Alex Trebek: Offering Support After a Cancer Diagnosis

Jeopardy host Alex Trebek recently spoke to Good Morning America host Robin Roberts about experiencing depression after his cancer treatments. Instead of remaining in a state of hopelessness and sadness, Trebek has vowed to offer support to others facing the emotional roller coaster that often accompanies a devastating health diagnosis. Trebek also told Roberts he has chosen to use his health battle as an opportunity to educate others about pancreatic cancer:

That’s what it’s really all about; it’s drawing attention to this particular type of devastating cancer, making people aware of it, telling them that they should take certain precautions beforehand… I’m going to be back in Los Angeles on Saturday for a pancreatic cancer walk-a-thon to raise money for research into pancreatic cancer.

If you or someone close to you is dealing with the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis, it is important to have a strong support unit in place. The Cheat Sheet reached out to health experts to get their input on how to make sure you or a loved one gets the support they need after receiving a cancer diagnosis.

Be present

Alex Trebek is navigating life after receiving a devastating diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Here's how you can support a loved one with cancer.
Alex Trebek and Robin Roberts on Good Morning America| Paula Lobo/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Don’t play the comparison game; this is done way too often. Let the person talk freely and don’t throw in how your aunt or uncle fought cancer unless it’s going to give subtle positive input. Don’t question the choices a person makes or the way he or she chooses to fight for their life.

Emotional support means listening, and it means allowing someone to experience their feelings without shutting them down. If someone says they just can’t fight anymore and don’t want to live, the response shouldn’t be ‘Yes you do,’ it should be the reasons why they do, given subtly. Do not use force to change the mental state of your loved one with cancer, instead use love as it’s the only universal medicine that works.

Mike Robinson, founder, Global Cannabinoid Research Center, Santa Barbara, California

Let your loved one know you are there for him or her

Alex Trebek and Robin Roberts| Paula Lobo/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images
Alex Trebek and Robin Roberts| Paula Lobo/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Give your loved one something to look forward to. Plan for the future–a dinner date, a movie, etc. Offer to walk with your loved one. This is especially important during the recovery process. Tell your loved one you will be there, and you will help him or her get through this process. Be a good listener and follow their mood. Sometimes your loved one will want to talk about the cancer and sometimes it is better to talk about other things.

Carol Michaels MBA, creator of Recovery Fitness

Don’t forget to offer support after cancer treatment is over

Alex Trebek at 92Y|Santiago Felipe/Getty Images
Alex Trebek at 92Y|Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

A very important reminder is that depression often hits after treatment is over. When people are going through chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or whatever other treatment they’ve been assigned, it’s almost easier to deal with the day-to-day because there’s a plan in place. I knew when I’d get chemo, when I’d feel side effects, when I would undergo more scans and tests to gauge my progress.

As soon as treatment ended, it became even more lonely. People assume you’re “okay” and that “it’s done.”  It’s not; far from it. A lot of times, that is when the healing can begin and when patients and caregivers are able to start processing what the hell just happened. So just remember that the support is welcome beyond the time of diagnosis and treatment.

Stephanie Chuang, founder of The Patient Story, a cancer patient and caregiver voice and platform

Read more: Alex Trebek: Managing Depression After a Cancer Diagnosis

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