The Jeopardy! host teared up talking about how wife Jean has helped him “get over difficult moments” as he battles stage 4 pancreatic cancer

By Julie Mazziotta
July 20, 2020 12:26 PM
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As Alex Trebek continues the grueling treatment for his stage 4 pancreatic cancer, his wife Jean has been his rock — but the Jeopardy! host worries that he’s a “burden” to her and their two kids.

Trebek, 79, said he has had both good and bad days over the last year and a half since his diagnosis in February 2019. On the bad days, he says, it’s hard for him to hold back his pain — and Jean, 54, sees the brunt of it.

“There was one day a few weeks ago when Jeanie asked me in the morning, ‘How do you feel?’ And I said, ‘I feel like I wanna die.’ It was that bad,” Trebek told Good Morning America in a new interview on Monday. “I apologize to her and explain that it has nothing to do with my love for her or my feelings for her. It just has to do with the fact that I feel like I’m a terrible burden to her. And that bothers me tremendously."

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The longtime game show host held back tears talking about Jean, whom he called a “saint” for getting him through the “difficult moments.”

“I’m just in awe of the way she handles it,” he said.

Trebek is currently undergoing an experimental immunotherapy treatment, the same one that former Senator Harry Reid — who is now in remission — followed for his own stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Trebek said that the treatment is working so far, and a rep for the star told PEOPLE last week that “he’s currently doing well.”

“They do a blood test to see what my CA 19 numbers are,” he explained. “And the CA 19 numbers are an indicator of how your pancreatic cancer is progressing. Eight weeks ago, the numbers were at about 3,500. Now, they’re below 100. So I’m going in the right direction.”

Trebek has also gotten good at “faking it,” he said, and pretending that he’s feeling okay to get through the workday or another sleepless night. He is determined to make it to next February and celebrate the two-year anniversary of his diagnosis, all while hosting Jeopardy!.

“My doctor has told me that he is counting on me celebrating two years of … survivorship past the diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. And that two years happens in February,” he said. “So I expect to be around ‘cause he said I will be around. And I expect to be hosting the show if I am around.”

Though, Trebek added, he’s not going to force himself through treatment if it stops working. If the pain gets to be too much, and his numbers start heading in the wrong direction, he’s “not going to go to any extraordinary measures to ensure my survival,” something he told his family in a “tough” conversation.

“They understand that there is a certain element regarding quality of life,” said Trebek. “And if the quality of life is not there — it’s hard sometimes to push. And just say, ‘Well, I’m gonna keep going even though I’m miserable.’ ”

But everything is going well now, and Trebek is preparing for the release of his new memoir, The Answer Is …Reflections on My Life, on July 21. And in September, he expects to start filming the new season of Jeopardy!.

“Meanwhile, my wish for all of you: stay safe,” Trebek told fans in a video update on Thursday.