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Alex Trebek's wife Jean noticed this 1 symptom before his cancer diagnosis

Jean Trebek noticed her husband's complexion was off right before his cancer diagnosis.
2014 AFI FEST - "Sophia Loren Tribute"
The couple has been married since 1990.Michael Kovac / Getty Images for AFI
/ Source: TODAY

Even before Alex Trebek was officially diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, his wife had a feeling that something was wrong.

During a family trip to Israel in December 2018, Jean Trebek noticed that her husband's complexion looked a bit different. When she asked the "Jeopardy!" host if he was feeling OK, he admitted that he had some stomach pains, something she initially chalked up to eating new foods in a different country.

When they returned home to California and his condition didn't improve, the couple decided it was time to head to the doctor.

"His doctor ran some tests, then some more. We weren’t so worried that we canceled a trip to New York. It was there, in our hotel, that we got a call from his doctor. 'We need to see you as soon as you get back from your trip. We have some concerns,'" Trebek wrote in a new essay for “Guideposts.”

The couple, who married in 1990, cut their trip short and the "Jeopardy!" star soon went in for a CT scan. Within hours, they would find out that he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer with a tumor that had already spread to his stomach.

As it turns out, the moment that Trebek noticed her husband's complexion was off could've been a life-saving one. Jaundice and yellowing of the skin/whites of the eyes is one of the telltale symptoms of pancreatic cancer.

In her essay, the 56-year-old recalled how hearing about her husband's diagnosis brought her back to the moment she learned that her older brother Chris had been killed in a car accident almost 35 years ago.

"All the terrible pain and loss I’d felt at Chris’s death came back. Only my faith in God’s ultimate goodness and love had gotten me through that period of my life. Then I met Alex, as if the Lord had led me through my grief to the man I would love forever. I couldn’t imagine my life without him," she shared.

Shortly after his diagnosis, the "Jeopardy!" veteran started chemotherapy and he's been open with viewers about the ups and downs he has experienced during his recovery since sharing his diagnosis in March 2019. Seeing her husband continue filming the quiz show has been a rewarding experience for Trebek, and she said she is feeling more grateful than ever before.

"With each passing day, I have found so much to be grateful for. Alex’s work. Our kids, our friends, a sunset, a flower blooming in our garden. This didn’t have to be a death sentence. It could be a life sentence. A constant reminder of how precious life is. The smallest things that I once took for granted now carry more meaning," she said.

Still, the 56-year-old admitted that some days she just feels sad or angry, and when those feelings creep up she tries to focus on doing something for someone else.

"Sending a reassuring email, calling someone, sharing a cup of tea. Opening myself up. Accepting what’s happening. Thank goodness, I had already started, a lifestyle website, and my blog on the site is a way to share our journey with others," she said.

Trebek also shared some of the lifestyle changes she and her husband have made that have helped during his recovery.

"Alex is definitely a meat-and-potatoes guy. We’ve cut back on sugar and shifted to a more vegetarian diet. We discovered quinoa pasta. He likes that," she said. "And because the chemo and the pain meds affect his appetite, I give him a protein drink in the mornings loaded with good things. We usually eat one big meal a day at 5 p.m. Then we watch Jeopardy!"