Pancreatic Cancer On My Mind

I bet even those living on the moon have heard about Steve Jobs’ passing due to pancreatic cancer. Like many, I feel very impacted by his death. Like many who have lost loved one’s to that terrible disease, I have mixed emotions. I am very sorry for his passing, for the loss to his family and to the world. I am feeling grateful that Jobs’ death has people thinking and talking about pancreatic cancer for a change, and in the midst of Pink October, of all months! But I also resent that it takes such a big name death to get people talking about pancreatic cancer.

I’ve been reflecting on some of the similarities and some of the differences between my father’s experience with pancreatic cancer and what I know of Steve Jobs’ pancreatic cancer experience. Like Jobs’, my father was to have a Whipple procedure. Unlike Jobs’, upon opening my father up and discovering that his cancer had spread from his pancreas to his liver, they sewed him back up, canceling his Whipple procedure. Dad died from pancreatic cancer 8 months later.

Next month, I will undergo a Whipple and I have already been informed that upon opening me up, and before proceeding with the Whipple, the surgeon will first confirm that there is no cancer in my other nearby organs. (For the record, I’m not currently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but I do have a pancreatic cyst and a BRCA2 mutation, which increases my chances of developing pancreatic cancer, especially when one of parents died from pancreatic cancer.) Upon opening me up for the Whipple, and if the organs surrounding my pancreas are not visibly cancer-free, no Whipple for me. Steve Jobs’ reportedly got his Whipple and later went on to have a liver transplant. It’s unclear when the cancer had spread from his pancreas to his liver.

I’m not alone in wondering whether Steve Jobs donated any of his incomprehensible wealth to pancreatic cancer research. He must have learned that pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cancer killer and the least funded among the top five cancer killers (lung, colon, breast, pancreatic, prostate). Maybe his doctors were careful not to scare him with startling ACS statistics such as 75 percent of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer die within the first year of diagnosis, or the Pancreatic Cancer Network’s projection that the number of deaths from pancreatic cancer will grow by 55 percent between 2010 and 2030.

I’ve heard that the I-Phone 5 release is being postponed and Apple is instead releasing the I-Phone 4S, which is speculated to be named for Steve. If a meaningful portion of the proceeds from sales of that I-Phone 4S goes to pancreatic cancer research, I just might buy you and all your friends one.

Susan Beausang,


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