Well, sorry my friend. I’ve been ill. I have not been on active duty for well over a year now. And if you really think that I would still recall the last ticket I closed before getting my diagnosis and starting my long road to recovery, well, then I also have a bridge for sale!
So I decided to do a less literal interpretation of Brent’s request. Isn’t life very much like out work? Things happen, that need to be taken care of, even though we have more interesting things planned. So we interrupt our regular life, to take care of them. And then they can be removed from our to-do list, so we can return to the things we really like to do. Does that not sound very much like tickets interrupting our way more interesting project work?
So let’s talk, one last time (I hope!), about the major life ticket that has interrupted everything I had planned, but that I now can close … and that hopefully will not be reopened!
(Warning: This blog post is non-technical but purely personal. I write openly about my current health issues. This blog might be triggering for people who struggle with, or lost dear ones to, cancer and other similar diseases.)
This is the thirteenth (and, hopefully, last) post in a series on my personal road from first signs of leukemia, through diagnosis and treatment, to, hopefully, full recovery. Click here to read all posts in this series.
I had originally planned to schedule this blog post for February 24, exactly one year after I received the donor stem cells. That one-year period is, apparently, important in the eyes of the doctors. At the one-year point, the last planned bone marrow biopsy is performed, along with several intervals. And after that one-year point, the last remaining restrictions on my life are lifted, which means that I will once more be able to freely travel the world again! But the hospital does not take the one-year period very literally – the biopsy and other examinations are in fact scheduled for February 12 (two days from now at the time of writing this, already behind me when this post goes live). I will hear the results next week, on February 20.
So if the hospital does not interpret one year as exactly 365 days, then surely so can I, and post this blog today already. Right?
I have not written anything in my “leukemia diary” since June, for the simple reason that there was very little news. All is going well. Blood tests came back positive every time. Other examinations also show that I am recovering well, and without complications.
There have been little celebrations along the way. It took way too long, a few months after my release from the hospital, but my taste buds finally reverted to normal, so I could enjoy my wife’s excellent cooking to the fullest again. And then, a bit after that, I was given my new Covid shots, which made it much safer to be in public spaces. I had already planned for that day since the very start of my illness: I was going to celebrate that with a dinner for my close family (wife, son, daughter, and son-in-law-to-be) in one of my favorite restaurants.
And there was of course my return to in-person speaking. With special permission from my hematologist, I was speaker at DATA:Scotland, September 13, 2023, in Edinburgh. The exact same conference that I had to leave in a rush at the start of this journey. Since then, I have also spoken at a few events in the Netherlands, and recently at the Data Community Austria Day in Vienna.
When I was released from the hospital, now ten and a half months ago, I was told that most patients have to return to the hospital once or twice in the year following the regular treatment, with all kinds of unforeseen complications and side effects. Until recently, that has not come true at all for me. But in the end, life (and my body) decided to at least give me something to complain about!
During December and January, I noticed that I often felt cold. And that, despite not changing my diet or habits, I was rapidly gaining weight. So I told the hematologist, who ordered some extra blood tests. And then she confirmed what she suspected. Hypothyroidism. This means that my thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. She sees this more often in her patients. Chemotherapy can cause a lot of unwanted damage in the body, and the thyroid gland is one such target.
This is not a major problem. I do not need to return to the hospital. One extra table was added to my daily medication. This would not cause an immediate effect, but it has now been three weeks since I started taking that medicine, and I now no longer get cold most evening, and my weight gain has been halted. (I still want to lose a bit to get back to my target weight). There will also be a few more measurements and dosage adjustments. This is the kind of medication where the optimal dosage for each patient has to be fine-tuned by trial and error.
But that is all. So far, at least. (Touches wood).
For the rest, my recovery during the past months has been fine, all according to plan, and all without complications. Let’s hope it stays that way!
Closing the diary
Since this one-year period is a relevant period for the doctors, I have decided to make it just as significant for me. So I now consider it time to officially close my leukemia diary.
That does not mean that my life is fully back to normal now. I will always officially be a cancer survivor for the rest of my life. I still have many vaccinations, to protect against various very rare diseases, planned for the future, spread out across a period of a few years. I will keep being invited for regular check-ups, but with longer and longer periods in between.
But the last restrictions on my life style will soon be officially lifted. And as long as all results of all check-ups keep coming back as good as they have done so far, those restrictions will not return, and I can live my life just the way I want it.
This is a great gift. I have always, right from the start, believed that I would make it. But that was a belief out of necessity, not based on fact. There never was a guarantee that I would make it. Cancer is still a disease that rips people away from our world. Such as, recently, another Data Platform MVP: Leila Etaati. She got her diagnosis shortly after mine. She went through her treatment at the same time that I was in and out of hospital. But her story ended differently. She did not win the fight. She passed away on the last day of 2023, leaving her loving husband Reza Rad and the rest of their family with a gap that will be hard to fill. My thoughts go out to Reza and to all of Leila’s family and friends.
And there still is no guarantee for me either. My leukemia can still return. Or I can develop other cancers. But let’s face it, so can you. Nobody is ever safe from disease.
So live your life to the fullest while you can. Enjoy every minute you have, for it might be your last. Do what makes you happy, do what gives you joy.
Lots of conferences
One thing that has always given me joy, is traveling to conferences, to meet old friends, make new friends, and of course speak about the topics I am passionate about. And the good news is that my schedule is already starting to fill up nicely. February is still a bit low-profile, with only a virtual presentation for the TriPASS user group scheduled. But to offset that, my March schedule is absolutely packed, with first a full-day training session at SQL Saturday Austin in Texas, followed by a deep-dive session on hash spill internals the next day. After that I’ll attend the MVP Summit, and then, after just one week at home, I’ll be in England for SQLBits, for a 100-minute session on Tuesday, and a 50-minute session on Wednesday.
And after that? Well, I have submitted to many conferences, and I will keep submitting. So do keep an eye on my speaking schedule, if you want to have a chance to meet in person, and learn about execution plans, or about any of the other topics I talk about.
I did not close any “real” tickets for a long, long time. But if you look more metaphorically, then my leukemia can be considered a life ticket. And that life ticket is now closed.
Not in the sense that it will never return. That risk is always there, and I’ll always remain at higher risk than the average person. But it’s just that: a risk. Not a reality. And as long as it does not actually return, and as long as no other diseases or other life events get in my way, I’ll be back to doing what I always loved to do: teaching about execution plans, teaching about query tuning, teaching about database design. And hopefully making friends along the way.
Thanks for organizing this T-SQL Tuesday, Brent. And thought I do not yet know when and where it will be, I am already looking forward to meeting you in person again … it’s been way too long!