Jeopardy Host Alex Trebek Diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, Fires Back with Optimism
In a stunning revelation, Alex Trebek, longtime host of the show Jeopardy!, announced to the world of his diagnosis of stage IV pancreatic cancer, a very volatile and aggressive form of cancer. He matched this depressing news with surprising optimism and motivation, promising to overcome the grim odds of surviving such a prognosis despite his circumstances.
The diagnosis, like many other for those with the disease, came very late into the life cycle of the disease, around stage III or IV as it is very difficult to detect early on, already setting bleak odds for the patient. It is commonly diagnosed in men around Trebek’s age, specifically above those of 65 years old as stated by the Mayo Clinic. Other lifestyle choices or pre-existing health problems that can aggravate the disease’s development include use of tobacco, alcohol abuse, diabetics, and those who already have a history of pancreatic cancer within their family. Even when identified early, pancreatic cancer is hard to remove via surgical means, and only recently has become more susceptible to chemotherapy treatments, specifically the regime known as folfirinox entering the fray.
Still, the odds are grim for the beloved host, as only an estimated 9% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive beyond past 5 years, and even those with surgically operable form of the disease only have a 5% chance of living past 10, as supported by both the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research and Dr. Yuri Genyk of the University of Southern California respectively. The odds for someone in Trebek’s position bodes no better, as they only live from 12 to 15 months on average after diagnosis, cited from Dr. Timothy Donahue from UCLA. However, the best approach to overcoming this disease may be the one Trebek is already taking: Living life as the patient already has before the diagnosis and keeping high spirits, with Donahue stating the following:
“It’s best for them to try and continue their normal lives as much as possible…it keeps their spirits up when combating this disease and trying to tolerate the treatment.”
Trebek’s optimism more than follows this doctrine, as he even states that he plans on seeing his contract with the show through 2021 to completion. It will not be a painless journey for the host, however, as many of the symptoms of the disease and the following treatment take heavy tolls on the patient, including painless jaundice (yellow eyes), back pain, upper abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue. These symptoms will become more and more noticeable as he progresses through treatment, even on-air while hosting Jeopardy! in front of millions of viewers.
With the American Cancer Society stating that nearly 46,000 people will be taken by the disease in 2019, and being the fourth-most lethal variant of cancer known to man, we can only hope that Alex Trebek can defy the odds, though he seems to already be inspiring hope in others as it is.