I received an unpleasant reminder this week. One of my main Institute email addresses and VPN access stopped working. It took me a while to work out what was going on but I realised that it had been a year since I formally left the employment of the University of Queensland. And here I am dear readers to apologise for not telling you before how this came to be, and to finally tell you what’s been going on. I have felt torn since the beginning about sharing this online, Maybe it would have been easier to “come out” if I’d had an pseudonym online, like my old Twitter account from 2009. I especially felt a bit of a fraud for not at least changing my website. (How much of a professional networking fail is it anyway to update your LinkedIn profile to read “Sick, really quite sick, may never return to work”. I also just let my profiles on Academia.edu and Researchgate stay as they were, and just updated the pages to reflect a new publications list as they came out.
In February 2014 it became clear that my recuperation from a leukaemia relapse and then a Bone Marrow Stem Cell transplant was going to take much longer than we’d hoped. Since having the transplant and multiple attendant side effects I’d been eking out various types of leave (sick leave, annual leave, accumulated long service leave), whilst trying to recover at home, writing papers, setting up remote modelling jobs on the cluster and keeping our in house chemical databases up to date. Finally my reserves of leave dried up, and the grant I’d been paid from finished as well, and there was no return to work date in sight. So I had to “let it go”. This immediately plunged me into a deep funk, but as time wore on and my health stabilised I was feeling better, outwardly at least. Towards the end of last year we had even started tailing off the dose of my immunosuppressant drugs, and eventually started my re-vaccination schedule. For those who are not aware of this process, a BMT involves initial complete ablation of a patient’s immune system with high dose chemotherapy and radiotherapy (big-arsed Xrays). So afterwards I was left completely immune naive. All acquired immunity from childhood vaccinations and anything else I’d caught and conquered along the way was completely gone. I was a newborn child. Shortly after commencing the revaccination schedule however I had a new complication kick in which I won’t bore you with the gory details of, but which basically meant I had to go back to higher dose immunosuppression. The upshot of this is I can get my boosters of the ones I’d had so far but cannot have the MMR or Whooping cough vaccines. So of course now I’m paranoid about measles clusters that are popping up everywhere. [I’d better stop there before I get a bit sweary – here I am desperate to get re-vaccinated and there are all these vaccine sceptics turning the world back 50 years]
So there I was, no longer an IMB/UQ employee. Fortunately the IMB let me keep my IMB and UQ email addresses and VPN access so I was able to keep doing some modelling and database upkeep on an unpaid voluntary basis. This at least gave me something to do apart from hanging about on Twitter, and writing up the great novel, and doing more family history research. My medications and immunosupression mean I can’t hang out in crowds, or go to the mall (infection risk), can’t garden (fungal infection risk), can’t go out in the daytime (enhanced UV-induced melanoma risk), have to be really cautious about twilight and morning walks (Mosquito-borne anything risk), can’t eat half the foods I want (infection risk). Basically I am imprisoned at home.
I love Twitter, and it has been my virtual home away from home for the last couple of years. I particularly love the community of chemistry tweeps I “know” who share so much about what they’re doing through things like #RealTimeChem. It is a bit hard though when there are conferences and Tweetups I can’t attend because of you know, like everything above. So if you follow me on Twitter and were wondering about the drift in tweet subject matter from strictly chemistry, to chemistry, cooking and cats then you now know why, as well as why I seem to be at home a lot. I’ve just got to get on with recovering from this latest setback and hopefully I’ll be able to go back to work. This second great “Career Disruption” (in Grantspeak) has put me way behind, but I’ve still got unpublished work to publish, if I can email it past the noses of collaborators and get them to critique them sometime.
But thanks to my incredible Stem Cell donor, Im still here. I don’t know who you are but you have my thanks every day. So thank you for reading this far and please consider signing up to the BM Register. I’m not sure how it’s done where you are but here in Australia the simplest thing to do is ask at the Red Cross. If you’re already a blood donor congratulations. You literally save lives every time you go for the people of your type. But there are many people of your blood type. But with BM stem cells you may quite literally be the one in a million match for a person with a blood disorder, the only one, the only hope. And it would be bad of me not to acknowledge the many nurses, doctors and oncologists who helped me through this. Both with my initial diagnosis and chemotherapy in 2007 and again this time through my relapse, transplant and post-transplant care.
On second thoughts, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t change my LinkedIn status. Otherwise everyone in my network would have received on of those annoying “Congratulation Martin on his anniversary of being really, really sick” emails.
PS, I may chicken out and delete this post later. I’m still not sure it’s the best thing to do.