Erica’s Cancer Journey: Planting seeds in the psyche

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

“I just don’t want to look back and think, ‘I could have eaten that.’”
– Sarah, A Feeder

Need a break from self-flogging from not accomplishing your 2018 resolutions, such as losing weight, or trying to remember why you walked into a room? How about some real reflection during this new spin around the sun? Here are three prompts that I find helpful: What is one thing, thought or belief I wish to burn from 2017? What is one thing I intended to do but didn’t accomplish in 2017? What is one seed I want to plant in 2018?

1. Our family is currently overwhelmed with new immediate- and extended-family challenges. Navigating so many new questions and constantly changing circumstances shakes me up like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson in San Andreas. But despite my uncertainty, I am making tough decisions anyway. I crave terra firma. Yet, I persist. As Elizabeth Gilbert advises, I “embrace the glorious mess” that I am. I am okay. So here’s my response to the belief I wish to burn from 2017: “Unpredictability is unsafe.” I already stand strong on shifting sands due to my cancer. These new dynamics of eldercare and fresh dimensions of parenting a tween and a teen are simply more of the same. Because I know the only constant is change, I think differently. Now, whenever I feel knocked down or the world feels too big, I release this old thinking by writing “Unpredictability is unsafe” on a slip of scrap paper and burning it in my firepit.


2. I own stacks of fantastic notecards that feel so compelling to purchase in the moment, and then they pile up on my office-supply shelf to die (and they fall every time I rifle through them to grab a Sharpie). Reminds me of @Simon Holland: “We keep a potato masher in a drawer because sometimes it’s fun to not be able to open that drawer.” To answer one thing I intended to do, but didn’t accomplish last year, I am deciding to mail greeting cards at least once per month. Since I cannot drive, meeting up with people is harder than it used to be. I love receiving personal notes in the mail, so I’m going to reach out beyond texting, e-mail and Messenger by using this lovely stationery.

3. In contemplation of choosing one seed I want to plant in 2018, I am encouraged by poet David Whyte’s ideas about Beginnings: “It is always hard to believe that the courageous step is so close to us, that it is closer than we ever could imagine, that in fact, we already know what it is, and that the step is simpler, more radical than we had thought: which is why we so often prefer the story to be more elaborate, our identities clouded by fear, the horizon safely in the distance, the essay longer than it needs to be and the answer safely in the realm of impossibility.” Since it turns out that Towtruck Karaoke apparently won’t be the seed I cultivate in 2018, after the lackluster response I received while belting out “Tennessee Whiskey” in the crowded front seat after my recent highway breakdown, I’m going to write a story, as inspired by cancer charity Inheritance of founder Kristen Milligan. What’s it going to be about, you Type A-ers ask? I don’t know! That’s all I’ve got so far! It’s a seed; it’s not fully formed yet.

We’re halfway through the first month of 2018. What are your responses to these questions? Or, there’s always Michael Clifford: “Never give up on your dreams, keep sleeping.”

Head On and Heart Strong!

Love, Erica

Kids’ Almanac columnist Erica Chase-Salerno was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in the Summer of 2015. To read more about her experience, visit

There is one comment

  1. Aaron Hedges

    I love this, Erica! I love how you speak of life so honestly and yet so humorously. As part of the Inheritance of Hope team, I am looking forward to meeting you very soon!

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