Sunday, October 23, 2011

My connection to Steve Jobs

     No, I had never met him, but he and I shared a great deal in common. In 2009, when I was first diagnosed with neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer, I said, “I have the same kind of cancer that Steve Jobs had.” (Since he was supposedly cured, and I had not yet been treated.) Not only was my diagnosis the same, but so was my surgeon, my surgery (as far as we could discern), and the hospital where we were both received our care. Soon after, the statement changed to “I had the same kind of cancer that Steve Jobs has” when he was looking badly and seemed like he wasn’t doing too well, and I had been treated. And now, I say, “I had the same kind of cancer that Steve Jobs had.” I hope beyond hope that whatever we once shared in common is now over. I pray that my path will be quite different from his. By now we have all read the reports that he put off treatment for 9 months and tried alternative therapies. Who will ever know if that made a difference in the course of his disease? Neuroendocrine pancreatic is not “the regular kind” of pancreatic cancer, but a much more curable and manageable disease. While my oncologist will not use the word “cured” for me, my surgeon will. I’ll take it. It’s just a word, but one that can completely change how you think about life. I now say, “I’m cured!”

     Can you imagine what the past few weeks have been like for me? So many people have asked me how I handled his death. When Steve Jobs died, I was in Greece, on a trip of a lifetime where I was swimming from island to island. I was with my husband, and it was our 25th wedding anniversary gift to ourselves as well as a bit of a celebratory trip 2 years post Whipple surgery for my neuroendocrine pancreatic tumor. I was scared to go – afraid to travel so far from home in case something happened to me. I’ve had cancer 3 times, 8 surgeries and have been hospitalized more than 20 times. Many systems don’t work so well, and I get frequent bowel obstructions, which sometimes require me to be hospitalized. But I went, overcoming my greatest fears, and I did just fine. Except, of course, for the day that we heard the news about Steve Jobs. I had never cried so hard about the death of a person I had never met. Yet, how could I not overly identify with him, his cancer, his outcome? But I have to believe that I am cured, and my journey will not be the same as his was. It’s just a word, but it’s one that I’m holding on to. I’m cured.

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