Erica’s Cancer Journey: “Celebrating cancerversary #3”

(Photo by Dion Ogust)

“I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox”
– William Carlos Williams

How do I celebrate this year’s cancerversary, number 3? I’ll wake up and kiss Mike good morning, then play online Boggle instead of starting my day media-free like the masters say to. Pee. Return to bed for meditation. Or more Boggle. I can do what I want; it’s my cancerversary after all, right?

But Casey has to go out, and she knows she’s eating right after that, with extra treats for her Lyme pills. I guess I’ll eat with the dog, too. Well, not with her exactly, but you know what I mean. Then time to go for the Appointments. It presents as a plum kind of day.


This is also a day for refilling the feeders. Recently, we witnessed a nuthatch feeding from the suet cake, transferring each bite to very able-bodied, adult-sized nuthatches skittering up and down the treetop. We discovered (which I hope you’ll tell Mark DeDea at the Forsyth Nature Center) that, despite having “flown the nest,” a few breeds of birds, like nuthatches, continue to feed their young post-flight. I find that so tender. Who’s to say when we’re ready to evolve into a new world, anyway? How do bird families and friends care for their loved ones with cancer?

The third anniversary highlights leather, but I bought myself a bikini. In the world, a plum suddenly becomes a pit. It’s not yours anymore. Life is fair game. Cancer levels the playing field. Three years of my sailing away from shore means infusing adventure with vulnerability. A new orbit is freedom from another rope loosed from my Viking ship. I can’t prove my work in this calculus, but I know the answer is that each new year is one more yet one less.

In three years, I’ve whooped at Hamilton, drunk poolside blue drinks, eaten Dole whip, healed with equine Calvin and dipped toes in a few beaches along the way. You give me a ticket to ride pretty much every day. My daughter sells art commissions that she sketches. My son is taller than me.

I’m mourning two Bakums, one Brooke and countless other beloveds who have passed through my wake. I grieve medical staff members who moved on. Where the heck are all the therapy dogs, anyway? Damn, I miss driving.

But the ordinary keeps surprising me. This one’s number three. Nothing special. But today there’ll be cake.

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