Saturday, August 28, 2010
Steve Jobs: Silent Neuroendocrine Tumor Survivor
In 2010, Forbes Magazine estimated Apple's Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs's net worth at 5.5 billion dollars, and Fortune magazine named Jobs as the single most influential person in business. Despite his money and influence, however, Steve Jobs has failed miserably in one critical area: as a survivor advocate for neuroendocrine tumors.
Neuroendocrine tumors (NET) cause carcinoid cancer, and Jobs had one. Like most things Apple, news of Jobs's health has been kept tightly under wraps, despite swirling conjecture. The first confirmation of cancer came from Jobs himself in an August 2004 email to employees, which he wrote from his hospital bed after having an islet cell pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor removed. The email was upbeat and boldly claimed that the surgery had "cured" him of cancer. Then, he went silent.
Jobs's ongoing secrecy about his cancer and treatment has spurred some outrageously false media reports, including a mistakenly published obituary by Bloomberg financial newswire in 2008. But instead of using these media glitches as an opportunity for advocacy, Jobs has just laughed them off - even jokingly quoting Mark Twain: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated".
So it was no surprise that Jobs made big news in March 2010 when he agreed to stand by Arnold Schwarzenegger's side at a press conference introducing new organ donor legislation. In front of reporters, Jobs publicly revealed that he had received a liver transplant in 2009, and spoke passionately about needing a "media campaign" to make an otherwise uniformed public aware of the need for organ donations. Again - Jobs said nothing about his rare underlying cancer, which is most likely the reason why he had to get a liver transplant in the first place.
Jobs's comments were akin to a parent at a GM press conference arguing for better breaks after losing a child in a drunk driving accident. While no one can argue against the importance of organ donations (or breaks), the root cause of the tragedy remains buried thereby squandering a unique opportunity to emotionally reach people on a life-saving issue.
I understand that Jobs is considered an indispensable asset to consumer confidence in Apple, which in turn affects stock prices; but as Charles de Gualle once said, "the graveyards of the world are filled with indispensable men." What if Jobs's legacy wasn't simply a cool phone and snazzy computer? What if he stopped looking for the hottest new gadget and started inspiring others to look for a cure for neuroendocrine tumors?
Charles de Gualle also said, "Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own." I hope that someday Jobs will make the fight against neuroendocrine tumors and carcinoid cancer his own, and use his iconic status to convince the world to join him.