In a new interview with the Canadian newsmagazine W5, Trebek spoke candidly about his future at Jeopardy!, acknowledging that the side effects of chemotherapy may cause him to leave the show earlier than anticipated.
“I talk to the producers about this all the time now. I say, ‘Look, I’m slurring my words. My tongue doesn’t work as well as it used to,'” Trebek began. “The chemo has caused sores inside my mouth. It makes it difficult for me to speak and enunciate properly. And they say, ‘Well, we don’t notice.’ I say, ‘I notice those things.’ And I’m sure there are observant members of the television audience who notice also. But they’re forgiving, and I’ll accept that.”
When asked if he would depart the show once he feels too dissatisfied with his own performance, Trebek agreed that would “probably” be the deciding factor.
“[It will be] when I feel that my skills have diminished to the point that I notice and am bothered by it,” he continued. “I notice now, but I’m not as bothered by it because all of the people around me are saying, ‘No, it’s OK.’ But there will come a point where they will no longer be able to say, ‘It’s OK.'”
Trebek recently announced that he has had to restart chemotherapy treatments, in the wake of a setback that caused his cancer markers to go “sky high.” Following his initial diagnosis, his first rounds of chemo had been successful, and doctors predicted that he was near remission. But after a brief experiment with immunotherapy — which “did diddly-squat,” Trebek told W5 — he is back on his original chemo regimen.
“What I’ve discovered is not only have I become the de facto flag carrier for [pancreatic cancer], but a lot of people are coming to me and looking for help, reassurance. And that’s tough,” Trebek added. “It’s tough trying to be as optimistic as you can when the other person feels none of that optimism. They feel only despair. I don’t know if I’m strong enough or intelligent enough to help alleviate some of that despair, so it’s tough on me. But it is what it is, and I do the best I can.”
Watch Trebek’s full interview with W5 above.