Saturday, March 1, 2014

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Smarter

In ten days' time it will be three years to the day since I was successfully operated on for pancreatic cancer.  Some of you reading this may be unaware of the prior story; worry not, this is not a post about cancer. It is, though, a post about survival.

There's a saying about how 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger' that many undergoing chemo- and/or radiation therapy often hear, or even use themselves, to make light of the unpleasantness of the process and to remind themselves that there is a flip side to the nastiness of the "planned poisoning" that they are enduring: it may extend their lives and is therefore “better than the alternative” (as in, death).

My purpled Twitter avatar, to mark World Cancer Day last month (Feb 4)

But recently a colleague of mine in the world of the Internet, Guy Kawasaki, hit upon a headline - I have yet to check whether it was Guy's own or whether he was passing on something from elsewhere - that, for me, is much more pregnant with meaning and possibility, in terms of viewing cancer in the first place, and chemothererapy/radiation treatment in the second, as a potential inflexion point for anyone who survives one or both:
              What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Smarter
This, for me, is the much more honest and uplifting statement. Do I feel stronger, having dodged the bullet - thanks to radical Whipple surgery - of the deadliest of all the cancers? Not really. If I could restore my strength to pre-diagnosis levels or above I'd be happy as a clam; realistically speaking, it is not especially likely, as there remain one or two challenges associated with Whipple surgery which tend to linger no matter how hard one tries - a surgically rearranged digestive system is plain not as effective as one that's been left intact.

On the other hand, do I feel smarter? Most emphatically, yes. The things that addressing and overcoming adversity teaches you - about yourself, about those who love you and are loved by you, about your professional colleagues both direct and indirect, about total strangers and/or long-lost friends; about nutrition, about the Internet, about the healing power of music and above all of love, about cognitive mysteries such as "chemo brain" and the reassurances increasingly offered by brain science; about physical capacity, about mental agility, about emotion, about faith…

In truth there isn't a single aspect of the human condition about which you do not, on being confronted with an early departure from the game of life, end up a tad smarter if on the contrary you have the good fortune to survive.

"Survival" and "survivor" remain the metaphors of choice when dealing with people like me but, speaking here only for myself, I am not sure how useful those words are. We are *all* survivors, after all; we all survive, daily, onslaughts of inconsiderateness or even plain cruelty, of injustice either direct or indirect, of disappointment and/or even despair. We all survive week in, week out the challenges of work and play, of life and love, of learning and of teaching, and of the eternal search for meaning in which we are all, to greater or lesser extents of awareness, engaged.
So the human being who "survives" cancer, of whatever variety, is no different from one who survives any other of life's curve-balls: bereavement, for example, or financial ruin. There is a commonality, and it is that of the bounceback or comeback. We humans are resilient. We have mastered endurance. We are *all* survivors. Of something. Of life itself, perhaps.
But the Kawasaki headline offers a more nuanced perspective.

Just as travel broadens the mind, or university, so pancreatic cancer it turns out is a hugely enriching life-phase that does, no doubt about it, leave you smarter. That it might just as easily have left you dead is not I think the point; many things kill us, from traffic accidents to natural disasters. But how many things actually make us smarter? We learn about humility - that is a given when quite literally your life (in the form of your innards) is for multiple hours in the hands of a surgeon. We learn about the irrefutable power of positivity. We learn about the boundaries of medicine and the central role of self-healing. We learn about the perils of certainty, and the corresponding importance of flexibility and agile modification of behavior and/or treatment. We learn about the often neglected importance of hydration. We learn about what truly makes us, and those around us, tick.
Now don't get me wrong. There are other ways to become wiser in this world, all of them less painful, less intrusive, and less detrimental and disruptive to the routine of yourself and your family. But that does not detract from this one, enduring truth, and I can vouch for it first-hand: What Doesn't Kill You - really, truly madly, deeply...take it from me - Leaves You Smarter.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

All Aboard for the Internet of Things

“What makes for a red-hot company?” IDG Connect Editorial Director Martin Veitch asked himself rhetorically in November 2013. “Knowing which closely-held companies have the strength in depth to succeed is an inexact science,” he answered, “but there are some clues.”

A sufficient number of Veitch’s all-important clues – which include good management; a strong story; enthusiastic customers; a vibrant developer/partner community; strong funding from reputable companies; sales; growth; the positive views of experts in the field; market opportunity; and competitive differentiation – existed in the case of Kaazing to lead Veitch to include the Silicon Valley start-up in his final list of “20 Red-Hot, Pre-IPO Companies in 2014 B2B Tech” which IDG Connect, a division of IDG which is in turn the world’s largest technology media company, published November 21, 2013.
“THINK OF IT AS A ROCKET UP THE INTERNET’S TROUSER LEG”               –Martin Veitch, Editorial Director, IDG Connect

The IDG article explained how Kaazing “uses the emerging HTML5 Web Socket standard to speed up communications and create what it calls ‘the living Web’. Think of it as a rocket up the Internet’s trouser leg, if you will, or HTTP reimagined for the more liquid world of the modern Web versus the document-centric, static model of the Web circa 1995.”

Veitch then concluded, sagely: “With 5 billion Web users forecast for 2020 and with the Internet connecting to more and more devices, we desperately need this sort of technology to come good.”

His point is well made. In the brave new world that has since 1999 been called ‘Internet of Things’ (commonly abbreviated nowadays to just IoT), there are already millions of embedded electronic measuring devices connected: thermostats, pressure gauges, pollution detectors, cameras, microphones, glucose sensors, EKGs, electroencephalographs. They probe and monitor everything from cities to endangered species. There are sensors monitoring the atmosphere, our ships, highways and fleets of trucks, our conversations (thank you, NSA!), and even – in a movement called the Quantified Self (QS) – our bodies.

In the IoT, the Internet is getting in the way of the things

“The intersection of the Internet of Things and the future will to a very great extent happen on the Web, since nearly everything that technical and business innovators want to do around IoT needs to make use of Internet-level protocols. But the ‘things’ they want to talk to are typically encircled by Web infrastructure like firewalls, proxies and such.”
General Electric, which prefers to call the IoT the “Industrial Internet”, estimates that it will boost global GDP by a whopping $15.3 trillion in 2030. Cisco calls it “Internet of Everything” and is saying to anyone who’ll listen that IoT-related activity will boost global output by $1.6 trillion per annum throughout the next decade.

In his IDG report, Veitch mentioned that there are forecast to be 5 billion Web users by 2020; but what he didn’t mention is that there will be 10x that number of connected “things” – that’s to say, the Internet of Things will be called upon to connect not just 5 billion people, but also 50 billion things, from sensors to milk cartons, with trillions of connections between them. These things, like the people, will be always-on, always-connected, and always trying to communicate.

The intersection of the Internet of Things and the future will to a very great extent happen on the Web, since nearly everything that technical and business innovators want to do around IoT needs to make use of Internet-level protocols. But the “things” they want to talk to are typically encircled by Web infrastructure like firewalls, proxies and such. Which means that what is critically required is an entirely new architecture, a “Web Communication” architecture if you will.

And this is exactly what Kaazing has devised. It has devised gateways that extend benefits of scale, speed, predictability, reliability, and security across the multiple languages (protocols) spoken by the “things” that are becoming so densely connected in the IoT world. In fact Kaazing’s pioneering gateways will allow companies to on-board billions of different things (machines, individuals, and enterprises) to the Web in an always-on and always-connected state at unprecedented scale – and with enterprise grade performance, predictability, reliability, and security.

Kaazing’s customers can expect the performance of the Kaazing Gateway to provide for up to 100x latency and 1000x bandwidth reduction compared to those solutions being supported by the existing, “legacy” Web. In short, Kaazing has found a way to make the Web work more efficiently, securely, and reliably. “With tech company valuations at their highest for quite some time,” wrote Martin Veitch at the conclusion of his “20 Red-Hot, Pre-IPO Companies” piece, “signs of a bounce-back in major economies and several new waves of technological change, these are exciting times to be a new disruptor.”

“Kaazing has devised gateways that extend benefits of scale, speed, predictability, reliability, and security across the multiple languages (protocols) spoken by the ‘things’ that are becoming so densely connected in the IoT world.”
To which all at six-year-old Kaazing, which has recently (October 2013) picked up a little over $8M from NEA and CNTP and is working hard to establish an early but impressive lead in the Internet of Things market, would say one word: “Amen”.

Full disclosure: I have since 2007 been Founding Media Adviser to Kaazing Corporation and in mid-November 2013 joined the company as its full-time CMO.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Small Cancers, Big Data, and a Life Examined

"The unexamined life is not worth living."

There's no doubt that Plato was on to something. The observation, from Plato's Apology, is a recollection of the speech Socrates gave at his trial...and for all that Socrates may have lived a little before Tim Berners-Lee and knew nothing of HTML or the World Wide Web, he was nobody's fool.

Sometimes it is only by pure chance that some of us get a chance though to subject their own lives to Socratic scrutiny. In my case it arises because on this day two years ago I was operated on (successfully as it turned out) for the most lethal of all the cancers, pancreatic cancer – and if you can't scrutinize your life two years after having it salvaged by a sure-handed surgeon who succeeded 100% in resecting the tumor concerned, then when can you?

But here's the thing. In conducting my weekend scrutiny, I realized that most of my life – since my four children were all conceived (same wife, honest!) while I was relatively young – wasn't so much unexamined as the kids, I mean. So I have decided to celebrate the two-year annivsary of my Whipple surgery by sharing with them some highlights of the life that I have been so very fortunate as to enjoy, and which two years ago today was given an extension that I hope I can somehow do justice to.

It's easy to deal with my education, since it took place in precisely three places: at my tiny primary school, St. Christopher's, followed by The John Lyon School, from which I went up to Trinity College, Cambridge.

Here they are, in order:
St. Christopher's School, Wembley Park, Middlesex
The John Lyon School, Harrow
Great Court, Trinity College, Cambridge
Quite a progression, in terms of architecture (and, admittedly, in terms of education too; Trinity College, which was founded by King Henry VIII, somehow survived my time there unscathed but only because long before my arrival it had already nurtured Sir Isaac Newton, Lord Byron, Ernest Rutherford, Wittgenstein, Vladimir Nabokov, Lord Macaulay, A A Milne, Andrew Marvell, Nehru, G E Moore, several British prime ministers, George Herbert, the mathematician G H Hardy, Thackeray, A E Housman, Bertrand Russell, and last but decidely not least no fewer than twenty-seven Nobel Prize winners in the sciences – more than the whole of France, as the Master of the Trinity in my day, the late The Rt. Hon. The Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, hugely enjoyed pointing out).

Traditionally one's education is followed by one's profession but in my case I was already, while at Cambridge, (far too) busily at work – having founded my own publishing company in my second year, and having become, long before my final year, a creator of daily radio features for a commercial radio station based in what was at the time London's tallest office tower, Capital Radio (pictured below).
Capital Radio, London NW1
The popular success of my radio endeavors led in time to the start of my career at BBC Television & Radio (pictured below are BBC TV Center and BBC Broadcasting House, the two epicentres of my BBC years).
BBC Television Centre, London W12
BBC Broadcasting House, London W1
And those BBC activities were complemented by a delightful side-job as feature writer for the British national daily the Daily Mail, where I had the good fortune, under the then editor Sir David English, to write op-ed pieces about the vagaries of the English language.
Northcliffe House, Central London HQ of the Daily Mail

Next came the lure of book publishing, specifically academic book publishing...below are some of the many volumes in the long-running "21st Century Studies" series with which, guided by an incredible International Advisory Board of gifted visionaries and three very close colleagues who were highly accomplished forward-thinkers in their own right, I became most closely identified as Founder & Publisher:

Beyond the Dependency Culture Cover Image Chaotics Cover Image Rescuing All Our Futures Cover Image Changing Visions Cover Image The Evolutionary Outrider Cover Image
Beyond the Dependency Culture Cover Image Caring for Future Generations Cover Image Culture Cover Image Valueware Cover Image The Foresight Principle Cover Image
Praeger Studies on the 21st Century

- Praeger Publishers (now ABC-CLIO)

The appeal of analog publishing was steadily superseded by the lure of its digital equivalent, and so began the 13-year U.S. journey which began with magazine publishing but soon morphed into Web publishing. Below are just a handful of the 15 or so print titles that I had the good fortune either to edit or to co-create, before the print versions were retired in favor of their Web equivalents:

But no one said that technology magazines, whether published in print or online, would be sufficient to quench the thirst of Enterprise IT professionals for information, news, and analysis of the incredible trajectory of the Internet and all the many associated technologies it has over time fostered.

Accordingly much of the past decade has been devoted to helping produce different series of conferences and expos, from XML DevCon in 2000 and Web Services Edge in 2001 through SOAWorld and then AJAXWorld and Real-World Flex to Virtualization Conference & Expo and then, from 2008 onwards, the international Cloud Expo series, to which we've added Big Data Expo and (soon) SDN Expo.

These various shows, too, are most easily summarized visually. So here goes with a more or less random selection of shots from the 50+ shows that I have had the pleasure and the honor of "sharing and chairing"...
XML DevCon, New York City, 2000
Wireless DevCon, Santa Clara CA, 2000
Web Services Edge, Boston, 2005

1st AJAXWorld, New York City, 2006

6th AJAXWorld, San Jose CA, 2008
9th Cloud Expo, Santa Clara CA, 2010

10th Cloud Expo | Cloud Expo New York 2011
12th Cloud Expo | Cloud Expo New York - coming in June!
So there it is. A brief life-journey triggered by Small Cancer (that's what they term it when the tumor is only 2cm or less in size when they diagnose it...which is all too rarely the case with pancreatic cancer but I was one of the lucky few)...and which has ended in Big Data!

We will have to see if this counts as a life-examination – probably not, more of a very quick skimming of the which case my life remains "unexamined" by Socratic standards.

But at least it gave me the chance to dig out some old photos, and to make a start at least on making up to those four children (and their wonderful mother) for not often enough, over past thirty years, being on the same time zone as them...let alone the same continent!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Three Days to a Very Strange Anniversary...

In just three days' time it will be exactly two years since the weirdest Valentine's Day I have ever experienced, or hope to experience again.

February 14, 2011, in short, is etched into my diary and my brain as the day when I was diagnosed – out of the blue – with pancreatic cancer.

They say one should always be grateful for what one has. Accordingly, the appropriate emotion ought perhaps to have been a feeling that I was incredibly and wonderfully lucky, because I was not dead. After all, St. Valentine died on the the 14th of February, on the Via Flaminia in the north of Rome. Hence Valentine's Day. Whereas there was I, alive and well, being told by a doctor in Sarajevo's famous Koševo Hospital a huge complex of buildings on a hill in north Sarajevo that a malignant tumor on the head of my pancreas was what had caused me to turn, from head to toe, yellow. (Jaundice.)

Turning yellow is what saved my life. Many people, so late are they diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, are dead within three months: my good fortune (for that is truly what it was) was to be told something on Valentine's Day that, had I not found out about it till Christmas Day, might have had a very different outcome indeed.

I have
written briefly elsewhere about how very soon afterwards I was wheeled in to an OR at the Copenhagen University Hospital for Whipple surgery, the radical procedure in which, as one fellow pancreatic survivor recently expressed it, "Everything around the pancreas that can be removed, cut, whacked, chopped, is." That operation, simply put, saved my life. It involved the removal of parts of four organs and the reconstruction of my digestive tract and was followed up by chemotherapy that lasted seven looooooong months.
But two years on, here I am. I have out-lived Steve Jobs, may he rest in peace, who had the exact same surgery though the pathology of his pancreatic cancer was somewhat different.

Unlike Jobs, but in common with Patrick Swayze, Joan Crawford, Margaret Mead and Luciano Pavarotti, who all sadly lost their lives to it, my Valentine's Day diagnosis was that I was suffering from the more common form of pancreatic cancer called adenocarcinoma. The bad news about exocrine tumors like pancreatic adenocarcinoma is that they tend to be more aggressive than neuroendocrine tumors, the kind that Jobs had. The good  news though is that if caught early enough they can be treated effectively with surgery. In other words, they can be resected, cut out. "All" that the patient needs is the good fortune to be diagnosed before the cancer has spread beyond such organs as can safely be resected.

I had just such good fortune, and the rest is history as is half of my pancreas, all of my gall bladder, all of my duodenum (the first section of the small intestine), a goodly portion of my common bile duct, and the distal or lowest third of my stomach.

Since the overall five-year survival rate for pancreatic adenocarcinoma is less than 5%, being one of the lucky few who can have it operated into oblivion is an incredible gift. Whipple surgery is reckoned, by the Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet) in which I had the operation, to increase the 5-year survival rate from 5% to 40%...which is an astonishing improvement in the odds. I was very happy to agree to it: I quite fancied still being alive and kicking in 2016!

After the Whipple surgery, being told that your tumor has been successfully removed, and that all of the many surrounding lymph nodes also removed during the operation have tested negative for any spread of cancer, is a deeply uplifting experience. Having to undergo the physically brutal elective self-poisoning we call chemotherapy was somewhat less uplifting, but "belt and suspenders" was the approach of my team of Danish oncologists. With four children, a wife, two cats and a dog, why run the risk of the surgeons having missed a few sub-microsocopic cancer cells?

Cytotoxins are nothing if not effective: besides, "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" right?

That is all I am willing to say about chemotherapy. Fast forward thirteen months beyond the end of that chemo, and you get to today. Pancreatic cancer survivors aren't especially numerous, for reasons that CNN spells out quite succinctly here, but that only makes it more important that we lucky ones speak out and, hopefully, embolden others to do the same.

As well as saving it, Whipple surgery also changes your life, since is rearranges your innards in ways that boggle the mind when you see it spelt out in words. Digestion of entire meals is no longer an option, but a world of snacks is better than no world at all. Because my pancreas was my digestive system's main enzyme-producing organ, my aim in "Year Three" must be once and for all to master the nutritional and digestive complications of no longer having sufficient enzymes. I've not quite figured it out, not yet.

This two-year milestone seems as good a time as any to share one or two images do please let me know if you think it's true what they say about a picture being worth a thousand words.

So far so good: the Whipple Surgery is complete.
(Flashback to March 11, 2011)

Oops, this isn't quite how anyone was hoping the surgical incision 
would look ten days later, but in the end it healed just fine

Back in the TV studio in Times Square, just three 
months after the Whipple surgery. Studio makeup is a wonderful thing!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Making Hay on a Sunday in March

It isn't very often - no, wait, it is completely unique, having never happened before - that I write to each and every one of my LinkedIn contacts simultaneously. But as the proverb goes, "circumstances alter cases."

The "circumstance" that causes me to risk Web-wide ire at my misuse and abuse of Reid Hoffman's gallantly unspoiled business tool is the arrival of the 365th day of survival since being operated on for pancreatic cancer. One entire year! Never has a year taken so long, never have 365 days seemed more like 1,365. But a year it is, and given the givens it deserves to be marked in some way. This is my way.

Worry not, I am not going to hit you up for money. (Even though the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network could most certainly always use it.) I am not even going to hit you up for emotion.

Nope. Far worse than that, I am going to hit you up - briefly - for attention. Because, to be brutally blunt, it isn't at all clear what kind of timeline anyone lives on once pancreatic cancer rears its ugly head; and so my resolution today is to make hay while I can - or, as the Hindus apparently put it, to turn the mill while there is still sugarcane.

The chances are that you will know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, perhaps even with pancreatic cancer. If so then, like my wife and children the day I was diagnosed in a hospital in faraway Sarajevo (pictured below), you probably headed straight to Google...and were startled by what you found.

Koševo Hospital, the university hospital of Sarajevo in Bosnia

Few diseases, I suspect, return search results quite as gloomy as pancreatic cancer. A typical one is as follows:

Pancreatic cancer has a dismal survival rate...

or this

overall survival is dismal - 20 percent after one year and only 4 percent after five years

I mean, I am no statistician, and neither were any of my four kids, but these "survival rate" stats read, back then, less like a glimpse of hope and more like a death sentence.

But then when the heck did anyone ever rely on statistics, right? Besides, what matters is how early the tumor is found (earlier = smaller = better), whether it is deemed to be operable, and how well the surgery goes. There don't seem to be any stats for those lucky enough to have undergone a Whipple operation - the life-saving, if radical, surgical procedure that, 365 days ago today, was how I spent my morning.

I have already written briefly about the experience of being both diagnosed with the deadliest of all the cancers and spared/saved from it all within the space of three weeks. I had a stab, too, at trying to sum up what it is like, after the Whipple, to be prescribed follow-up chemotherapy for seven long months. None of these posts was very well written, but the intent was just to share an experience, in case might help provide some kind of insight either to those who had worse luck than mine, perhaps even to those who fared better in similar circumstances...and most especially to the rest of you who have been lucky enough not to one day, just three months after completing your third New York Marathon, be told completely out of the blue that you've got the deadliest of all the cancers. Remember to say a brief 'thank you' tonight in your prayers!

Here's how it went down 365 days ago in Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet), which is where I had the Whipple procedure - in which, as one fellow pancreatic survivor recently put it, "Everything around the pancreas that can be removed, cut, whacked, chopped, is."

Rigshospitalet, the university hospital of Copenhagen in Denmark

Reassured by the fact that around thirty of these operations are performed each year by this same team of surgeons, I remember one year ago today smiling first at my wife, who was right there beside me as they prepped me for the op, then at the anesthetist whose job it was to put me under...and saying a private little prayer in my head, before oblivion took over.

There's something curiously daunting about going to sleep in full possession of your innards, but with the certain prospect of waking up with your inventory of bodily organs severely depleted.

The lion's share of my pancreas, all of my gall bladder, a goodly portion of my stomach, and an assortment of small-intestine-removal later...I did indeed wake up. And what a relief it was to find that 1. I was alive and kicking and 2. that I was in no kind of pain - just "downsized" internally. In fact I was now significantly less complicated under the hood!

Departments of Surgical Gastroenterology are probably not famous for being fun places to hang out, but if you have to for one reason or another - including this Whipple operation, which is one of the most complicated they do - I can certainly recommend the incredible team at Copenhagen's Rigshospital.

Recovery from a Whipple is an especially brutal process because the basic trick is to do it just as fast as humanly possible, getting back onto one's feet almost immediately, even if only to stand up. Other tricks include repeatedly saturating one's system with oxygen via special breathing exercises that have been shown to speed up the post-operative healing process...even though the last thing you instinctively want to do, when your midriff has been more or less sliced into two, is to breathe deeply. (Trust me on this!)

365 Days Ago Today - "Smile, you're on!"

Whipple patients typically lose 10% of their body weight in the pre- and post-operative period. It has taken an entire year to put even half of that back on! You might think that it every teenage schoolgirl's dream, but I am no teenage schoolgirl and I can tell you, nothing is stranger than finding that none of the things you ate before are going to help you put weight back on...and that instead you have to become a fat-chaser, a scavenger on the lookout for calories wherever you can find them.

I failed miserably, for at least the first three months. Putting butter on my bread, ignoring most vegetables as having insufficient protein for the amount of room they took up in my tummy, these sorts of changes seem simple - but they are not! I adore, sorry past tense, I adored, salads. But lettuce leaves and spinach leaves and suchlike are a thing of the past, once the part of the pancreas that produces enzymes is tossed into the surgical waste-bin. Because there's nothing to help digest them...which means basically that they get stuck, and it is excruciatingly painful as well as deeply frustrating.

The pancreas is of course where your insulin is manufactured too. The after-effects of Whipple surgery differ according to how much or how little of the pancreas is left by the surgeons, but in my case all I can say is, though incredibly lucky to be left with at least a bit of it, the process of eating say an orange or a banana seems to have been undermined forever. (Guess what my two absolute favorite fruits were? I guess one should never take ANYTHING for granted. I wonder how many bananas and oranges I scoffed over the years without ever really giving it a thought; whereas now, those two tastes are almost foreign to me, I can hardly remember either of them.)

Worries over dietary changes and internal rearrangements were pushed firmly onto the back burner the day, on the very point of leaving hospital and being declared a resounding success from a surgical point of view, I was told that seven months of chemotherapy was going to be needed too. Belt and suspenders. Pancreatic cancer is like the worst kind of serial killer, and no one was intending for me to take any chances.

So I had survived the disease. Now all I needed was to survive the cure!

As I say, I already wrote about what it's like, after the Whipple, to be prescribed follow-up chemotherapy for seven long months. That was at the mid-way point. Since my 189 days of chemo ended, my overall health seems from the outside enviable - and probably is, at least to almost everyone but me, who feels it has been disappointingly slow, unexpectedly erratic, and very little different from during chemo itself. Energy levels remain fluctuating rather than steady, sleep patterns likewise, and concentration is a word that seems almost to have tumbled out of my dictionary for good.

The ugly question naturally reared itself: if the Whipple surgery went so well (and it did, the surgeons were 100% adamant about that), why wasn't I by now back to Marathon form, both professionally and personally? And the answer will come shortly...courtesy of the bloodwork and the scanning techniques that Rigshospital once again is bringing to bear on this onetime athlete's body of mine. Cross your fingers; certainly I am crossing mine on this anniversary of anniversaries. One thing is sure: it isn't for want of trying - I have been trying once more to use running as my health barometer, and really have tried again and again and again to get back my running Mojo - just as, professionally, I have sought to regain my Cloud Mojo.

But it appears that convalescence is not only a question of mind over matter. Sometimes one needs "a little help from one's friends" - including, in this case, from Copenhagen University Hospital's brilliant oncologists - who understand the nuances of X-ray computed tomography!

Once they've advised me how best to proceed from here, I shall let you know (more succinctly next time, I promise!) how the future trajectory is looking. Hopefully the current little setback will be put into context and the overall prognosis will turn out to be simply Cloudtastic ;-)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

RIP Steve Jobs 1955-2011

With his passing just six weeks after stepping away from his role as CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs has made Wednesday, October 5th, 2011, one of those days that many of us will remember for the rest of our lives - a day when someone whose shining brilliance and persistence brought him victory after victory throughout the past four decades. The only thing that beat him, and even that took seven years, was pancreatic cancer.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say right away that the same major surgical procedure Jobs had in July 2004, called a pancreaticoduodenectomy (or "Whipple procedure"), is one I myself underwent in March of this year, and for the exact same reasons. The full (and somewhat grisly) details of the procedure are perhaps best left to Wikipedia, but one thing I can vouch for is that it requires, shall we say, one's full attention.

The idea, for those of us - like Jobs and myself - "lucky" enough to have a tumor on the head of the pancreas rather than elsewhere, is to remove not just most of the pancreas but also a welter of other internal organs that alas represent the collateral damage of this particular operation. I may put quotes around lucky but in truth it really was a stroke of luck, for both him and me. Because the prognosis for pancreatic cancer anywhere else in the pancreas is not exactly uplifting.

The Jobs operation in July 2004 went well, as did mine in 2011...a tribute to the prescience of the U.S. surgeon Allen Whipple who first devised the procedure as long ago as 1935, making it one of surgery's longstanding success stories. Resecting a malignant tumor is a serious business, Whipple's original methodology has understandably been refined and improved, but those surgeons who perform this procedure - which can take anything up to eight hours - are to my mind surely some of the bravest and finest in the front-line of oncology.

Allen Whipple died in 1963 when Jobs was just eight. But it would have been interesting had the two of them met, because both were pioneers in the truest sense: they were both individuals whose gift was to be the first to enter a new region, thus opening it for eventual occupation and development by others.

The regions of technology that Jobs and his companies (plural) entered first are known to us all. His legacy is all around us. The international Cloud Expo team, in particular, will be thinking of him in just one week's time, when Apple's iCloud service is due to launch.

RIP Steve Jobs.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Live By the Web, Die by the Web

I just this morning received the following enthusiastic message from Klout:

Summer of Klout

Way to go! Your Klout Score braved the dog days of summer and still came out on top! Maybe it's time for a vacation?

This made me chuckle, because if one thing is true about my Summer it is that I didn't brave the dog days, not at all. Instead I vanished into the haze that those few lucky enough to be cured of pancreatic cancer can vanish into. Part physical, part psychological, it's a kind of Never-Never Land - or, more accurately maybe, a Sargasso Sea, a zone characterized by the calm winds of the horse latitudes.

So, no matter what Klout may say to the contrary, this was for me a summer of seaweed rather than sagacity...and I apologize to those who were expecting me to show greater resilience to my chemotherapy. No one has been more surprised than me. I am certainly not out, but it would be wrong of me to pretend that I'm not down. I'll come back fast, I always do; but it may not be till the final doses of Gemcitabine have been injected into me in the epic half-hour infusions that come twice every three weeks to crush my white cell production and, along with it, that of any would-be neoplasms.

"Better safe than sorry," that's all one can say. Along with, "Roll on, 9th Cloud Expo!" - because by then, I will be free and clear of chemistry and cytotoxins will no longer be mixed in with my bloodstream.

I - quite literally - cannot wait.