This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue.
I write from the other side of pathology results that have taken weeks to come through. As you can imagine, they were much anticipated. It was quite a stressful wait. Apparently, however, the tumour has been removed in its entirety and the 49(!) lymph nodes they were concerned about and removed have proved clear of any additional cancer. I had no idea I had so many lymph nodes. I’m thus spared chemo and radiotherapy. Obviously, that’s all a huge relief – although there will be further scans in the future to keep an eye on things. Now it’s just the small matter of living with a stoma (which is as grim as you might imagine and then grimmer still) until, hopefully, a ‘reversal’ in a few months’ time – although it’s not guaranteed and presents its own fearfulness in that I might have to go through all that I’ve just experienced again. Clearly my intestines don’t like being messed around with – hence the paralysed ileus.
I wrote in the first of these ‘extra’ (unplanned) Confessions that I felt God had been speaking through scripture. In particular, Psalm 139, from which I took that God knows me intimately (seems appropriate!), that I’m marvellously made, and that he’s with me in all of this. And as I wrote in the last Confession, I’ve been bowled over by the support and prayers of family, friends and fellow travellers. I definitely regard the pathology results as an answer to prayer, so thank you.
I also write acutely aware that there will be those for whom similar journeys have been much tougher or not concluded as well. One of my own relatives died of bowel cancer last year. In 500 words I’m never going to be able to tackle ‘the problem of evil’ but at the same time I really can point to God having been with me these last couple of months; healing or not.
But I have also been struck by the ‘marvellously’ made (Ps 139:14). Now, there’s lots to argue about with cancer existing in the first place, but it’s struck me how brilliant though the surgeons have been, so much of their fixes and stopgaps really are both meant to be temporary and are poor replacements for what the body can do naturally. The stoma is a prime example as it is quite literally a ‘workaround’ that brings you face-to-face with bodily functions usually considered ‘gross’ for very good reason. Another example might be the wet suit I’ve bought in order to continue my swims in the sea. It offers physical support, psychological support and some modesty but isn’t a patch on skin which is much easier to clean and to dry and to ‘store’.
I could make something highly spiritual out of much of the above, I’m sure, but instead thought I’d leave you with this thought: as we do our best in Traveller to create believable tech to offer to players (or to cause them problems) what might we do with more natural or biological systems? Harrison’s West of Eden series gives some great ideas, the Farscape TV series offered a biological vessel in Moya, but there are Traveller examples such as Special Supplement 1: Biotech Vehicles, pp.61-65 of Vehicle Handbook, “Biotechnology in Traveller” in Traveller Chronicle 13, “Bits of Biotechnology” in JTAS [Imperium Games] 25 and probably others that I’ve missed. A challenge to think about, an even bigger challenge to design convincingly and the biggest challenge, include it in a game. Meanwhile, I for one, won’t be taking my personal biology quite so for granted in the future.