A swirl of confusion over Alex Trebek’s plans for treating his stage 4 pancreatic cancer arose after Friday’s New York Times profile of the “Jeopardy!” host reported that: “If his current course of cancer treatment fails,” the Times article stated, “he plans to stop treatment.”
Not so, says a spokesperson, who was concerned that this bit of mis-information has turned up in numerous Trebek news articles in recent days.Read More
Trebek revealed his true plans in an at-home interview with T.J. Holmes of GMA on Monday. He is currently undergoing an experimental immunotherapy treatment — the same protocol that has been successful for former senator, Harry Reid, who was also diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
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“If it doesn’t work,” Trebek told Holmes, “I’ll just continue with chemo and see what happens but I’m not going to go to any extraordinary measures to ensure my survival.”
The news came as a relief to many who feared Trebek was planning to discontinue treatment altogether.
“I’m A Bit Of An Anomaly”
So far, he said, the results of his immunotherapy treatment have been promising. “They do a blood test to see what my CA19 numbers are,” Trebek explained. “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.”
When Holmes pressed him for details, Trebek added, “The doctors say they have never seen a chart like mine because there are peaks. I said, ‘What do you mean?'”
“They usually see [the numbers] going up,” he explained, “So I’m a bit of an anomaly,” he said, before conceding to Holmes, “I’m on the right track.”
Always open about the ups and downs of his treatment, Trebek reminded Holmes that, “there are good days and there are bad days, so I take into account the bad days, now the pessimist in me is coming out.”
“I Expect To Be Around”
When he celebrated the one-year anniversary of his pancreatic diagnosis in March, Trebek revealed that he was beating the odds, given that the one-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is 18%.
“My doctor has told me that he is counting on me celebrating 2 years of survivorship past the diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. And that two years happens in February.”
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Another reason he plans to be around, he hasn’t put his final plans in place. “I keep putting it off,” he admits to Holmes.
“I say ‘you’d better start getting your affairs in order’ I know exactly what I need to do, but I have yet to do it. So there is something in me that says, ‘whoa, hold on a little’.”
His Work Inspires His Life
Work fuels him, of course. And GMA reports that “Jeopardy!” has plans to return to the studio in a matter of weeks. “It sure as hell would be good to get back to work,” said Trebek, who has been under quarantine at his L.A. home. “I miss it. It’s been part of my life – a very important part of my life — for 36 years.”
But keeping up with the show’s fast-paced taping schedule — in an ordinary week, “Jeopardy!” tapes five episodes per day over two days — hasn’t always been easy for him. “I’ve observed morning meetings where he looks so exhausted and clearly in pain, and I think, we’re going to tape five shows in an hour and a half? There’s no way,” the show’s executive producer Mike Richards told the New York Times.
But when it’s showtime, he summons the energy, says Johnny Gilbert, 96, the show’s longtime announcer. “Once I introduce him on that stage, he is Alex Trebek,” said Gilbert, “you can tell that that’s what he’s living for.”
“I’m Just In Awe Of The Way She Handles It”
Trebek admitted that his ongoing treatment and bouts of pain often made him feel like a burden to his wife, Jean, 55. “Yeah, I’ve used that [word],” he told Holmes.
He got emotional as he talked about his wife of 30 years. “Jeanie asked me in the morning, ‘How do you feel?’ And I said, ‘I feel like I wanna die.’ It was that bad,” Trebek told Holmes. “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.”
“She’s a saint,” Trebek said, clearly growing emotional. “She has so much goodness in her that she is always giving out, always putting out to help me get over difficult moments. And there have been some difficult moments”
“I’m just in awe,” he said, pausing to choke back tears, “of the way she handles it.”