Erica’s Cancer Journey: “Incredible lightness of being”

Erica with her godson in France

“We’ve known for a long time that it was no longer possible to overturn this world, nor reshape it, nor head off its dangerous headlong rush. There’s been only one possible resistance: to not take it seriously.”
– Milan Kundera, The Festival of Insignificance

During my meditation the other day, I suddenly began to feel flushed with lightness and joy. I immediately wanted to guard and keep this sensation. But it didn’t work that way; it just dissipated. Lightness gets my attention because I guess it shows me how heavily I tread. I am increasingly aware of moments of detachment – especially over the past year. This lightness brings clarity to my thoughts and emotions.

When I recall Debbie Boone’s song “You Light up My Life,” I think to myself, “Sure, but also ‘I Light up My Life.’” Lightness feels so good that I decided to make a list of things that foster it. I wonder what lightens up your life? Here are some of mine.


1. Meditation. I take a while to settle down, and I get itchy every time I get started, but there’s nothing like the mental, emotional and physical weightlessness I experience during a sit.

2. New. Getting somewhere I’ve heard about for years, like seeing the Mona Lisa (smaller than I thought) or watching Incredibles 2 at the Four Brothers Drive-In (OMG Nutella shakes), scratches very big itches for me.

3. Relating. Witnessing someone share a similar story, whether past or present, grounds me: I am not alone. I am not broken.

4. Laughing. Schitt’s Creek; Linda Belcher; Tig Notaro; my husband; gasping for breath in tears of hilarity with Heather over lunch.

5. Cherries. They are ridiculously adorable, and every single time I eat a double stem, I think of Mary Engelbreit’s “Life Is Just a Chair of Bowlies.”

6. Puns. Also this joke: I wanted to tell you a joke about time travel. But you didn’t like it.

7. Preference. Requesting paper tape after my injections or blood draw really protects my skin from tearing from other adhesives. I don’t have to worry about bracing myself, worrying about the nurse’s feelings that I am rejecting her original bandage plan, because I am so confident with this replacement. Being seen and heard as authentic Erica expressing true choices.

8. Rose. I inhaled the most decadent scent from my very first beach-rose blossom. I was ecstatic over the fact that it survived and flowered after two years of hope.

9. Story. Pulling together wonderings, happenings, feelings, processing and stirring this soup with a thoughtful listener instantly lightens me.

10. Release. Relaxing my grip on old ideas, righteous indignation or that last sip of mint chip milkshake enables me to cultivate mindfulness. I let go of energy that no longer serves me.

11. Gum. Tic Tac Gum. Especially Watermelon. How do you fit so much flavor in that tiny tic? (tac?)

12. Handwriting. Writing on paper with no lines is like flying.

13. Dance. Watching my goddaughter leap in a grand jeté or twirl in a pirouette fills me with the delight that I can, too! Without the hurty toes. Monica Bill Barnes. Mo. Even other choreography, like the Stockade FC soccer team in Kingston coordinating for a goal; my daughter’s tiniest stroke of pencil on paper; my son’s choice to give healing or cast a spell.

14. Enough. I feel a spiritual tune-up when I remember I Am Enough. I am not here to do it Right; I am here to do it Real.

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