TORONTO -- ‘Jeopardy!’ host Alex Trebek opened up about his latest cancer treatment and his own mortality in an interview with CTV’s Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme.
“I’m not afraid of dying,” the 79-year-old said. “I’ve lived a good life, a full life, and I’m nearing the end of that life … if it happens, why should I be afraid that?”
“One thing they’re not going to say at my funeral, as a part of a eulogy, is ‘He was taken from us too soon.’”
Trebek spoke to LaFlamme before an appearance at a University of Ottawa event at the Shaw Centre. The University of Ottawa, his alma mater, announced Friday a $2.1-million donation by the gameshow host for the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, which seeks to “enrich and broaden public debate.”
“Democracy is at risk in many other countries of the world. Nationalism has come to the forefront,” the Sudbury, Ont. native said.
“Democracy always seems to triumph. It doesn't matter whether we have periods where we have dictators, oligarchs, whatever.”
Trebek’s contributions to the institution over the years total an estimated $9.5 million. He said, that, when a person reaches a certain level of success in life, they are behooved to start giving back.
And with status and fortune as a successful television host -- contrasting his modest upbringing in Sudbury -- it has also become easier to help financially, such is the case with his work with World Vision for the past 25 years.
'KEEP CHUGGING ALONG'
Trebek revealed in March that he had Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and by May -- after undergoing a round of chemotherapy -- his cancer was in remission. Unfortunately, by the end of summer, he was hit with a sobering setback: he’d need to undergo another round of chemotherapy.
This was blamed on the follow-up immunotherapy not taking and doing “diddly squat,” Trebek said.
He admitted that he was surprised by the results.
“Yup, (I) went all the way down to numbers that correspond with a normal human being without cancer,” he said.
“Then all of a sudden, it blew up and went 50 per cent higher than when it was first diagnosed. Go figure.”
“I'm hanging in,” the father of two said. “So we're back on the chemo and we'll see if the numbers go down. And if they do... they can't keep doing it forever of course.
“They’ll have to find a new protocol or whatever to administer. We'll play it by ear and keep chugging along until we either win or lose.”
TREBEK FELT SOME REGRETS GOING PUBLIC
Trebek told LaFlamme that there were moments he regretted going public because “there’s a little too much Alex Trebek out there.”
And becoming a sort of de-facto spokesperson for pancreatic cancer came with responsibilities. “A lot of people are coming to me and looking for help, reassurance -- and that’s tough.”
Trebek said it was difficult “trying to be as optimistic as you can when the other person feels none of that … they feel only despair. And I don’t know if I was strong enough or intelligent enough to help alleviate that despair.”
As is common with chemotherapy patients, the treatment has taken a physical toll on Trebek.
He revealed that the day after chemo his eyesight “gets messed up a little,” adding that the “day after that, I start getting pains in my joints.”
Trebek lost his hair in the last round of chemotherapy but it had started growing back.
“Little fuzzy up top,” he said. “About half an inch long. But now it's gone again and I'm back to wearing the creation of another man.”
“There are weaknesses I feel in my body but I can always suck it up when it comes to tape the show,” he said.
Trebek has hosted the show for 36 seasons with nearly 8,000 episodes under his belt.
He said he’ll stay on the show “as long as my skills do not diminish.” But he admitted that the chemotherapy has caused sores in his mouth and given him trouble enunciating words.
“I’m sure there are observant members of the television audience that notice also, but they’re forgiving,” he said. “But there will come a point when they (fans and producers) will no longer be able to say, ‘It’s okay.’”
WIFE GIVES HIM STRENGTH
When it came to how he gathered strength to keep pushing through, Trebek said a lot of it comes from his wife.
“She gives it more to me,” he told LaFlamme, saying that, unlike his children who no longer live with him, his wife is always there “when I’m going through a bad experience.”
“But I know (the children) care and I know the one thing that upsets them is that I’m not as communicative as I should be,” Trebek admitted.
He joked that one of his worries is that he’ll pass away before he becomes a grandfather. Outside of that, what keeps him going is a desire “to make a difference in the lives of people.”