Alex Trebek’s Wife, Jean, Opened Up About the Moment She Suspected Her Husband Was Not Well

When Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, 80, announced in March 2019 that he had been diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer, the world was in shock to learn of his grim prognosis.

Naturally, before his announcement, the Trebek family privately dealt with the news and rallied around Alex. His wife, Jean, recently opened up about the painful moment, her reaction, and vigilance toward her husband’s wellbeing.

Jean and Alex Trebek
Jean and Alex Trebek | ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Jean Trebek suspected something was wrong with her husband’s health

Jean, in a July 2020 essay for Guideposts, opened up about when she knew there was something wrong with her husband’s health.

“We’d gone to Israel to visit the sites of the Holy Land in December 2018,” she wrote, “taking our son and daughter, Matthew and Emily, then 27 and 24. We’d finished dinner one night, and I looked across the table at Alex. His coloring seemed off. ‘You feeling okay?’ I asked.”

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Jean described her husband’s tendency to suffer silently instead of mentioning pain he might be having or symptoms he might be concerned about.

“‘I’m good,'” Jean, 56, remembered her husband saying. “Alex is not one to complain. But he admitted that he was having some stomach pains. I figured, okay, we were in a different country. Maybe it was something he ate.”

Once they returned from their trip, she realized he was still not feeling well.

“Later, back home in California, things were still not right,” Jean recalled. “His doctor ran some tests, then some more…It was there, in our hotel, that we got a call from his doctor. ‘We need to see you as soon as you get back from your trip. We have some concerns.'”

Jean’s reaction to her husband’s grim news and her ongoing care for him

Once doctors broke the news to the couple of Alex’s stage IV pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Jean wrote that it was an enormous blow to her. Her brother, Chris, had been killed in a car accident when she was in her twenties. Alex’s diagnosis brought to the surface that pain once again.

“I felt as if the bottom dropped out of my world,” she said. “Again. Alex has been everything to me. I met him when I was 21, a challenging period in my life. His friendship—we were friends for a long time before becoming a couple—changed my life.”

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“Now, almost 35 years later, came this grim diagnosis,” she wrote. “All the terrible pain and loss I’d felt at Chris’s death came back. Only my faith in God’s ultimate goodness and love had gotten me through that period of my life. Then I met Alex, as if the Lord had led me through my grief to the man I would love forever. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.”

Alex started on chemotherapy right away and Jean, in her contribution to the magazine, was honest about her feelings at the time.

“I wondered then how long we had,” she admitted. “More than a year and a half later, we’re still at it, every day a gift. Some days it’s a struggle for Alex to get out of bed. But he’s never missed taping a show. That passion for his work—it’s a kind of calling… It rejuvenates him.”

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