Overexpressed

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina 2023

Return to Sender

One day James McGrath arrives at my house. Out of nowhere, his name begins to show up next to mine on a subscription label and solicitation letter to a journal I have subscribed to for years. Because my name is also on the envelope, I am technically not breaking the law when I open up…

A Cancer Vacation: What Your Nervous System Needs This Holiday Season

Many years ago, my cancer counselor asked, “What happens if you take a vacation from cancer?” A vacation from cancer? He must have been kidding. How does someone who lives with MBC take a vacation from cancer?  Then, one of my very wise teachers reflected that when you have cancer, your body is always in…

HGTV: Every Story Has a Happy Ending

At my cancer center–a 500,000-square foot, state-of-the-art building which boasts an estimated 300,000 patients a year–all waiting room television channels are tuned to Home & Garden Television, better known as HGTV.  It does not matter what time of day or which department I am in, the television blissfully blares shows like Home Town, featuring Erin…

Good Luck: To Say or Not to Say, That is the Question

As I am packing up my things after my  infusion, the infusion nurse, who knows that I usually go to another location for my treatment, sends me off with a quick goodbye and “good luck.”  I immediately respond with, “Thanks” But in my gut, I feel something different. What does she mean by that? Was…

Dear Davis: A Letter About Grief & Loss by Phil Kohlmetz

In June 2016, I wave goodbye to Amy. She’s radiant, framed in the doorway by an early California sunlight, arm in arm with her sister, Jen. Knowing that this may be the last time I see her, I hug her and whisper in her ear, “You are beautiful.” On August 1, 2016, Amy Petrolati died…

A Song Not Written About MBC

Please note: This post asks you to hear Bob Dylan’s “Positively Fourth Street” in a new way. If you are a huge Dylan fan and do not want me to ruin this song for you, please read one of my other blog posts.  Last week, while inching down Philadelphia’s crowded and congested Route 1 on…

Transforming Your Medical Records Into Poetry Workshop

“Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick,” opens Susan Sontag’s book Illness as Metaphor. And in the kingdom of illness, surgery, and disease, we encounter mysterious words such as electrocautery, compression deformity, and peak systolic strain. For those of us who are…

Permission to Ask for Quiet

Having metastatic breast cancer means I spend a lot of time in windowless rooms. Exam rooms. Gowned waiting rooms. Scan rooms. Radiation rooms. Infusion rooms. Bathrooms.  Every three months–when I go for my echocardiogram to make sure Herceptin is not damaging my heart–I spend 45 minutes in a dark, windowless room with just one other…

Creating a Community of Breast Cancer Stories: April Stearns & Wildfire

“Do we really need more breast cancer stories?” a dear friend asks April Stearns, Founder and Editor of Wildfire Magazine, the  beautiful, purse-sized literary journal specifically geared toward readers and writers who are “too young to have breast cancer.” A funny question to ask someone who has been fostering, supporting, and publishing heartfelt breast cancer…

Celebrating an Oncology Nurse Practitioner: A Vital Part of my Cancer Team

Lorelei Graham, my oncology nurse practitioner for over ten years, leans toward me. We are inside a small, windowless examination room. It is cool and familiar here, though outside it is a scorchingly hot July 2020 day. Deep into the first wave of COVID, we are both face-covered and distanced. With her feet firmly planted,…

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