In March, “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek gave it to the world straight. He had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and in a classically underplayed way, Trebek said the typical outlook for people who have the disease — a 9 percent chance of survival after five years — was “not very encouraging.”
But he would still fight to stay alive, he assured his legions of fans. Promising news came soon afterward. Trebek, 78, said his cancer indicators were lessening earlier this month.
Now, Trebek said his body has responded well to aggressive chemotherapy in a “mind-boggling” development.
“The doctors said they hadn’t seen this kind of positive result in their memory,” he told People magazine for their upcoming cover story. “Some of the tumors have already shrunk by more than 50 percent,” he said, adding that doctors have described it as “near remission.”
Trebek’s promising news has not come without a cost. The long rounds of chemotherapy treatments have struck him with bouts of “deep, deep sadness” as he navigates a lonely road.
Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. Statistics show that the five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed at any stage is 9 percent. But that rate is much lower for patients diagnosed at stage 4, as Trebek was — between 2 and 3 percent.
Trebek, who has hosted “Jeopardy!” for 35 years, told People that the outpouring of support from fans appeared to have an impact.
“I’ve got a couple million people out there who have expressed their good thoughts, their positive energy directed towards me and their prayers,” he said. “I told the doctors, ‘This has to be more than just the chemo, and they agreed it could very well be an important part of this.’ ”
He added: “I’ve got a lot of love out there headed in my direction and a lot of prayer, and I will never ever minimize the value of that.”