“It’ll be a significant moment for me,” said the host of his eventual goodbye to the long-running show

By Benjamin VanHoose
January 03, 2020 09:03 AM
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Alex Trebek has already planned his heartfelt sign-off from Jeopardy!, though his last day has yet to be determined.

Speaking with Michael Strahan for the ABC special What Is Jeopardy? that aired on Thursday, Trebek, 79, opened up about his health and coming to terms with leaving the trivia show he has hosted since 1984.

In March, Trebek announced that he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and underwent chemotherapy. Now, he said he’s trying another form of treatment.

“I have learned something in the past year and it’s this: We don’t know when we’re going to die,” said Trebek. “Because of the cancer diagnosis, it’s no longer an open-ended life, it’s a closed-ended life because of the terrible … survival rates of pancreatic cancer.”

With that in mind, Trebek said he has already mapped out how he intends his final day on Jeopardy! to go — what will be a “significant moment” for the television personality.

“I’ve kind of, in my mind, rehearsed it already, and what I would do on that day is tell the director, ‘Time the show down to leave me 30 seconds at the end. That’s all I want,’ ” he said. “And I will say my goodbyes and I will tell people: ‘Don’t ask me who’s going to replace me because I have no say whatsoever.’ ”

” ‘But I’m sure that if you give them the same love and attention and respect that you have shown me … then they will be a success and the show will continue being a success,’ ” he continued.

He added of his final words: ” ‘And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye.’ ”

Alex Trebek
Santiago Felipe/Getty

An insider previously told PEOPLE that the beloved host isn’t hanging up his hat anytime soon, despite still working to beat pancreatic cancer.

“He has no plans to quit, and is absolutely not announcing his retirement [anytime soon],” said a coworker of Trebek, who had told a CTV News interview in October that he wasn’t sure exactly how much longer he could continue hosting the show, owing to the side effects from chemotherapy.

“We’ll play it by ear and keep chugging along until we either win or lose,” Trebek said at the time.

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Alex Trebek, 2012
Reed Saxon/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Beginning on Tuesday, Trebek will also host the primetime special “Greatest of All Time” tournament, featuring former Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer — and he certainly shows no sign of slowing down.

In December 2018, several months before his cancer diagnosis, he told PEOPLE that he didn’t know what he’d do if not for his job, which he’s now done for 36 years and counting.

“What am I gonna do? I’m enjoying myself and I’m having a good time with what I’m doing now,” Trebek said. “If I were to retire, what would I do? I’d be lost.”

Jeopardy!: The Greatest of All Time airs Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.