Alex Trebek on Cancer Battle: "My Oncologist Tells Me I'm Doing Well"
The 'Jeopardy' host talked about his health struggles and the support he's received from fans in his first live interview since revealing his diagnosis.
In his first live interview since revealing he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek updated viewers on his health and shared his appreciation for the support he's received from fans.
Trebek told Good Morning America's Robin Roberts that he's getting positive medical feedback even though he doesn't always feel so good.
"My oncologist tells me I'm doing well, even though I don't always feel it," he said on Wednesday's GMA. "I've had kidney stones; I've had ruptured discs, so I'm used to dealing with pain, but what I'm not used to dealing with are the surges that come on suddenly of deep, deep sadness, and 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. My platelets, my blood counts are steady, my weight is steady. … The cancer indicators, those are coming down. So I've got another chemo next week, and then we'll do a review to find out where things stand," he said.
Joking that he timed his diagnosis with the end of the Jeopardy season, which recently wrapped, Trebek said he was hoping he could regain his strength over the hiatus so that he could return, as planned, for his 36th season as host.
"Now I have the summer months to recuperate and get strong again. I just have to get strong because, as you know, the chemo takes it out of you," Trebek told Roberts, a fellow cancer survivor. "I mean I feel so weak all the time, and that's not a good way to be."
Roberts told viewers that when Trebek arrived at the GMA studio he was in good spirits, cracking jokes, and she asked how his positive outlook has affected him dealing with this disease.
"I just take it as it comes," he said. "It's no big deal. I go in [for chemo] and I sit down; I joke with the nurses. And I'm there for an hour and a half while they inject all of this stuff into me and then I go home and I have a good day, and then the next day, for no reason that I can fathom, it turns south on me. But that's OK. You have to deal with it. What am I going to do? It is something that I'm afflicted with; we are dealing with it chemically and spiritually and those are positives. And hopefully everything is going to turn out well, and I'll be back on the air with original programming come this September."
Trebek said he was also encouraged by the outpouring of public support he's received since going public with his diagnosis in March. "I've had so many contacts from people who have survived cancer for 10 years, 12 years, 14 years. I am now a 30-day cancer survivor. I'm going to catch up to those other people."
"People all over America have been sharing their good thoughts, their advice, their prayers," he said. "And I feel it is making a difference in my well-being."
And he said, toward the end of the interview, that he's grateful he's been able to hear what a positive impact he's had on other people while he's still living.
"I have learned [through this experience] that I'm an extremely lucky individual because in spite of the fact that this diagnosis is not a good one, I have managed to receive so much love from so many people," Trebek said. "And quite often you don't get that during your lifetime. After you're passed, after you're dead, people say, 'Oh, he was such a good guy. We really liked him.' But I'm getting that all before that event, so it makes me feel really, really good."
Trebek also spoke about record-breaking Jeopardy champ James Holzhauer, calling his run "exciting and fun" and sharing that he's caught up in the phenomenon.
"I watch it every night,' Trebek said. "He has forced me to change a view that I have held for many years, and that is that the Ken Jennings record would never be broken. But I look at James and I say, 'Oh my gosh, look at what he's doing.' Now, winning a lot of money on Jeopardy is not that difficult, if you hit the daily doubles and you're good, you're responding to those clues by yourself. But winning 74 games in a row, that's the tough part, and that's what America should be concentrating on right now. Is James going to — he's at a million and a half already, twice as fast as Ken Jennings did and when you look at his performance, he has no weaknesses. … He knows how to play the game. … He has a strategy."
Trebek explained that if Holzhauer wins tonight, he'll tie Julia Collins' record for the second-highest number of wins.
Two weeks ago, Trebek updated viewers on his health via a video message from the set of the long-running game show. There, he said he was "feeling good" and thanked fans for their support.
"I've always tried to be straight with you and I'm not going to stop now, so despite what you may have heard, I'm feeling good. I'm continuing with my therapy and we — by we, the staff — is already working on our next season," he said. "So I look forward to seeing you once again in September with all kinds of good stuff."
When Trebek first revealed his diagnosis in March, again via video from the Jeopardy set, he said he was going to "fight" the disease, aiming to "beat the low survival rate statistics."
"If anyone can beat this, it's Alex," said Mike Hopkins, chairman of Jeopardy producer Sony Pictures TV. "He has our full support as he tackles this challenge head-on."
Trebek has hosted Jeopardy since its current iteration debuted in 1984. He has won five Daytime Emmy awards for outstanding game show host and received a lifetime achievement award in 2011. His contract has been extended through 2022 and syndicator CBS Television Distribution has renewed Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, the hosts of which are also signed through 2022, through the 2022-2023 season.