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Steve finally reveals his health

January 5, 2009

It feels nice to be right once in awhile. Steve Jobs isn’t on his deathbed after all.

In a nice day-before-keynote surprise, Apple’s CEO announced what’s really going on with his health. It turns out it’s a hormonal imbalance causing weight loss which he expects to recover from by May or June. Whether or not it’s related to the pancreatic cancer he was treated for isn’t made clear, though the letter vehemently denies it.

Let’s take a quick trip back in time just to conform my suspicions here.

Back in 2003, Jobs was diagnosed with a less-lethal form of pancreatic cancer. His treatment consisted of a procedure called the Whipple. Cute name aside, the procedure requires removing part of the pancreas and tweaking with the digestive tract. Not something to be taken lightly.

The Whipple also has a fun side effect that applies here:

Loss of weight: It is common for patients to lose up to 5 to 10% of their body weight compared to their weight prior to their illness. The weight loss usually stabilizes very rapidly and most patients after a small amount of initial weight loss are able to maintain their weight and do well.

The big hullabaloo that got the “Steve Jobs is about to die” (man I wish I had the Gauntlet audio for this) rumors started was at last year’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference where news outlets were pointing out he was looking a little thin or at least unhealthy. Since Apple doesn’t talk much about their plans or Jobs’ health, speculation will run down the “oh my god he’s dying slowly and painfully” route very quickly.

As many astute readers have figured out by now, yes, the cause of his weight loss was the Whipple. And any medical students might be able to figure out where I’m going next.

The pancreas, for those of you who don’t study bits and pieces of human anatomy, is this little guy. It helps out with the digestive process and also regulates a few hormones of its own.

So it’s a simple path to follow. Hormonal imbalance related to the Whipple, weight loss related to the Whipple. The cancer hasn’t returned but the treatment requires a different lifestyle, which is what Jobs is currently dealing with. He’s not going to die, he just needs to tweak his post-cancer-treatment diet.