In October of last year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and rushed into surgery three days later. Thus began a journey that would change my perceptions of what's important, and the strange realization that life is a fragile miracle not to be taken for granted. It made me more determined to hang on to life, something I saw on a science fiction show called Battlestar Galactica.
President Laura Roslin is a character on the show, who's steely resolve to deal with a larger catastrophe comes partially from her private battle with breast cancer. When faced with the eventuality of her demise, many things she used to be afraid of seem suddenly trivial. It was what allowed this reserved, 43rd in line for the presidency, schoolteacher to step into the role of President of the Colonies with hardly a shiver after they are attacked by merciless machine creatures and their homeworlds are destroyed.
The story revolves around taking control of your life, on both a personal and larger level and it came along during a period when I felt completely out of control. This science fiction epic has seen me through to the cancer survivor I am today. It's so very much about taking control, but also taking time for yourself, taking care of yourself and the consequences of ignoring your body and spirit in pursuit of success, money and power. Roslin, prior to be diagnosed, was a workaholic. Her transformation is startling, as is anyone's who realizes they are mortal and their time on this plain is finite.
How The Idea of Breast Cancer, Science Fiction & Battlestar Galactica combined into a website, writing, blogging and a really fun hobby…
Breast cancer and Battlestar Galactica caught me totally off-guard and sealed my allegiance to this complex science fiction television show. The fact that the President of the Colonies had cancer on a SciFi show was an odd combination to propose, but Ron Moore put it out there and thus into our reality. President Laura Roslin is diagnosed early on in the series with the deadly disease, and told that her options are few and her chances slim to none. In the midst of this personal tragedy, she is thrust into an immediate fight for her life and has to assume the mantel of presidency while keeping secret her other silent enemy. Publicly, she works with Commander Adama for the betterment of humanity as they flee Caprica; privately, she battles the betrayal of her body as the cancer spreads. She has to be devastated, but like many of us, she rises to the immediate challenge – getting the remains of civilization to safety - fighting privately with her fears and demons.
Three operations and too many frakkin cancer treatments later, I have emerged a breast cancer survivor and a woman acutely aware of how little time God gives us. The oncologist shook my hand a couple weeks ago, bid me good luck and told me to make an appointment for 30 days out, three months out and so forth. She handed me a prescription for hormonal therapy pills, a number to call if I got upset and a business card if I had any questions. I was burned, in pain, peeling, wearing a wig, and recovering. Life was supposed to continue on as usual, right? I felt like I'd been beat up by a bunch of Cylons. I wasn't the same person who went to the doctor in October, so that was impossible? I think this is the same with anybody who's survived a life-threatening illness.
What you do with that change is what makes the difference in your world. Roslin has taken on leading the people to Earth as her personal quest while stealing a few moments of private time and holding the political structure together. We see bits and pieces of that with the President, in between fighting with Adama and fending off Tom Zarek - she reads, practices some form of candle therapy and seeks counsel from a spiritual person. She is also being ravaged by the medications and pain killers; and, we are left to wonder if she's chosen the right path. She didn't want to die like her mother; will she die anyway?
As a survivor, it's a question I ask myself often. I've taken all of the advice, made a choice, survived a course of treatment. Was it enough? Will it come back and kill me in six months, a year, two years? Unlike Roslin, I caught mine earlier on. Like Roslin, I have no choice but to live my life to the fullest with whatever time I have left. Thank God, I'm not Roslin, because she has to spend the bulk of her time running from the Cylons. I just need to please my boss for eight hours and drive home. Somehow, amidst all that chaos, she manages to snatch a couple minutes for herself. And, that's what’ it's all about. She borrowed one of Cmdr. Adama's books, so we can presume she spent a bit of time reading it. That's time for herself, and that's so extraordinarily important.
Breast Cancer and Science Fiction - Whole Again! If you've been where I've been, and maybe you're still there, take heart and take flight. Let them do what they must to save your life, but don't let them steal your joy. As they work on your body, take your mind to the next level, an alternative universe, a parallel dimension, to a battlestar or starship and beyond. That's what science fiction and fantasy will do, take a person out of the doldrums and allow them to soar on the wings of imagination.
When things get rough, focus instead on your love of science fiction or whatever is your passion. Like sitting in a hot tub, it will relax you enough so that when your attention returns to the problem, it's more manageable. While I was sick, it became breast cancer versus science fiction. I have always loved Star Trek: TOS, TNG, DS9, Voyager & Enterprise, and I rapidly got hooked on the new SciFi channel offering, Stargate Atlantis, and because they addressed something I was in the midst of fighting - breast cancer - was fascinated by Battlestar Galactica.
I lived for Friday night; they weren't going to treat me again for two days, and Stargate and Stargate Atlantis were coming on. Then, in January 2005, the much-hyped Battlestar Galactica series joined my mix. What would happen to the President? She was dealing with it and functioning. She was still alive and so was I. When I was too sick to move, I'd watch these shows and remember what I used to adore. - writing fan fiction, reading and watching science fiction and fantasy on television and in the movies and dreaming about distant galaxies. It's been that way since I was five. And, I realized that I had put that on the “back burner" for years as I worked and lived, that is, until I was invited into hell through cancer.
I pondered what could I do that really meant something to me. There was nothing I could do about what the treatments except think about something else. - something fun, different - something I had a passion for that would replace the misery. Without passion for a subject, any subject, life quickly becomes an endless march towards death. And, I definitely didn't want that. I had become a work-a-holic. I suspect that Laura Roslin was one as well. I have no idea how that happened, but with that knowledge, I had the power to change it. If you see yourself in this boat, you have the power to get out before it sinks with you in it.
My new philosophy is, “Do what you need to do to sustain your existence, then live to do what you enjoy to live your life. "
Take the clarity I'd gained with breast cancer, combine it with my love of science fiction, and - presto, magic - step into a lifestyle that includes time for oneself, loads of laughter and a boatload of merriment. Unfortunately, our stalwart Battlestar president doesn't have this luxury. She can only snatch a few minutes here and there, but she does that. If, in the middle of a run for her existence, the President in Galactica can take a few moments for herself, what's our problem?
Science fiction fans with cancer - take heart!
I know there are many science fiction fans out there who are cancer survivors. They say you are a survivor from the moment of diagnosis. There are 10 million cancer survivors today, so you're not alone. Even if only one other fan reads this and enjoys my website, blog or piece of fan fiction, I will have accomplished my goal. To make you laugh; make you think; encourage you to do something that's not about making money and business, something you would work at even if you're never got paid a cent for doing it, something to take you mind off whatever ails ya!
My passion is science fiction and fantasy and my wish is to share that with others who may be suffering and need a break.
Judith Brandy is a longtime writer and lover of science fiction and fantasy. A recent breast cancer survivor, her mission has become raising breast cancer awareness in a fun and non-threatening way in the science fiction and fantasy community as well as providing a haven for stressed-out fans . Her website provides breast cancer information and links and loads of SF information on Battlestar Galactica, Stargate Atlantis, SG-1, fan fiction, SF polls; it’s sort of like she is providing a virtual hot tub and good book to the global SF community.
Visit today and enter to WIN Battlestar or Stargate DVDs during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month