Trebek was first diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in March of 2019, USA Today reported. Trebek’s battle ended Sunday, November 8, 2020, when the long-time and beloved host died at the age of 80.
Trebek Said He Sometimes Felt Depressed During His Cancer Battle
— Ali Cotton (@AliCottonPhoto) November 8, 2020
Trebek told The New York Times that he was not prepared for the mental toll of cancer. “I have had kidney stones, I have had ruptured disks, so I am used to dealing with pain,” he said. “But what I am not used to dealing with is these surges that come on suddenly of deep, deep sadness. And it brings tears to my eyes.”
He also said he wanted to use his diagnosis to raise awareness about what it’s like living with pancreatic cancer, including its impact on mental health. “Chemo affects people in different ways, and people have to understand that,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with saying, ‘Hey, I am really depressed today and I have no idea why. Why am I crying today?’”
In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Trebek again admitted to struggling with feelings of depression and guilt due to the toll cancer had taken on him and his family.
“I’m good at faking it,” he said. “There have been tough moments. And I don’t know what it is, but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. Let’s do it. Get out there, suck it up, make it happen,” he said of hosting “Jeopardy!”
He also recounted a particularly difficult moment he experienced with his wife, whom he affectionately referred to as “Jeanie”:
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. 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.
Trebek went on to describe how grateful he was for his wife’s steady support of him. “She’s a saint,” he said, becoming emotional. “She has so much goodness in her that she is always giving out, always putting out to help me get over difficult moments. And there have been some difficult moments. I’m just in awe of the way she handles it.”
Trebek’s Death Has Brought an Outpouring of Support
Today we lost a legend and a beloved member of the Sony Pictures family. For 37 amazing years, Alex Trebek was that comforting voice, that moment of escape and entertainment at the end of a long, hard day for millions of people around the world. pic.twitter.com/aLTb8sWWGh
— Sony Pictures (@SonyPictures) November 8, 2020
Trebek’s death was honored by fans of the show, Sony Pictures and even the prime minister of Canada.
We have lost an icon. Almost every night for more than three decades, Alex Trebek entertained and educated millions around the world, instilling in so many of us a love for trivia. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and all who are mourning this tremendous loss. pic.twitter.com/XoobAfJwBv
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 8, 2020
People also took to social media to remember Trebek’s moments on the show.
For example, Variety magazine tweeted that Trebek held the game show host Guinness World Record of the same presenter hosting the same game show — 6,829 episodes.
Another video posted on Twitter showed Trebek making fun of contestants for 90 seconds after they all failed to get a single correct answer in the category of American football; on the last clue, he joked, “If any of you guys ring in and get this one,” he said, saying the next part in an exaggerated Southern accent, “I will die.”
— Jeopardy! Sports (@JeopardySports) November 8, 2020
Someone else posted a video of Trebek reading the songs of rap lyrics in his smooth, formal but friendly game-show-host cadence.
Brighten your day with a video of Alex Trebek reading rap lyrics on Jeopardy! 🕊️ pic.twitter.com/GwCQWfRzXX
— BROTHER (@BrotherHQ) November 8, 2020
Another video posted on Twitter showed the impact of Trebek’s career when a contestant — Burt Thakur — told Trebek during a break in the show that he learned English from watching Trebek as a youngster with his grandfather.
The video, which has gone viral with 3.2 million views, shows Thakur, saying, “I learned English because of you. And so my grandfather, who … raised me … I used to sit on his lap and watch you every day. So it’s a pretty special moment for me, man. Thank you very much.”
In thinking about his death, Trebek told The New York Times that he was grateful to be alive for the support he received after disclosing his diagnosis. “I have managed to receive so much love from so many people and quite often you don’t get that during your lifetime,” he said. “After you’ve passed, after you’re dead, people say, ‘Oh, he was such a good guy, we really liked him.’ But I am getting all that before that event. It makes me feel really, really good.”