As the game show Jeopardy! once again captured national attention with its remarkable contestant James Holzhauer racking up around $1.7 million in winnings, Alex Trebek has opened up about his recent cancer diagnosis, which has held fans’ attention since its announcement earlier this year, CBS News reports. In an interview with the iconic game show host, Jane Pauley asked Trebek when it was that he realized the show might have its next phenomenon on its hands.
“In about his second week,” Trebek replied. “His knowledge is so broad. There are moments in the games when I’m standing there and I’m thinking, How the hell did he know that?”
Unfortunately for Trebek and Jeopardy! fans alike, Holzhauer’s broad trivia knowledge and aggressively savvy betting strategies aren’t the biggest headline of the year for the long-running quiz show. Earlier this year, when Trebek was tested by doctors following a stomach pain that wouldn’t relent, he was ultimately diagnosed with cancer, a fist-sized bulge in his stomach.
The diagnosis was stage four pancreatic cancer, a grim diagnosis even by cancer’s standards.
“Well, that just means it’s spread to other places. So, it sounds impressive – I’ve got stage 4 cancer, okay? Not stage 1, for sissies, that’s just beginner’s cancer,” Trebek quipped. “I’ve got advanced!”
When Pauley questioned the lightness of Trebek’s mood on the topic, he responded simply that he doesn’t really have any other choice in the face of such a health scare.
"Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, received a standing ovation as he took to the stage to accept the award for outstanding game show host https://t.co/XoMSJF4E6z
— CNN (@CNN) May 6, 2019
Early in his treatment, however, Trebek reports that it was hard to keep up the happy facade. He suffered from painful stomach cramps, both on and off camera, sometimes leaving him writhing on the floor.
Yet even as producers started questioning whether their host should proceed with the show’s in-flight season in the face of such health challenges, Trebek remained resolute in his commitment to doing just that. He told Pauley that a number of times he would find himself enduring intense pain in between tapings and have to actively pull himself together in his dressing room in order to make it to the next taping.
“I taped the show, and then I made it to the dressing room on one occasion, just barely, before I writhed in pain and cried in pain. I had 15 minutes before the next show,” Trebek recalled. “So, I got myself together, and spasms of that kind usually last about 10 to 15 minutes. ‘All right, here we go again.’ But I got through it. And the producers were very kind.”