What Jeopardy! Host Alex Trebek Meant to Me as a Cancer Patient
I'm a huge game show fan. I mean HUGE. I've been watching game shows since their heyday in the 70s and 80s and always dreamed of being a game show host, which I actually was for a few years. The news of Alex Trebek's passing after his fight with pancreatic cancer hit me hard as both a game show fan and a cancer patient.
Alex Trebek got his start in game shows in 1973 when he was just 33 and I was just 2. I remember watching him on shows like High Rollers and Battlestars.
When Jeopardy! debuted in 1984, I was watching. Alex Trebek came out onto the Jeopardy! set for the very first time and I remember thinking, "Hey, it's the guy from High Rollers!" Before Alex, Art Fleming had hosted Jeopardy! for 11 years and was the name most people associated with the show. Coincidently, Art Fleming died in 1995 from pancreatic cancer as well at the age of 70. No one knew back then that Alex would have a run of 36 years as host and forever be the name synonymous with Jeopardy!
Not only did I admire Alex for his sense of class, intelligence, wit and ability to navigate a game show like Jeopardy! without so much as a stutter, I admired him for his openness about his cancer diagnosis. I too was open about my cancer diagnosis of cutaneous B cell lymphoma in 2011, a decision I didn't make easily. Although Alex's cancer was a much more aggressive type than mine, when I announced my diagnosis, my doctor was still not sure how far my cancer had spread. The timing of my diagnosis helped in my decision.
We were just about to start our annual Cans For a Cure fundraiser in October to benefit breast cancer research and patient services and I was scheduled for a lymph node biopsy in the middle of it, the very first time I would be put under for surgery. Yeah, I was scared, but I didn't let on that I was.
I felt it was best to let people know what I was going through so that they wouldn't wonder why I suddenly was missing for the rest of Cans For a Cure and to let people know that cancer doesn't discriminate. Anyone can suddenly find themselves with a cancer diagnosis. If one person decided to get a mammogram, colonoscopy, or that weird growth on their skin checked out, like I did, then I felt it was was worth sharing. That's what Alex did as well and the world became his support as did our listeners for me.
I'm very lucky. I haven't needed chemotherapy for about 7 years now and I still see my oncologist regularly for blood tests. So far so good, but it is chronic and slowly coming back. Luckily it seems to be treatable for now. Alex unfortunately wasn't as lucky.
I admire Alex Trebek for his "the show must go on" attitude and still going in to do the job he loved even though he was in pain. Alex was truly a national treasure and no matter who they choose to step into the role as Jeopardy! host, that person will only succeed the greatest Jeopardy! host there ever was, never replace him.
This contestant on Jeopardy! last year said what we're all feeling right now in his final Jeopardy! answer.
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