Steve Jobs in 2003.  Creative Commons.
Steve Jobs in 2003. Creative Commons.

A new biography of Steve Jobs details the choices he made in his cancer treatment. As first reported by Fortune in 2008, Jobs delayed recommended surgery when diagnosed. The day after Jobs died, we blogged about The Daily Beast post that expanded on Jobs’ unusual treatment choices.

Now the biography, by Walter Isaacson, includes rich interviews with Jobs himself, as well as his family, friends and doctors. The New York Times obtained an advance copy, reporting that Jobs, in lieu of surgery, spent months following a diet of fruit juices, herbal treatments and other approaches, according to the book. Some of these he found on the Internet. From the Times:

His early decision to put off surgery and rely instead on fruit juices, acupuncture, herbal remedies and other treatments — some of which he found on the Internet — infuriated and distressed his family, friends and physicians, the book says…

Friends and family, including his sister, Mona Simpson, urged Mr. Jobs to have surgery and chemotherapy, Mr. Isaacson writes. But Mr. Jobs delayed the medical treatment. His friend and mentor, Andrew Grove, the former head of Intel, who had overcome prostate cancer, told Mr. Jobs that diets and acupuncture were not a cure for his cancer. “I told him he was crazy,” he said.

In an interview to be broadcast this Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Isaacson says Jobs explained why he delayed the surgery this way, “I didn’t want my body to be opened, I didn’t want to be violated in that way.”  Isaacson told 60 Minutes that Jobs ultimately was “regretful” about the delay.

Once Jobs embraced the recommended treatments, he applied his storied drive and determination, becoming an expert and guiding each decision, Isaacson writes. He seems to have made a complete transition from skeptic to scientist, going so far as to have both his tumor’s DNA and his normal DNA sequenced, at a cost of $100,000.

The biography, Steve Jobs, goes on sale Monday.

You can watch a preview video of Sunday’s “60 Minutes” segment with biographer Walter Isaacson, in which Isaacson talks about Jobs’ delay in getting an operation, and correspondent Steve Kroft asks, “how could such a smart man do such a stupid thing?”

“I think he kind of felt if you ignore something, if you don’t want something to exist, you can have magical thinking,” Isaacson says. “It had worked for him in the past. He regretted it.”

Biographer: Jobs Tried Exotic Treatments to Fight Cancer; Watch ’60 Minutes’ Preview 21 October,2011Lisa Aliferis

  • Helen

    Jobs teaches us so much, even with his passing. He was so vibrant, creative and visionary. We will all miss him so much. I want to listen to his bio on iPhone, somehow I think he would “read” to it that way. The audiobook version is on Amazon, iTune and I will be watching the 60 Minutes interview. Isaacson did such a great job on his bio of Einstein, I hope the one on Jobs is as excellent.


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED’s State of Health blog. Since 2011, she’s been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco’s CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for “Best Topical Reporting” from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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