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28 September 2014 / Erik Duval

I like it. I like it. It’s good.

I don’t quite feel like a clean nicely folded towel just yet… (I did learn that there are many more possibilities to towel art though – thanks, Andrew!)

But I am making progress: I can do short walks outside. Maybe not a giant leap for mankind, but more than a small step for this man… The sun and the wind on the skin of my face – I so missed that.

And for reasons I can’t quite understand, yesterday turned into Canadian Music Day. There was Leonard Cohen on the radio during breakfast. Nice. His voice made me think of Robbie Robertson’s Somewhere Down The Crazy River.

Those lines:

Wait, did you hear that
Oh this is sure stirring up some ghosts for me
She said "There's one thing you've got to learn
Is not to be afraid of it."
I said "No, I like it, I like it, it's good."
She said "You like it now
But you'll learn to love it later."

Somehow when I go on this kind of music trip, I often end up at Joni Mitchell’s.

There’s much worse places to end up…

25 September 2014 / Erik Duval

Bit like a wrung towel…

I have a Great Sister. (And a Great Brother. And a Great Family and Great Friends, but that’s a different topic…)

One of the nice things she regularly does is to send me cards that should make me feel goed, like “Bald is the new sexy”. Not sure the messages are always true, but most of the time, the cards work well.

When I entered the hospital last Thursday, she sent me one saying

Kicking cancer’s ass, one day at a time.

Maybe that was a mistake.

The thing is: cancer decided to kick back. So, I’ve been on temesta, valium, licitan and a few other wonders of modern medicine since the weekend, and, until yesterday, I felt like this towel:


Over the past days, I lost some kilos (there’s a huge commercial opportunity for weight loss through chemo!), but I’m back home now and getting stronger. Hey, I can even do the stairs all by myself! I’m beginning to feel more like a clean nicely folded towel:


I guess that, by tomorrow, I can start kicking cancer’s ass again…

20 September 2014 / Erik Duval

We may need you! (no worries, not cancer related…)

One of my many blessings (too many religious connotations), privileges (seems to imply that if I have it, some of you can’t), … I don’t-know-what-to-call-it-but-it-certainly-is-a-good-thing’s is that I get a lot of energy and joy from my work. That is why I decided to not go on sick leave, but continue working. And, though I maybe work a few hours less every week, as I can use my cancer card to avoid some of the less nice parts of the job, I think I’m actually more productive than ever!

And my job is about to get even better: I’m very happy that, after working in Eindhoven and Brussels, Katrien is joining our group again as a professor!

And we have two open positions in our group, so you may be able to join in the fun! The official announcement:

The HCI research group at KU Leuven in Belgium is looking for new members to join our team!

We have two fully funded open PhD positions:

Position 1: The focus of the research for the first open position is on the design, development and evaluation of second screen applications that enhance the television user experience. The main research interest is to investigate how value can be added to that experience and how user interaction can be designed in such a way that it enriches rather than detracts from the television content. This research will be carried out in the context of a project on personalised advertisements that involves several research groups, as well as content providers and ad agencies.

Position 2: The focus of the research for the position is on user interfaces for recommender systems that suggest items to match user preferences. The overall objective is to research the use of information visualization techniques to give end-users insight into the rationale of recommender systems to increase trust in recommendations. In addition, we are researching how we can use visualization techniques to enable end-users to help steer the recommendation process by providing feedback and additional input.

Funding is available immediately. The research will be carried out at the Department of Computer Science of KU Leuven.

We expect from applicants:
– an excellent Master’s degree in Computer Science or related discipline
– a very good background and interest in human computer interaction research
– strong programming skills and the ability to do independent research
– strong commitment and the ability to work in a team
– a high level of proficiency in English, both spoken and written.

More information about the financial compensation can be found online at

The deadline for submitting applications is 15 Oct. 2014. Applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible as positions will remain open until filled by suitable candidates.

Interested applicants should send their CV and letter of application, indicating the PhD position (1/2) that the candidate wishes to apply for, as well as an electronic version of a recent research project (e.g. master thesis, scientific publication) to Erik Duval ( and Katrien Verbert (

Inquiries about the positions can be sent to the same addresses.

Do feel free to circulate the news ;-)

19 September 2014 / Erik Duval

Hidden chemo…

I like the way my 24 hour chemo intravenous drip is hidden in a bag.

I imagine there’s a bottle of Chateau Margaux in that bag, and I will be close-to-but-not-really drunk for the next 24 hours.

That could explain the head ache I may have tomorrow as a side effect…


(I asked: UV rays from the sun could actually interfere with the chemo. That’s why. Life can be so prosaic sometimes.)

18 September 2014 / Erik Duval

Little things I notice…

Today was the first day at the hospital, preparing for the first real DHAP chemo tomorrow… “Preparing” in this case mostly means sitting around, waiting, hooked up to an intravenous drip to make sure I take a decent amount of fluid and salt in, so as to clean my kidneys. No nausea, so no complaints!

Funny though how many little things you notice when you spend some time at the hospital.

water bottle

Why is the water always from a brand that you’ve never seen before? (It does mention that is has been approved by the High Counsel of Health of the Ministry of Health. Sounds healthy…)

Room card

Why does the card that has my room number on it look like it’s an announcement for a new baby from the seventies? Why does that person have blocked ears and why does he tell us to be silent. (As his ears are blocked, he supposedly can’t hear us anyway?)

Why do they serve lunch halfway through the morning and dinner when I normally finish lunch? See, they just served dinner – or is it tomorrow’s breakfast already…?

On the bright side: the wifi works. Works well, actually. Well enough for spotify (listening to this playlist at the moment) or netflix or FaceTime with the kids back home… That’s better than what some conferences offer!

And, of course, I actually have access to quite affordable (as in: almost free) high-quality medical care. That’s much better than what 80 or 90 percent of the world population have to settle for… Actually, I am lucky!

17 September 2014 / Erik Duval

From CHOP to DHAP: acronym soup to get well… And thank YOU!

I’m doing OK. PET on Monday showed further partial remission (good), but not complete remission (bad).
Apparently, options for further treatment are more opinion than science – I guess that’s the drawback for being a rare case ;-) There’s just not that many data… Because of that reason, we also obtained a second and a third opinion. As a result, the plan today looks rather different from the one yesterday, which was different from the one on Monday ;-)
Anyway, it looks pretty sure now that, after my earlier treatment with CHOP chemo, I will have two sessions of DHAP, the first one being tomorrow. (I like that – why waste time?) These sessions involve a few days in the hospital, but I should be back on my feet on Monday. The second DHAP session will be in three weeks from now.
The hope is that these extra sessions will lead to full remission. If so, then the next step is intensive chemo and stem cell transplant three weeks thereafter. Most importantly, longer term probabilities look good…
In the mean time, I keep receiving messages from many of you that really touch me.
Some of you send me private messages: thanks. Really: thanks! I’m amazed by how many of you remember to send the occasional message to check in and ask how I’m doing. You have no idea how much difference that makes. Really.
And some of you write an editorial of “collective love and support“. Thank you! I guess most people never get an opportunity to read such editorials about themselves, because they typically can no longer read as such editorials typically appear after they passed away. (No, I don’t believe in an afterlife. That’s a topic for another post…) Made me think of “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” ;-) Reading this editorial was a nice surprise. Thanks, Negin, Dragan, Phil and Shane. Really: thanks! We should have a decent glass of wine and talk about Stuff at LAK15
1 September 2014 / Erik Duval

Done with ordinary…

Last Thursday, I had my eight and last ‘ordinary’ chemo. Yes, done with ordinary!

This wasn’t an all that great one though. Details on request (if you insist) and much later. You see: thinking about chemo makes me sick… Literally. Which means that I get sick before I even get the actual chemo medicine. When entering the hospital. When thinking about entering the hospital. Actually, writing about thinking about the experience makes my stomach turn. Enough about that. Yikes.

But hey, it’s over! I’m done with it! With the ‘ordinary’ chemo, that is. In two weeks, I will have a PET scan. If that is reasonably OK, then I will spend a few weeks in hospital early October for an extra-heavy dose of chemo to hopefully get rid of the last traces of lymphoma, followed by an autologous stem-cell transplant to get back on my feet. And then, touch wood, well … that may actually be the end of my treatment. We’ll see. Let’s not get carried away…

For now, my major issue is hiccups. Doesn’t sound like a Big Deal. Because I guess it basically isn’t. Unless when you spend halve of the day and half of the night hiccupping (is that a word?)… Bit tiresome. And makes it a bit complicated to have a conversation, or to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. I do have medication that’s supposed to help. And, hey, actually, it really isn’t a Big Deal.

Now, if only hiccups would make me look a bit more like a wolf pup…



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