Erica’s Cancer Journey: “Happy Hospice Day to Me!”

Q: What do you call a bunch of chess players bragging
about their games in a hotel lobby?

A: Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer!

Hmmmm…flourless chocolate cake, a festive atmosphere, dumb jokes… What are we celebrating today? Hospice!

Happy Hospice Day to Me!

Today is my first day on Hospice. What does being on Hospice mean for me?


My life expectancy is estimated to be up to six months

I still have an insurance deductible

Hospice’s entire job is to help keep me pain-free and comfortable during my remaining time

Services are based at home, including music and pet therapy: sweet!

From this point forward, I cannot pursue curative treatments under Hospice, like chemotherapy or surgery or radiation, unless they are considered comfort measures

However, I can leave Hospice at any time

Most importantly, I keep living my life as usual! (Hopefully without the freaking shingles in my right eye; still healing from that Hell.)

Q: What does the pirate say on his 80th birthday?
 A: “Aye, Matey.”

The recent string of surgeries and procedures have verified what my body has been telling me for months: It’s time to walk a different path.

While this earthly vessel is physically compromised – okay, okay, so is my humor – I still dwell in the “can-” part of cancer. I’m like Jenny-from-the-Block, except I’m more along the lines of Erica-from-the-Woods. I need you to dish out the same sass you already outwit me with, share the love you’ve showered me with since the beginning of this wild ride and forgive me for ending with all of those prepositions. Things are changing; I’m a little shaky, unsteady, Mom’s spaghetti. You know I’ll continue to keep you updated the best I can, considering the challenges letters and words are for me right now. I’m grateful for this window before my body further declines.

Feel free to send any feedback or questions to, and I’ll answer you publicly without using your name. 

Here’s to a new chapter of Head On and Heart Strong!

PS: Whaaaaaaat? Thanks to my nurses for this tip: Large pills can be swallowed whole, effortlessly, with applesauce! I don’t know why – if it’s psychological, physics or what – but I have taken a lot of pills in life, and this works every time, including the ginormous horse-sized pills I’m currently on. It doesn’t even make sense: I’m successfully swallowing these giants by putting thicker and more food in my mouth than just water? Yup! Does this approach work for you? Head On and Applesauce 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 are 6 comments

  1. Nerina Bellinger

    Erica – I have been following your journey for 9 months now. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon the blog, but am privileged to have done so. Thank you for sharing your experience with us – faceless, nameless readers – who, for some reason have found ourselves drawn into your story. I so admire your courage, your honesty, your sense of humor but more importantly your unwavering willingness to share with us your trials, your tribulations and your triumphs. You and your family are in my prayers. I hope to have half as much grace as you have shown in the pages of this journal.

  2. Michelle

    Your writing makes me question everything about living and dying. But truth be told just want to give you a hug.

  3. Sue Stegen

    Erica –
    I have always wanted to connect with you but never knew what to say.. What I want to say is THANK YOU!!! The American Press is so afraid to mention the death word.. You have done so – sharing your journey – sad and happy…with all of us readers. You have the courage and truly your articles make us feel your struggle..
    I laugh and cry when I get the NP TImes.. I am so impressed with your comments..
    Stay strong – Hospice will keep you comfortable in this last journey.. Love to you – your family and your caregivers..
    Head on and we love you…
    Sue Stegen

  4. Benjie

    I still play the CD you gave to all of us a year ago or so at our support group meeting, and every now and then I hear lyrics for the first time. It is uplifting and challenging all at once. I am reminded continuously through positive thought through you and other voices of human kindness and compassion that there’s no reason to go face first into the rAbbit hole. I prefer to turn around and back in, then lie down in the entrance and tAke in the view.
    My family and I had a chance to meet a moose upon a recent short hike up Blueberry Hill on a holiday visit to Anchorage. She exhibited a similar repose, totally unconcerned with what was behind her, when she was nestled in the bristlecones just at the edge of a huge panorama unfolding before her (and our own troop of hikers) upon a Christmas Eve dawn. The full moon was setting before her over the city flats and the Alaska Range beyond just as the sun behind was beginning to color Denali and those other snow-covered peaks with a rosy glow. We all shared the view for several minutes before she gracefully emerged from her perch and allowed us to pass. Her serenity was remarkable. She looked like she felt lucky. The rest of us most certainly felt the same.

  5. Benjie

    Thanks for every time you put yourself out there. I still listen to the CD you shared with us about a year ago. There is much there left to be considered: I hear new lyrics with each playing. You are a virtual table-setter for a clarity of thinking, or a basis of conversation. Facing some kind of challenge, I’m tempted to go face-first down the rabbit-hole, but having a caring support network about me reminds me to turn around instead and back in. That way, my bottom is warmer and I can still twitch my whiskers in the fresh air.
    On a pre-dawn hike over the holidays, my family was treated to a proximity with a moose who lay athwart our snowy path as we emerged from a thicket of bristlecone pine. Tucked in as she was, unfolding before her in the glistening dawn was a stunning panorama, a full moon setting over the entire city, the arms of the sea encircling, and a two-hundred-mile view of the Alaska Range behind. She was in no hurry to move. Gradually the rising sun behind us began to tinge Denali and the other snowy peaks a dusty pink as it sleepily rolled westward along the southern horizon. The lady moose, apparently satisfied, slowly and gracefully arose and ambled away. Our entrance was open to the humility of a new day.

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