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Prior to the late Alex Trebek’s death on Nov. 8th, he recorded a Thanksgiving message for Jeopardy! that was finally aired in full this Thursday.
Though only 23 seconds long, the message touched hearts because it was essentially his final message to the American people and, in fact, the world.
“Happy Thanksgiving, ladies and gentlemen. You know, in spite of what America and the rest of the world is experiencing right now, there are many reasons to be thankful,” Trebek said in his final message.
“There are more and more people extending helpful hands to do a kindness to their neighbors, and that’s a good thing. Keep the faith. We’re gonna get through all of this, and we will be a better society because of it.”
High on our list of things to be thankful for this year: Alex’s Thanksgiving message from today’s show. We hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! pic.twitter.com/8OlpkSGi9r
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) November 26, 2020
He was clearly referencing the coronavirus, which has ravaged the world this year, killing over a million people and devastating countless economies.
However, Trebek himself didn’t succumb to the virus but rather stage four pancreatic cancer. He’d announced the diagnosis in March of 2019 but pledged to continue working and remain strong in the hopes of surviving the deadly disease.
“Now, normally, the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this. And I’m going to keep working and with the love and support of my family and friends — and with the help of your prayers also — I plan to beat the low survival rate statistics for this disease,” he said.
Exactly one year later, he delivered a seemingly positive prognosis.
“The one-year survival rate for stage 4 pancreatic cancer is 18 percent. I’m very happy to report I have just reached that marker,” he said.
“Now I’d be lying if I said the journey had been an easy one. There were some good days but a lot of not-so-good days. I joked with friends that the cancer won’t kill me; the chemo treatments will.”
Alex Trebek gives one year update on Cancer that is both heartbreaking and inspirational https://t.co/XFdMpFxscL via @BIZPACReview
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) March 4, 2020
“There were moments of great pain, days when certain bodily functions no longer functioned, and sudden, massive attacks of great depression that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on,'” he continued.
“But I brushed that aside quickly because that would have been a massive betrayal. A betrayal of my wife and soulmate, Jean, who has given her all to help me survive.”
In another update this past summer, he said his treatment was “paying off.”
“I’m doing well. I’ve been continuing my treatment, and it’s been paying off, though it does fatigue me a great deal. My numbers are good. I’m feeling great,” he said.
Here’s a summer update from Alex! ☀️ pic.twitter.com/6oKJ5aSCU7
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) July 16, 2020
At the time, Jeopardy! was on a break because of the coronavirus. The show finally returned to air on Sept. 14 with a slew of coronavirus protocols.
“When the show returns, viewers will notice a new and updated take on the show’s set, with a revamped stage that now allows for more space between the three contestant podiums and Trebek’s lectern,” People magazine reported days before the show’s return.
“Additionally, production has protocols in place in accordance with current government guidelines to protect contestants, staff, crew, and talent from the spread of COVID-19.”
Speaking on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” at the time, Jeopardy! consulting producer Ken Jennings said Trebek’s “health is priority number one on the set.”
“The set’s been a little bit spruced up this season. The thing you’ll notice for COVID is that the individual contestant podiums — the lecterns — are now socially distanced,” he said.
“They’re feet apart from each other instead of being a single bank. And Trebek will stay at the host’s podium, instead of coming over to the contestants because Alex’s health is priority number one on that set.”
The new season of @Jeopardy returns TONIGHT!!!
74-time champion @KenJennings, who has joined the show as a consulting producer, gives us the inside scoop on #Jeopardy37 and the new socially distanced set. https://t.co/AFnsmi6ydc pic.twitter.com/ZcR4BAKnEb
— Good Morning America (@GMA) September 14, 2020
Sadly, none of this was able to stave off the inevitable — and Trebek knew it.
“I’ve lived a full life, a good life, and I’m nearing the end of that life. I know that,” Trebek said. “I’m not gonna delude myself. If it happens, it happens. Why should I be afraid of that?” he bluntly said in an eye-opening interview in mid-October, about a month out from his eventual death.
Listen to the full interview below:
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