PM (EST)

Alex Trebek poses in the press room during the 46th annual Daytime Emmy Awards at Pasadena Civic Center on May 05, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images)
Alex Trebek poses in the press room during the 46th annual Daytime Emmy Awards at Pasadena Civic Center on May 05, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images)

"Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek offered good news to his fans on Wednesday by announcing that he has now survived with pancreatic cancer for one full year.

In a video posted to the official "Jeopardy!" Twitter page on Wednesday, Trebek told his fans that he is "very happy to report" that he has reached the one-year mark for surviving stage 4 pancreatic cancer, a milestone that only 18% of those diagnosed with the condition ever meet. He admitted that the journey has not been "an easy one" and added that "there were some good days, but a lot of not-so-good days. I joked with friends that the cancer won't kill me, the chemo treatments will."

Yet according to Trebek, although there were days "that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on," he did not want to betray his wife and "soul mate" Jean, the cancer patients who look to him for hope and his own belief in God.

Trebek concluded, "You know my oncologist tried to cheer me up the other day. He said, Alex, even though the two-year survival rate is only 7%, he was certain that one year from now, the two of us would be sitting in his office celebrating my second anniversary of survival." He told viewers, "If we take it just one day at a time, with a positive attitude, anything is possible."

Since being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last March, Trebek has emerged as an advocate for spreading awareness of the condition. He starred in a public service announcement in October, telling viewers that pancreatic cancer is "the only major cancer with a five-year survival rate in the single digits" and that "I wish I had known sooner that the persistent stomach pain I experienced before my diagnosis was a symptom of pancreatic cancer. Other common symptoms can include mid-back pain, unexplained weight loss, new onset diabetes, and the yellowing of the skin or eyes."

That same month Trebek told CTV's chief anchor Lisa Laflamme, "There are weaknesses I feel in my body but I can always suck it up when it comes to tape the show." He added that he noticed more difficulty in his enunciating his words but that the audience was forgiving him for that, concluding, "I'm not afraid of dying. 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 that?"

Trebek's fans found memorable ways of expressing support for the iconic game show host. A "Jeopardy!" contestant named Dhruv Gaur wagered $1,995 of the $2,000 he had earned that night in order to use his final "Final Jeopardy!" answer to write, "We love you Alex!" The game show host got noticeably choked up as he reviewed Gaur's answer.

A number of celebrities have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer including Apple founder Steve Jobs, actor Patrick Swayze, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, singer Aretha Franklin, football player Gene Upshaw, and astronaut Sally Ride.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012, was a guest on Fox Business in 2019, repeatedly warned of Trump's impending refusal to concede during the 2020 election, spoke at the Commonwealth Club of California in 2021, was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022 and appeared on NPR in 2023. His diverse interests are reflected in his interviews including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (1997-2001), director Jason Reitman ("The Front Runner"), inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, World War II historian Joshua Levine (consultant to "Dunkirk"), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), seismologist John Vidale, Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), Fox News host Tucker Carlson, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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