Breast Cancer and Battlestar Galactica

by Judith Brandy

Do one thing that scares you every day.
(Sometimes that's just getting out of the bed)
Eleanor Roosevelt

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 and fights privately with her fears and demons as the show unfolds.

How The Idea of Breast Cancer, Science Fiction & Battlestar Galactica combined into a website, writing, blogging and a really fun hobby.
In October 2004, 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; some of the Roslin character's resolve comes from this private battle. When faced with the eventuality of her demise, many things she used to be afraid of seem suddenly trivial. It may be 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.

With my diagnosis, came awareness of how little time human beings actually have on this planet, how much we take that for granted, and that if a person doesn't make the most of the time they're given, they will wake up one day wondering what the heck happened, or worst still, dead.

Three operations and too many frackin 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 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. 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.
This article is an encouraging reminder to all my work-a-holic, Battlestar Galactica fans who may have taken a minute to read this, to all those who may be getting chemotherapy and thinking life is the pits. Laura Roslin is noble and presidential. We're lucky; we don't have 47,000+ people looking to us for guidance. We have more time than our Battlestar counterpart to pursue our personal goals. We have next to no excuse for procrastination. If your passion is knitting - KNIT. . Cook something, if you like cooking. If you're a writer, write some Battlestar Galactica or Star Trek fanfiction. The joy of fanfiction is that unless it's absolutely horrible, it's usually well-received. Make a website about it. DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF.

We are engaged in a day-to-day struggle to survive, constantly bombarded with bad news and strife. The only thing that we really have to combat all that "stuff" is our passion for something fun. Take the time to do something about it, even if it's only a small thing like my website, blog and sometimes lucid commentary on Battlestar Galactica and Stargate Atlantis. It will allow you to deal and ignore the real world. Sciencefictionbuzz, Battlestar Galactica, and Star Trek won't change the world, but it is a fun diversion from the Rat Race, and loving it and writing about it may change your world.

Give yourself permission to copy what I'm doing and take a break from your personal hell.
It becomes something to look forward to doing as you get through your work day, when the boss is yelling or the kids are screaming or doctors are making pronouncements of doom. If you have cancer, it will help like no medication ever could, to get you past treatments, doctors, needles and diagnoses.

I have done a lot of things to stay alive and solvent: sales, mutli-level marketing, flipping burgers, computer programming. I did it because I had to do it, not because I wanted to do it. And while, I don't regret any of it, it's not who I am; it isn't the person who used to lay on the back roof and dream of winning the Pulitzer Prize and the Hugo for producing great science fiction literature and flying on the starship Enterprise or the original Battlestar Galactica. I'm no longer physically that child on the back roof, but I still have those dreams. And if you've read this far, you probably have dreams, too.

Things happen for a reason.
My mind wanders now back through the memories of who I was before I became the sole breadwinner and a single-mom. I came across, quite by accident, the website that I used to create my Science Fiction Buzz. It has many ebooks and reports, but most importantly, a message that fit right into my revelations - write and create a website about what you love and it will evolve into something wonderful. You will find like-minded people who share you vision and joy. This is happening. I have friends - fellow bloggers like Unofficial Battlestar Blog, The CIC and Tahmoh Penikett (Helo fans) fans, and we blog and share about what we love. I found a great BSG fanfic organization BSG2003fanfic Archive, and they are great to read and write for. I have found Atlantica & Save Daniel Jackson organization, TrekUnited and so many other places for Stargate, Atlantis, Star Trek and more. It's a naturally evolving thing, because I love what I'm doing and so too these other folks.

I found SiteBuildit by accident, but quickly realized, there are no accidents

SiteBuilditis more than webhosting. It's a group of people who are unified in a clear, strong and simple message - build a content site about something you care about and people with similar interests will find you. Kind of like Field of Dreams, it's truth struck a cord with me. They provided numerous examples including everything from vacationing to asphalt and concrete, but I was struck by the juggling website, which to me was perhaps one of the more obscure hobbies that someone could love, let alone build a whole website around. I figured, well, frack, if they could build all this content on juggling, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars was way more mainstream. I marveled at how much one could present on juggling. But the website owner obviously loves it, just like I love science fiction. His site is very successful because his passion is reflected in what he presents.

The webhosting group that helped me get started
Now the Site Buildit website has a ton of stuff on how to let people know you're out there on the Internet, how-to set up a site on something you have a passion about, and the secrets to how-to share your fun creations with other people. This was all good, but what finally convinced me that this particular webhosting company was correct for me, was the community it provided, the wealth of information, and the incredible education it provided on how to deliver my love of science fiction to others. It matched my personal philosophy that to be successful, you must do and create from the passion for a subject you adore. My website isn't the slickest, most well-honed site out there. There are plenty of people who are probably doing it better. But it doesn't matter. What I've tried to create is a stop on the information superhighway that's like reading a good book that constantly updated while lounging in a hot tub - relaxing and unique.

If you'd like to find out more for yourself about SiteBuildIt, CLICK HERE

If you're a cancer survivor wondering what to do now?
Relax a bit and smile or go back to running nonstop? Not if you're smart. Yes, continue to be a parent, employee and loyal son or daughter. However, with you're second chance at life, whether it's long or short, don't just continue life as usual.

Seize life; it's precious. There is something inside of you that you would love to do, that you loved to do before life layered you over with all of its stuff.

Do something you love.
I've rambled on about Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, science fiction and writing. They've always been my passions, but it took a horrible phase in my life for me to find them again. Discover your fascination for yourself and have some fun - while you're working and surviving the world. You don't need to wait until the Lords of Kobol hit you over the head to take some time for yourself.

If you are lucky enough not to have lost that dream, then great - get on with it. Life is not limitless. If you lost it, like I did, find it.

Do one thing that scares you every day. - Eleanor Roosevelt said. It will stretch your personal envelope and it's exciting. You're worth it, and it's not as hard as you think.

Whatever you do, don't continue to sacrifice all your time in the process of just existing.

Keep the joy going, because without it, cancer and life is just plain hard. President Laura Roslin takes time to be with herself - small moments amidst the ruins. Adama does with his model ship building. Not my passion, but obviously, he loves it. Pyramid playing is rampant, prayers from Starbuck. I'd personally forego drinking like Col. Tigh, but that seems to be his preferred method. - Snatches of time is all they've got. We like to think we have an endless supply. Cylons aren't knocking our doors down, but that is our mistake.

Live each day as if Cylons were invading tomorrow, and you'll grab the brass ring every time. Ask yourself, if it were you last day on Earth, would you like to spend it working at a job for 12-14 hours or doing something you love?

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