We celebrated “Sinterklaasavond” at my parent’s place together with my sister, her husband and their kids. It was a fantastic evening with lots of fun and excitement for the kids (and ofcourse many gifts).

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In the morning of the fifth of December, Sinterklaas brought a visit to the school of Thomas and the day-care of Nils (which is in the same building). It was great to be there when he arrived, and all the kids were singing songs. Two of the three “Zwarte Pieten” were not completely painted black and had make-up that resembled the soot from the chimney. For the kids, this has become completely normal, as this is what they also see on TV, but apparently, only a few places in the Netherlands are willing to follow these small but significant changes. In my mind, stubbornly and thoughtlessly sticking to old-fashioned conventions, knowing that these traditions are stigmatizing for some, is short-sighted.

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Some people don’t need wings to fly

I have gotten kind many emails, messages, and comments in reply to my last post. Thanks for your kind words.

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Time flies

Last Friday was the valedictory/retirement celebration of my former professor, Bart ter Haar Romeny. From 2001 until 2010 I worked in his group, first as a master student, then a Ph.D. student, a Postdoc, and before I left to work in the Radboud hospital in Nijmegen I was an assistant professor.
It was a fantastic reunion with many former colleagues and friends. Although the day was tiring, I was delighted to be there, and I even got say a few words to Bart.
When I left in 2010, I was a healthy, promising scientist. Nobody could have imagined that I would retire more than a year before my professor.
With all my former colleagues and friends around it almost felt like five years ago. It was great to see that everyone has their fantastic careers, successes and promising futures.
When lying in bed yesterday, still tired from Friday, I imagined myself, my former colleagues and friends as birds, some flying higher than others, but all far above me. Me unable to fly and hopping on the ground. Over the last years, I accepted that this is my place, and I am sure that I can have an impact from down here. However, being surrounded by people from before my gradual descent made me think about what could have been.

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The castle of Sinterklaas

Last Sunday we visited Sinterklaas in his castle in Boxtel. It was a lot of fun for the kids, and even though my legs were shaking after standing for a few hours, it was worth it.
My recovery is slow, I feel less tired, and a bit more energetic, but my hairs are still not growing, and neither is the skin on my hands. I found out yesterday that the fingerprint sensor on my iPad no longer recognizes my thumbprint. The face recognition of my phone luckily still identifies me. This last round of chemo had a big impact on my body, I wonder when my hairs and skin start to regenerate.

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Yesterday Sinterklaas arrived in The Netherlands after a long trip from Spain in his steamboat, the neighborhood association organized a special day for the kids. First, they could watch as Sinterklaas arrived in Dokkum on the big TV. Afterwards, there were all kinds of activities, from a disco to making your own pepernoten, and Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet hats. Finally, even Sinterklaas arrived, who miraculously crossed the entire country from north to south, after arriving in Dokkum. It was a fun day, which of course cost a lot of energy (luckily I could go home during the disco), but it was worth it.

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Out and about

Every year the Dutch MS research foundation is organising the Dutch MS research days, on which Dutch MS research present their research. Last year, I held an invited presentation there to talk about my own and my family’s MS, as well as my research funded by the research foundation. Last year I met many renowned researchers there. This year I really wanted to meet everybody again, but I still don’t believe that driving myself is safe and using public transportation would be too exhausting. Therefore I thought I would have to skip the meeting. When I told the MS research foundation that I wouldn’t attend because of this, they told me that they could arrange transportation for me if that would help. This offer was amazingly generous, and I gladly made use of it. I decided to attend yesterday’s event, which was not only the second day of the research days but was also a special day that the foundation organized for MS patients. I met many people and attended talks. It was exhausting, but it felt great to be able to be there. Today I am extra tired and have muscle pain in my legs, but it was worth it.

This morning I noticed a few new nose hairs (what is it about my nose hairs). I assume that like last time, this is going to be the start of my cell’s recovery. Last time when I was at the VUmc I asked the hematologists there about this phenomenon (nose hairs to be the first to go and the first to come back), but they never heard of this before…

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Next scan planned for January 12th 2018

My body is still spending a lot of energy to repair the damage of the last round of chemotherapy. Very slowly things seem to improve, but I spend most of the day sitting on the couch too exhausted to even read a simple magazine.
I received a letter from the VU that my next MRI is scheduled for the 12th of January 2018. Thinking about it, it feels more stressful than the previous MRI scans. Now the treatment protocol is over; if everything goes well, there will be no more treatments in the future. Before, the MRI’s didn’t need to be completely clean because another round of chemotherapy was still coming. Now, the planned treatment is completed; there should be no growth visible of the cancers and also there should be no active MS lesions.
I, of course, hope that the treatment worked as good as possible and that no further treatment is necessary. It is very likely that the upcoming MRI scan will not show the opposite, but I sometimes can’t help thinking about the alternative.

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Yesterday I had an appointment at the hematology policlinic of the VUmc to check whether everything was ok. My blood values are recovering. The white blood cells and platelets are still relatively low, but they are slowly but steadily increasing. The hematologist told me that I am doing great given that this chemotherapy round was incredibly tough on my body. She told me that recovery will be a long process. The next MRI scan will be in 8 weeks which will probably be in one of the first weeks of 2018. Until that time she didn’t see a reason for me to return for any other appointments or blood tests.

I am still very weak and tired, but that is to be expected.

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PICC removal

Before I left the hospital they removed the PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter), that was placed on the second day in the Spaarne hospital. This catheter has been in my body since the 4th of August, but it was really nice to have since they could attach the IV to this line, as well as get blood for testing. Having the line saved me from having a lot of needle pricks. I didn’t feel anything when the line was removed. No longer having these dangling lines sticking out of my arm, and not having to wrap my arm in plastic before showering feels liberating.

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