Steve Jobs died 5 Oct 2011 (5 years ago today). RIP Steve, you certainly made a difference to the world of technology and that is still being felt today. I have a number of google alerts setup and every day the emails arrive in my inbox. The longest email is always the Steve Jobs one, i.e. Steve Jobs is written about more than Neuroendocrine Cancer and other connected subjects. That’s interesting because Neuroendocrine Cancer is the type Steve had.
I’ve mentioned Steve Jobs a few times previously, mainly in my blog The Anatomy of Neuroendocrine Cancer. I wrote that blog when I was frustrated at the constant misreporting of Neuroendocrine Cancer as other types of cancer. Others included Nick Robinson (see blog The Devil is in the Detail) and Wilko Johnson (The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson). I’ve also suggested in my blog ‘Every Day is NET Cancer Day’ that we need high-profile patient Ambassadors and despite his death, Steve Jobs would have been quite a catch.
A lot has been written about Steve’s cancer experience and much of it is full of ‘what if’s’. However, I’d like to focus on the facts that are known and we can be almost certain about. That said, the precise detail that we (as NET patients) might want, is probably only to be found in Steve Jobs’s medical documents.
How was it found? In 2003, Steve was having a CT scan to examine his kidneys and ureter, as he had developed recurrent kidney stones beginning in the late 1990s. A suspicious lesion was spotted on his pancreas. To cut a long story short, he eventually had more specialist scans and then a biopsy which diagnosed a type of pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumour (pNET). There are many mentions of Insulinoma which is reported to have a 10% malignancy rate (ISI Book – Woltering et al). It isn’t clear whether Steve had any presentational symptoms of an Insulinoma at this point (i.e. hypoglycemia). There is also some chatter online about his tumour being a Glucagonoma (another type of pNET).
Steve initially tried alternative medicine before having surgery 9 months after diagnosis. There are reports of his medical team urging surgery earlier and his biographer stated that Steve had later regretted this delay. One of his Doctors is reported to have said “Steve was a very thoughtful person. In deciding whether or not to have major surgery, and when, he spent a few months consulting with a number of physicians and scientists worldwide as well as his team of superb physicians. It was his decision to do this”. He is reported to have gone on to have a ‘Whipple’ type operation in 2004. It was only then, that his condition was made public. During that operation, 3 lesions were reported on his liver.
It is common knowledge that Jobs had a liver transplant in 2009 in Tennessee (he was on the list in California and Tennessee). In between his Whipple (minus) and then, he appears to have lived (and worked) with his disease and it’s consequences. His issues appear to have been exacerbated by his excessive vegan diet/fads and the effects of the Whipple surgery (many of you will be aware of these effects). For example, he would spend weeks eating the same thing and then suddenly change his mind and stop eating it. He’d also go on fasts. His condition immediately prior to the liver transplant was said to be ‘poor’ and losing more weight (he had been noticeably thinner for some time).
In 2010, Jobs started to feel sick again. He would lose his appetite and begin to feel pains throughout his body. His doctors would do tests, detect nothing, and reassure him that he still seemed clear. In early November 2010, he was in pain, stopped eating and had to be fed intravenously by a nurse who came to the house. The doctors found no sign of more tumours, and they assumed that this was just another of his periodic cycles of fighting infections and digestive maladies.
In early 2011, doctors detected the recurrence that was causing these symptoms. Ultimately, he developed liver, bone, and other metastases. He had a further extended leave of absence from his job before stepping down as Apple CEO in Aug, Steve Jobs eventually died 5 Oct 2011.
Notwithstanding the Pancreatic Cancer vs Neuroendocrine Cancer issue, I carried out my research mainly using two articles of the many you can find out there:
- “And one more thing” about Steve Jobs’ battle with cancer
This is a long article and totally fascinating. Some of the evidence is presented using extracts from Walter Isaacson’s book ‘Steve Jobs’
A Tumor Is No Clearer in Hindsight. This article comes to similar conclusions than the one above but it’s shorter and easier to read. It’s from the New York times and was written after the dust settled on Jobs’ death (i.e. when more facts were available). There is also input to this article from NET specialists Dr Wolin and Dr Libutti.
“A tumor is no clearer in hindsight” is a good summary on the basis that I would have liked much more detail! During my research, I found many mentions of Insulin as stated above but only one or two mentioning Glucagon, a hormone associated with another pNET type – Glucagonoma. However, looking at this tumor type in the ISI Book (Woltering et al) and the Jobs diagnostic and treatment story, I have some doubts whether this was the precise tumor type. I have some other searches in progress hoping to find something concrete.
“Thinking Differently“ There is no doubt that Steve Jobs was an amazing and very interesting character. You just can’t see Apple being the Apple it is today without his intervention. He was famous for being ‘unconventional’ and ‘thinking different’ and I get that element of his character. I just can’t help thinking that perhaps he should have been more ‘conventional’ with this thinking and approach to treating his cancer. However, we just don’t know what advice he was receiving and what advice he accepted or rejected. As for the ‘Pancreatic Cancer’ thing – I’ve said this before, I believe patients only say or interpret what their doctors say to them in regards cancer type.
“The best patient ambassador we never had”. I don’t mean any disrespect by that, I’m just emphasising that we need so much more awareness of our cancer and a high-profile patient could do so much to help in this area. Steve would have been a fantastic advocate for Neuroendocrine Cancer and there’s an area where perhaps thinking different might be the way ahead.
Thanks for reading
I’m also active on Facebook. Like my page for even more news.