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While I find I have little time in my current schedule to sit and watch the 35-year-old game show Jeopardy!, I have always enjoyed watching Alex Trebek in action.
Like many, I've seen Trebek grace television screens for much of the past three and a half decades. Jeopardy! is, in fact, just 11 years younger than I am—at least, this version of it is. There have been three other versions of Jeopardy!, with the first starting in 1964, but a good many North Americans probably only remember Alex Trebek ever hosting the show.
It's hard to define what it is about Trebek that has always made him so inherently likable. For Canadians, the fact that he is a fellow Canadian is almost always enough, but Trebek has always exuded good humor, grace, and just genuine interest in the contestants that have graced the Jeopardy! stage. He's a gentleman in a world where that quality seems to be few and far between, so when he announced on March 6, 2019 that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, many of us were simply staggered.
In some ways, it feels as though a family member has announced the news; that's how much a part of our culture that Trebek has become. Also, Trebek has survived two heart attacks (in 2007 and 2012), an injured Achilles tendon, resulting from chasing a burglar out of his hotel room in 2011, and surgery for a subdural hematoma, resulting from a fall sustained in 2017. He had surgery to remove blood clots from his brain around the same time as well. In short, the man has survived a whole lot in a very short time, and the news that he has stage four pancreatic cancer is heartbreaking.
Alex Trebek is a 78-year-old man who continues to look much younger than his years. That's something that seems so hard to believe, and yet, it seems to make sense, given his longtime role as the host of this revival of Jeopardy! Trebek has been on our television screens for so long that even in spite of this being something of a Netflix generation, and game shows no longer really being as in vogue as they used to be, even the current crop of teenagers and young adults old enough to understand what Jeopardy! is have more than a passing familiarity with Trebek.
Then again, Trebek has also ensured he's stayed relevant. With appearances on shows like RuPaul's Drag Race, Orange Is the New Black, Family Guy, and How I Met Your Mother, it's hard not to know who Trebek is. It's really hard to imagine a world where Trebek doesn't appear on our screens—although his current contract is set to end in 2022, when he turns 82 years old, even though all of us understand that pretty much anything needs to draw to a natural conclusion. I think it's fair to say, though, that we expected Trebek to ride into the sunset to enjoy a well-earned retirement at the close of this current contract in three years time to enjoy doing the things he loves doing with his family. We did not expect to hear that one of North America's most beloved game show hosts has stage four pancreatic cancer.
Trebek deserves a world of credit for that announcement, though. He acknowledges that he is not by any means alone in having to live with pancreatic cancer—there are some 50,000 individuals diagnosed with it, according to what he says in his video—and that he will continue to fight the disease even as he continues to work. Perhaps one of the most surprising things about the announcement was that he even joked that he had to keep working through his treatments and beat the disease, as he still has three years left in his contract. The grace and calm he displayed through the announcement while still impossibly injecting a bit of humor into such devastating news are Trebek's trademarks and a reminder why he's such a classy man.
We're all rooting for him.