Jeopardy host Alex Trebek has stage four pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed this week and calmly alerted viewers in a TV clip on Wednesday, assuring them (us) that though the prognosis is “not very encouraging,” he will fight it, to the best of his ability.
“I’m going to keep working,” Trebek, 78, said, with trademark composure. “And with the love and support of my family and friends, and with the help of your prayers, also, I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.”
Pancreatic cancer is vicious. Survival rates for stage IV are in the single digits. Though it is helpful to approach a cancer diagnosis with some optimism, this is, to put it bluntly, extremely not good.
Like about 9.4 million weekly viewers, I watch Jeopardy religiously, or at least I did when I had easy access to television. Trebek’s voice is often as soothing to me as my own father’s: steady, resolute, occasionally grating in its sagacity.
My paternal grandmother, who died when I was 15, was very old and we had little to say to each other when I visited her in Brooklyn as a child. Instead we watched Jeopardy, which she liked much better than Wheel of Fortune, and when I called her on the phone (under duress, because I was a young and selfish grandchild), we talked about the contestants. Maybe that’s a dumb story, but this announcement made me miss her, and so it’s the story I’m going to tell.
Anyway, all this is to say, it is hard to imagine someone else in Trebek’s place, and it sounds like Trebek plans to persevere as long as he can. “Truth told, I have to, because under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy for three more years,” he joked at the end of his message. Knock on wood.