Hindsight is kind to Steve Jobs’ decision to delay cancer surgery

““Was Steve Jobs a smart guy who made a stupid decision when it came to his health?” Denise Grady asks for The New York Times.

“It might seem so, from the broad outlines of what he did in 2003 when a CT scan and other tests found a cancerous tumor in his pancreas. Doctors urged him to have an operation to remove the tumor, but Mr. Jobs put it off and instead tried a vegan diet, juices, herbs, acupuncture and other alternative remedies,” Grady reports. “Nine months later, the tumor had grown. Only then did he agree to surgery, during which his doctors found that the cancer had spread to his liver, according to the new biography by Walter Isaacson. Cancer eventually killed him.”

“The sequence of events has given rise to news articles and blogs based on 20/20 hindsight, speculating that if only Mr. Jobs had had the surgery right away, doctors could have caught the cancer early, before it spread, and saved him,” Grady reports. “But there is no way in this life to know what might have been — not in politics, baseball, romance or the stock market, and certainly not in sickness and health. Mr. Jobs’s wish to avoid or delay surgery was not unusual. And given the type of tumor he had and the way it was found, his decision to wait may not have been as ill considered as it seems at first blush.”

Much more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Steve Jobs tried everything from exotic diets to cutting-edge treatments in brave battle with cancer – October 21, 2011
Biographer: Steve Jobs refused early and potentially life-saving surgery for nine months (with video) – October 20, 2011
Doctor: There’s no way of knowing if nine-month surgery delay shortened Steve Jobs’ life – October 15, 2011
Harvard Medical School researcher: Steve Jobs’ trust in alternative medicine likely shortened his life – October 14, 2011


    1. In the New York Times? The newspaper that makes Fox news look like a tabloid? The leftist mouthpiece for readers unable to compare tone with honesty?

      I guess it can happen, once in awhile.

      Reality is this: The surgery was not a walk in the park. It was a 1/20 chance of instant death. Nobody can say they would have done it unless they’re willing to roll the dice on their life.

      Would you play russian roulette where you chose from one of 4 revolvers, one of which had a bullet in it?

  1. I dont understand why he would have delayed this. If they said have chemotherapy, I could see why he would have objected to that and tried alternatives. Having surgery to have it removed shouldnt have violated any of his beliefs on health.

    1. The surgery Jobs had to (and finally did) undergo is quite invasive, and live changing. It changes the whole metabolism, and thereby, your life. As evidenced by Jobs’ rapid weight loss and struggle to gain weight afterwards.

      I find it quite understandable if people want to hold off the surgery (especially if the diagnosis indicated a slow growing tumor, as it did in Jobs’ case), and research alternatives.

    2. That surgery he delayed has the same risk of playing russian roulette. Imagine you had four guns on the table in front of you. Each a revolver and one of them had one bullet.

      Would you pick up one, put it to your temple and pull the trigger?

      Four 6 shooters with one bullet is a 1 in 24 chance of getting the chamber with the bullet.

      The surgery Steve avoided had a 1 in 20 chance of killing him on the spot.

      1. You’ve seen the deer hunter one to many times.

        So he could have rolled the dice and and had a 1/20 chance to live to be an old man.

        Or let the chips fall where they may and die 8 years later at the ripe old age of…56?!

        Where is that revolver?

  2. According to the book, Jobs has, throughout his life, rejected accepting, indeed, even receiving, information that he didn’t like. He simply refused to acknowledge, in essence willing it out of his existence. He did the same with cancer, refusing to accept and deal with the issue, until the barrage of voices (primarily from Lorraine, as well as other family and close friends) eventually convinced him that he would otherwise die and leave a thoroughly unfulfilled legacy.

    It seems that this refusal to accept and process information he didn’t like was much more the reason for delaying than was any fear of physical invasion of his body, spiritual, philosophical or other concerns.

    1. The upside of it is you’re typing this on an iPad today due to his resilience in the face of overwhelming evidence that Windows tablets were a failure in the market.

    2. “It seems that this refusal to accept and process information he didn’t like was” … the actual origin of his cancer. My mother in low died of the same type of cancer and her caracter was similar to SJ caracter.

    3. Had he opted for surgery, how do we know it would’ve worked out well? We won’t. Had he opted for chemo/radio therapy, how do we know it would’ve worked out well? We won’t.

      Now, think of the people who entrusted their lives to the medical industry and their “friends” who passionately adore operations and chemo/radio therapies. Most of them died as well. Had they turned to alternative ways, how do we know they would’ve survived. We won’t know as well.

      Pretty easy being an expert on the past. Lots of people here seemed to become expert the day this part of the Jobs’ story made headlines, spearheaded by pharma-sluts aka medical doctors/journalists.

      Moral of the story? Jobs chose what he thought was good for him. Did he undergo operation and chemo/radio therapy? YES. So who can say that Jobs died because of his arrogance in delaying the operation/chemo/radio therapy and not the last treatments he received? Nobody. Well, except the highly corrupt medical industry who just wants to cash in on this story to promote their “life saving” procedures?

      People still live in wonderland, i guess.

      1. With this type of cancer surgery delays or not may mean anything at all.

        Surgery time is definitely critical only in fast-moving cancers, not slow ones as here.

        Obviously in the surgery of 2004 cancer was cut out in all areas it existed by then, yet it reappear. If Jobs would have surgery sooner, this could change nothing at all in his tragic destiny.

  3. Anyone in this decade who really thinks veggies, juice and sticking pins in yourself is going to cure any size cancer tumor is just plain in denial and avoidance mode. My parents and grandparents (except 1) died of cancer. My mother went into denial with her tiny lung cancer spot and it killed her 3 years later. Dad ignored symptoms until his Pancreatic cancer was too far gone. If I learned anything from either of them it’s if it’s cancer, you can’t wait or screw around. Seems when people are in shock from the diagnosis and starring death in the face it can paralyze logical reasoning skills to avoid facing the severity full on. Hope I don’t do freeze when it’s my turn. These days it’s not if you get cancer but when.

    1. Funny. When people hold off operations and chemo/radio therapies and die, they are called lots of names such as idiots, in denial, in avoidance mode, stubborn and crazy. When others engage in operations, chemo/radio therapies and die, they are called a loss in the community. I can’t believe people still think that the western medical industry has the numbers on cancer. THEY DON’T. Chemo/Radio therapies KILL patients faster than they treat them.

      How many celebrities have underwent chemo/radio therapies and still die? Did the medical industry and these “paid reporters” blame their trust on the western medical industry? NO. Why is that? Because they are all pharma-sluts who benefit one way or the other from the medical industries hold on cancer patients. People who know nothing, however, just parrots the idea that chemo/radio therapies “may” save a cancer patient’s life. Did they think that not undergoing these therapies “may” save a patient’s life as well? No. Why is that? Because they KNOW NOTHING.

      1. I might add, I saw some co-workers saved or their lives extended many more years acting quickly. I watched my parents go within months by living in denial of symptoms and cures.

        Imagine what Steve could have done with another 5 or 6 years? The further influence in products and he’d been able to watch his kids all graduate from High School. Maybe attend a wedding or 2 for the older ones.

  4. Everyone does realize that pancreatic cancer has a 5-6% 5-year survival rate, right? He got 8 years after diagnosis. No matter what happened, the odds pretty much dictated that he wasn’t making it to 80. So, instead of screwing up his metabolism with surgery (which surgery does every time), he decided to try something else.

    I had pancreatitis once (complication from gall bladder surgery) and I can tell you that was pretty awful not only from a pain standpoint but how it screws up your body. I was down for a week and was not right for 3 or 4 months. I don’t even know what it would be like to have it removed and not being able to eat “normally”.

    I have also spent some time at cancer wings in hospitals along with ICUs watching my dad battle other forms of cancer. It’s not go in, have your treatment, and go home. It’s harsh. It’s painful. It is not something that should be entered into lightly.

    What I saw with my dad, what I experienced with my small whisp of issues with my pancreas, and knowning the mortality rate of that cancer, I can’t really say I would have not made the same choice to put off the quality of life ending surgery for some “other” options.

    However, in the end, his decision may have cost him at most 3-5 more years. Nothing more. This decades of life or he would have been cured opinions are wishful thinking at best and complete armchair quarterbacking.

  5. All in all, Isaacson made Jobs look stupid for delaying the decision to make surgery.

    Isaacson failed at his work as biographer to properly explain basic things that these that were said in this article.

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