Alex Trebek's wife, Jean Trebek, sensed something was wrong with her husband even before he was officially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In a new essay for Guideposts, Trebek recounted noticing her husband's complexion looked off during a family trip to Israel in December 2018, which accompanied his stomach pains she originally attributed to eating different foods in another country.
Upon their return to California, the Jeopardy! host wasn't feeling any better, which prompted the couple to seek medical assistance. "His doctor ran some tests, then some more. We weren’t so worried that we canceled a trip to New York. It was there, in our hotel, that we got a call from his doctor. 'We need to see you as soon as you get back from your trip. We have some concerns,'" Trebek wrote in her essay.
The couple cut their trip short to immediately have the game show host undergo a CT scan, and within hours, they learned he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer with a tumor that had already spread to his stomach. Trebek revealed that noticing her husband's complexion shift could have saved his life, as jaundice is one of the major symptoms of pancreatic cancer. The 56-year-old recalled learning of her husband's diagnosis and being brought back to the grief she felt 35 years prior when she learned her big brother Chris has been killed in a car accident.
"All the terrible pain and loss I’d felt at Chris’s death came back. Only my faith in God’s ultimate goodness and love had gotten me through that period of my life. Then I met Alex, as if the Lord had led me through my grief to the man I would love forever. I couldn’t imagine my life without him," she wrote.
As the Jeopardy! host continues to undergo treatment, his wife said she tries to move forward with a sense of gratitude for even the little things. "With each passing day, I have found so much to be grateful for. Alex’s work. Our kids, our friends, a sunset, a flower blooming in our garden. This didn’t have to be a death sentence. It could be a life sentence. A constant reminder of how precious life is. The smallest things that I once took for granted now carry more meaning," she said.
The Trebek family has had to make some significant diet changes during his treatment, she added. "Alex is definitely a meat-and-potatoes guy. We’ve cut back on sugar and shifted to a more vegetarian diet. We discovered quinoa pasta. He likes that. And because the chemo and the pain meds affect his appetite, I give him a protein drink in the mornings loaded with good things. We usually eat one big meal a day at 5 p.m. Then we watch Jeopardy!"