Erica’s Cancer Journey: “MBC: Maureen, Brooke, Charlotte/Metastatic Breast Cancer”

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss
of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through.
It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts
when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
– Anne Lamott

“She died,” I heard three different times this month. Now, I know I will die from my disease. What I did not realize was the number of friends I would lose along the way to Stage IV metastatic breast cancer, including most recently Charlotte, Maureen and Brooke. I was stunned to find myself suddenly grieving the three of you at the very same time: three unique, powerful, smart, kind, wonderful and beloved forces of nature whom I met through our exclusive terminal cancer club.

How could I not have intuitively known of your passings before serendipity informed me? Is it because I should think of our relationship as simply ongoing? If only I had reached out earlier, could I have had just one more conversation with you? Lunch? Another walk together? Who will be around the table anymore at our support group? We still have things to catch up on, end-of-life decisions I wanted to talk about with you. Who will be my roommate at this fall’s Breast Cancer Options retreat? How in the world did I not have any of your partners’ information, including their names? Why did you have to leave so soon? I wasn’t ready for you to go. We weren’t finished yet. We were not finished yet!

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“When a friend of Abigail and John Adams was killed at Bunker Hill, Abigail’s response was to write a letter to her husband and include these words, ‘My bursting heart must find vent at my pen.’”
– David McCullough

Charlotte, thank you for your gifts of honesty and reality-checks about our disease, as well as our special connection through Edie. Maureen, I will miss your sense of humor and helpful experiences you shared about your journey. Brooke, we were in this together. We were diagnosed at the same time. We hiked around my green burial site, discussed death choruses, shared links about shrouds and we had plenty more to reflect on from last fall’s Art of Dying conference. We were in touch every whenever. “I didn’t yet think of time as finite,” writes Jessica Maria Tuccelli.

Now what? Maybe we’re not finished after all. I have come to this: I trust our Us. We rolled into each other’s lives at retreat. Over these past few years, we learned, cried and laughed together (a lot!). You’re still with me. I am grateful for your influences on my life and for our memories. I know my time is coming, but in the meantime, somehow your transitions have emboldened me to live even more fully. As I close this piece, I simply say to you, Charlotte, Maureen, Brooke and so many more friends who passed, “I love you,” and “To be continued.”

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 https://hudsonvalleyone.com/tag/ericas-cancer-journey.

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