Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Why Cancer Patients Mourn Loss of Steve Jobs

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Why Cancer Patients Mourn Loss of Steve Jobs

Article excerpt

While the world mourns Steve Jobs as a technological wizard, a prescient business strategist, and, as one political cartoonist put it, an iCon who took a bite out of the world's apple, cancer patients mourn the man.

In counseling patients, I have come to learn that when cancer claims the life of a celebrity - Ted Kennedy, Elizabeth Edwards, Farrah Fawcett, or Steve Jobs - the news takes on special significance for those fighting the disease.

At first, 1 wrongly assumed that the tears my clients shed after such deaths were not so different from the responses of most people - I'm including myself here - who in their most honest moments sheepishly admit to feeling a certain closeness to celebrities, having witnessed their lives through newspaper headlines, Twitter feeds, and the peekaboo lenses of paparazzi.

But the sorrow of cancer patients goes deeper than that when the disease wins.

In the days following the cancer death of a celebrity, I've seen a pall fall over waiting rooms, support groups, and psychotherapy sessions. One client called, sobbing, to schedule an extra session the week Elizabeth Edwards died.

I think Ms. Edwards' story resonated with women not only because of a shared disease. She also symbolized tragedies and triumphs entwined in the history of my patient, and many like her.

In her young life she had buried a child and believed in a man who betrayed her, but maintained her elegant composure as she prepared for the future of her surviving children.

In life's details, patients find connections to celebrities that seem as tangible and real as the paper gowns, chemotherapy drips, and stacks of bills that they imagine the celebrities endured just as they have. Ted Kennedy survived personal shame and family tragedy to make meaningful changes in peoples' lives.

Steve Jobs dropped out of college, founded a business with his buddies, and changed modern culture forever. Celebrities' lives, viewed from afar, capture hope and resilience, not just in their cancer stories, but in their life stories.

And therein lies a whispered belief: that if anyone could beat the disease, against all odds, it would be someone with the power of Ted Kennedy, the money of Steve Jobs, the seemingly invincible spirit of Elizabeth Edwards, who had survived so much.

Certainly the doors of secret clinical trials would open to them. …

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