Originally Written October 15, 2011
12/23/11--This was written 10 days after the death of Steve Jobs. Originally written partially tongue-in-cheek, as more time passes and more information about the cancer-related decisions Jobs made and why is released, my brief comments strike me as more worthy of consideration than I initially thought…
As most know by now, Steve Jobs, the brilliant CEO and founder of Apple, died October 5th, at age 56, of pancreatic cancer. Although perhaps the greatest entrepreneur of our age, Jobs was, politically, a supporter of the Democratic Party. He put former Vice-President Al Gore on the Apple board and developed a strong “green” initiative in the production of Apple products.
Many extremely wealthy businessmen back the Democratic Party, of course, but it’s usually part and parcel of crony capitalism. However this is not a criticism I’ve heard registered against Jobs. Jobs grew up in San Francisco, spent most all of his life in the area. And he grew up in the 1960s and ‘70s, so he may well have simply been a liberal true believer, an imbiber not only of political liberalism but of the liberal culture of his time. Did it, in the end, kill him?
I ask because of a recent comment made by a respected academic oncologist—cancer doctor—on the East coast, claiming Steve Jobs didn’t have to die.
A brief background: as a broad but workable simplification, the pancreas has two types of cells: acinar cells, the bulk, which produce digestive enzymes released into the GI tract; and islet cells, a minority, which produce hormones—insulin, glucagon, etc.—released into the bloodstream. Over 95% of pancreatic cancers arise from the acinar cells, and these are deadly, with mere months between diagnosis and death, as Michael Landon and Patrick Swayze remind. But islet-cell tumors, although rare, have a better prognosis. Some are benign, and even the malignant ones kill over years rather than months. And, most importantly, while pancreatic cancers from acinar cells have typically spread (and therefore cannot be cured) before they are discovered, islet cell cancers can often be cured if treated promptly on discovery.
And this leads to the recent comment by that East coast oncologist. He notes that NINE MONTHS passed between Steve Jobs’ 2004 diagnosis and his pancreatic surgery, an interval that may well have spelled the difference between cure and spread, between life and death.
Why did he wait? Steve Jobs was, and his family remains, notoriously private about personal matters, so we may never know for sure, but there is some speculation he used that time to investigate “alternative therapies”—holistic medicine; Eastern approaches; herbal and dietary cures…Is that true? Steve Jobs, I suspect, was not a terribly religious man, but his chosen religion in the liberal San Francisco Bay area was Buddhism. Would Jobs have been a Buddhist had he grown up in Sheboygan or Syracuse, Arkansas or Alabama?
If it is true that Jobs spent too much time investigating alternative medicine, it would be a great tragedy, as the East coast oncologist says he has a 100% survival rate with people who had Jobs’ cancer and got immediate surgery and chemotherapy. Was Steve Jobs, who came of age at a time and place that made Haight/Ashbury famous, led by a cultural milieu in which he was raised to turn his back on a traditional and highly effective therapy, a cure? Thinking differently suddenly takes on a darker meaning…
We may never know if it was the cultural liberalism in which Jobs lived and learned that led to his early demise. But the possibility chills…