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Did Steve Jobs Have To Die?

Did Steve Jobs Have To Die?

Picture of Linda Marsa

steve jobs, sharon begley, reporting on health, cancer, liver transplant, linda marsa

Clearly, I don't have access to Jobs' medical records and this is all pure speculation. But there was an interesting article in this week's Newsweek by Sharon Begley that raises the issue that the treatments Jobs embarked on for his illness may have in fact hastened his demise.

Of course, in the comments section, Begley was roasted by Apple admirers. But she raises some excellent points, namely that having a liver transplant--or any kind of transplant for that matter--can hasten the return of cancers because of all the immune suppressing drugs you need to take. And one other piece of information that she didn't mention, but was in other news accounts, was that Jobs didn't immediately get surgery when he was diagnosed with neuroendocrine pancreactic cancer in 2004. He instead embarked on an alternative medicine program for nine months in hopes it would shrink his tumor and he wouldn't have to undergo the admittedly difficult Whipple surgery to remove his cancerous growth.

But to me, there is a distinct possibility that he signed his own death warrant right there. Nine months, as we medical writers know, is an eternity in the life of a cancer patient and an early diagnosis can truly mean the difference between life and death, or a complete cure and a lifetime of disability. While neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer sounds quite scary because of the association with the highly lethal pancreatic cancer, the fact is that this type of cancer is actually quite curable if caught early. Dr. Edward Wolin, who specializes in treating these types of tumors at Cedars-Sinai, has patients that have survived 20, 30 even 40 years. A friend's mother, who is now in her late eighties, had one of these tumors removed nearly eight years ago and she's still fine.

Just saying. . . Your thoughts??

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I realize we are talking about a surgery, but would YOU want a surgery that took out much of your insides if you thought it might be possible to avoid it? My thoughts are also of all the people who have died because of chemotherapy killing their own internal defense system and then medical doctors who know nothing about nutrition failing to advise them how to rebuild their immune system when what they needed was the treatments developed by people like Stanislaw Burzynski, MD of Houston and other pioneers in cancer treatment whose practices, finances, and reputation have been attacked by our government and the full force of the AMA-Big Pharma army. I know when I researched my health books (Antioxidants: Your Complete Guide and The Healthy Baby Book (on preventing birth defects )) I learned of people who have died from the consequences of conventional cancer treatments in addition to people who die from recurrence of the cancer after supposedly destroying it with chemo and radiation. It's so obvious to those of us in the holistic field that cancer is a systemic disease and the whole body often needs to be treated for the breakdown of the immune system for the person to be well. On top of that Lawrence LeShan, PhD wrote a brilliant paperback called Cancer As A Turning Point in which he describes the psychological undercurrent of developing cancer, most often when someone has a dream unrealized. In his book he describes person after person who survives and thrives when they find a way to realize the core need that is unfulfilled in their life.

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Good work by Sharon Begley and Newsweek! The story deserves wider attention, I'd say; the fact that this kind of "pancreatic cancer" is treatable would be surprising news to many who learned of Jobs' death and took away the impression that his cancer diagnosis was an irrevocable death sentence.

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As a cancer survivor, I have learned that every cancer case is somewhat unique. I find it refreshing that you raise the question regarding Steve Jobs' treatment decisions in light of the recent mania maligning early and aggressive surgical treatments for cancer. In general, cancer surgery is more effective the earlier it is performed. Thank you for helping to enable people to think with an open mind.

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Could Steve Jobs have lived longer had he had surgery soon after his condition was diagnosed? No one knows, and no one will ever know, but that he first sought alternative therapy was not an unwise move. Maybe the form of alternative therapy he chose was not the right one, but I would like to share the experience my sister-in-law had after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer nearly three years ago. Right from the get-go, my sister-in-law was determined not to even try the more favored treatments -- chemo and radiation. She had seen too many people lose their battle with the dreadful disease taking that route. She had also seen first hand a couple of her friends who had sent their cancers in remission after just a short course of Tibetan herbal medicine. So she gave it a shot, stuck zealously to the prescribed diet (nothing very drastic, just laying off the spicy foods). Today, she is back to normal, with no sign of the tumor. And she includes in her diet some spicy food, though not a whole lot. She has gained back all the weight she had lost when the disease first struck her. One advantage my sister-in-law had when she first consulted with the Tibetan doctor in Bangalore, India, was that she had not already poisoned her system with chemo and radiation. Once a patient does that, it makes it that much more difficult -- if not impossible -- for the Tibetan herbs to tackle the tumors.

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Just wanted to say the reason your sister-in-law had her cancer cured was likely because of the radiation and chemo, no in spite of it. Stop spreading your nonsense.

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In any discussion of Steve Jobs' illness it's vital to be clear about one thing - he did not have pancreatic cancer he "had what is called a neuroendocrine tumor, more specifically an insulinoma." Not just my opinion, but that of University of Chicago Medical Center Transplant Center, J. Michael Millis, who was quoted in an article about Jobs in Scientific American. That the tumor was located in his pancreas does not make it pancreatic cancer.


While Jobs probably did not help himself by waiting nine months between diagnosis and surgery, it can often take years before neuroendocrine tumors are diagnosed, (see the Journal of the National Cancer Institute 9/17 2008) so the ultimate effect of the delay in treatment on his survival is academic. The one thing that is absolutely clear about his case is that when his surgeons told him that they "got it all" in 2004, they were wrong.  This monumentally bad advice is not unusual among those with neuroendocrine tumors. I know dozens of others who have been given the same erroneous post-surgical assessment.


What we are unlikely to know is whether the surgeons who operated on Mr. Jobs performed a simple test (called KI-67) on the tissue they removed, it would have told them - and presumably Jobs - how aggressive his tumor was. While Mr. Jobs was clear that no chemo or radiation was required after his first surgery, it is unclear what if any follow-up monitoring - blood tests - scans Mr. Jobs was advised to undergo. As someone who has been fighting a neuroendocrine tumor since 1999, I know that monitoring the progress of my disease has been crucial to combatting it and has helped me survive for over 12 years. In that light, Jobs' delay in treatment before he had surgery might not have had as great an impact on his health as what he was apparently advised to do by his doctors after his operation.

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Mitchell's post is correct; cancers and tumors are two completely different processes. This is science, medicine, and genetics 101. Being a medical writer doesn't even come close to understanding the experience of a physician and what a patient with a tumor or cancer is going through. When I read medical articles, especially by the self-described "experienced" medical writers, they sometimes inject misinformation through their personal opinions and lack the basic training and understanding of science and medicine. Medical writers really need to continue their education in the sciences and save the CMEs in liberal arts, SEO, blogging, social media training, and exercises in grammar for a later time. I'd rather read an accurate article than a well written piece of misinformation. Writing well about a subject doesn't always equal comprehension of that subject. I would recommend that Linda and Sharon steer clear from writing about subjects they clearly don't understand.

Picture of Linda Marsa

Dear Anonymous:I don't mind you correcting what I wrote. And, in fact, Mitchell sent me a private email and I feel we had a nice exchange. I wrote this because I wanted to generate some discussion and I made the suitable disclaimers at the start of my post. But I find that attacking my integrity is way out of line. I don't appreciate it and if you're going to be nasty, you could at least have the decency to sign your name. All I wanted was an open discussion of an issue that, just fyi, has taken on a life of its own--apparently, Sharon and I aren't the only ones who've raised this issue, and there is a professor and physician at Harvard Medical School who has raised exactly the same issue on another forum. And your name is?????

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Linda, I am not sure if one is able to reveal one's identity without being a member, but as I previously commented (anonymously and as a cancer survivor) I think your article was a refreshing change from the plethora of recent articles that malign surgery and other treatments. Keep up the good work, and don't pay too much attention to opinions from people who are neither cancer survivors nor competent healthcare providers. Best regards, Ron Bucher

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Though I wasn't the "anonymous" that Linda Marsa is referring to I do apologize to all for being anonymous. I thought my name, which appears visible to me in the boxes I fill out above the comment box, would appear automatically in the post. It drives me batty when otherwise logical reporters repeat the canned response provided by pharmaceutical industry apologists claiming that if only a person had followed doctors' orders he/she might still be alive. The stories never ever say if only the person had built up their immune system, detoxified from the petrochemicals poisoning their liver and other body cells, dealt with emotional issues that block bioenergy from circulating fully, and nourished their body with sufficient antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals that they might have survived their cancer. They rarely if ever quote naturopathic physicians and medical doctors who use non-pharmaceutical methods to treat cancer as a counterpoint to the official statements of the AMA and American Cancer Society. I am asking fellow health educators and medical journalists to think beyond the AMA and ACS when searching for quotes on subjects like cancer survival and treatment options. Carolyn Reuben, L.Ac., Director, Alliance for Addiction Solutions, former health columnist, and self-help book author.

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With all due respect I believe Carolyn's criticism of Linda's article is off topic. Her suggestion would be better aimed at people who have not yet been diagnosed. Once one is diagnosed, cancer almost never goes away without some form of treatment(s) that have been validated scientifically as effective. My perspective is as a four time cancer survivor who has been cancer free for 3.5 years after surgeries and radiation therapy. I am completely happy that I traded having cancer for the side effects of treatments.
Ron Bucher

Picture of Linda Marsa

Hi Carolyn and Ron: First, thanks for the kind words, Ron. Carolyn, my remarks were certainly not directed at you. I just thought that personal attacks were really out of line. We can all agree to disagree. IN any event, I think what you wrote brings up a lot of important issues. The problem, as you know, with alternative treatments is that there isn't all that much clinical study done on them that would meet FDA muster. That was the whole point of the National Institute on Complementary Medicine--to do those studies. As it stands now, the drug companies have a stranglehold on clinical trials and what they fund is what gets prescribed. Yes, a real can of worms.

Picture of Linda Marsa

One more thing. In an interview scheduled to be broadcast on "60 Minutes" this Sunday, Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs's biographer, discusses at great length Jobs's decision to wait on his surgery, and his later regrets about have done so. Just fyi.

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Another update comes from The New York Times today: A Tumor Is No Clearer in Hindsight

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Steve jobs is a very clever man to create such a devise example iphone,ipad,iPod,iMac and many other touch screen devises .

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