Steve Jobs Delayed His First Surgery For Pancreatic Cancer For Nine Months

Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of Steve Jobs is due out on Monday, but already a sad revelation from the book has come to light: Steve Jobs delayed the first operation on his pancreatic cancer back in 2004, ignoring the urgent pleas of his wife, friends and colleagues.

According to Isaacson, speaking to 60 Minutes:

“I’ve asked [Jobs why he didn't get an operation then] and he said, ‘I didn’t want my body to be opened…I didn’t want to be violated in that way,'” Isaacson recalls. So he waited nine months, while his wife and others urged him to do it, before getting the operation, reveals Isaacson. Asked by [60 Minutes correspondent Steve] Kroft how such an intelligent man could make such a seemingly stupid decision, Isaacson replies, “I think that he kind of felt that if you ignore something, if you don’t want something to exist, you can have magical thinking…we talked about this a lot,” he tells Kroft. “He wanted to talk about it, how he regretted it….I think he felt he should have been operated on sooner.”

By the time Jobs had surgery, the cancer had spread to the surrounding tissue. An earlier operation may well have given Jobs a much better chance at long-term survival.

Heartbreaking, and 100% human. Surgery is a deeply personal, invasive thing, and for a man as control-driven as Steve Jobs, the idea of being helpless in your own body against the ravages of cancer must have been difficult to accept. Who knows if Steve wouldn’t still be with us, though, if he’d come to terms with his sickness sooner?

The 60 Minutes segment on Isaacson’s book will air this Sunday at 7PM ET.

[via MacRumors]

  • aardman

    That is just heartbreaking. But if it makes a lot of people think twice about unscientific, new age, mumbo-jumbo “healing”, then some good would have come out of what was likely a tragic decision to delay treatment.

  • John Ramirez

    that kind of angers me, he should of done it the moment he found out.

  • Gouldsc

    Hopefully this will convince people in similar situations to get the surgery right away.  It’s such a sad waste, but maybe a little good will come from it.  People advocating and promoting ineffective and unscientific treatments should be held accountable for the damage they cause.

  • Ruiner

    I’ve held off on multiple life saving surgeries for up to two and a half years in some cases. I try to get through it, but eventually it forces my hand. I know I’ll need them and should’ve had them sooner… But I don’t like anyone but myself in the body… I feel violated when I’m cut open to have parts removed. Every single time. I don’t want to die… But it’s my right to do things my way… Even if I know I’ll regret my choices and die sooner. It was on my terms in the moments that those things took place.

  • jordan pauly

    We can sit and ponder and say what if until we go blue in the face. Steve practiced buddhism, and had a hippie mentality, of course he would try and cure it naturally first. While I don’t think he made the right decision, I can respect it and so should everyone else.

  • Phil

    How can such a smart man do such a stupid thing? FUCK YOU MAN, that’s his beliefs, if that’s what he wants to do thats his problem you worthless fuck. 

  • FitKY

    He did not have Pancreatic Cancer, the cancer he had has a much longer survival rate.

  • Ruiner

    Thank you. My sentiments exactly. :)

  • scubus

    It was a rare form of pancreatic cancer.

  • scubus

    First of all, those who are angry or second guessing Jobs’ decision have the benefit of hindsight and their own beliefs – it isn’t right to judge someone else about the decisions they make.  It was his right and fit his beliefs.

    Second, there seems to be an assumption that Jobs would still be alive – there is no way of knowing if that is true or not.  I wouldn’t let this revelation sadden you too much.  I am as sad as anyone to see Jobs gone, but that is the way of life and he accomplished so much.  It is hard to see his life as somehow unfulfilled.

    That said, I am sad he is gone and will forever wish he had the surgery so he might still be with us.  I’m as human as the next person I guess.

  • Eric Simon

    It’s worth pointing out that CNN reported this more than three-and-a-half years ago:

    http://cnnmon.ie/mXvwTq

  • c.t

    Does that mean he was not a Christian?

  • aardman

    The question could have been asked in a less callous way, but a valid point that needs to be raised is how society is being served by this creeping trend of anti-science thinking.

    Maybe, Steve’s decision to spend nine months delaying the surgery and exploring ‘alternative’ treatment affected only himself, his family, and closest friends (I refuse to put stockholders in there).  But how about the tens of millions of Americans who have chosen not to believe the scientific consensus on climate change?  To the extent that addressing climate change is delayed by such willful ignorance, everyone is affected.  Or how about all those parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated because of some pseudo-scientific quackery?  Or the people who will die of Aids because their country’s president refused to believe the science behind the disease?

  • Relax

    Holy cow, easy dude! R u a mindless follower o ny other cuts? Geezus.

  • Andrew

    Yes.

  • aardman

    I think it’s less about second guessing his decision, but more about drawing the proper lesson should one face a similar decision in the future:  Probably best not to listen to the quacks when your life is at stake.

    Part of the problem is excessive politeness in society where mumbo-jumbo and quackery are spoken of as if they are equally valid alternatives to scientific, evidence-based medicine.  THEY ARE NOT.  One is the product of (perhaps well-meaning) charlatans and the other is a product of a systematic, logical, and open process of inquiry.  Scientific medicine is not infallible but I guarantee you, its outcomes are far better than any other method of healing.

    Your post is an example of this excessive politeness. You say “there is no way of knowing if that is true or not”. That kind of mealy mouthed talk won’t help people contemplating cancer surgery today vs. alternative medicine. In truth there is a consequence to delaying treatment and seeking non-scientific cures — delay lowers your chances of getting cured. Even Steve realized this later on, that’s why he regretted delaying the surgery.

    That said, was he stupid to delay the surgery? No. He was human and he was scared. Like most of us would be. But now we have the example of his experience and maybe that knowledge will help us conquer fear should we face a similar decision in the future.

  • Connor Tubridy

    Steve was known to be inspired by Buddhist culture, if not a practicing Buddhist himself. Non-attachment being the crux of Buddhist belief, he may have just been practicing non-attachment to his own body when passing on the surgery. Attachment to the body is the cause of suffering, not the cancer.

    Not everyone’s goal is to live as long as possible regardless of circumstance.

  • Mushi006

    It’s a simple mistake. I think this article outlines that, no matter who you are we all have regrets in our lifetime.

  • Cwdoan

    I don’t get it. This is like super old news. CNN wrote a story on this in like 2007. Walter Isaacson is not “breaking” this story…

  • Phil

    Yeah, but his life, his body his religion doesn’t affect the masses. Don’t compare a global event to a personal choice that only affects him and his family. It’s his choice.
    He may affect others through sadness and such, but in all reality that is his life and he can choose what to do with it. It would have been different if other people would have died because of it but as it is, it only physically affected him.
    This would be the same as saying, instead of so so and so doing something stupid like praying, he could have gone to the doctor. It’s their religion their choice.

    What made me upset was that this guy insulted his beliefs by calling it stupid, but someone say praying to Jesus is stupid and watch this forum blow up. Do you get what I’m saying? Sorry if I offended anyone, but that’s fucked up yah know?

  • scubus

    They are not equally valid alternatives to scientific, evidence based medicine to whom?  You?  Me? 

    There is a consequence to delaying treatment, and depending on your beliefs there is a consequence to submitting to certain treatments.   Your way (and mine by the way) are not the “right” way, just one alternative. 

    And my statement wasn’t out of politeness, it is simply a fact.  Telling people that there are no alternatives, and ignoring the potentially negative possibilities to major surgery like the one in question won’t help people make decisions either.  

    But more importantly, when did it become our job to help people make decisions anyway?  And why is it the wrong decision if they don’t make the one you would make?

  • Gouldsc

    How about when they later come to regret the decision like Jobs did.  I think it’s perfectly fine to say that someone made a bad decision when it almost certainly resulted in their death.  The problem is that people are getting away with promoting quackery as legitimate alternatives to scientifically proven treatments. They are confusing people, taking their money in exchange for snake oils and the result is that people are dying.  It’s sick, and the victims of such moronic advice are absolutely making the wrong decision when they ignore the advice of MD’s (especially if multiple MD’s all agree on a particular treatment).

  • Ashera

    Why do we have such a desire to pass judgement on a man’s personal decision?

  • scubus

    The original message was received at 2011-10-21 17:16:08 -0400
    from postoffice.gateway.2wire.net [10.0.0.1]

    —– The following addresses had permanent fatal errors —– <(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)>

    —–Transcript of session follows —–
    … while talking to postoffice.gateway.2wire.net.:</(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)>

  • scubus

    So?  It is still a personal decision, whether or not you and I believe  another decision would be more prudent.  Jobs was never stupid.

    Science isn’t the end all beat all – what about the people who have surgery like this and die on the table?  In major surgery like this that isn’t exactly rare.  Medicine is not an exact science.

    You choose which set of odds to play.  Regretting the decision later is like regretting picking the long shot at the track.  And to [pass judgement on anyone because they choose a different path than you would is the wrong way to approach anything.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in News | Tagged: , , , , , |