A very quick update

Dear friends,

Just a quick update to let you know I have not forgotten you! I went to the hospital for a checkup on August 19th, and all was fine. The blood results are still stable. End of September I will get new scans. My next appointment with Dr. Baars is on the second of October.

In August I gave myself a birthday present: a windsurfing set! My very own set, always wanted to have one. Should have taken a picture but I forgot. I went windsurfing twice so far, but the wind conditions haven’t been very good for a beginner like me.

On August 28th I turned 44 and celebrated with a few close friends and family. We had it catered by Pomodori, an Italian style catering company based in Baarn. It was a wonderful day and we had a great time.

I’m busy at work but am also taking time out to relax. Tomorrow I’m off to Paris with my mom and Nancy. I’m going to a Stanford alumni get together and looking forward to having a weekend off!

Take care,

London Highlights (and tips!)

We had a wonderful vacation in London from Wednesday July 24th through Tuesday July 30th. I will share a few of the highlights and share a few photos as well. Image

Nancy and I flew to London and arrived around 12.30 am. We walked around a bit, had coffee at Cafe Nero and walked to Gray’s Inn. Gray’s Inn is one of the Inns of Court where lawyers have been trained since the days of Henry VIII’s. Edward de Vere,17th Earl of Oxford (I’m writing a screenplay about him as the man behind Shakespeare) was educated here as well. It is an oasis in the city, lots of locals and lawyers eat their lunch here on a sunny day. In the summer time there is an open air restaurant here which serves beautiful lunches between 12 and 2.30 when the Inns close for the public.

Nancy and I saw a beautiful and impressive exhibit about Pompeii at the British Museum. It made me realize the Romans were not all that different from us (apart from modern conveniences such as medicines and internet!).

Meanwhile, Victor drove with the kids to Calais, took the boat to Dover and drove on to our B&B Pretty Maid House. Sebastian had left his passport in Groningen and came later by plane and hitchhiked from Southend Airport to our B&B!

We all met up at the Pretty Maid where Andy and Sue Carr gave us a warm welcome! We had wonderful rooms and the most delicious breakfast ever! A great place to stay.

The next day we visited Heaver Castle near Edenbridge: an absolute must see if you are ever in Kent! We witnessed a swan attacking a mother duck and her six ducklings, which was horrifying to see. It was very sad and I kept wondering if I should intervene. The swan bit a duckling and we all thought it had died; one visitor walked into the water and saved the duckling, it lived. Very humbling experience.

The castle itself was beautiful, with many original Tudor period furniture and painting of Henry VIII, Elizabeth, Mary, and Anne Boleyn of course. It is quite a large house and tells the history of Anne and her family, and shows all 6 wives of Henry VIII as life size wax figures.

Afterwards we drove into London, dropped our stuff off at the Royal Foundation of St Catherine (an old cloister now hotel) while Sebastian and Henriette took the train to Victoria. We met at the Starbucks by Tower Hill and ate healthy asian food at Wagamama’s with a view of the river.

The next day the kids went shopping and we went to Borough market, a covered organic market behind London Bridge station that has been there for over 400 years. We bought a huge loaf of freshly baked French bread, local cheese and tomatoes and tomato chutney for lunch. Then we met the kids by Madame Tussaud’s where I picked up their tickets. We all went to Regent’s park to eat our lunch. It was a gorgeous day and we had a lovely picknick. Sebastian wore his UK flag suit and had his sushi. The others ate their lunch and we ate the bread and cheese. It was great fun! The kids then left to go to Madame Tussaud’s and Victor and I walked around Regents park a bit while Nancy relaxed on a park bench for a while. Regents Park is absolutely beautiful; all the roses were in bloom and there are many beach chairs for hire. We went back to Tower Bridge Apartments where we had a huge 3 bedroom executive appartment while Nancy went to Sloane square. She would meet the kids at the small Starbucks later to show them how to get to the Tower Bridge Think Apartments.

In the meantime, I went to do some grocery shopping. We had a nice dinner at the apartment. That night Victor and I had tickets for Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin’s concert at Ronnie Scott’s in SoHo and Nancy had arranged for a car and driver from Addison Lee to pick us up and drive us there and back. It costs around 15 pounds each way, but was wonderful and since the tube doesn’t operate after 12.30 pm also necessary. We saw London from the car by night, which is very different than during the day. The London Eye is lit by purple lights. There were huge advertisements covering entire buildings for the new film Wolverine, which I want to go see.

Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin were wonderful! I especially liked Dave Grusin’s rendition of Turn out the stars by Bill Evans. Lee Ritenour played old favorites and songs from his new album Rhythm Sections.  Ronnie Scott’s was a cozy, intimate jazz club. It was cold due to the AC and outside it was hot so I was a bit cold in my salmon colored summer dress. We had a great time, but had to leave at 12.30 since the car was waiting for us.

Saturday morning we had coffee at the Starbucks by St Catherine’s dock, which is to the far side of Tower bridge and is a nice quiet area with a view of yachts. I didn’t feel too well (nausea) and had to go back.

I had the same thing the next day but I took some tablets and the nausau passed. Victor took the kids to the British Museum and then the kids went to the Westfield shopping mall @Shephard’s bush. I met Nancy and Victor at Waterstone’s (a huge and wonderful bookstore) later on. We had a high tea there with scones, one bite fruitpies, and sandwiches. Nancy left from there to Heathrow for her flight back home.

On Sunday Sebastian and Valentine went to the Natural History Museum and the girls went to the Tower of London. Victor and I went to the Starbucks first (near the Tower on the SouthBank side) and then walked along the Thames. Victor took a lot of pictures.

I went to Tate Modern and visited the exhibit Poetry and Dreams which was about modernism, surrealism and dream-like paintings. I thought it was a very inspiring and eclectic exhibit but I missed the poetry. It got me thinking about how poetry is so very distant from our lives, somewhat inaccessible. You have to know where to find it, but there are no galleries or museum dedicated to poetry. I decided to write some poems to go along with the paintings. A few pieces really impressed me:

  • Germaine Richier, France, 1902-1959, made sculptures of women, a bit like Giacometti but fatter with thin arms: Diabolo 1950 and Water 1953-4
  • Picasso: Grieving woman, 1937, detail from Guernica
  • Alexander Calder – small mobiles, maybe studies for his larger pieces. These appeared so innocent and whole. There was a huge Calder sculpture at Penn (University of Pennsylvania where I studied).
  • Meredith Frampton (British, 1894-1989) Portrait of a young woman 1935, Marguerite Kelsey 1928 – very elegant and sophisticated realist paintings, almost too perfect
  • Meraud Guevara (1904-1993) seated woman with a small dog (1939)
  • Sidney Nolan (1917-) Inland Australia – a red almost alien landscape. You can feel the heat from the desert.
  • see http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks?sid=1258
  • I also enjoyed the photography by Graciela Itubride (1942 Mexico) and wrote some poems to go along with them.
  • http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/display/graciela-iturbide

Unfortunately no photos were allowed, or I could have taken some to illustrate my poems. I will publish my poems in a separate post. Can’t seem to stop writing.

Anyway, we continued along the Thames, crossed the river over the Millenium bridge and followed the Thames until we came to Somerset House. If you’ve never been here before, go the next time you’re in London. It is a huge palace like museum, relatively quiet and has wonderful exhibits. Some are free. I loved the photo exhibit about fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld. The photos were printed from digitally restored transparencies as there were no prints founds in his archives. He was a very humble man, a true artist who managed to make art from his work as fashion photographer.


Somerset House also has a fountain built into the courtyard where many children were playing in the water. From Somerset House we walked to Covent Garden which attracted huge crowds so we skipped that and took the tube back.

That night the kids all went to the cinema at Westfield Stratford to see Man of Steel which they really enjoyed. On the tube they were singing and a young lady named Charlene heard Barbara and asked her to call her. How exciting!

The next morning Victor drove back to Pretty Maid with the kids while I went to the National Portrait Gallery. It’s one of my favorite London museums. This time, I saw nearly everything. I first looked at the contemporary portraits, some of which looked like photos but turned out to be oil paintings! Very impressive. There were portraits there of writers and actors such as Harold Pinter, Doris Lessing, Germaine Greer, a self portrait by David Hockney and more. Also very interesting was the exhibit Creative Commons. In my field this term means that the intellectual property is public domain, here it was used to connect pupils from schools to famous people from their neighborhood, a novel idea.

The picture that inspired me most was a photo of Gandhi (1896-1948) who was trained in the UK as a lawyer, had worked in South Africa but stayed at Kingsley Hall for a convention for 3 months in 1931. Kingsley Hall Powis Road was a centre for the poor.

There was a portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) who was a fervent and eloquent supporter of women’s rights. Her daughter was Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus 1818. The story goes that Mary and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley stayed at a lake with George Byron when they challenged each other to write a ghost story. Mary wrote the beginning of what was to become Frankenstein. Her husband and friend very so delighted that they encouraged her to finish it. I really like that story. Percy Bysshe Shelley – a poet best known for his Ozymandas – was an advocate of love and disliked for being an atheist and for having abandoned his first wife while she was pregnant, the reason the Shelley’s moved to Italy where he died in 1822 while boating.

Op wikipedia staat het volgende over hem: “Tijdens de wanhopige en onrustige jaren in Italië schreef hij zijn beste werk. Het weerspiegelt zijn idealisme en zijn hoop dat er verlossing mogelijk is door de liefde en de verbeelding. Volgens hem is er geen zekerheid, alleen hoop.”


I saw the Tudor paintings, did my best to appreciate the entire 17th and 18th century galleries and the Victorian galleries. I liked the portraits of Albert and Victoria, especially the fact that Queen Victoria herself presented the copy of the portrait of her late husband personally to the National Gallery. I thought that was a very kind gesture on her part. See the movie The Young Victoria, it is a kind portrait of two young people destined to rule.

I left to visit the Benjamin Franklin house which, despite its proximity to Trafalgar Square, is absolutely impossible to find. It is located on Craven Road, just behind some tall buildings. I had just missed the tour so I will visit it next time. I’m a big Benjamin Franklin fan. He said “Energy and persistence conquer all things” and I think that is very true indeed, it certainly has been true for me.

On that note I will end this post which has gone on far too long anyway, being a very haphazard mix of all sorts of ideas and experiences. I hope next time to create something a bit more coherent for you, my loyal readers.

How I feel

Dear friends,

I’ve decided to try to post to my blog using e-mail. Since I started working again I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out what to post on my blog and so I keep putting it off.

So here’s my new attempt at keeping in touch.
First of all, my health is great. I’m feeling energetic and the new hormone therapy I’m on seems to work. It also causes some side effects, such as stiff joints and muscles and I still have trouble falling asleep unless I take medication. Yesterday Victor and I thanked our GP whose been there all the way for us, stopping by weekly when things were looking bad. Now that I’ve crawled out of the canyon so to speak I wish to thank each and everyone of you. You’ve been great friends, cheering me up and making me realize that friendship is what matters most.

Now that I’m starting to work again, I’m realizing that its easy to fall into the trap of focusing too much on work. Especially a concern for me at the moment, facing a deadline next week. But what is a ‘deadline’ when you’ve faced death itself! There is just one deadline for me and I would like to postpone that moment for as long as possible. It was a really close call and in retrospect I realize now how lucky I have been.
I will not let anything or anyone tell me what to do or how to live.

I guess you can tell work is a bit stressful at the moment. But it is very nice to be able to work again. I have great colleagues and I really enjoy what I do. But where I used to be good with deadlines, I’m not anymore. Still, it is great to be able to work on a relatively intellectual level, discussing standards for interoperability. I’m very glad I don’t have a chemo brain anymore (yes, it really does exist)! I’m getting better with my short term memory as well. Although two weeks ago I managed to lose my car keys in a plant while shopping. Since then, I carry them around my neck.

Next week on Friday I have my monthly checkup with my oncologist. So far, the blood values have been stable which means things are under control. When I tell people I have metastatic breastcancer, they often ask me if I’m cured. Well, I’m not really cured, I tell them, because the cancer is still there. But it appears to be under control and is not growing at the moment. So hopefully, this will become a chronic condition for me.

I recently discovered that it is possible to become a member of the Borstkanker Vereniging Nederland (breast cancer association in The Netherlands)- I signed up for it and would like to encourage others to do the same. It’s only 35 euro’s a year.
See: http://www.borstkanker.nl/lid_worden_en_b_ontvangen

At the same time, I have signed up to write a blog. I have to write my first one still, but I know what I want to write about. So many women with breast cancer end up getting it again. Two weeks ago on Friday morning, I was driving to Leiden to visit a colleague but got stuck in traffic because the bridge was open and could not close. (Yes, in Holland we have a lot of bridges that open – even on the highways – and if they don’t close you get stuck!). The woman in the car next to mine also got out of her car. We started talking and I offered her and her son a sandwich, for which she was very grateful. Turned out she had just had chemo a day or so before and was very hungry. She wanted to take off her wig (go ahead I said! no problem) because it was itching, but didn’t. She had her own business as a sports instructor and told me her dream was to open a sports and wellness hotel in Spain one day. Her son who was with her would do the personal training, her husband would be managing and her other son was a cook. I was so delighted to hear about her dreams!

It made me realize that to dream is to live. My dreams are simple: I want to finish my books. And last week, my mom found an old play I wrote over 20 years ago. I thought I had lost it, so now that I have it again, I’ve scanned it in and have decided to find a theater willing to perform it. Maybe when we visit London at the end of the month I can look around for theaters.

When I’m done formatting the play I will tell you more about it. For now, I have to work on the architecture of Digikoppeling (data exchange) and when I finish that I will continue my work on the play.

Nancy is now in London with Jennifer Lopez (she was in Turkmenistan with her as well) – quite a story what they had to go through over there. At the end of the month, Victor and the kids will take the car and boat to Dover and Nancy and I are flying to Gatwick. I’m very excited! So nice to be able to go after we had to cancel our trip last year (because I got sick). All the kids are very excited too and it’s so nice that all four of them are coming. We’re also traveling to Kent to see Hever Caste where Anne Boleyn grew up and visit Chartwell – Winston Churchill’s home.

That’s all for now folks! Best wishes for a wonderful summer.

A promising test for pancreatic cancer … from a 15-year-old

Een mooi voorbeeld van innovatie!

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JULY 11, 2013


Jack Andraka: A promising test for pancreatic cancer … from a teenager

3afd7962e92217458ad4e0ec5e0e03f32e9d02ca_800x600.jpg10:49 minutes · Filmed Feb 2013 · Posted Jul 2013 · TED2013

Over 85 percent of all pancreatic cancers are diagnosed late, when someone has less than two percent chance of survival. How could this be? Jack Andraka talks about how he developed a promising early detection test for pancreatic cancer that’s super cheap, effective and non-invasive — all before his 16th birthday.

A paper on carbon nanotubes, a biology lecture on antibodies and a flash of insight led 15-year-old Jack Andraka to design a cheaper, more sensitive cancer detector.

Watch now »


I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘How do we LET people pay for music?’”

Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer: The art of asking

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Long time

Dear friends,

It’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me. I’ve been so busy (and feeling good) that I haven’t been in touch. April was a full month, filled with joy for me but also some sorrow (the bombing in Boston made me sad) about what’s been happening in the world. My dear friend Laurie was actually close to the finish line with her friend Judy when the bombings happened.

I’ve been feeling well the last few weeks. The cancer is decreasing and stable, and I am now on new medication. I had several job-related interviews in April. One involved going to a Hippo partner day and I saw two ex-colleagues from Capgemini, which was unexpected and fun, and of course the Hippo crew.

I’ve got a job – can you believe it! – working in The Hague for a government agency on a part-time basis, thanks to Mark from Peopleware, who set up the meeting. I’m working 2-3 days a week which is great. UWV has been very cooperative. Also thanks to Arie for his help with my letters!

April just flew by. My dad came to visit me on his way home from Houston to Malaysia. It was wonderful to see him. He’s doing well and has a brand new research center with state of the art equipment.

We met also met Larry and Marilyn from LA who celebrated their wedding anniversary in Holland, and stayed in Nancy’s appartment. I met them the afternoon of the Hippo partner day and my mom took them to our house for a brief afternoon tea. It was a rainy afternoon but we went to Laren and had some poffertjes (a dutch treat consisting of tiny pancakes with powderd sugar and butter! They are wonderful people and I really enjoyed meeting them. I also reconnected with my Zonta club and volunteered at the Fair Work festival with Evelien. Fair work helps young people who have become a victim of unfair employment, bordering on slavery. The festival opened with a dance – a merengue – and workshops. We were asked to help with the styling workshop which was a great success. The young ladies were busy with creating their personal mood boards – something I learned from the styling workshop for Tanaquil’s bachelorette party, with Jorinde, a stylist in The Hague. After the moodboards they could select clothing from the tables – very old fashioned items but they liked them nonetheless. That really opened my eyes – how little is needed to help these young women who have so little and often have a negative self-image.
My friend Esther treated me to a wonderful lunch in the Bakker’s Winkel in Zoetermeer. It was the same place my mom used to take us for a treat back when we lived there (1980-1981) and back then it was called Twenties. The interior was much the same, small marble tables (used for sewing machines) and a very old furnace in the kitchen. They added a glass house with grapevines, very light and airy. I really enjoyed it!

For our wedding day we met up with our friends Ronald and Mariette, and had a great Indian dinner at the Taj Mahal in Bussum. I discovered that I can’t handle spicy foods anymore, a side effect from the chemo I’m sure. The next day I attended an investing workshop by Marcus de Maria at the Krasnapolsky hotel; he is a great public speaker, but I found the selling of the training a bit too much. I learned a lot, but skipped the next session and had dinner with Nancy instead at Mappa, a nice Italian place John had introduced me to (for a Penn/Wharton dinner in March). On April 27th, my sister in law invited Victor’s family over for a wonderful family dinner in honor of Thib, Victor’s dad’s 89th birthday. We saw Paul and Isabelle and their daughter Catherine from Munich, and Robin and Miriam and their son Luis from Mallorca, and Arnoud. Sylvia was very busy helping her mom and serving us; she is now in LA doing research and staying with a friend. Sebastiaan came from Groningen and Annet and Barbara joined us as well; they left for France the next day.

We had a great Penn event at the SkyLounge with a view over Amsterdam on April 29th. I made lots of little cupcakes for Nancy and Anne to sell at Nancy’s house. April 30th was the big event: Queen’s day (my Dutch friends know all about this but for my international friends this might be interesting). This year was sunny but cold so I watched most of the ceremony on tv – first the abdication and then the crowning of our new king and queen.

May was a bit more relaxed for me. My mom celebrated her birthday in Paris with my sister. Victor and I went to the Louwman museum with our friends Tanaquil and Pieter and their children. It was very impressive and the Alfa exhibit was excellent. We had a wonderful meal afterwards, and then watched the war commemoration ceremonies (may 4th). Nancy took Barbara, Henriette and me to Beyonce’s concert, a special thanks to her friend Alan who made this possible. It was absolutely spectacular. She is amazing, and a true professional who gives everything to her fans! When she sang Survivor I just had to sing along. Jelle and Anne were there as well, and thanks to them I was able to sit for a bit. We had the best location, stage right, right next to the stage: Barbara and Henriette even touched Beyonce’s hand! – but it was a bit tiring to stand all that time. It was a great show and wonderful experience.

Unfortunately this month we also lost a dear friend – Henk – who was in his 80’s but sadly very sick. We remember him as a positive enthousiastic gentleman, and think of his widow often. On the positive side, Henriette turned 20 last Friday. And we have a few more birthdays this week.

I feel very lucky and grateful that I’m alive and kicking, to have my energy back and to feel good. I’ve been catching up on things that I haven’t been able to do for a while. Also I set up a new business (a one-woman show, as a friend calls it!) which I named AsIsToBe. And I’m trying to help two friends with their ventures, and having a good time assisting. Victor is very busy with his studies, he’s started on his thesis, and is also working as an assessor for part of the time.

I’m sure I’m forgetting someone or something but I will update you again soon. Tomorrow I have to get my calcium levels checked at Tergooi because of the risk of osteoporosis. Friday is my next appointment at AVL. I noticed some minor side effects today – also felt a bit tired – but that could be because I cleaned my car, and the bathroom, and did the laundry. It sounds a bit strange but it’s nice to be able to live a normal life again, and I’m enjoying it! Thanks for hanging in there with me. I will try to report back soon!

Highway 1

Yesterday was a beautiful day. We had spent the night in Cambria where a walkway offers spectaculair ocean views. After taking pictures with my analog camera (yes, I’m back to the pre-digital age, so you’ll have to wait a few weeks for those shots!), Nancy drove us up to Hearst Castle. We took the Upstairs tour, and saw the lavishly decorated guest bedrooms and Mr. Hearst’s private suites and library. The library was magnificent. He had over 8000 books, divided between his personal library on the 3rd floor and the guest library on the second floor. Apparently his mistress Mary Davies used the largest persian carpet (about as big as the ground floor in our house!) for doing summer saults.
Hearst Castle
After the tour, we headed up Highway 1. We stopped to take a look at the sea lions, and made a second stop at the cove where the sea lions were mating and baby sea lions were basking in the sun. It was amazing to see these huge creatures (the males were about 5000 pounds and looked like they were 2,5-3 meters long). The babies looked the size of mature seals. They made funny noises, and several bulls were fighting and trying to mate with the females (who tried to scuttle away). Very spectacular to see!
sheila and sealions
Next we traveled up the coast, passing beautiful views – interspersed with construction sites – and deep drops.
sheila pch1
Good thing we drove on the mountain side because there was no safety rail on the steep cliff side. We stopped at Nepanthes restaurant (www.nepenthebigsur.com/) with beautiful views and a wonderful gift shop.
It got dark as we left, but Nancy drove confidently and within the hour we reached Monterey.
We’re now enjoying our breakfast and discussing our plans for today. Back to Point Lobos to see beautiful views or onward to Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay and then San Francisco. Today we’ll drive through SF to Greenbrae to stay with my friend Erin. It’s been 10 years since we last met so lots to catch up on. I’ll keep you posted.

PS photos taken by Nancy!