Alex Trebek’s wife suspected something might have been wrong prior to his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
During a 2018 family trip to Israel, Jean Trebek asked the “Jeopardy!” host if he was feeling OK after she noticed his complexion was paler than usual. Alex, 80, said his stomach was hurting but he chalked it up to eating unusual foods in a different country.
His health didn’t improve upon returning to Los Angeles, so the couple decided to see his physician.
“His doctor ran some tests, then some more. We weren’t so worried that we canceled a trip to New York. It was there, in our hotel, that we got a call from his doctor,” Jean, 56, wrote in an essay for Guideposts last month. “‘We need to see you as soon as you get back from your trip. We have some concerns.’”
The couple, who married in 1990, cut their trip short and returned to LA, where “The Answer Is …: Reflections On My Life” author had a CT scan at Cedars-Sinai. Alex’s doctor called them “within hours” and said they had to return. It was then that they received the news that the TV star had stage 4 pancreatic cancer and a tumor that had spread to his stomach.
“It felt as if the bottom dropped out of my world. Again. Alex has been everything to me,” Jean wrote. “I met him when I was 21, a challenging period in my life. His friendship—we were friends for a long time before becoming a couple—changed my life.”
Alex began chemotherapy immediately, with his wife driving him once a week to his appointment. With every session she wondered how much time she had left with her beloved husband.
“More than a year and a half later, we’re still at it, every day a gift,” she wrote. “Some days it’s a struggle for Alex to get out of bed. But he’s never missed taping a show. That passion for his work—it’s a kind of calling. He truly looks forward to getting to the studio at 5:45 a.m.—so he can do several episodes in a single day. It rejuvenates him.”
Jean has encouraged him to drop his “meat and potatoes” diet for a mostly vegetarian one, including quinoa pasta, but no matter how well he’s doing she can’t help but wonder why this happened to her and Alex.
“Truth to tell, some days I feel really sad and angry. Then I’ll say, ‘That’s enough, Jean.’ I’ll try to do something for someone else to pull myself out of it,” she explained. “Not just for Alex but for one of our friends. Sending a reassuring e-mail, calling someone, sharing a cup of tea. Opening myself up. Accepting what’s happening.”
In July, Alex admitted he sometimes feels like a “terrible burden” on his wife but called her a “saint.”
“She has so much goodness in her that she is always giving out, always putting out to help me get over difficult moments,” he said of his wife. “And there have been some difficult moments. I’m just in awe of the way she handles it.”
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