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20 July 2015 / erikduval

Thank YOU

As I’m writing this, there is blood from someone else dripping into my veins. Later today, I will be stronger than this morning, because someone decided sometime ago to donate blood. Someone who doesn’t know me. Someone who doesn’t get a “thank you, that was really helpful” note this evening. Someone who may have long forgotten about donating blood in the first place.

My source of strength

My source of strength

Even more, it looks like I may have a stem cell donor. If that is confirmed, then that is Really Good News for my treatment. The only way this could happen is because someone decided sometime ago to donate stem cells. Someone who doesn’t know me. Someone who doesn’t get a “thank you, that was really helpful – you may well have saved my life” note in a few weeks. Someone who may have long forgotten about donating stem cells in the first place.

To all of you who donate blood, cells, whatever: thank you. I owe you.

Many of you wrote to me before that you registered. This “thank you” is for you.

And to everyone else: why not register now? I’m sure you’re enough of a google expert to find out how to do so in your country…

6 July 2015 / erikduval


Went to the hospital this morning to have my blood checked. I thought that was the plan. But we had a meeting instead. Which was … interesting.

As it turns out, a chromosomal analysis of my tumor cells had revealed that I actually suffer from T-cell lymfoblastic lymphoma (not Peripheral T-cell lymphoma, Non Otherwise Specified, as assumed over the last 15 months or so).

That means a change in regime: tomorrow, I will start a hospital stay for 5 days with chemo therapy (Nelarabine). I will get chemo on day 1 (tomorrow, Tuesday), 3 and 5. The next two weeks are chemo free, but I will need to get my blood checked twice per week at the hospital. Cycles in this regime are three weeks, so day 21 is like day 1 again. This continues for a few cycles, probably – also depending on how soon we find a stem cell donor.

(Did I remind you recently that you can help me or someone else by becoming a donor? Just think about how cool it would be if you saved my life. Or someone else’s for that matter. Becoming a SuperHero could just be a mouse click away…)

On the practical side of things, this implies quite a few changes… The Bad News: no family trips this holiday period. The Good News: better prognosis – which matters more in the long run ;-)

tl;dr I will not be in the office, but in the hospital this week…

2 July 2015 / erikduval

Reasonable Response #Wereallgreeks

Let me be honest: I do have some issues with the Greeks… I mean: they are responsible for Demis Rousos and Nana Mouskouri! One of them would have been bad enough… But then the Germans gave us James Last. And the British Engelbert Humperdinck. Still, nobody argues that this is sufficient reason to throw the Germans or the British out?

And, you see, that is exactly what I think is wrong with the ongoing discussion about a Grexit. Throwing the Greeks out should not have been an option we discuss seriously. Because it is not a reasonable response to the current situation. For me, that is like discussing firing nuclear missiles to Moscow because we don’t like Putin’s policies. I don’t like Putin’s policies. But sending nuclear missiles is not a reasonable response.

We need to work out the current issues. In a dialogue. Discussing reasonable responses to the situation. Not by trying to blackmail one another into submission.

For crying out loud, even the word “Europe” has Greek roots!

Europa copy

Europa and the Bull – Red-Figure Stamnos, Tarquinia Museum, circa 480 BC

1 July 2015 / erikduval

Big and Bright

Today, I drove my youngest to her scout camping site. She will spend the next 12 days without a mobile, without money, without many of the other things we sometimes feel we need… Oh, and without me – which left me a bit sad on the way back.

Walking back to the car (the camp site is rather remote), I did see a wild deer – which made me feel better. Temperatures today were above 30 degrees Celsius, which is uncommon for Belgium. During the 3 hours drive home (in my comfortable air-conditioned car), I turned the volume up Real Loud when they played this song on the radio:

I’m not much of a dancer, but I enjoyed singing along in the car. And now, the moon really is “big and bright”. Maybe I can try dancing on our sun terrace and hope nobody will see me…

Today was a good day.

30 June 2015 / erikduval

Not always what you want

At the hospital today, I expected to get my fourth dose of experimental treatment, after a first cycle of three and a week without treatment. Rather unexpectedly, it turned out that my number of Blood Platelets was too low. That means an extra week without treatment.

Not what I wanted. Was also rather unexpected as I’ve never had problems like this during my treatment over the last 15 months or so. And I’m quite aware that it gives the Bad Stupid Cancer Cells an extra week without much of a challenge. Ah well… I guess you can’t always get what you want…

Then again:

But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need

Let’s hope things will play out that way…

And here’s the Soulwax remix (which I kind of like too):


16 June 2015 / erikduval

Waiting for the man…

The idea behind my treatment is of course that I will live longer…

After my experience this morning, I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m not going to spend most of the time I gain waiting at the hospital.

The initial blood taking and conversation with the specialist proceed swiftly after checking in. But then the wait seems to take forever. Ok, it’s only 4 hours now, and I do understand that processing and checking my blood and preparing the medicine take time. Still.

The situation frankly made me feel a bit neglected. That is: until I realised that even Lou Reed Himself had to wait for his drugs…

First thing you learn is that you always gotta wait

I guess that, if Lou could wait then so can I. I ‘m good…

9 June 2015 / erikduval

The irony of certainty

Most of us (I think) feel more comfortable when things are clear and certain. In science, of course we know that very few things are really certain: we use statistics to reason with uncertainty and visualisations to try and understand uncertainty (box plots!). Certainly in science, reducing uncertainty is a Good Thing.

So, it is somewhat ironic that, in an interview I did recently about my Round 1 experience, I said

Als ik herval, zal ik weten dat ik niet genezen ben. Dat is het enige moment waarop ik zeker zal zijn.
If I relapse, I will know for certain that I am not cured. That is the only moment that I will be certain.
Screenshot 2015-06-09 11.42.03
I guess I’m certain now. But I’m working on getting back to uncertainty: I’m at the hospital, waiting for my second dose of Copanlisib, the experimental smart drug that should get me there… Then the title of the interview will be really accurate: “Erik Duval after Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma”!

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