‘Jeopardy!’: How Alex Trebek Inspired Former Champion in Recent Cancer Battle

by Matthew Wilson

Late “Jeopardy” host Alex Trebek was an inspiration to viewers everywhere. He also inspired one of his former contestants who was battling cancer.

Former “Jeopardy!” champion Jason Idalski appeared on the show back in 2013. During his short run as champ, Idalski won $36,000. At the time, neither the contestant nor Trebek had their cancer diagnosis. Trebek announced in 2019 that he had stage four pancreatic cancer. He wanted to keep his faithful viewers in the know about his health. But he later had some regrets about going public.

A few days after Trebek passed away, Idalski fell ill. He discovered that he had acute leukemia. Acute leukemia is cancer of the blood and bone marrow. It usually occurs in children but can occur in adults as well. The type of cancer usually affects fewer than 200,000 Americans per year.

The news devastated Idalski but he found inspiration in the way Trebek dealt with his cancer. Idalski spoke with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie and Trebek’s widow Jean recently. The contestant was in a hospital bed. But he had some good news. He’s now in remission.

“Alex inspired me by the way he dealt with his cancer,” he said. “There were so many times when he must’ve been so sick but he never let on, never missed a step. He taught me, you don’t like something change it, if you can’t change it then change your attitude.”

Alex Trebek Inspired Others

Alex Trebek’s widow spoke with the former champ. She revealed that one of the things that Trebek hoped to do by going public with his cancer diagnosis was to inspire others.

“One of Alex’s gifts was that he could be very resolute and know that the truth will not hurt you. He wanted to empower people to move through that,” she said.

Alex Trebek may have had his regrets. After all, it’s not easy when the world’s watching. But he realized he had a responsibility to shed a light on cancer through his platform on “Jeopardy!”

“There are a lot of people out there who have cancers who continue to live their lives and go about their business and do all of that, and they do it without recognition,” Trebek said. “I’m fortunate, if you will, because I’m in the public eye, and so I get a lot of recognition because of that. But to be the inspiration for a lot of other people makes me feel good, but it does place a responsibility on me that I feel I’m not deserving of.”