Erica’s Cancer Journey: The space between

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

“Music is the space between the notes.”
– Claude Debussy

“Cerebell-ion is the malignant space between appointments.”
– Erica

I lean back and relax, covered in blankets in a berth on a ship jerkily loosed from her moorings to set sail into an MRI machine. Mission: to seek treasure hidden deep within my gray matter. Loud whirs, buzzes and clicks conjure a cross between dubstep and dial-up Internet. Gadolinium is injected into my body’s port, highlighting the images inside of my head. “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Two days later, this interior glimpse will yield two words that I wish were different: progression and swelling.


Graceful designs dip and swirl through shades of blacks, grays and whites across my doctor’s screen of my brain, a mesmerizing tableau resembling steamy froth on a latte. My tumors are squatters, sprawled out, feet up on the table, defiant, undaunted by previous attempts to evict them. They trip the mets fantastic as enchanting cerebral clouds mask sinister intent, like a rose-red apple or shiny spindle.

I never feel a sense of beginning or end to my cancer journey. I am always aware that this could be my final stop. Or is it my LeBron James 46-point forcing Game Seven? I am prepared to die; I accept that my time is coming. But I do not wish to leave yet. How can I have progression and swelling? I feel fine! À la, “I can’t be out of money, I still have checks!”

What are my treatment options?…Please let me have options…Quality of life?…Could I live through and recover from any of these treatments?…Am I at the end of the line?…Do I even have choices?…At what personal cost this heartbeat?

Right now, my “in between” lies in appointments, an expanse between scan results and a specialist who will provide me with options. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of my life happens between appointments. But decisions at those appointments determine a great deal about that 99.9 percent. In this in-between of ceaseless questions, I wait. I observe the fickle, spirited dynamic between disease progression and stability. I am three years into a journey where time is no advantage; it just is.

I take all the time I need to clamber back to the center of my soul. I spend hours grounding myself: walking in my labyrinth, meditating, sharing, journaling and tapping while deeply and completely accepting myself.

I am a metastatic master. I am a living comma between now, and later. I am the space between the notes.

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

There are 3 comments

  1. Nancy Madlin

    Yes! Your conscious intention and choice to live your life fully and to share it with others is an inspiration to me. 🕊💕🌿🦋

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