Erica’s Cancer Journey: “The vacuum clearer”

If you have ever been to my home, you would agree that it could be described as, “There appears to have been a struggle.” (JD Hancock)

“People can cry much easier than they can change.”
– James Baldwin

“Make the best sand castle.”
– Donald Glover

Wait a second – this glorified dustbuster loses its charge in just 20 minutes? My heart! And just like that, my entire approach to housework shifted.


If you have ever been to my home, you would agree that it could be described as, “There appears to have been a struggle.” I don’t like housework: It’s tedious, it’s never done, and I would rather do literally anything else. I don’t have the budget or desire to get a regular cleaner, and family and friends can only go so far to help me organize better. So I delude myself into thinking that if I just put my mind to it, I can have a clean house in one day. These days also tend to include a lot of resting, finding just the right music and taking Boggle breaks. Also snacks. And that’s before I even get started!

I prefer to complete a task all at once rather than piecemeal, but the teeny-tiny catch is that I never have the tolerance to see it through in one session. Through reduced energy from disease and constant appointments, housework never gets finished, and I feel defeated. And it sits there and builds up some more as I eat my feelings and lose more word games – until I met this vacuum.

“I’ve decided to sell my Hoover… well, it was just collecting dust.”
– Tim Vine

My vacuum just gets me (I call her “She”). She knows that I hate doing it, from awkwardly pulling her from her wedged-in spot in the closet to dragging heavy hoses around to force-feeding lint to ineffective rollers after three missed passes. But most of all, she realizes what I can do: 20 minutes. Light, wireless, tubeless, easy detritus disposal and holds a 20. minute. charge. I feel lighter myself, just running it. Total game-changer. Even if I really really really wanted to vacuum longer, I simply can’t. Oh, well! Since I can now vacuum my entire downstairs in less than 20 minutes, I don’t mind doing it anymore, because it’s so quick now. Lately I’ve even been vacuuming “in case there’s any dirt.” What has become of me?

“My palate is simpler than it used to be. A young chef adds and adds and adds to the plate. As you get older, you start to take away.”
– Jacques Pepin

At 48, I am discovering ways to do housecleaning my way. Taking charge of our chores is a place of healing I’ve sought out for decades that seems so effortless for everyone else. I have proven to myself that housework can be tailored to my personality and preferences in other areas, too. One recent shocking discovery still rocking my world is doing medium loads of laundry. Unlike the extra-large bags I’m used to lugging up and down the stairs to the basement, smaller loads are easier to carry, wash, dry, fold and put away. Do I like doing laundry, suddenly? Um, maybe?

My-way tasks are finding me in other ways, too. Doing a few hip-flexor stretches throughout the day strengthens my back and is much better than putting them off until bedtime, when I’m too tired to do them. I replaced dead and dying houseplants with awesome fakes.

“Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”
– Sydney J. Harris

I thought it was just my lot in life to stink at housework, but evolution is strong, with plenty more to come, I’m sure. Determining the stuck places in my resistance gives me the power to understand what my true needs are and adjust accordingly – like owning a wall-mount vacuum. Despite constant cancer curveballs affecting my mind, body and spirit, I am also grateful for these changes bringing more ease into my life. What in your life are you inviting in and releasing out lately?

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

There is one comment

  1. Polly James

    I have been moved by Erica’s journey…..Head On and Heart Strong. Looking forward to
    more from her….Blessings Erica!!

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