Trek Stars talk Pancreatic Cancer and Hope, Part Two

Jonathan Frakes


Jonathan Frakes smiles as he addresses fans at a Star Trek event.

Yesterday in the first part of Heavy on Star Trek’s exclusive talk with “Star Trek” stars Kitty Swink, Armin Schimermannand Jonathan Frakesthey discussed their personal pancreatic cancer stories and their introductions to PanCAN, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine guest star Swink revealed that she had already beaten breast cancer when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004. She was lucky enough to survive to tell the story, with her husband Shimerman, who starred as Quark in “DS9,” at her side every step of the way. Swink is cancer-free at the miraculous 18 years of age. Daniel Frakes, brother of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ actor and frequent ‘Trek’ director Jonathan Frakes, wasn’t so lucky. He died of pancreatic cancer in 1997, Frakes said, just months after his diagnosis. Swink and Shimerman eventually found their way to PanCAN and recruited Frakes to the cause.

And the three got together for a heartfelt chat last week — also full of hope — to share their pancreatic cancer stories with Heavy on Star Trek and shine a light on PanCAN, which will be holding its annual national awareness/fundraiser PurpleStride Event on April 30th. Pursuant to its mission statement, PurpleStride aims to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer, raise funds for its treatment and support PacCAN in supporting patients, their families and doctors.

Armin Shimerman, Kitty Swink and Jonathan Frakes

PanCANArmin Shimerman, Kitty Swink and Jonathan Frakes join forces to support PanCAN.

Below is part two of our exclusive interview with Kitty Swink, Jonathan Frakes and Armin Shimerman:

Let’s talk about the upcoming PurpleStride event. Tell me a little bit about what that is and how people can get involved.

Jonathan Frakes: It’s 70,000 people doing it now.

Armin Schimermann: At 60 different locations across the country. It’s a huge national event. They hope to raise $16.5 million as a result of this event as more and more people learn about it. It’s not just about raising money. It’s really about getting the word out so people get help that they know about it. We didn’t know anything about aid organizations. We want people to know about this so that if they unfortunately have the same diagnosis that our families went through, they can go somewhere and not fiddle in the dark like we’ve had to do.

Frakes: That’s what happens, but with the awareness that Kitty ushered all of us into, a lot of people respond with exactly what Armin mentioned, which is, “Ah!” There’s something to hold on to, a ring, to hold on to and make the journey more hopeful.

Frakes: Most people think of pancreatic cancer as a death sentence. That’s not good, there’s no doubt about that. It is not good. As Jonathan said, it’s an 11% survival rate, but that’s three times, almost four times what it was when Daniel died and certainly more than double what it was when Kitty got sick. You hear so much about people dying of pancreatic cancer. This is an opportunity for people to say, “No! Wait… there’s hope.” There’s a possibility, but you need to know that, it’ll make going through the procedures a bit easier I think.

Kitty Swink: There’s a woman in Orange County, California that I met through Charlotte (Rae, the late star of “The Facts of Life‘ and a dear friend of the Shimermans) during Orange County’s PurpleStride years ago. her name is Robert Luna. She’s been living with this inoperable pancreatic cancer longer than I’ve survived. she is my hero Roberta is a hero and she and her husband are so generous to the community, it’s extraordinary. Part of what I was trying to say is that Armin was talking to the woman while I was talking to her partner a few days earlier and said, “She should talk to Armin.” Also, he had symptoms for a very long time and was moving on. Nobody found it. Nobody found it because they didn’t know what to look for.

Schimerman: Doctors sometimes don’t know what to look for.

Vary: Part of this is telling patients and families what they need and helping them, but also educating doctors on what they need to know. Unless you are in a major city where there is a pancreatic cancer center of excellence, you have a very poor chance of being diagnosed in time.

If people aren’t able to run the event themselves, they can still donate to the cause or one of the teams, right?

Frakes: That is www.purplestride.org. You can go in there right away. Hopefully they find us, but there are many, many celebrity teams. Mindy Kaling is the host of PurpleStride this year, our ambassador. Patrick Swayze’s wife Lisa has a team. Rosario Dawson has a team. Alex Trebek’s daughter has a team.

Vary: Melissa Gilbert, who came to PurpleStride through Armin and I, also has a team.

How supportive was the Star Trek community?

Frakes: The fans were the ones who really stood up.

Schimerman: Sure, the Star Trek people, the actors and behind the camera, have tweeted about it or talked about it on social media. But, as Jonathan said, it really is the fans. We want to thank the people who have heard our message and contributed from the kindness of their hearts because they are truly helping to fight this cancer. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had tricorders and you could just eradicate any disease? But we can’t. To get to tricorders we must collect money, train doctors, find cures and make discoveries.

Vary: One thing that “Star Trek” fans might want to know, or people who are “Buffy” fans… When you join our team as a sub-team, the top two sub-teams that raise a lot of money are we with them for one half an hour to do a zoom, the three of us. And we’re having a really good time. We laugh a lot. It’s really fun.

Jonathan, in Fly Me to the Moon, one of the Picard episodes that you recently directed, there was a line: “Nothing. Nothing is incurable.” When you shot that scene, was that just another line of dialogue on the show? Or did it have additional meaning and weight?

Frakes: I don’t think hearing that sentence would be just another sentence for any of us. It’s obviously prescient for this conversation.

Kitty, since we started with you, please let’s end with you. What final thoughts would you like to share about pancreatic cancer and PanCAN?

Vary: Please get in touch if you or someone you know has pancreatic cancer. It is so important. PanCAN will contact you back. That’s why they’re here. Honestly, people contact me on Twitter all the time and I answer them. I answer each and every person. I can’t tell you how many people I speak to in a week who have pancreatic cancer. The other thing I would say about pancreatic cancer is if you have it, not only is it not a death sentence, but as long as you live…live. Be alive when you live. See your friends, your family. Embrace life because it really is precious.

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https://heavy.com/entertainment/star-trek/frakes-shimerman-and-swink-talk-pancreatic-cancer-pancan-and-hope-part-two/ Trek Stars talk Pancreatic Cancer and Hope, Part Two

Brian Ashcraft

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