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 http://www.kuleuven.be/personeel/jobsite/en/phd-info#salary
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Katrien Verbert (email@example.com).
Inquiries about the positions can be sent to the same addresses.
Do feel free to circulate the news ;-)
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.)
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.
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…)
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!
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…
One of the nicest perks of being a lymphoma patient over the past few months is that I received a few really nice and touching messages from very unexpected corners, typically from people that I didn’t know all that well before, who have been quite directly touched themselves by lymphoma. (You know who you are…)
The most recent such message came from one of my first year students, who went through lymphoma treatment a few years ago. He’s about 30 years my junior, but I recognise a lot of his experience. And I was rather touched by the fact that he reached out to me.
As these messages from people with direct experience have been so important to me, I have made a solemn promise to myself that I will reach out to whomever I hear from who goes through the same ordeal. Actually, my student mentioned that he wrote me a message because he had received a similar message when he was a patient, from a teacher that he barely knew, who had gone through the same experience himself.
I was reflecting a bit on this notion of personal connections, and it developed in my mind to a cunning plan for us, lymphomians, to take over the world: I will start a Secret Society that will include only people very directly affected by lymphoma.
Membership of the society will be by invitation only. Members of the society will always support other members. We will develop secret codes, so that I can for instance favour a paper written by another member, even in blind peer review. And, of course, students from the society will get excellent grades from professors who are members of the society. We will have members among the police, who will cancel fines from other members. In restaurants run by members, we will always get the best table. In politics, members will make sure other members get the more important positions. Etc. Etc. It will only take a bit of time and then our society will basically run the world!
Actually, come to think of it, maybe such a secret society already exists? That would explain a lot of things. All I have to do is get through this treatment period and then I’ll get my invitation…
In the mean time, in completely unrelated news, we’re enjoying a week off with the family in Heidelberg and Dresden…
It’s been a good week.
At the start, it didn’t sound all that great: as I tweeted then, “four hospitals in four days”…
Monday was PET scan day. That went rather well. Is becoming a bit of a habit. Though I did had somewhat of an epiphany during the actual scan – from my Facebook:
Somehow, my catholic upbringing played tricks with my mind: lying down on the table for the PET scan, with my arms tied above my head, I had a vision of Saint Sebastian, the one tied to a tree, pierced by arrows. I’m glad to report that a PET scan is more comfortable and doesn’t involve arrows!
Tuesday and Wednesday were “let’s discuss your treatment” days, first in Antwerp (where I live, and have my main treatment) and then in Leuven (where I work, for a second opinion). Basically, the news is good: the tumors continue to respond to my CHOP chemo. The PET scan showed fewer and less intense tumors. So, we will continue with CHOP for a bit more.
In fact, Thursday was my sixth chemo session. It wasn’t all that great at the hospital itself – I’ll spare you the details, also because thinking about it makes me nauseous. But I drove home myself, slept through most of the day and night, and was able to enjoy breakfast on Friday morning. And lunch and dinner. Yes, meals become a bit of a yardstick…
The current plan is to do two more CHOP chemo sessions. In a bit more than a week, we will harvest (apparently, that’s the terminology) my own stem cells and store them. Because a month after my CHOP sessions end, I will get an extra strong dose of chemo (they call it “the bomb”) that will hopefully clean up the by then last remaining traces of cancer. That bomb will also destroy most of my resistance against infections, so I will spend a bit of time in hospital in a clean room. At that time, I will get my stem cells back in order to recover. That will be around end of September.
And that could be the end of it. Apparently, there’s a 75% chance that it will be the end of it indeed and I don’t relapse. (And there are plenty of options left if I end up in the other 25%.) 75% is a lot better than my prognosis 3 or 4 months ago. Actually, if my prognosis continues to go up this way, then it will be better than yours before Christmas!
So, all in all, a Good Week. Plenty of time with the family. Some Good Reading too: finished “TheVisit of the Royal Physician” (thx, Daan!) and started “Der Zauberberg“. Family breakfasts. Family lunches. Family dinners. Lunch outdoors at Charlie’s with Django Reinhard music. Walks with the dogs. Short trips on my Brand New Bicycle. Sunny weather.
A Good Week…