njs blog

Emerging from the underworld

Github contributions graph showing an empty void from mid-July through mid-October.

SciPy this year was awesome – there's so much wonderful stuff happening in the community, and I had lots of great, productive conversations about how to move forward on different projects that I'm really excited about. ...and then immediately afterwards, I pretty much dropped everything on the floor and disappeared for 3 months, including cancelling several talks and trips. Some people know part of why, but I definitely haven't been as good about keeping my friends and collaborators updated as I'd like to be. So here's an update.

The short version: the week after SciPy I had a minor surgery scheduled, and that went fine – but then afterwards, instead of recovering, I just got sicker and sicker. I couldn't eat – I lost 30 lbs in 60 days – I was feverish and in pain and sleeping 12-16 hours a day, anemic... among other things. If you imagine having food poisoning continuously 2+ months then you won't be too far off.

The good news is that after much medical wrangling (so much medical wrangling), I finally have a diagnosis. The not-so-great news is that it's ulcerative colitis, which is a fairly serious, chronic, auto-immune disorder in which my immune system periodically tries to kill my large intestine. There's a lot of variation in the long-term effects: for some people it's a minor annoyance, and for others it's a permanent severe disability. There's every reason to hope that once I'm out of this massive flare triggered by the surgery etc. then I'll turn out to be on the milder end of the scale (and in retrospect, I'm suspiciously eyeing some past events as signs that I might been having mild symptoms that evaded diagnosis for quite a long time). But realistically, it'll take months or years before I know for sure where I fall.

For now at least, it's good to know what's going on, and I'm responding well to treatment. I'm feeling much, much better. Still not 100%, and I'm trying to ease back into things slowly to avoid over-extending myself and triggering a relapse (hello, spoon theory).

To everyone who's been waiting for a response or followup from me on something: I'm very sorry for disappearing like this. I'm starting to work through my disaster zone of an inbox, and realistically it's going to take some time to get on top of things. I may have to make some tough choices about dropping previous commitments, or asking folks to cover for me – but at least I can do a better job communicating that. I also don't mind if you send me more email or pings or whatever – if anything, it helps to triage. Just FYI though that even though I'm doing somewhat better, I'm still going to have limited bandwidth for a while. Thanks for your understanding and patience! I'm looking forward to getting through this and back to working on more awesome stuff.