June 22, 2009: Steve Jobs returns to work at Apple, a couple of months after undergoing a liver transplant as part of his cancer treatment.
Although Jobs has been steadily getting back into work for the past several weeks, the news is made official when a quote from him appears on a June 22 press release about iPhone 3GS sales. An Apple employee also alerts the media after spotting Jobs on campus.
With his return confirmed, everyone wants to know how long Jobs will continue to lead Apple.
Steve Jobs’ pancreatic cancer
Jobs’ health problems had been well-known for years by 2009. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2003, he informed his employees of his illness in mid-2004. However, while the prognosis for pancreatic cancer is usually poor, Jobs had a rare, less-aggressive type of cancer called islet cell neuroendocrine tumor.
Jobs rejected doctors’ recommendations to undergo surgery for nine months, deciding instead to treat the condition with alternative therapies. These included vegan diets, acupuncture, herbal remedies and even a psychic consultation.
Surgery, chemotherapy and shifting cover stories
He ultimately underwent surgery in July 2004. (Tim Cook temporarily assumed the role of Apple CEO for the first time during Jobs’ absence.) During the surgery, doctors found liver metastases, which prompted Jobs to begin chemotherapy.
Jobs returned to Apple in 2005, and told everyone he had been cured — which is the same thing he told students during his famous Stanford commencement address in June 2005. Sadly, he wasn’t. This became obvious to everyone by August 2006, when Jobs appeared much thinner than before during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.
Apple denied stories that Jobs remained ill, but the rumors reared their head again at WWDC 2008. This time, Apple said Jobs had been suffering from a “common bug” and had been prescribed antibiotics.
In January 2009, Apple’s story changed again. Now, the company said Jobs suffered from a “hormone imbalance” that made him unwell.
Steve Jobs liver transplant: Illness more serious than previously thought
Finally, Jobs admitted in an internal memo that his “health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.” He said he would take a six-month leave of absence until June 2009.
This would allow Jobs to undergo a liver transplant. As we now know from the book Becoming Steve Jobs, Cook offered his boss a portion of his own liver for the transplant. Jobs turned it down.
Jobs underwent surgery at Methodist University Hospital Transplant Institute in Memphis, Tennessee, in April 2009. As promised, he then took several months’ leave to recover before returning to Apple in June.
‘Excellent’ prognosis prompts return to Apple
Although his prognosis was reportedly “excellent,” the media still asked questions. CNBC, for instance, reported that Jobs was back at work, but wondered for how long:
“Now, the broader question is whether today is a one-hit-wonder, whether he won’t be here tomorrow, whether his return to Apple full-time is actually coming earlier than the ‘end of June’ time-frame the company has maintained since he left on medical leave in January.
Either way, if the liver transplant time-frame is accurate, and he had the procedure done only two months ago, his return today is pretty impressive.
Meantime, we still await official word from Apple, but employees are confirming this. The news is solid. Jobs is back in the house, at least for today.”
The return lasted until mid-2011, when Jobs finally handed the role of CEO to Cook for good.
End of the Steve Jobs era at Apple
Jobs’ last couple of years back at the reins of Apple proved eventful. He launched the iPad, acquired Siri and worked to integrate the AI assistant into the iPhone, worked on plans for the Apple Park “spaceship” campus and much, much more.