Even before her husband’s cancer diagnosis, Jean Trebek knew something was off.
During a trip to Israel in December 2018, she noticed a difference in Alex Trebek’s complexion.
“We’d finished dinner one night, and I looked across the table at Alex. His coloring seemed off,” Jean Trebek recently wrote in an essay for the Christian magazine Guidepost. “‘You feeling okay?’ I asked. … Alex is not one to complain. But he admitted that he was having some stomach pains.
“I figured, okay, we were in a different country,” she continued. “Maybe it was something he ate.”
Three months later, after some tests, Alex Trebek announced his diagnosis to the world: Pancreatic cancer, stage 4.
“I’m going to fight this. And I’m going to keep working,” Alex Trebek said, according to the Deseret News.
Jean Trebek said the moment was “devastating,” and took her back to 1984, when she learned her older brother had died in a car accident, according to People.
“It felt as if the bottom dropped out of my world. Again,” she said in her essay. “Alex has been everything to me. 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.”
Jean Trebek wrote that her husband showed great strength, getting started right away on chemotherapy. And although the “Jeopardy!” host has his ups and downs, he’s never missed taping an episode.
“That passion for his work — it’s a kind of calling,” she wrote. “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.
“It rejuvenates me as well,” she continued. “With each passing day, I have found so much to be grateful for. Alex’s work. Our kids, our friends, a sunset, a flower blooming in our garden. This didn’t have to be a death sentence. It could be a life sentence. A constant reminder of how precious life is. The smallest things that I once took for granted now carry more meaning. I think that is how God keeps us in the moment. He focuses us with grace.”
Alex Trebek has previously said that the one-year survival rate for stage 4 pancreatic cancer patients is 18%, according to the Deseret News.
The “Jeopardy!” host reached that marker in March.
The two-year survival rate for stage 4 pancreatic cancer is 7%, but Alex Trebek said his oncologist is “certain” he will be celebrating a two-year milestone in 2021, the Deseret News reported.
“If we take it just one day at a time, with a positive attitude, anything is possible,” Trebek said. “I’ll keep you posted.”
Jean Trebek said that sometimes she feels “sad” or “angry,” wondering how much time she has left with her husband. Ultimately, though, she tries her best to live in the moment.
“We go on little walks together, if he’s up to it. We eat dinner together. We watch comedies and movies on TV. Or we’ll sit in the swing in our backyard and sway to and fro, feeling the warmth of the sun, gazing at the flowers or up at the sky, knowing we are loved. Not just by each other but by a God who will see us through all things,” she wrote.
“More than a year and a half later, we’re still at it, every day a gift.”