Julia Hemming, thirty-five years old, sat perplexed in front of the doctor’s large oak desk. Normally, she knew, you don’t get to be in this room unless something very delicate must be explained to you. Normally, she knew, you get a brief explanation of your condition in one of the rooms that you wait in while a doctor’s assistant measures your vitals while the doctor is attending to other patients in rooms like the one you are in. Then the doctor frees up long enough to examine you and prescribe prescription drugs or more tests. Julia went through that process and then had been invited to this room. She knew that the tests had all been completed and that the conclusions about her condition had been made. Now, when the doctor entered and took his seat opposite her on the other side of this oak desk, she would get the sad news.
This journey, she found herself on, started with a constant and unexplained weight loss. With no effort on her part, she started losing about one pound per week. Over a few months, she had taken off about ten pounds. Julia became elated as she slimmed down and her figure began to attract attention from her friends, especially her men friends, Jake, in particular, whom she was engaged to marry.
“Julia, you are looking great! What kind of diet or exercise are you following to slim down like this?” Many of her friends and associates asked her this same question in various ways.
“I don’t know!” she replied. “But, I love it! I’m calling it, ‘, the get in shape without actually trying diet and exercise program!’”
Then after a half year or so, she was down over twenty pounds, with pain and fatigue beginning to plague her. The pain radiating down her back now nagged her regularly while she began to spend much of her day in a recliner wishing not to be disturbed.
“Julia,” said Melba, “Where have you been?”
Julia replied, “I’ve been tired a lot just feeling like sitting or lying on the couch watching television.”
Melba replied, “You know the weight loss looks good but have you noticed that your eyes are a bit yellow. I think you should see a doctor.”
That was a month ago, and now she is here about to find out what all of her tests have indicated. The office door opened, and Dr. Johnson entered. He sat down looking solemn. Even though Julia expected bad news, actually receiving it, shocked her to her core.
“Julia,” said Dr. Johnson, “I’m afraid there is no way to refute the barrage of tests. You have pancreatic cancer.”
Julia stiffened bolt upright and asked the question, “How long?”
Dr. Johnson replied, “It’s pretty far along. Pancreatic cancer starts in your pancreas, which is in your abdomen behind the bottom of your stomach. The pancreas aids digestion, helping to regulate the metabolism of sugars. You are well into stage IV with your cancer being metastatic or widespread.
The outlook for pancreatic cancer is poor, even with the early diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer, typically, spreads rapidly and is seldom detected in its early stages. That is a major reason why it’s a leading cause of cancer death. In your case, it is advanced, and surgical removal isn’t an option.”
“You haven’t answered my question. How long?” Julia implored.
Dr. Johnson replied apologetically, “Maybe a couple of months.”
“Well then,” replied Julia, “I have no time to waste. Goodbye.” She left quickly, totally ignoring Dr. Johnson’s requests for her to stay and cover her treatment possibilities, which, of course, meant making her as comfortable as possible while she died.
Julia headed straight to her fiancé’s house, driving her 2006 Honda Civic at breakneck speeds. She mumbled to herself, “If I crash and burn, I’ll not have to deal with the pain and BS of the next month or so. It’s too bad I’m an atheist. God just doesn’t exist for me, so I can’t talk to him. Besides, there are a lot of people praying that god will undo what that same god put into motion!” She smiled and kept driving.
She parked the car and jumped out, reaching her fiancé’s door in a couple of seconds with one fist banging on the door and the other punching the doorbell. “Jake, help,” she screamed.
The door opened, and Jake pulled her in for a loving embrace. “I knew you would get bad news. Your symptoms were irrefutable. How long?”
As she crumpled into his arms and began crying and sobbing she said, “The SOB said, a couple of months at best. What am I going to do? You have half a dozen PhDs. There has to be a solution, which you know about and the normal doctor doesn’t. Something experimental. Anything will do. I don’t want to die and disappear into the universe like a rotting carrot!”
“Well, my PhDs are in physics. I know very little about cancer. Let me do some research. My field is quantum mechanics; I’m not sure what I can bring to you. What did your oncologist say?”
“I fled from his office when he only gave me a couple of months. He’ll just keep me comfortable with drugs until I pass into the great void! You, on the other hand, have a stake in my possible survival. Notice, I’m thinking positive!”
“OK, let’s break out the wine and cheese while I check some journals and call some colleagues.”
Jake, sipped wine, read journals on cancer research, called colleagues, and comforted Julia while they both consumed a large quantity of cheese and crackers simultaneously.
Finally, Jake said, “There is no good news at all. There is no golden bullet.”
Julia replied, “Nothing! Nothing! Not even a wild and crazy solution that I might survive with or without cancer?”
“Well,” said Jake. “You know Adam Bachman, right?”
“Yes, I do! He’s the guy who isn’t sober even when he hasn’t had any mind altering substances in a week!”
“That’s him. He has been working on some quantum teleportation, cloning, and three-dimensional printing system. He claims that all of the negatives of each system are eliminated with his system that combines all of the positive aspects of the three disciplines. On top of these systems, he has developed an intelligent filter that can be configured to keep unwanted cells from copying and/or cloning, and/or teleporting with the subject. He’s crazy in a very logical sort of way. He’s tested his techniques on mice so far. That’s not much of a test. He’s been able to copy and transport at a distance of forty feet several mice, leaving certain organs behind! I’ll keep looking, but I’m afraid we are going to have face facts together. I love you, and part of me will die with you. I’ll spend every minute of my days ahead with you, helping as much as humanly possible. I’ll even say a few prayers in case …”
Julia interrupted, “Enough of that, I love you too, but I’m not going to give up yet. If I understand correctly, Adam thinks that he can copy me from one machine to another, leaving cancer behind. We should talk to him. I’m desperate.”
After they had finished one bottle of wine, they were able to reach Adam imploring him to, “… drive over ASAP!” After all, it was only twenty miles from his apartment to Jake’s front door, and it was only 7 pm. After explaining the situation, Adam headed to Jake and Julia. He arrived in a half hour, with a small animal carrying case, a laptop, and a binder full of research documentation.
Jake said, “Talk to us. Explain how this might work.” He brought out more cheese and wine.
Adam said, “Yes, cancer cells are easily recognizable by their structure. From that knowledge, we can program a filter that will block the cancer cells from being either copied or transported. If it works, you have a healthy person on the output side of the process.”
Julia said, “So, there would be two of me, one that is dying and the other that is healthy and may live a very long time?”
Adam replied, “The input organism, in all likelihood, will be destroyed in the process, so only the healthy organism on the output side will remain.”
Jake replied, “In your blend of techniques, do you still require the quantum mechanics entangled state at both the input and output site?”
Adam replied, “Yes, and also all of the raw materials and DNA necessary to form an embryo on the output side.”
Jake said, “How do the three different techniques work together? What do you mean by an embryo on the output side?”
Adam replied, “For your purposes, the only thing you need is 3D printing. Teleportation is not necessary because the output organism can be in the same room as the input organism. Cloning copies the input organism’s exact DNA, so we have the same being on the other side, not a mix of a mother and father’s DNA as is normally done in a standard human fertilization and birth scenario, or in the case of in vitro fertilization (IVF) embryo creation. The filtering out of cancer cells, in this case, would be trivial. Of course, we need a woman for nine months to complete the process.”
Julia, eyes wide with excitement, said, “Hold on. You mean if I went through this, it wouldn’t be me without cancer on the other side of the process. It would be an embryo with my exact DNA. It would be me as a baby. That’s not quite what we had in mind!”
Adam said, “That’s all I have. Mother nature, in the form of a human mother, is the only “machine” that can successfully produce a human being from a cell. Maybe someday we will be able to do the whole job, but, currently, the engineering challenge is so expensive that it is not going to happen anytime soon. The costs are enormous.” Then Adam opened the carrier he had brought in. He pulled out two mice that were seemingly identical in every way visually. “Here are Sally and Sally Two. Sally was on the input side, and Sally Two with identical DNA was on the output side. The surrogate mother is still alive in the Lab. Without quantum teleportation, we were able to keep Sally. As near as I can tell, the two are identical except for age!”
Jake said, “So, this would apply to Julia in a way we hadn’t expected at all. Julia would be a DNA donor. After nine months I would have a baby that in all likelihood would be a Julia twin but 36 years younger! Julia would survive the process only to die, from cancer, before Julia two was born. Is this process legal? I understand that even if it fails, we haven’t lost more than we stand to lose anyhow.”
Julia added, “So, Jake would have a daughter instead of a wife. This daughter would be none of him and all of me. I would be gone anyway, and this little girl would start off with a new set of experiences and memories. She would know nothing of me! You can’t save me. What is the cost?”
Jake replied, “That’s what I like about you, Julia. You are a direct no nonsense gal. To your questions, I want to add a few. Why not use IVF with me being the sperm donor and Julia, the egg donor? We would get the same results, except that the baby would be a mix of Julia and me.”
Adam said, “I apologize for being direct, but I got it from Julia. Julia, you are too far gone to produce a healthy egg. The process that I have described will copy your DNA and create a completely fertilized egg. At the moment, there is no middle ground. We cannot save you. By now you know that you have exhausted your research. Maybe we can prolong your life, with the help of your oncologist so you can see the baby before you die. Jake would have to tell the baby as she grows everything thing he knows about you. Lastly, the cost will be roughly a half a million dollars.”
Jake said, “Julia, I have the money, and I want to go ahead. I want to keep a little bit of you, and this is the only way, except for the memories I have.”
Julia replied, “Jake, I want to go ahead too, and I want to live long enough to see my offspring.”
So, they went ahead with the procedure that Adam described. Being single herself and being Julia’s and Jake’s friend, Melba volunteered to be the host mother.
Julia began recording a series of videos describing everything she might say to her daughter if she lived long enough. If she didn’t, as expected, at least, her daughter would be able to watch the videos.
It took a month to get everything ready, and in that time, Julia became much sicker. She had started both radiation treatments and chemotherapy to slow down the growth and spread of her tumors, which were now in her lungs and brain. The day came when they had to perform the DNA cloning and egg creation. The end seemed near for Julia. Several eggs were produced from the DNA mappings to make sure that at least one was viable. All were tested, and one was chosen to be implanted into Melba’s uterus. This was done immediately in case Julia suddenly became enough better to last nine more months.
Julia’s doctor, Sam Servitor, was present to observe the whole process, as well as Jake, and, of course, Melba.
Sam said, “This is unbelievable. I may have to recommend it for some of my terminally ill patients. By the way, I recommend stopping chemo and radiation. At this point, Julia’s body may come back a bit with the elimination of chemo and radiation because the tumors have shrunken considerably.”
As Sam described, Julia did “bounce” back a bit and continued for three months. However, more chemo and more radiation had to be done again. This reoccurred in cycles, of healing and treatments. In the meantime, Julia had made it to the sixth month and in the home stretch with Melba getting bigger and bigger each day.
As time went by, Julia became less and less a companion to Jake and Melba became more and more a companion to Jake. It seems that people move within relationships almost subconsciously. Julia’s impending death and the very presence of a loving alternative moved Jake in Melba’s direction. One afternoon while Julia suffered intensely from the pain of her condition, she looked, thoughtfully, first at Jake and then at Melba. “You guys are getting close, aren’t you? It’s ok, why shouldn’t you. I’m a goner, and you two are very young and alive with a child coming your way! I’m lingering longer than I should and am starting to feel in the way. I want you two to ignore me and let your closeness develop at its own rate, without regard to me. Will you do that for me? Please!”
Jake looked at Melba, who shook her head affirmatively. “Melba and I have been talking about this. We’re sorry, but we are becoming very close and intimate. We both feel guilty but can’t seem to help ourselves. We are both committed to helping you through no matter how long it takes, but we have to seek solace in each other arms. I guess you can tell. It’s just something that is impossible to hide. Also, the baby, really a young you, must come first now. Melba and I will be here for her as if she were our own. You need to know that. We will be married after you are gone and raise this child as much as possible as you have been raised. We have a great deal of knowledge about what her likes and dislikes will be based on what we know about you.”
Julia replied, “Jake, everything you are saying is beyond my wildest expectations. I love you both and understand everything. I want you to change one thing, however. Get married right now, as soon as possible. I want to be the maid of honor. Can you do that?”
Melba replied, “We are ready to do that, right Jake?”
Jake said, “Yes, we both are.”
So, in a small ceremony with a few friends, Jake and Melba were married in the hospital with Julia attending as the maid of honor. Melba, at seven months pregnant, and Jake said their vows. Both agreed to commit to each other and Julia the second. They planned a honeymoon for their one-year anniversary.
Another traumatic month went by for Julia. She became unconscious for days at a time and then regained when all seemed lost. Everyone knew the end fast approached. Melba sensed she would not last another month without giving birth, so when she began contractions, no one seemed surprised, least of all Julia, who at the time was quite conscious and in much pain of her own. A couple of weeks later, Melba gave birth to a 6 lb. 7 oz. baby girl. That very day, the nurse put Julia the second in Melba’s arms so she could begin to feed her. Then baby and mother were moved to a wheelchair and pushed to Julia’s bedside. Jake picked up the baby and put her gently in Julia’s arms. “Her name is Julia. I hope that’s OK. She looks just like you, an identical twin thirty-six years younger than you. Compare these pictures of you at birth. Look you two are identical. Isn’t this great?”
Julia, now very weak, looked closely at the baby’s picture and replied, “Yes, this is great! She is identical to me. This may be the first time one twin held her own identical twin.” Looking into the baby’s eyes, she said, “You’re a sweet one aren’t you. I’m so happy that I lived long enough to see you and hold you. I’m so lucky to have you, my replacement in this life.” Then she gasped in pain and Jake took the baby from her. Julia lost consciousness and died within a few minutes.
She never witnessed the protest taking place outside of the hospital. A spokesman for the Catholic church screamed into a megaphone, “These people have performed a new and blasphemous form of birth control. They have taken from God his and only his province! They will all rot in hell! What will be next? Will we create a baby president from the current president or a future baseball star from a current one? What will be next?”
Of course, those present in the hospital could hear. After some thought, Jake whispered to Melba, “You know, they have a point. In the wrong hands, this technology is dangerous. Also, I don’t want us to be part of the debate, do you?”
Melba replied, “No, I just want a normal life for baby Julia and us.”
So, Melba and Jake kept a very low profile for the coming month, a month in which religious leaders and media representatives tried to get their comments on the moral aspects of baby Julia’s existence. The pressure began to build over the entire month. Jake and Melba avoided all of it. Then, before anyone expected it, they quietly disappeared the same way someone in witness protection might relocate. None of their family knew anything other than a few notes explaining that they were safe and expected that no one would try to locate them.