“The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
– John Muir
Erica’s Stage IV breast cancer journey
I wonder what kinds of questions are on your mind about my Stage IV breast cancer experience: diagnoses, treatments, loss, end-of-life, appointments, mint chocolate chip milkshakes (#obsessed), daily life et cetera? Here are some questions that I’ve received from friends:
What exactly does this mean that the cancer has metastasized in your brain?
Where in the brain?
How does having a cancer blob in your brain affect your body, like are you having headaches, trouble drawing with your hand, twitching in your toes?
Have your cravings for certain foods altered as the cancer spreads to different areas?
How are you discussing all of this with your children?
From my initial diagnosis of breast cancer, I learned that it had already metastasized, or spread, from my left breast to my bones and lungs, placing me at Stage IV. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Wait a second – is that bone cancer or lung cancer or breast cancer?” It’s still breast cancer, since that was the point of origin, and the bone and lung “mets” are the same type of cells as my breast cancer. Metastasis is Monopoly, constantly seeking new real estate until it eventually owns the board/body, or at least enough of it to win. As a blood disease, my breast cancer cells are circulating, wanting to grow the empire by snatching up St. James Place and Atlantic Avenue via my bones, liver and now brain: Boardwalk!
I learned about my brain tumors by experiencing the same types of symptoms I’ve heard described for concussions: nausea, vomiting, headaches and dizziness. An MRI scan of my brain confirmed that tumors abound in this cabeza – mostly on the left side, a few small ones on the right. I don’t feel the tumors, and I am unaware of their existence until I feel those concussionlike symptoms again. Sometimes I’m slightly tippy getting up, or I can’t process information quite as quickly as I’m used to; but the tumors are invisible from the outside, and I don’t have any pain.
My cravings dramatically increased during the steroid portion of my brain tumor treatment, and I ate practically nonstop for the first time in months. Suddenly, my schedule was all wacked out because of all of the time spent eating eating eating – and then, of course, eliminating. I became obsessed with whole milk for some reason, and I got busted by my daughter for chugging directly out of the carton [hangs head].
The way we told our kids about my brain tumors was the same way we share with them after each appointment: We just gave them a straightforward update. “Mom is feeling better from the new medicine and radiation, but the cancer has spread to her brain, like a hostile takeover. She’s also hungry all the time from the steroids right now, so watch your plates!” My son went to retrieve a drink, and I volunteered to watch his dinner so the dog wouldn’t get it. But then I ate it. So, that may have brought up some trust issues (all good, now!).
One of my coping strategies is to honor each new cancer experience by treating myself in some way (my husband and I don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on this particular coping strategy). This time, I chose sandals for the new brain mets, and a Thirty-One totebag for radiation treatment. I don’t really have much “new” left in my cancer journeying, so thank goodness my birthday is coming in December, because I’m eyeing a couple of other amazing pieces.
I look forward to your own questions about my cancer journey via firstname.lastname@example.org, but please remember: No matter how amazing, fascinating or compelling it is to you, never send me anything about healing or cures. Unfortunately, I have done that myself in the past with loving intent, but it is offensive in a way I wasn’t aware of until finding myself here.
Head On and Heart Strong!
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23
Washington’s HQ hosts Kites over the Hudson
So, remember all that wind that wreaked havoc on your waterpark and beach trips this summer? Well, maybe that bodes well for Kites over the Hudson taking place this Saturday, September 23 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site. Bring your own flying stringed toy (anyone happen to have a Hamilton kite?), or be among the first 150 kids to arrive and get a free one to keep!
Have you been here yet? Sited right in the middle of Newburgh, this museum has a gorgeous lawn that’s perfect for kite-flying, with outstanding views of the Hudson River. Bring a picnic and be a part of this free Hudson River Ramble event.
Washington’s Headquarters is located at 84 Liberty Street in Newburgh. For more information, call (845) 562-1195 or visit http://on.ny.gov/2w4eF1Q.
Smithsonian Museum Live Free Museum Day
If you don’t care about saving money, skip this. For the rest of us, Saturday, September 23 is Smithsonian Museum Live Free Museum Day! I’m talking 103 museums around New York State, including the Museum at Bethel Woods, the Hudson Highlands Nature Center, the Iroquois Indian Museum in Howe’s Cave, the Gomez Mill House in Marlboro, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City, miSci (Museum of Innovation and Science) in Schenectady and John Burroughs’ Slabsides in West Park (okay, well, that’s actually free every day, but I love Slabsides, so I’m including it here).
Here’s how it works: Go to the website and select a museum; one ticket allowed per e-mail address, admitting two guests, all others pay full price; choose carefully, because the ticket cannot be changed; then print out your free ticket, and try not to look too smug at the museum entrance on Free Museum Day! For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2fvAcKU.
Science on the River at Norrie Point
During a recent Bannerman’s Island tour, I learned that Henry Hudson originally named his now-eponymous waterway the North River. Well, call it what you like; here are two cool events that are all about the Hudson!
Science on the River at the Norrie Point Environmental Center is a chance to celebrate the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Research Reserve’s 35th anniversary! And how sweet that the traditional gift for a 35th anniversary is coral! But since we leave coral in the sea where it belongs, you can simply bring the gift of yourself and your family. On Saturday, September 23 from 2 to 5 p.m., participants will enjoy seeing birds of prey, canoeing the tidal marsh, doing science demonstrations and fishing with provided gear; and there are even special hands-on activities for kids. Admission is free and open to the public of all ages. The Norrie Point Environmental Center is located at 256 Norrie Point Way in Staatsburg. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2f5pkCJ.
Seine and sing at Esopus Meadows Preserve in Ulster Park
Scenic Hudson’s Sunset Seine and Sing is an idyllic way to spend an early evening in nature. Head on down to the Esopus Meadows Preserve this Saturday, September 23 at 5 p.m. to combine a love of the river and music at this free, fun and educational event. Participants can wear real waders and seine for fish, using large nets to discover all of the critters and anything else we find from beneath the surface; and afterwards, folks join in a circle of river songs with Clearwater musician and educator Linda Richards. Bring a picnic and your instruments, and enjoy time together in a beautiful spot. The Esopus Meadows Preserve is located at 257 River Road in Ulster Park. For more information, call (845) 473-4440 or visit http://bit.ly/2w3g5tL or http://www.clearwater.org.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24
Family Day at Dorsky Museum in New Paltz
When Mary Cassatt first saw Edgar Degas’ work on exhibit, she was mesmerized. “I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art,” she said. “It changed my life.”
You would love it if your kids were similarly inspired by art, and here’s an inexpensive and enjoyable way to expose them to it.
On Sunday, September 24 from 2 to 4 p.m., kids of all ages are invited to experience the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art for Family Day at SUNY-New Paltz. This monthly event incorporates viewing and discussing current exhibitions and tying them into hands-on activities for the kids. And what a bargain for expanding your young people’s horizons: $5 for materials for children under 18, free for adults!
SUNY-New Paltz is located at 1 Hawk Drive in New Paltz. For more information or to register, call (845) 257-3844 or visit http://bit.ly/2wqu3da.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25
Hobo Night with Bindlestick Bill at Hyde Park Train Museum
Quick: What’s a bindle? It’s that bag on a stick, associated with…hobo life! And when you think hobo, what else comes to mind? Trains, right? Well, have some fun with your crew this Monday, September 25 at 6 p.m. at the Hyde Park Train Museum on Hobo Night with Bindlestick Bill, featuring children’s activities and model train layouts to look at! Admission is free and open to the public of all ages.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26
Office for the Aging advice in New Paltz
Aaaaaaand just when you thought you were out of the woods, what with walkers and potty training, it turns out that you’re right on time for your parents’ elder care – including walkers and bathroom support. I have so many friends seeking resources for aging parents, so hopefully this information can help.
On Tuesday, September 26 from 9 a.m. to noon, the Office for the Aging (OFA) comes to Medical Associates of the Hudson Valley. Come any time this Tuesday morning, no appointment needed, to ask Patrick McDonough about topics such as transportation services, legal counseling, long-term care, senior housing and much more. OFA is a nut that I’ve been trying to crack, so I’m hopeful that I can attend this one and get some solid information.
Medical Associates of the Hudson Valley is located at 360 Washington Avenue, third floor lobby, in Kingston. For more information, call (845) 340-3456 or visit http://bit.ly/2f5Ip7L or http://ulstercountyny.gov/aging.
Disability spectrum resources
Do you have a child or student on the autism or disability spectrum? Here are two local events to check out this week:
Friday Nights of Fun begin this Friday, September 22 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the New Paltz Community Center, located at 3 Veterans’ Drive in New Paltz. Geared for youth ages 8 through teens, this dropoff program gives young people a chance to enjoy each other and practice social skills. For more information or to register, e-mail Kristina Alduino at email@example.com.
The Resource Center for Accessible Living (RCAL)’s Special Education Rights Workshop takes place on Thursday, September 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. The seminar focuses on the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and Section 504, empowering individuals to participate on the Committee on Special Education or the Section 504 team. RCAL is located at 727 Ulster Avenue in Kingston. For more information or to register, call (845) 331-0541, extension 18, or visit www.rcal.org.
Erica Chase-Salerno cannot stop eating these glorious local apples! She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.