Steve Jobs: One More Thing

Bruce D. Cheson, MD


March 23, 2012

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This is Bruce Cheson, from Georgetown University Hospital and the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. This is Medscape Hematology, and today is book review day.

I want to talk just a little bit about Steve Jobs, the Walter Isaacson book,[1] which I just finished. For anybody who has been in Apple® stores, used an iPhone®, an iPad®, an iPod®, or an Apple computer, this book is worth reading. Steve Jobs was an unusual man and amazing man. He changed the world in the way we read, the way we learn, and the way we listen to music. He changed structures of companies and how we think about products.

There was an interesting quote in the book, which asked the question, "Was he smart?" l love this quote, so I am going to read it.

And the answer is no, not exceptionally. Instead he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. He was, indeed, an example of what the mathematician Mark Kaye called a magician genius; someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mere mental processing power. Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead.

That is what I would like to be. His life was interesting: how he built it, constructed it, developed it, and thought about it, even though he was exceptionally difficult. But it is how his life ended that is very sad.

There is a lesson to be learned here, which hopefully you can transmit to certain patients who may be in jeopardy of making a similar mistake. Steve Jobs died of a curable neuroendocrine tumor in the pancreas. Instead of agreeing to surgery (and the resection of the tumor probably would have eliminated the disease), he continued on his lifetime journey through "alternative approaches," such as Buddhism, herbs, and all sorts of approaches that prevented him from getting the kind of treatment he needed.

I am routinely asked by patients, "What about all these herbs and so forth that everybody keeps telling me will cure my cancer?" If nothing else, as part of Steve Jobs' legacy, you can hold the book and say, "Here is someone who could have been cured, one of the greatest business minds that we have encountered. Yet, he let himself die because he neglected and ignored sound medical advice and took the alternative path."

It is sad. It is unfortunate. However, maybe we can reap some benefit from his colossal mistake. This is a book worth reading. I enjoyed it. You don't really like Steve Jobs by the end of this book-- but what he did and how he did it is incredible.

So, read the book; enjoy it; and use his life as an example, which might help patients with cancer in the future. This is Bruce Cheson for Medscape Hematology.


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