Erica’s Cancer Journey: “Queen of hearts”

I always thought a breaking heart was a bad or sad thing. But my heart has been broken open by love countless times.

“Probably nothing wrong’ is the leading cause
of health care today.”
– Dave Barry

“And here’s your diary to log details while you wear this Holter heart monitor,” explains the tech. I brighten right up. After a grueling electrocardiogram (electro meaning non-awesome and cardio gram meaning endless torso gel torture), writing a narrative sounds like fun. I pack an extra pen in my purse; these electrodes, wires and data box are my constant companions for the next 24 hours. Who knows what will happen?


“The heart has its own language.
The heart knows a hundred thousand ways to speak.”
– Rumi

Next time, the tech might be more specific with her instructions. But today, I log everything:

• Time: 8:32 a.m. Description: Kiss Mike good-bye as he leaves for work. Symptoms: Fantastic!

• 11:08 a.m. Still gearing up for this Adirondack overnight. Getting there!

• 12:32 p.m. So far, so good on the highway. Relieved!

• 2:16 p.m. Saw cool mountain vista, including Mt. Marcy. Excited!

• 2:17 p.m. OMG we saw the source of the Hudson River! Wowza!

• 4:27 p.m. Laughed so hard we cried recording car ride mini-documentaries. Hilarious!

• 5:54 p.m. Cabin! Home!

• 5:59 p.m. Cabin toilet clogged. Make kids eat salad tonight. Brick!

• 6:43 p.m. Lake is impossibly beautiful. Beautiful!

• 9:38 p.m. Close, but “Team Winning” (my team) lost at Taboo. Sad!

• 11:36 p.m. I hope I have more things to write in the morning before removing my Holter! I have a whole page left! Curious!

• 8:34 a.m. Packing up, Holter’s almost time to come off! Glad!

• 9:15 a.m. Peeled off electrode things and am now liberated of my Walkman data box – all done! Thrilled!

“They should tell you when you’re born:
Have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel.”
– Gabrielle Zevin

August marks a new cairn, a fresh year of my cancer journey. My heart has indeed traveled, and she still appears to have some beats left in there. But I’m feeling her invite me to trek more closely. To travel within her. She beckons me toward a fuller view of her, like the landscape I absorbed during my recent helicopter ride over the White Mountains: a perspective of a panorama that suddenly made sense of vast swaths of rivers and rock peaks unintelligible to me from static roadside or summit. She consistently claims wholeness, much like the aerial view. One shift she’s teaching me is a fatigue of the duality of Good versus Cancer. There are plenty of altitudes between peaks and valleys. I’m not fighting, I’m feeling. I’m not running, I’m reflecting. I’m crying, and I’m laughing. I am whole, no matter what I’m going through, not fractured by this disease. My heart has more to say, and I am listening.

“You’ve a good heart. Sometimes that’s enough to see you safe wherever you go. But mostly, it’s not.”
– Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

I have a month before my next battery of heart tests. I should still keep a diary, though, right? Today could lead to some terrific insights, such as a new way to avoid putting away clean laundry. I trust my heart. I don’t know how many beats we have left together, but I keep getting the spiritual message that I cannot control that part and not to worry about it. Considering my heart as a companion feels warmer and more intimate than I’d considered her before. I’m accessing some more of her wisdom.

I always thought a breaking heart was a bad or sad thing. But my heart has been broken open by love countless times – most recently by one of my favorite writers and my close friend, Nora Snyder, the magic behind

I wonder where your heart is guiding you. What is breaking open your heart today? I love your stories. Keep them coming at

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