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Jobs Tried Exotic Treatments to Combat Cancer, Book Says…

Posted Oct 23 2011 12:14pm

In the past couple of days I’ve read several online newspaper articles announcing the upcoming publication of Steve Jobs’ biography. All these articles roughly claim the same thing, with more or less vehemence…that is, if Steve Jobs had  delayed surgery for nine months after his 2003 diagnosis, he might, even would, still be alive. Over and over I read that by the time he got the operation, it was too late.

Well, that is completely unacceptable. No matter how you spin it.

Before we begin, if the  thing you gather from my post today is that I’m opposed to chemo and radiotherapy and conventional treatments in general, then let me tell you: you missed my point entirely. Okay, now there cannot be any misunderstandings. Or so I hope. So let’s take a quick look at a few of the headlines I read online:

Steve Jobs died regretting that he had spent so long attempting to treat his cancer with alternative medicine before agreeing to undergo surgery, his biographer has disclosed.” (Telegraph, UK:  http://goo.gl/LOns7 ). Okay, y’all, that’s hearsay. It wouldn’t stand up in court, would it? No. However, that said, I actually don’t doubt that in the end Jobs DID in fact regret not having the surgery in 2003. I can well imagine what pressure he must have been under to start conventional treatment for his cancer. I myself was subjected to some of that pressure back in 2005…

I simply loved this fiery headline: “Jobs Tried Exotic Treatments to Combat Cancer, Book Says.” (The New York Times:  http://goo.gl/G4vzr ). Hmmm…I’d be very curious to have details on these, er, exotic treatments…I guess they’ll come out sooner or later. 

Another headline (different newspapers used the same one): “Steve Jobs Refused Potentially Life-Saving Surgery, Says Biographer.” For crying out loud, didn’t he have the right to choose what to do with his own bloody body? Oh, and please don’t fail to spot that adverb, “Potentially.” Potentially, not “Definitely.” So surgery MIGHT or MIGHT NOT have saved his life. Most people (myself included, at first), however, will interpret this headline as determining that Jobs refused THE surgery that WOULD have saved his life. But hey, nothing is certain, is it? There are so many variables in cancer treatment. I mean, Jobs might have died during surgery (I’ll return to this particular point later)…or right after…or he might have done just fine and still be alive today. Who knows? Who possesses that all-revealing crystal ball?

Now I would like to digress for a few moments and tell a personal story: a few years ago one of Stefano’s cousins, a man in his mid 30s, seemingly strong and healthy, went to the doctor with what he believed was a minor stomach complaint. After various tests, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Not the slow-growing type, either. Well, long story short: he consulted the best pancreatic cancer specialists thatItalyhas to offer…and he began chemotherapy immediately. Unfortunately, he declined rapidly and died within a few weeks, leaving behind a wife and baby son. Let me tell you, it was absolutely horrible…

I would NEVER maintain, of course, that the cousin might still be alive or might have lived longer and in less pain IF he had NOT gone to the doctor in the first place or had NOT done any chemotherapy. And I’m certainly NOT saying that he’d still be alive or would have lived longer if he’d INSTEAD chosen to do any alternative treatments. To be honest, I think he would have died no matter what…And in the end he was suffering so much (from the chemo or the cancer, who knows?) that we were almost relieved when we got the final phone call…

So let’s go back to that “potentially” life-saving surgery that Jobs refused in 2003…And, just for the heck of it, let’s argue the following: what would have happened if Jobs had agreed to the surgery but then had died during the operation? Would the headlines have shrieked “Steve Jobs killed by surgery”? Or, even more preposterously, “Steve Jobs refused potentially life-saving alternative treatments”? Of course not.  No, the headlines would most likely have been: “Steve Jobs died during surgery. His doctors did their best to save him.” And I don’t doubt his doctors did whatever they could to save him, mind you. Again, please don’t miss my main point…

…which is: you do not question conventional medicine… 

…but you  question alternative medicine…

Of course there’s some REALLY bad stuff out there, some very toxic stuff that could REALLY, not just !, make you worse, much worse. I’m referring now to those purported “miraculous cancer cures” that  you should NOT touch with a ten-foot pole. Beware! There are a lot of snake oil merchants who feed greedily and callously on a cancer patient’s fear and desperation. They’ll assure you that they can cure your cancer. Ah, you have no idea what I would do to those ruthless bastards…And it is certainly possible that Steve Jobs fell prey to some of them. Who knows?

It takes quite a bit of experience to filter the potentially good from the unmistakably bad stuff. If you read about a substance that has no scientific backing whatsoever, stay away from it. And even when it IS properly scientifically-backed, do your research thoroughly, peruse PubMed, ask the experts, consult with your healthcare providers. Check it out carefully, as it could have unwanted side effects or toxicities (cyclopamine comes to mind). And we have to be super careful with dosing, too. Too much of a good thing is probably NOT such a good thing in the end, y’know!

But please remember: there are also some solid alternative treatments out there, which won’t cure you but might really help keep you stable or even bring down some of your markers. And, with integrative oncology, who knows what the future may bring? I have high hopes.

You know, sometimes I wonder how well I would be doing today if, back in 2005-6, in the absence of any CRAB symptoms, I’d chosen to take my hematologist’s advice and go ahead and do chemo + a stem cell transplant. I might be just fine. But I suspect that I’d probably be worse off, to some degree. Back then, you see, I didn’t know about the negative impact of early intervention. Back then, I didn’t know about CRAB symptoms. Again, though, where’s that crystal ball?

At any rate, whenever you read newspaper headlines screeching and squealing that Steve Jobs made a mistake in not choosing surgery, please stop to consider that we just cannot know everything, and that it’s pointless to speculate.

And also…who are  to judge?

Okay. I guess I’d better stop here. This post is getting to be way too long. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, as the horrible saying goes!

Luckily, there is at least ONE reporter with some sense out there (she also gives the reason why all those stupid headlines came out in the first place). And so I choose to end my post with her words:  http://goo.gl/MbRYr

Last but not least, I’d like to dedicate this post to Lucie, wonderful writer of the “Green Bananas” blog, who had pancreatic cancer and died last year. She and I corresponded privately for quite some time…She attributed her “longevity” to her curcumin intake. Anyway, a very funny, lovely, talented woman. I miss her quirky sense of humor, just as I miss Nancy’s (La Cootina). You can still check out her blog if you want (see link on the right, under “Other cancer blogs”). There’s some really funny stuff there…

Written by Margaret

October 23rd, 2011 at 9:14 am

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