Alex Trebek

For millions of Americans, Alex Trebek was a part of their daily routine. As host of Jeopardy since 1984, Alex became a household name and, for many, a comforting and familiar face as they wound down their day. So when Trebek was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in February of 2019, it came as a shock. 

Trebek announced his diagnosis on an episode of Jeopardy. He told viewers that the prognosis was not very promising, but that he was going to fight it. And fight he did.

After an initial round of chemotherapy, Trebek was near remission, but in September 2019, he was forced to resume chemo. “I went all the way down to numbers that correspond with a normal human being without cancer, then all of a sudden, it blew up and went 50% higher than when it was first diagnosed. Go figure.”

As he battled his disease, Trebek continued to host Jeopardy, filming hundreds and hundreds of episodes throughout his treatment. The whole time, he was transparent about his fight. In fact, one viewer says Trebek’s openness about the disease and its symptoms saved his life

“Pancreatic cancer makes up 3% of all cancers diagnosed each year, and 7% of cancer deaths according to the American Cancer Society. Although Trebek did not specify what type of pancreatic cancer he had about 95% of people with the disease have pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, said Matthew Katz, MD, chief of pancreatic surgery service at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is under 10%.

“This is a particularly aggressive type of disease that is rarely detected early and often detected in the late stage of disease, as it was with Mr. Trebek, when it’s hard to treat,” . Katz said. In more than half of people, the cancer has metastasized at the time of diagnosis, meaning it has already spread outside the original tumor. In stage 4, the cancer has metastasized to distant sites, such as the liver, lungs, bones, or other areas of the body.”

After a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer, Trebek died on November 8, 2020. Through it all, Trebek fought. He said he was humbled by the outpouring of love he received from viewers and that he fought so hard for his wife, Jean. Trebek’s legacy as Jeopardy host will live on forever and will be forever linked to his legacy as a beacon of hope and survival for those with cancer.