Alex Trebek has released a message of compassion for Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) as both struggle with battle pancreatic cancer.

“We’re starting a new year, and let’s see if we can’t both complete the year as pancreatic cancer survivors,” Trebek said when asked what he would say to Lewis. He mentioned they’re the same age, 79.

The Georgia Democrat and veteran civil rights leader announced his illness of advanced cancer this past December. During his announcement, Lewis insisted that he has no intention to resign and said, “I have a fighting chance.”

Trebek made his diagnosis public last March and has publicly shared his progress and difficulties.
The Jeopardy! host conveyed an optimistic but pragmatic tone in discussing his disease, including its difficulties, during last month’s recording of a prime-time special Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time, with contestants Ken Jennings, Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer, the show airs Tuesday on ABC.

Trebek admitted to a producer that he was “struggling a bit” on stage, but was assured that no one noticed. “I said, ‘Well, I noticed,” said Trabek, who has been hosting the show since 1984. “The chemo is rough, but he can always just turn it on,” Jennings said. “The music came on, the lights came on, he would just stride out there and nail that show like nobody else. It was exciting to see him doing so well and taking that diagnosis so bravely. To me, he’s the last of that kind of old-school broadcasters, and it’s such a pleasure to watch.”

Rutter, who first took part in the contest almost 20 years ago, said the message of Trebek’s illness hit him “like a ton of bricks.”

“Every time I go back, he’s better than he was last time. Even with cancer, he’s still held up to that standard, which is just absolutely amazing,” Rutter said

Such admiration and recognition can sometimes make Trebek uncomfortable.

“I don’t want to get too mushy. I got mushy when young Dhruv [Gaur] wrote his final Jeopardy! response, ‘We love you Alex! ‘That caught me by surprise, brought me to the edge of tears,” said Trebek. “It’s humbling to realize there are so many people out there who care enough about you to want to pray for you every day, who want to send you their best wishes, I tell people all the time, ‘Hey, folks, the show’s not about me, it’s about the material and the contestants. Those are the two main items. And if they shine, if the material plays well, if the contestants do well, people will enjoy the show. If they enjoy the show, probably some of that enjoyment will rub off on their views of me, and they’ll like me too,” he said.

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Trebek stated confidently that the show will succeed with a new host. “No matter who’s hosting it, Jeopardy! will go on. It’s a quality program and it’s put together by very bright people. And when I move on, that doesn’t matter,” he said. ”It’s the best kind of reality television, so it will endure.”