“Captain,” as Tuvok stood tall and saluted Janeway. The tips of his pointy ears twitched slightly, one of the few tells of how intense his feelings were at this moment in time.

“Are the rest of the crew ready?” she asked him. She was asking him again, probably the dozenth time in the past hour, part of the reason Tuvok was getting … twitchy.

“Everyone is ready,” he assured her and wondered if she was really listening. He could see that she was more than a little excited. Her breathing was irregular and he could swear she was sweating right through her Starfleet uniform.

“I spoke to Paris and Tuvok. They think we can launch the shuttle craft and be on the surface in …” and she looked at her watch … “Under an hour.”

Chakotay had approached while they spoke and nodded his agreement. “I had Neelix pack special Voyager lunch packs for everyone. We added one of those purple “People Eater” drinks … with umbrellas. Let’s make this a real celebration.”

The planet below was big and blue and so earth-like as to bring tears to the eyes of many of the long-stranded crew. Not that any of them were willing to give up their endless trek through the Delta Quadrant to read Earth … but what could be the harm of a month … maybe two … on the rich surface of this beautiful planet. The air was right. It was bigger than earth, though the gravity wasn’t much different. Maybe a little bit, but no one cared.

It was a puzzle that no one lived on its surface. For any human-type species, it was ideal. Forests and oceans and mountains — and a sky as blue as a Robin’s Egg.

And thus, nearly the entire crew of voyager boarded their Shuttlecraft, lightly dressed in Starfleet’s casual best. They hit the surface with a quiet hissing sound and the party began. They spread their tepees in a spiral circle and built a fire at the heart. Twenty-fourth century technology made bathrooms and laundry facilities simple and efficient and these were located conveniently out of the way, but near enough in case too many people were drinking an over-abundance of tall purple drinks. With umbrellas.

They didn’t know about the radiation.

It wasn’t the type of radiation their sensors could ever register being half magical. Indeed, it was an ancient form of wizard technology, an effective version of pre-modern total destruction which had sunk Atlantis long before Earth’s modern “technical” revolution would again nearly accomplish the same task.

Humans are nothing if not inventive.

It would take more than a month before the crew realized that they had found their final resting place. But first, they were going to have one Hell of a party.

“Ready to launch?” asked Janeway.

“Ready!” announced Tuvok.

“Ready!” said Chakotay.

“Ready,” said they all announced with merriment they sailed forth to meet their doom.

With umbrella drinks.


Anyone who has had cancer, no matter how many years have passed, knows you are never “cured.” The best anyone can say is “so far, so good.” Cancer isn’t a “disease.” It is many diseases characterized by a common thread, that they are a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. But cancers are different for each organ they invade … which is why I doubt there will never be “a cure” for cancer. There may be a cure for this or that cancer, but a cure for all cancers? For every part of the body? Not likely.

Moreover, there is no test to tell you if  your body is free of cancer cells.

This is, of course, true of everyone from birth till death, but when you’ve had a run in with cancer, it stops being theoretical and morphs into something more sinister and personal. In 2010, I had a double mastectomy, losing both breasts to cancer. It wasn’t a prophylactic double mastectomy. I had cancer in both breasts. Two unrelated tumors at the same time. The odds against getting breast cancer in both breasts simultaneously are incredibly small. I seem to be one of the those people who manages to beat normal odds.

After the mastectomies, I got instant reconstruction. Two silicon implants replaced my breasts. They do not, as people imagine, look like real breasts. When you are in the tunnel through breast cancer to (hopefully) recovery, you find yourself answering weird questions. Like “how large do you want them to be?” Do you want nipples? Saline or silicon?

Beth Israel Hospital in Boston.

I went with smallish and no nipples (they require two extra surgeries and they are entirely for appearance), and silicon, which feels more “real” than saline. I suppose it’s all for appearance, really. It is the appearance of womanhood which matters when the original parts have been replaced. And yet, appearance matters more than we might think and in ways we never imagined.

Everything went well — or as well as these things ever go. I hoped I was done with cancer. Imagine my surprise when I realized there was something hard underneath the scar across my right implant. Flat, hard. My first reaction was “What the hell?” Could I get breast cancer without breasts?

I hit the Internet to discover it is probably scar tissue. Or (unlikely but not impossible) a very rare form of skin cancer that grows directly under the mastectomy scar. Rare isn’t impossible. Not in my world, so reluctantly, I made an appointment at the Dana-Farber. It is the only dedicated cancer facility in Worcester County and has been where I’ve done all my follow-up since the surgery.

I had my surgery and reconstruction at the Faulkner Hospital in Boston. My surgeon and plastic reconstruction surgeon were the best. Anywhere. Literally described by my local oncologist as “the dream team,” If you have breast cancer, this is as good as it gets and if life throws this at you, I strongly advise you to find the best surgeons, even if they aren’t convenient. This is something you want to get right the first time.

My oncologist thinks, as I do, that it’s nothing to get excited about, but we’ll watch it. I had been on an annual checkup, but now I’m back on a 3-month schedule. It may not be a big deal, but you don’t fool around with cancer. And you never, ever take for granted that you are fine, no matter what anyone tells you — including your doctors.

As all this was going on, I have been reading. Most of the books have been lackluster, but this one: Life and Other Near-Death Experiences: A Novel by Camille Pagan, grabbed me from the first page and kept me engaged to the end. I wished it wouldn’t end which is unusual for me to say, especially because it’s a book is about a young woman who discovers she has a rare, aggressive form of cancer while simultaneously discovering her marriage has come unglued. Literally, both things hitting her on the same day within a couple of hours.

life-and-other-near-death-experiences-coverWhat makes this book different from other books that deal with life and death, is it never takes the easy way out. There are no cheap, easy fixes for life’s ugly problems. It confronts real decisions people have to make and does so with humor, wit, and realism.

The main character of the story freaks out when her life falls apart. She doesn’t take it calmly. She completely loses it. She needs time to think — plus a huge amount of support from family and friends to face her new reality. It was the most realistic story about dealing with cancer I’ve read and it wasn’t depressing.

Not a light-hearted romp or a vale of tears, it reminded me that how we react to appalling news varies, but we all react. You cannot fail to be changed by facing death, especially when you know there’s no surety you’ll beat it.

Once you’ve had any medical crisis that will kill you left untreated and might kill you anyway, even with treatment, you never look at life the same way. You don’t take life as a given. None of us should take life for granted, but we do. Until we come upon our dark angel — and he’s holding our number.

What made this one special was its lack of sentimentality. No mawkishness. Not a cliché in sight … you I cannot tell you how grateful I was for that. I’ve had cancer. I have (had) (still have) (will have) heart disease. If there is a cliché about disease I haven’t heard, I’d be surprised.

This is a good book. I hope it will get some attention. It got lumped into the category of “humor” where it doesn’t exactly fit. I’m not sure where it would fit, so maybe humor is as good as any other placement. Occasionally, it made me laugh or at least chuckle in recognition.

Regardless, any book that can make you laugh in the face of death is worth a read.


End if September? How can that be? Didn’t the year start the day before yesterday? This whole spinning through space thing is totally out of control!

We are waiting for cooler weather to bring the fall … and bounce Hurricane Maria out to sea. No one is in the mood for torrential tropical rains and winds that knock the trees over. We don’t get a lot of hurricanes, so when we do get one, there’s a lot of damage. Most of our howling wind storms are in the winter when the trees are bare … which also means they are far less likely to blow over.

This time of year, though, a big oak with leaves is like a gigantic sail on a ship at sea. Being as oak trees are otherwise nothing like ships at sea, they do not run before the wind. They keel over. Sometimes, on ones house. Ouch.

Share Your World – September 25, 2017

What is your favorite outdoor activity?

Kayak on the Blackstone River

I take pictures.

In a car would you rather drive or be a passenger?

I am a passenger. I don’t necessarily like it, but that’s the way it is. First, because Garry would rather drive. He complains about driving all the time. About all the other slow drivers (slow drivers are the bane of his life), the bad drivers, the drivers who are texting and talking, etc. ad nauseum. He gets pale and nervous when I drive and that has always been true.

Now that he is the official driver more or less all the time, he acts as if he’d be happy if I drove. I know for a fact that he was never happy when I drove, not even a long time ago when the world was young.

He drives. I navigate. That’s the way it is.

If you could have three wishes granted for you alone, what would they be?

Affordable healthcare including medication for everyone in this country.

The new door, now red. You can still see the blue masking tape. I removed the tape, but I need to go take a new picture, too. Still haggling over what to do with the inside. White or color? Will an antique color be too dark? I have paint. I’m just not sure this is the right color. My son and husband are “pro antique green” and I’m still waddling around in “off white.” Film at 11.

Enough money to fix up the house to make it more comfortable and safer.

A repaved driveway would be a really good thing!

A hot air balloon vacation across Europe including first class airline tickets and very classy accommodations … and great food!

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  

I sort of signed up for Tai Chi. My cardiologist really wants me to do something the makes me move a bit more. We shall see how it goes … or if it goes. I sign up for things, but as often as not, I don’t actually show up when the time comes.