Alex Trebek and his wife Jean met when she was 23 and he 47. He was newly single after divorce before meeting the woman of his dreams.
Cancer or any other life-threatening disease hardly ever affects only the person fighting it. The person with the diagnosis is obviously affected but so is their family. Caring for someone with a long-term disease can be difficult and learning to keep a brave face becomes important. For those fighting the disease, their family's support means everything to them. Fighting a disease as hard as cancer can't be easy, and alone, it might even seem impossible.
Alex Trebek, the long-running host of Jeopardy!, passed away at 80 after fighting stage IV pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed in March 2019 and lived until November 8, 2020. Before passing away, he credited his wife, Jean, for his long life.
"She's kept me alive," he tells People. "If it weren’t for Jean, I’d have put myself out of this a long time ago," he added. Trebek worried a lot about how his disease affected his wife, who was 24 years younger than him, and his children.
He said in July that Jean, 56, felt the brunt of his bad days when he couldn't control the pain. "There was one day a few weeks ago when Jeanie asked me in the morning, 'How do you feel?' And I said, 'I feel like I wanna die.' It was that bad," Trebek told Good Morning America. "I apologize to her and explain that it has nothing to do with my love for her or my feelings for her. It just has to do with the fact that I feel like I’m a terrible burden to her. And that bothers me tremendously," he added.
The couple who celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary recently has a beautiful love story. They were introduced by a mutual friend in 1988, when the Ontario-born game show host was 47. He was single after his divorce from his first wife. Back then, Jean was only 23 and working as a part-time bookkeeper for one of Alex’s friends.
"With Jean it just happened," Alex writes in his memoir, The Answer Is...Reflections On My Life, according to People. "Sometimes you look at something, you look at someone, and you know. I mean, you’ve heard stories of people who meet and decide within half an hour; I knew this was going to be the person I’d end up with. With Jeanie that’s how it was. I wasn’t looking for love. But I recognized at a gut level that here was someone who was going to complete me as a human being," he wrote.
Their bond was strong until the end and he was in "awe" of the way she handled his health situation. Even then, he had to get good at "faking" being okay even after a sleepless night and just to get through the workday, as per People. He was determined to live until February 2021 to celebrate the two-year anniversary of his diagnosis and while hosting Jeopardy!.
However, he had also told his family that he won't force himself to go through treatment if it stopped working. He was undergoing an experimental immunotherapy treatment. Trebek told his family in a "tough" conversation that he’s "not going to go to any extraordinary measures to ensure my survival."
And the best part of it was that his family was on his side. "They understand that there is a certain element regarding quality of life," said Trebek. "And if the quality of life is not there — it’s hard sometimes to push. And just say, 'Well, I’m gonna keep going even though I’m miserable.'"
In the end, he was undergoing chemotherapy again, after finishing the immunotherapy treatment. He even worked on the show until 10 days before he died and the final episode hosted by him will be broadcast on Christmas Day.
The veteran television host had hoped that he would remembered for being a loving husband and father even after his death. "My life has been a quest for knowledge and understanding, and I’m nowhere near having achieved that. And it doesn’t bother me in the least. I will die without having come up with the answer to many things in life," he wrote in the final chapter of his book, as per People. "I’m often asked how I would like to be remembered. I don’t think about it much… But I suppose if I had to answer I would say I’d like to be remembered first of all as a good and loving husband and father, and also as a decent man who did his best to help people perform at their best," he added.