Alex Trebekis taking it one day at a time.
The longtime Jeopardy! host gave a health update on Wednesday amid his cancer treatments, nearly one year after he was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
"Some days are better than others. My resistance is lower than most of you, of course, because of the treatments I’ve been having, the chemotherapy. As you can tell, I have the cold that seems to be going around -- but this is the second time I’ve gotten it in a month. They got me off one of my chemo drugs, which was killing me. And I don’t know until tomorrow [when] I go in for some tests, and then maybe another week or so before I know where things stand," Trebek told reporters Wednesday at the winter Television Critics Association press tour while promoting Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time with contestants Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter andJames Holzhauer.
"But I have good days and bad days," he continued. "And during this tournament -- I mentioned this to my wife -- because I saw all the shows after they were edited, ‘Did you notice anything about the way I handled the shows?’ And she said, ‘I didn’t notice anything at all.’ I said, ‘I did. I seemed a little slower at the ad-libbed portions.' I could still deliver the clues at rapid pace to try to keep up with these three bright contestants. But I feel that I was not having one of my best weeks, so some weeks are good, some weeks are bad."
Trebek's health was a common topic throughout the 45-minute session, with the 79-year-old host mentioning that his skin has gotten darker as a result. At one point, Trebek also joked that his treatments had forced him to wear a wig. Trebek opened up about how he can go through five-show tape days while undergoing intensive chemotherapy.
"For some reason, I can suck it up when Johnny introduces me and it doesn’t matter how I’ve been feeling before that moment in my dressing room or backstage, it’s just showtime," Trebek said. "And I get to spend time with bright individuals." (Jennings, Rutter and Holzhauer all wore purple ribbons for pancreatic cancer awareness as a tribute to Trebek.)
Trebek also played down the impact he's had on television, alluding to the notion that nearly anyone who was named Jeopardy! host nearly four decades ago would likely have had similar success.
"My success to a great extent has depended on the success of the game. You could have put somebody else in as the host 36 years ago -- not everybody -- but there are some individuals who could’ve been named as host of Jeopardy! And if the show had lasted 36 years, they would be enjoying the same kind of favorable reviews and adulation that I have enjoyed in recent years. And my health situation has contributed to that a great deal because the pity factor is out there and people have been so kind sending prayers and good thoughts and all of that," Trebek said. "I’m not unaware of that."
In March 2019, Trebek announced that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He responded well to chemotherapy, and resumed filming episodes of Jeopardy! in August, however, he reentered treatment later in the year.
“I have learned something in the past year and it’s this: We don’t know when we’re going to die," the beloved television host told ABC News' Michael Strahan in an interview that aired last week. "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. Because of that, and something else that is operating here, people all over America and abroad have decided they want to let me know now, while I’m alive, about the impact that I’ve been having on their existence."
Grappling with his health over the last year has also forced Trebek to think about his final episode of Jeopardy!. "It'll be a significant moment for me," he said. "But I've kind of, in my mind, rehearsed it already."
"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 continued. "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. And until we meet again, God bless you and goodbye.'"
"Throughout my life, I’ve always wondered about how courageous a human being I was," Trebek shared. "I just look at it as it’s a part of life. Does that mean I’m courageous because I’m dealing with it? No. I could be scared to death and I’d still have to deal with it. But I'm not scared to death. So, maybe I am courageous."
On Wednesday, Trebek and Jeopardy! executive producer Harry Friedman addressed those last 30 seconds of Trebek's tenure, when that day comes."I'm going to cut off the show 30 seconds early," Friedman deadpanned.
"Drink," Trebek quipped, when asked what he would occupy his time when his final day does come. "I work around the house. Keep in mind I'm 79 now, and I don't foresee that 30-second moment [of me signing off] coming up in the near future. When you've been in the same job for that long, the same time… it behooves you to think at some point about retiring. Thinking about retiring and retiring are two different things."
Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time continues Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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