In this section you can explore the following themes:

Being patient

Yakushi Nyorai
Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha (photo: Soon-ok Heijmans)

Being patient can be pretty daunting when a bad diagnosis has left you in the waiting room of life, and all you can do is try to hang on in there but all that you want is to get out of there – a.s.a.p. Consult this first aid for a better understanding of issues in patient care, what it takes to be a good patient, and how to make the best of a situation that is best prevented – if somehow possible.

You never walk alone

simplified image of fetal and maternal microchimerism (illustration: Soon-ok Heijmans)

It is said that we are born alone, live alone and die alone. But it turns out that this is not really so. As we grow inside our mother’s womb, cells from our mother cross over to us via the umbilical cord, and likewise, some of our own cells make that journey in opposite direction. Research has unveiled that these are not just brief courtesy visits, but long term residences, and that these adventurous cells have the ability to take root all over the body. It is not yet clear how these foreign cells manage to outsmart the immune system and continue to grow inside their host for years – perhaps even lifelong – or what exactly they do. But there is evidence that they affect the immune system – sometimes for the worse, and sometimes for the better. Join me in my quest to better understand this intriguing phenomenon called microchimerism, and discover more about who we really are.


who am I?
original illustration: NPR, edited by Soon-ok Heijmans

It is as simple as confounding a question that has intrigued people from antiquity to the present: who am I? Are we our body, or our brain? Are we the person we are in relation to others, or the sum of the experiences and people we have met? Are we who we are today, who we have been, or merely a work in progress? Do we become different persons if we “lose our mind” or lose all of our memories? Do we lose “selfness” if we receive a donor transplant, or if we lose a body part? And in how far can we call ourselves “self” when we are populated by foreign cells? As national, racial, gender and physiological boundaries are becoming more blurred, the question of who we are is becoming even more complex. Read further for some contemplations on the question of identity and how it affects how we relate to the world around us.

Lost and found