Jeopardy's Alex Trebek Opens Up About Struggles With Cancer Treatment

alex trebek

For 35 years, Alex Trebek has been one of television's sturdiest and most dependable ports, no matter what storms raged on elsewhere. Sadly, the esteemed Jeopardy host revealed earlier this year that he's suffering from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments to counter the illness. And it sounds like the recovery has been a rough one for Trebek.

Making a relatively rare non-Jeopardy appearance on Good Morning America, Alex Trebek opened up about how things have been going for him on the road to recovery. In his words:

My oncologist tells me I’m doing well, even though I don’t always feel it. What I’m not used to dealing with is the surges that come on suddenly of deep, deep sadness. It brings tears to my eyes. I’ve discovered in this whole episode, ladies and gentlemen, that I’m a bit of a wuss. But I’m fighting through it.

Alex Trebek was just throwing some self-deprecating humor out there by calling himself a wuss, but I certainly hope he doesn't really feel that way. Getting any kind of a cancer diagnosis is a humdinger of a life change, and one without any obviously positive elements involved. There is nothing overtly fun about facing each new day with that same realization and acceptance, so there's definitely nothing wrong with feeling sad about it all.

As if the cancer itself and all of its side effects weren't bad enough, going through chemotherapy treatments can be overwhelmingly taxing and painful for patients. It doesn't sound like Alex Trebek gets to be an exception there, even though he's the greatest game show host in history. (I know medical science doesn't usually make exceptions for TV talent, but still.) Thankfully, Trebek says that the large amount of feedback he's gotten from fans has been overwhelmingly positive and he thinks it's helping him feel better.

Trebek talked more with Robin Roberts about his emotional fluctuations in the midst of his treatment.

Chemo affects people in different ways, and people have to understand that. There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘Hey, I’m really depressed today, and I have no idea why.'

Jeopardy! episodes tape months in advance of their TV airings, so a large chunk of Alex Trebek's run in Season 35 was without the knowledge of his pancreatic cancer. But at no point have there been any fully discernible moments when it seemed like Trebek was missing a step, which has likely been a huge comfort for TV viewers.

Granted, Jeopardy! is currently going through a popularity surge thanks to the monumental gameplay of current champion James Holzhauer, who has completely blown away many of the single-game scoring records that had been held for years. Holzhauer's mastery of the board has the potential to eclipse that of Ken Jennings, although he'll need to win out the rest of the games in Season 35 for that to happen.

If James Holzhauer does blow through his remaining games and has to then return for Season 36 in the fall, fans can bet that Alex Trebek will have done everything in his power to make certain that he'll be the one reading the clues. In his words:

I have to get strong. Chemo takes it out of you. I feel so weak all the time, and that’s not a good place to be… Hopefully everything is going to turn out well, and I’ll be back on the air with original programming come this September.

While we'll probably never see the beard again, here's hoping we can at least watch Alex Trebek taking the Jeopardy! stage for the entirety of Season 36 and beyond. You can check out his Good Morning America interview below.

Jeopardy! airs in syndication, so check your local listings to see when and where it is playing in your area.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.