Longtime "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek, who had said in May that his Stage 4 pancreatic cancer was "near remission," is returning for another round of chemotherapy.
"I was doing so well," Trebek, 79, said on ABC's "Good Morning America" "And my numbers went down to the equivalent of a normal human being who does not have pancreatic cancer. So we were all very optimistic. And they said, 'Good, we're going to stop chemo, we'll start you on immunotherapy.’ "
But then, he added, "I lost about 12 pounds in a week. And my numbers went sky high, much higher than they were when I was first diagnosed. So, the doctors have decided that I have to undergo chemo again and that's what I'm doing. … And it has different effects on you for some reason. And I don't understand why. Occasionally it will cause excruciating pain in my lower back. Other times it's fatigue, other times it's nausea. It varies. Cancer is mysterious in more ways than one."
He said what gives him optimism "is that, hey, I'm still here. And I don't feel terrible." When asked if there were specific things he wanted to do in his remaining time, Trebek replied, "No, I don't think that way. I enjoy what's going on now. I realize that there is an end in sight for me, just as there is for everyone else. … Hey, guys, I'm 79 years old. I've had one hell of a good life and I've enjoyed it, and the thought of passing on doesn't frighten me. … The effect it will have on my loved ones, yes, that bothers me and makes me sad. But the thought of myself moving on, hey, folks, it comes with the territory."
And, he insisted, he plans to continue hosting his show. "As long as I can walk out and greet the audience and the contestants and run the game, I'm happy."
Trebek had made his cancer diagnosis public in early March. At the end of May, he announced his therapy had been going well. "The doctors said they hadn't seen this kind of positive result in their memory," he told People magazine, adding, "Some of the tumors have already shrunk by more than 50 percent" following his prescribed chemotherapy."
While overall five-year survival rates for pancreatic cancer is 9 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute database, that figure is heavily weighted toward cancer that has remained localized in the pancreas. The survival rate for Stage 4, in which the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the lungs, liver or bones, is 3 percent.