Steve Jobs: A difficult patient
October 25th, 2011
12:27 PM ET

Steve Jobs: A difficult patient

All those vague statements about his health that Steve Jobs put out in the last few years caused endless speculation, as the world tried to read into what could really be going on.

But now, with the biography "Steve Jobs" with Walter Isaacson, we know that behind many of those optimistic statements was a cancer that was spreading from pancreas to liver, and finally to bones and elsewhere in the body. One of the biggest surprises is that while he received state of the art medical care, he went against doctors' orders many times.

When his pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor was first discovered in October 2003, doctors said he was lucky that it had been detected so early, and it could be removed before definitely spreading. But, in Jobs' own words, "I really didn't want them to open up my body, so I tried to see if a few other things would work." Those "other things" included a strict vegan diet, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and other alternative techniques -  even consulting a psychic.

His family pleaded with him, but it wasn't until June 2004, when a CAT scan revealed that the tumor had grown and perhaps spread, that he had to realize he couldn't successfully will his own cancer treatment.

The surgery in July 2004 involved a modified Whipple procedure, removing part of the pancreas. But it wasn't a cure: Doctors found cancer spread to three spots on his liver during the operation. It's impossible to know whether having the surgery sooner would have removed the cancer before it had spread. Yet Jobs told everyone he had been "cured." In his famous 2005 Stanford Commencement speech, a rare moment of being forthcoming about his cancer to the public, he said "I had the surgery and I'm fine now."

Jobs also went against doctors' orders with his eating habits.

Since he was a teenager, Jobs had practiced strange routines involving fasting, and would go on obsessive diets.

That's a problem because, the stomach needs enzymes to digest food and absorb nutrients, making it harder for patients who've had pancreas surgery to get enough protein. The standard of care is to have frequent meals and a diet with a variety of proteins from meats, fish and milk. But, as Isaacson points out, "Jobs had never done this, and he never would."

Flash forward to 2008, when Jobs and his doctors knew the cancer was spreading. Besides being in pain, Jobs was losing a lot of weight. This was partly a result of the partial Whipple procedure, partly because his appetite was reduced because of cancer and morphine, and also because he insisted on the same restrictive diets and fasts he'd practiced since his teenage years. Sometimes he would spend weeks only eating something like apples, or a carrot salad with lemon, and then abruptly denounce that food.

Isaacson writes:

Beginning in early 2008 Jobs' eating disorders got worse. On some nights he would stare at the floor and ignore all of the dishes set out on the long kitchen table. When others were halfway through their meal, he would abruptly get up and leave, saying nothing. It was stressful for his family. They watched him lose forty pounds during the spring of 2008.

In a public statement he attributed his weight loss to "a hormone imbalance that has been robbing me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis. The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple."

We all had speculations, but what that actually meant was: Jobs had a hormone imbalance because his cancer had spread to his liver.

He underwent a liver transplant in 2009, when his health was declining rapidly. It was successful, but doctors found that there were tumors throughout the organ, meaning the cancer had probably spread elsewhere. They also found spots on the thin membrane surrounding internal organs.

Jobs again went against doctors when he insisted that they not pump out his stomach when they needed to perform a routine procedure. That led to pneumonia, and he might have died. But he survived, and didn't lose his stubbornness, even while deeply sedated. He thought the oxygen monitor on his finger was "ugly and too complex," and offered ideas for making the design simpler.

His health and spirits appeared to improve after the transplant, but in November 2010 he experienced another downturn. He was a mere 115 pounds at Christmas. Doctors saw evidence of new tumors. "Every inch of his body felt like it had been punched, he told friends," Isaacson writes.

And his dietary finickiness continued. The family had a part-time cook who made him a variety of healthy options, but he would refuse them after merely touching one or two to his tongue. Cancer curbs appetite, but Isaacson suggests Jobs had a deeper complication from his psychological attitude toward food. He took a third medical leave in January 2011.

Jobs was among the first 20 people in the world to have a complete sequencing of all of the genes of his cancer tumor, and of his normal DNA. In this way, his medical team could choose specific drugs targeted at the molecular pathways that were promoting the abnormal growth of cancer cells. "I'm either going to be one of the first to be able to outrun a cancer like this, or I'm going to be one of the last to die from it," Jobs told Isaacson.

In July 2011, however, doctors had trouble pushing back against the cancer even with targeted drugs. Jobs had stopped going to work; he was in pain, couldn't eat most solid food, and passed many days watching TV.

When Jobs announced his resignation as Apple's CEO at the board meeting on August 24, the cancer had spread to his bones and other body parts.

"I've had a very lucky career, a very lucky life," he told Isaacson. "I've done all that I can do."

soundoff (1,566 Responses)
  1. RV Fiberglass Repair Near Me

    Greetings, I think your web site could be having web browser compatibility problems. When I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in I.E., it's got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Other than that, wonderful website!


    June 21, 2021 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Chassis Repair Near Me

    Hi there! I simply want to offer you a big thumbs up for the excellent information you have got right here on this post. I am returning to your web site for more soon.


    June 21, 2021 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Awning Repair Near Me


    June 21, 2021 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. https://casinoae888.com/

    Every weekend i used to pay a quick visit this website, because i wish
    for enjoyment, as this this website conations in fact good funny data too.

    June 22, 2021 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Trailer Repair Near Me


    June 22, 2021 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. podcast app

    Your style is so unique compared to other people I've read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I'll just book mark this page.


    June 22, 2021 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Mobile Repair Service Near Me

    When I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!


    June 22, 2021 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Fridge Repair Near Me

    Howdy! This post could not be written any better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I am going to forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!


    June 22, 2021 at 23:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Roof Repair Near Me

    Hello there! This blog post could not be written much better! Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 22, 2021 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Exhaust Repair Near Me


    June 23, 2021 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Content Marketing Near Me


    June 23, 2021 at 01:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Fridge Repair Near Me

    This is the perfect website for anyone who wishes to understand this topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need toÖHaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a topic which has been discussed for ages. Excellent stuff, just excellent!


    June 23, 2021 at 02:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Digital Marketing Service

    There's certainly a lot to find out about this subject. I like all of the points you have made.


    June 23, 2021 at 02:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. scott adams podcast


    June 23, 2021 at 05:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. RV Brake Repair Near Me

    Hi, I do think this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may revisit yet again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide others.


    June 23, 2021 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. royal mail chat facebook

    Awesome post.

    June 23, 2021 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. SEO Marketing Agency


    June 23, 2021 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Windshield Repair Near Me

    Having read this I thought it was rather enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this information together. I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    June 23, 2021 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Digital Marketing Companies Near Me

    You're so awesome! I don't suppose I've truly read through a single thing like that before. So good to discover somebody with a few genuine thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This site is one thing that's needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!


    June 23, 2021 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Repair Shops Near My Location

    There is definately a great deal to find out about this issue. I really like all of the points you have made.


    June 23, 2021 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Content Marketing Firm


    June 23, 2021 at 20:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Social Media Marketing Services Near Me

    bookmarked!!, I really like your web site!


    June 23, 2021 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Windshield Repair Near Me

    Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is extremely helpful. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 23, 2021 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. dry cleaners near me

    Hello! I could have sworn Iíve visited this website before but after browsing through some of the posts I realized itís new to me. Nonetheless, Iím certainly delighted I found it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back often!


    June 23, 2021 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Glass Repair Near Me

    Everyone loves it when individuals get together and share views. Great blog, stick with it!


    June 24, 2021 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. RV Repair Shops Near Me

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will return yet again since i have bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.


    June 24, 2021 at 02:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Google Marketing Agencies


    June 24, 2021 at 05:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Collision Repair Near Me


    June 24, 2021 at 06:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Repair Center Near Me


    June 24, 2021 at 06:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Window Repair Near Me

    Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it doesn't fail me as much as this one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read through, however I really thought you would probably have something helpful to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you could possibly fix if you weren't too busy looking for attention.


    June 24, 2021 at 06:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. SEO Marketing Companies


    June 24, 2021 at 07:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV Windshield Repair Near Me

    This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something that helped me. Thanks a lot!


    June 24, 2021 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. home

    Heya i am for the primary time here. I found this board and I find It truly useful
    & it helped me out a lot. I'm hoping to present something
    again and help others like you helped me.

    June 24, 2021 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Repair Huntington Beach


    June 24, 2021 at 14:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Repair Near My Location

    An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a co-worker who was conducting a little homework on this. And he actually bought me breakfast because I found it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending some time to talk about this topic here on your site.


    June 24, 2021 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. RV Parts And Repair Near Me

    I need to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it. I've got you saved as a favorite to look at new stuff you postÖ


    June 24, 2021 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. progressive photo inspection near me

    Howdy! This blog post could not be written much better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this post to him. Pretty sure he's going to have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 24, 2021 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RV Repair Nearby

    You should take part in a contest for one of the greatest sites online. I will recommend this blog!


    June 24, 2021 at 19:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. rv step repair

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this article and the rest of the site is really good.


    June 24, 2021 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. RV Repair Orange County California


    June 24, 2021 at 20:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RV Repair Shops Nearby

    Spot on with this write-up, I seriously feel this web site needs a lot more attention. Iíll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the advice!


    June 24, 2021 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. RV Windshield Repair Near Me

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly believe that this amazing site needs much more attention. Iíll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the advice!


    June 24, 2021 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RV Repair Near Me

    You're so cool! I do not think I've read anything like this before. So good to find another person with some unique thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This site is one thing that's needed on the web, someone with a little originality!


    June 25, 2021 at 04:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Window Repair Near Me

    An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that you need to write more about this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but generally people don't talk about these issues. To the next! Kind regards!!


    June 25, 2021 at 08:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. RV Repair Shops Near Me Now

    Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely feel this amazing site needs far more attention. Iíll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the info!


    June 25, 2021 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Nannette Schrum

    Great articles. Thank you for the information what percentage of the us population is spanish speaking?


    June 25, 2021 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Caitlyn Retherford

    Great website. Thank you for the information what are the steps to learn spanish?


    June 25, 2021 at 12:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Sprinter Repair Near Me

    You are so cool! I do not suppose I've read through something like that before. So great to find another person with a few genuine thoughts on this topic. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a bit of originality!


    June 25, 2021 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Repair Places Near Me

    You've made some really good points there. I looked on the net for additional information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.


    June 25, 2021 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. RV Repair Orange County


    June 25, 2021 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Leave a Reply to Sprinter Seat Belt Buckle Repair


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.