The longtime host, who has stage 4 pancreatic cancer, said he pushed through the pain to finish out the season

By Julie Mazziotta
May 09, 2019 04:59 PM
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Alex Trebek was determined to finish out the last season of Jeopardy!, despite the crippling pain from his treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

The longtime host, who revealed his diagnosis in March, said he pushed through the difficult days at the start of his cancer treatment, even if it meant “writhing in pain” on the floor of his dressing room from agonizing stomach cramps.

“This got really bad. I was on the floor writhing in pain … It went from a 3 to an 11 [on the pain scale]. And I just couldn’t believe. I didn’t know what was happening,” Trebek said on CBS Sunday Morning, airing on May 12. “And it happened three or four times a day while we were taping. So that was a little – little rough on me.”

One day in particular stands out for Trebek, who was diagnosed after going to his doctor with stomach pain, which turned out to be a lump “the size of a small fist” in his abdomen.

“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,” he said. “So — and I had 15 minutes before the next show. So I got myself together and spasms of that kind usually last about 10 to 15 minutes. So all right, here we go again. ‘Anybody got any pain pills?’ And I don’t like taking pain pills. But … I got through it.”

Trebek, who has hosted the quiz show for 35 years, wouldn’t pause production.

“The producers were very kind. They said, ‘Look, if you — If you don’t want to do the show — we’ll just cancel taping.’ I said, ‘No. We’re here. We’re doing the shows.’ ”

CBS Sunday Morning

The chemotherapy treatments also meant that Trebek was losing his hair, and he now challenges the eagle-eyed Jeopardy! viewers to guess which episodes feature his real hair, and which ones are a wig.

“On air I’m told that there were times when the hairpiece looked better than my real hair,” he said. “So we’ll see how people react to that.”

Trebek and the Jeopardy! crew are now on hiatus while the last few episodes air — and they have become must-see TV with the record-breaking champion James Holzhauer earning millions.

“We have the summer months off. So hopefully my own hair will grow back,” Trebek said. “Because I like my own hair.”

The interview with Trebek airs Sunday on CBS at 9 a.m. ET.