Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who has been on a medical leave for undisclosed reasons since mid-January, was pictured on 8 February coming out of a Silicon Valley cancer clinic.
55-year-old Steve Jobs, who had successful surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2004, looked gaunt. He was nevertheless able to attend a dinner for technology leaders hosted by Barack Obama on Thursday evening.
Whatever is forcing Jobs to take time off, it is likely linked to a rare form of cancer called a pancreatic islet cell neuroendocrine tumor.
Although the cancer is broadly lumped in with pancreatic cancer, neuroendocrine tumors have a different nature from most pancreatic tumors, which are highly lethal and which kill 95 percent of patients within five years.
Pancreatic cancer is diagnosed in nearly 37,000 people a year in the United States and kills more than 34,000, according to the American Cancer Society.
The health of its CEO is an especially sensitive matter for Apple, because investors believe it is his vision and attention to detail that have fostered the firm’s renaissance in the last decade.
Now the world’s most valuable technology firm, its shares fell sharply last week when the paparazzi pictures emerged in a gossip magazine alongside speculation that Mr. Jobs had “six weeks to live” (note: But We Don’t Believe In It.)
On Wednesday Apple will be confronted with the issue at its annual shareholders’ meeting. Investors will vote on a resolution sponsored by an Illinois pension fund would force the board to adopt and publish a “succession planning policy”.
The policy would “identify and develop internal candidates”, include emergency plans and be reviewed every year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The board will oppose the resolution, however, arguing that “by publicly naming these potential successors, [the resolution] invites competitors to recruit high-value executives away from Apple”. The resolution’s backers deny it requires Apple to reveal who is lined up to take over.
Apple has always resisted calls for transparency about Mr Jobs’ health. When rumours began circulating in late 2008, the firm initially denied any serious problem, claiming he was suffering from a “common bug”.
Then in January 2009 he said he had a “hormone imbalance” that required “relatively simple and straightforward” treatment, and took medical leave.
It was later confirmed he had a liver transplant during his months off. As during that absence, Apple’s chief operating officer Tim Cook is currently in charge of day-to-day operations.
Meantime, Apple fans have put together a crowdsourced Get Well card for Mr. Jobs. The organizers have plans to send Jobs the card before his birthday on 24 February.
“Participate in the first-ever global greeting card,” the organizers wrote. “Send him [Jobs] your get well wishes.” The website, which was created on February 7, has already generated over 2,000 tweets and over 1000 Facebook messages.
One commenter, Matt Butson said, “I would like you to stick around so that I could see you at the top. Seriously. Get well Mr. Jobs… You still have another good 1/4 life left.”
“Get Well Mr. Jobs your work is highly appreciated by those in our community and we hope to see you back in the office soon,” wrote another commenter Anuraag.
He continued: “My mom works on contract for apple, and she says people are aeries about you! Anyways, iHope your feel better. Get your iHealth back to normal.”