Alex Trebek opens up about depression amid battle with pancreatic cancer

Alex Trebek has served as the host of "Jeopardy!" since 1984.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Alex Trebek is getting candid about another side effect in his ongoing battle with cancer: depression.

The “Jeopardy!” host and his wife, Jean, sat down for an interview with “Good Morning America” host Michael Strahan that will air Thursday. Trebek opened up about his cancer diagnosis and how it has affected his mental health.

“My oncologist told me one of the symptoms, if you will, of pancreatic cancer is that you get these moments of depression, sadness,” Trebek, 79, said in a preview post released Monday.

The longtime quiz-show host first announced his Stage 4 pancreatic cancer in a YouTube video in March, vowing to “beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease.”

He has since talked openly about his treatment journey and the trials and limitations of the illness, even expressing some regret over having gone public with his diagnosis.


Trebek knew something was wrong when his stomach pains grew severe, so he sought his doctor.

“I knew as soon as the doctor came back and mentioned the pancreas. I said, ‘Uh-oh, it’s going to be cancer,” Trebek said in the upcoming ABC interview.

Jean, his wife of 29 years, was the first to know about his cancer. She told ABC that it’s been hard to see her husband “in pain and I can’t help him.”

Trebek recognized how difficult his battle with cancer has been for his wife and family.

Alex Trebek opened up to ABC about bouts of depression amid his battle with cancer.
Alex Trebek opened up to ABC about bouts of depression amid his battle with cancer.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

“It’s always tough for caretakers because she has to deal with her worrying about my well-being and also dealing with… I’m not always the most pleasant person to be around when I’m experiencing severe pain or depression,” Trebek said.

The “Jeopardy!” host acknowledged that he might not live much longer.

“I have learned something in the past year, and it’s this: We don’t know when we’re going to die,” he said. “Because of the cancer diagnosis, it’s no longer an open-ended life, it’s a closed-ended life because of the terrible... survival rates of pancreatic cancer.

“Because of that, and something else that is operating here, people all over America and abroad have decided they want to let me know now, while I’m alive, about the impact that I’ve been having on their existence,” he added.

ABC’s special “What Is Jeopardy? Alex Trebek and America’s Most Popular Quiz Show” will air Thursday at 8 p.m. Pacific.