Health

Alex Trebek cancer diagnosis: Mother of two from Georgia who beat stage 4 pancreatic cancer writes open letter to “Jeopardy!” host

A mom from Atlanta was moved to write an open letter to “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek after hearing about his cancer diagnosis – urging him to “kick cancer’s butt.” 

Elise Tedeschi, who was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2012, beat the odds after 12 rounds of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of stereo tactical radiation, and surgery. Last week, 78-year-old Trebek announced in a video posted online that he has the same cancer

In her letter, the wife and mother of two boys described what it was like to be told she had cancer and about nine months to live. “I was filled with fear, sadness and disbelief. I thought, ‘How is this even possible?'” she wrote in the letter, which was published on Friday by the website The Daily Meal.  

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When she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Elise Tedeschi was most worried that she would not be able to be there for her two sons.

Elise Roth Tedeschi


“The decision to fight was an easy one, because there was no way that I was leaving my little boys and no way that anyone else was going to marry my husband!” Tedeschi wrote. 

“Like you, Mr. Trebek, I had an outpouring of love and support (on a much, much, much smaller scale),” she continued. “I was astounded by the kindness and sheer beauty from friends and even complete strangers.”

Tedeschi opened up about how her husband would carry her upstairs when she was too weak. She said her best friends became her son’s “surrogate moms,” and that “the good far outweighed the bad.”

“You may wonder how I stayed positive. My answer was always the same: ‘I didn’t choose to get cancer and I didn’t choose to go through this, but I do get to choose my attitude. So I choose to be happy and live my life!'” she wrote to Trebek. 

Tedeschi ended the letter by trying to instill hope in Trebek: “Guess what?! I beat the crap out of stage 4 pancreatic cancer and have been in in full remission for six and a half years,” she wrote. “So Alex Trebek, go kick cancer’s butt — it has no chance against you! You got this!”

She told CBS News she hopes Trebek saw the letter, but that she is also happy if it has encouraged others who read it online. “Maybe it’s helped people going through any type of cancer. Maybe it’s helped people look at their life differently even if they’re not going through cancer,” she said.

Tedeschi, like Trebek, continued to work through her treatment, and said that’s the best thing to do. She said she was grateful for work because it took her mind off the cancer every day. 

“I think it’s great because my medical oncologist had said to me, ‘Don’t stay in bed every day. You need to force yourself to get up,'” said Tedeschi, who works in marketing and public relations. “Because once you start getting weak, you get weaker and weaker and weaker if you don’t [work].”

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Tedeschi worked through her cancer treatment after she was told she had nine months to live.

Elise Roth Tedeschi


Trebek has said he will continue to film “Jeopardy!” episodes, and that he still has three years left on his contract.

Pancreatic cancer is the the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, killing more people than breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Rates are rising faster than any other cancer in the country.

One of the reasons pancreatic cancer is so deadly is there is no early screening test — nothing like the mammogram for catching breast cancer or the colonoscopy or stool test or detecting colon cancer. And there is no cure. The very nature of it makes it difficult to study, according to experts.

Tedeschi said she hopes to raise awareness for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, which helps patients while they are going through cancer. “I talk to people [with pancreatic cancer] all the time, and that’s my first recommendation,” she said. “Go to them first.” 


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