During his cancer treatment in Nijmegen, astronomer Jordy Davelaar had only one goal: to return to New York, the city where he had just started his dream job. “I promised myself that I would enjoy the things I do even more.”
“We think of cancer,” Jordy Davelaar suddenly said last year by his general practitioner in Nijmegen. After his doctorate at Radboud University, he had just started a dream job at Columbia University in New York, and was just back in the Netherlands to celebrate Christmas with his family.
What followed was a roller coaster ride, a time of fear, helplessness and uncertainty. The lump that lodged behind Davelaar’s chest turned out to be a rare form of germ cell cancer. As far as one can speak of happiness in such a situation, it turned out to be a form that can be treated relatively well with chemotherapy. Davelaar, as an astronomer and man of numbers, knew his chance of survival was 70%.
Davelaar recovered during chemotherapy in Nijmegen. The large tumor shrank and split into two parts, as scans later showed. Doctors did not see the need for further treatment. Physically, it also improved. Davelaar managed to walk twenty kilometers last summer, a campaign that raised 4,500 euros for the Radboud Oncology Fund.
Then the United States too travel ban lifted, all signals were green for a return. On November 8, Davelaar walked through the arrivals hall at JFK Airport, got into a yellow cab and was driven to Manhattan. “When I crossed the Kennedy Bridge and saw that skyline on the left, I got goose bumps. It was just unreal that I was back.
How are you now?
‘Pretty good. I am now back in New York for a short time. On December 10 (this interview took place earlier, editor’s note), I will return to the Netherlands to celebrate the holidays with my family and my girlfriend. I also have a new scan in Nijmegen. I hope I will have positive news again, but it is always nicer to have my loved ones nearby.
‘It will be some time before I give everything a place’
“After I arrived in New York, it took more energy than usual to deal with the jet lag. I am still in the recovery phase. My energy is running out faster. I notice that the recovery required a lot of strength not only physically, but also mentally. Now it is important to listen to my body. This means that I cannot say “yes” to everything. For example, a colleague invited me to celebrate Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. It’s a five hour trip. Alright, but I can’t afford it at the moment.
Have you ever realized what happened last year?
‘Yes. I also try to think about it by occasionally replaying the film in my head. I am less lived now, I have more time for myself. What all of this means to me in the long run, how it has changed me as a person, is an ongoing process. It will be some time before I have given everything a place.
Do you experience the city differently now than before your illness?
“I pay more attention to the things I do, I promised myself that I would enjoy it even more. I attended a basketball and ice hockey game for the first time. Besides, I’ve never been there the encounter (short for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, ed.). I check all kinds of things on my to-do list that I didn’t have time for before.
“Plus, it’s just really nice to be able to go back to the office, to be able to meet colleagues. It’s much nicer than having to do everything from your living room, completely from a different time zone. I am now on the thirteenth floor of the Columbia University campus. When I look outside I see the Hudson.
Are you really looking forward to your next scan or dare you look further?
“I notice that I still have a few tricks up my sleeve to make new plans. As long as the result is good, then … ‘
“Nonetheless, I have plenty of plans for next year. If the crown allows – this other important prerequisite, besides my health – I will be going to California for a month or two in the spring to participate in a program. science exchange. So I said straight away: I’m going to take surf lessons. I hope there won’t be any knots in the cable.
Cancer damages confidence in your own body, you said. Are you slowly regaining that self-confidence?
“Of course, sometimes feelings of fear run through my head. I try not to drive myself crazy and rationally look at my feelings. Do I have a symptom that could indicate something is wrong? Am I feeling strange things? The answer is now no. So, objectively, I know there is no direct indication that anything crazy will come out of the scan. But of course, there is no guarantee.
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