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LI native Jean Trebek opens up about her husband's battle with cancer

Alex and Jean Trebek attend the 2014 AFI

Alex and Jean Trebek attend the 2014 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Jane Fonda ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.  Credit: Getty Images for AFI / Michael Kovac

Huntington-raised Jean Currivan Trebek, the highly private wife of "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, is speaking publicly for the first time about her husband's battle with pancreatic cancer.

In a promotional clip posted Monday for Thursday night's ABC special "What Is Jeopardy!? Alex Trebek and America's Most Popular Quiz Show," Michael Strahan says to her, "You haven't spoken about your husband's illness before. What's the toughest part for both of you?"

"I think for me it's when I see him in pain and I can't help him," Jean Trebek, 56, answers. "And when he doesn't eat right. When he has too much diet soda."

Alex Trebek, in response to Strahan shooting him a mock-shocked look, jokingly warns, "Back off Michael!"

"I'm not saying anything," protests Strahan, 48, to which Trebek ripostes, "I'm 79. If you get to be 79 and be in as good a shape as I — wait a minute," he stops himself. "I'm not in a great shape. Darn. Blew that one, Trebek!"

In an earlier promotional clip for the special, Jean Trebek, a Harborfields High School graduate, is seen telling her husband, "People have been giving you an awful amount of love and support while you're going through this health challenge, and it's so beautiful."

Elsewhere in the special, said ABC News separately Monday, Alex Trebek expresses empathy for his wife, saying, "It's always tough for caretakers because she has to deal with her worrying about my well-being and also dealing with … I'm not always the most pleasant person to be around when I'm experiencing severe pain or depression, and she has to tread lightly around me."

Alex and former real-estate project manager Jean Trebek — the parents of grown children Emily, a real-estate developer in Los Angeles, and Matthew, an owner of the Manhattan restaurant Oso — married in April 1990 after meeting two years earlier. Alex Trebek previously was married to businesswoman and artist Elaine Callei from 1974 to 1981, when they divorced.

He had made his illness public on March 6, telling fans in an online video that he had been diagnosed that week with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

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