M Morning Meditation grounds me throughout the day. Other daily practices include yoga or working out at the gym, walking my labyrinth, building a campfire and journaling. Also, chocolate!
E Erica’s Eclectic Eulogies continue to shine your light into my life. These letters you share with me include precious memories of us, hilarious anecdotes, poignant shared experiences or whatever you want to say. Your words lift me up every time I read them. You are welcome to send one to me if you like: email@example.com.
T Tables define all of my cancer spaces: exams, tests, blood draws, chemo bingo, radiation, surgeries, hospital meals. But our kitchen table is safe, pain-free and home.
A Awakenings find me through adventure, agony, amazement, alarm, acceptance, anger – all of it.
S Songs carry me throughout this cancer journey, especially brilliant Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton musical. Or a Schubert quartet. Amir El Saffar. Mary J. Blige’s “Kitchen.”
T Tig Notaro, one of my heroes, inspires me through her life story and elevates my mood with her rich, nuanced humor.
A Amy Schumer, one of my favorite comedians, brings her game to the edge and keeps it real, encouraging me to do the same.
T Treating myself to a milkshake or a totebag cheers me up when I’m faced with cancer progression or a difficult treatment. I’m not hoping the cancer spreads, but I do have my eye on a sweet new pair of shoes… Note: Mike points out that there are no more places for the cancer to spread, so that’s it for rewards. Hahaha! #shoes
I I am more! More than this disease. More than my breasts. Even my cancer agrees with me, as it slowly gobbles me up. I am greater than the sum of these parts. And so are you.
C Celestina is the name of the designated room in our home for my final life chapter leading into transition. This space keeps me near the family’s doings, but with the option to close the door.
B Broccoli cheddar soup. #panerica
R “The Rock.” Dwayne Johnson’s commitment to family, strength and determination energizes me to keep me going when I get discouraged.
E Energy rises and falls in this body. Every day is unpredictable. Energy healing is relaxing and restorative. For the first time in my life, I require time to recover from the energy expended during social interactions. All of my plans include cancellation clauses because things change so rapidly.
A After. After each treatment, recovery. After setbacks, balance. After death, release from this physical vessel into energetic formlessness. Dwelling among the stars, I will listen for you, watch for you. Also mess with you, heh heh. “After” proves there’s always more to the story. Endings are beginnings.
S Spirituality is my cancer cornerstone. I was chosen for this journey. I am supported, advised and embraced by my spirit guides.
T Time. I don’t have a lot of it. My prognosis is short-term. But what a gift: How much would I have missed if I’d known more about this ticking clock when I married Mike or chose to raise children? I am so fortunate to know I’m on limited time for learning, planning, writing, celebrating, crying, laughing, living.
C Calvin, my galloping guru at Red Horse Mountain Ranch in Idaho, transformed my understanding of Self simply by being an organic mirror. This carrot-eating equine surprised me into confronting the fierce root of anger that has been burning inside of me for 48 years. How do horses do that? He got an extra apple that day for that life-altering moment.
A Appointments. All. The. Time. If I don’t die of cancer, it will surely be from the sheer numbers of follow-up appointments.
N North. More than ever before, I pursue purpose, and discern through contemplation and reflection: What is my True North?
C Cancer is still easier to me than parenting.
E Edie is my first friend to die of breast cancer. One day, I was sassing it up with her at the hospital. Two days later, she was gone. I had brought her a cheap battery candle because, inexplicably, they look great in a hospital room, and I thought it might entice her to eat, glowing next to her tray. I take great joy in displaying them in my own hospital room when I’m admitted. I continue to give them away to loved ones in her honor, now called Edie’s Light. (By the way, Edie – you still owe Deb and me some Hungarian goulash!)
R Ready. Like SpongeBob says, “I’m ready! I’m ready!” I am ready for what’s next.
Head On and Heart Strong!
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 https://hudsonvalleyone.com/tag/ericas-cancer-journey.