Alex Trebek Credits Positive Cancer Results to This

As Jeopardy! fans were watching James Holzhauer’s impressive winning streak, host Alex Trebek had a major triumph of his own.

Trebek who announced in March that he had been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer recently shared some good news. He told People magazine he’s responding well to chemotherapy, and his doctors say he’s in “near remission.”

“It’s kind of mind-boggling,” Trebek told People. “The doctors said they hadn’t seen this kind of positive result in their memory some of the tumors have already shrunk by more than 50 percent.”

Trebek’s cancer journey has understandably had its ups and downs, but there’s one key factor that he credits for his positive progress.

Pancreatic Cancer: One of the Deadliest Cancers

In 2019, the American Cancer Society estimates around 56,770 people (29,940 men and 26,830 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and around 45,750 people will die of pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer accounts for three percent of all U.S. cancer cases, but it results in seven percent of all cancer deaths, the American Cancer Society says.

In fact, it ranks 11th in the number of new cancer cases diagnosed each year, but it’s the fourth deadliest cancer, according to Harvard Medical School. The majority of those diagnosed are over 60 years old, with the median survival time at only about six months. Just one in five pancreatic cancer patients lives beyond a year after their diagnosis.

What makes pancreatic cancer so dangerous is there aren’t many clear risk factors, and early detection is difficult. Genetics seem to play a role in whether people develop the disease. there might be a link between pancreatic cancer and smoking as well as high-fat diets and chronic pancreatitis, often from alcohol abuse.

Even so, much more research is needed on the disease to improve early detection. Moreover, treatment has progressed, “but there’s been nothing close to a breakthrough,” Harvard Medical School says.

“Many times, in its early stages, pancreatic cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms,” according to Harvard Medical School. “Those that do occur abdominal discomfort, weight loss, not being hungry can be mistaken for indigestion or some other minor gastrointestinal problem.”

In some cases, a tumor will grow in the head of the pancreas and pinch off the bile duct, resulting in jaundice for the patient. Those are typically the situations where detection occurs early enough for surgery. Otherwise, chemotherapy and radiation, along with symptom management, are the standard course of action.

For stage IV pancreatic cancer patients, treatment is usually chemotherapy. “Because stage IV cancer has spread to different parts of the body, it cannot be removed by surgery,” according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

This was the road Trebek learned he was facing just a few months ago.

Alex Trebek’s Cancer Journey

Trebek, 78, wanted to be open and honest about his diagnosis when he discussed it in a public video back in March.

“Now normally the prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I’m going to fight this,” Trebek said in the video. “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.”

Trebek went on to joke that he had to beat the odds due to his Jeopardy! contract.

“Under the terms of my contract, I have to host Jeopardy! for three more years, so help me!” he quipped. “Keep the faith, and we’ll win.”

About two months later, Trebek gave his first live interview since sharing his diagnosis: May 1 on Good Morning America. And again, he was candid about his condition.

“My oncologist tells me I’m doing well even though I don’t always feel it,” he said. “ I’m used to dealing with pain. But what I’m not used to dealing with is the surges that come on suddenly of deep, deep sadness, and it brings tears to my eyes.”

But the veteran Jeopardy! host also highlighted the positives of his situation.

“I think I’ve learned that I’m an extremely lucky individual because in spite of the fact this diagnosis is not a good one, I’ve managed to receive so much love from so many people,” Trebek said.

Then, just a few weeks later, the news broke that Trebek was in “near remission.” He still has to undergo more rounds of chemotherapy, but his results thus far have been remarkable.

So what does Trebek credit for this extraordinary progress? Again, it’s all about the love.

“I’ve got a couple million people out there who have expressed their good thoughts, their positive energy directed towards me and their prayers,” he told People. “I told the doctors, this has to be more than just the chemo, and they agreed it could very well be an important part of this. I’ve got a lot of love out there headed in my direction and a lot of prayer, and I will never ever minimize the value of that.”

How Social Support Can Affect Health

Trebek is experiencing firsthand what a growing body of research has confirmed: Social support influences health.

“Those with high quality or quantity of social networks have a decreased risk of mortality in comparison to those who have low quantity or quality of social relationships, even after statistically controlling for baseline health status,” according to a summary of research on social support and health. “In fact, social isolation itself was identified as an independent major risk factor for all-cause mortality.”

For instance, one study found that people with low social participation were 1.5 times more likely to have their first acute myocardial infarction. And another study learned that “feelings of usefulness to others” affected a person’s disability and mortality risk.

Social support is not necessarily the same as a support group.

“A social support network is made up of friends, family and peers,” according to Mayo Clinic. “Social support is different from a support group, which is generally a structured meeting run by a lay leader or mental health professional.”

Both versions of support can help, but having that informal network of people who are with you through good times and bad can make a huge difference.

“Studies have demonstrated that social isolation and loneliness are associated with a greater risk of poor mental health and poor cardiovascular health, as well as other health problems,” Mayo Clinic says.

The benefits of strong social support include:

  • helping you cope with stressors and emotional distress
  • promoting positive mental health
  • boosting self-esteem
  • encouraging healthy lifestyle behaviors
  • supporting you through health issues

Another perk of a social network versus a support group is you can cultivate it throughout your life, rather than having to seek out a group once a problem arises. Mayo Clinic suggests staying in touch with the positive people in your life, showing them they’re appreciated and not forgetting to offer your support to them.

“Taking the time to build a social support network is a wise investment not only in your mental well-being but also in your physical health and longevity,” Mayo Clinic says. “Whether you’re the one getting the support or the one doling out the encouragement, you’ll reap rewards.”

Although he reaped plenty of rewards, Holzhauer’s luck on Jeopardy! seems to have run out. Here’s hoping that the good vibes continue to uplift Trebek for many years to come.

Main image credit: marabuchi/Flickr

57 comments

danii p
danii p2 days ago

tyfs

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Maria P
Maria P3 days ago

thanks

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danii p
danii p4 days ago

Thank you

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danii p
danii p4 days ago

Thank you

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danii p
danii p4 days ago

Thank you

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Pearl W
Pearl W5 days ago

Hi All - It seems an innate response for we (as gergarious creatures) to gather in support when leaders, celebrities and loved ones need medical support - Historically records show we have done it repeatedly - I wonder if there's a wee part in our amygdala's that subconsciously urge us to gather - And unknowingly we are helping - Kinda like the Wood Wide Web does with trees - Anywhoo, it's interesting research about gathering discussed in this story - Just as interesting is the rest of the article - Thanks Mary. In my book you're a dearie - smiles

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Roslyn M
Roslyn McBride5 days ago

Noted

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beba h
beba h5 days ago

Prayers works miracles.

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill6 days ago

thanks

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Ganaisha C
Ganaisha Calvin6 days ago

positive support goes a long way

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