Tuesday, December 3, 2019

A Year of Grief and Gratitude

A year ago I was given the most devastating news of my life: Breast cancer, which I had beaten in 2015, had come back in my breast, lungs, bones and brain. The diagnosis was (is) Stage IV, or metastatic, breast cancer. Metastatic cancer has no cure, and the average life span post-diagnosis is 3 years.

3 YEARS. (Are you f’ing kidding me?)

As you can imagine, this past year has been exceedingly difficult.

It started with lung surgery, where they removed one of the tumors for testing. It was the first time I’d ever been admitted to the hospital (except one time when I was a baby, I recently learned) and it was quite an adventure!

As a result of the surgery, I ended up with a paralyzed vocal cord. As a result, I had to quit nearly all of my professional singing gigs (of which there were many) and I haven’t been able to sing for a full year. It’s only been in the last 6 weeks or so that my singing voice has started to come back.

In December/January I spent 2 months on a hormone treatment to combat the tumors, but unfortunately it did not work and the tumors grew very quickly, making me incredibly ill. At my lowest point I had to use oxygen to breathe while sleeping, and had to sleep sitting up on the couch (I could not lie flat because my lungs wouldn’t operate.) I had such trouble breathing that I could no longer use public transit (couldn’t walk to the bus and couldn’t do the stairs in the subway) and spent most of the time cooped up at home.

Compounding the breathing was my utter lack of appetite. I lost 35 pounds, lacked energy to move, and even the simplest of tasks (cooking, dressing myself, showering) seemed impossible.

And it’s been difficult to work any more than scattered part-time hours due to my energy levels and numerous doctors appointments.



In March I started ongoing chemotherapy, which has literally saved my life. My tumors have been reduced in size and number and I can breathe again. I have been gaining back weight and I can walk without too much difficulty (taking public transit again!) Every week that my body is strong enough to get chemo I do a little leap for joy because without it, I would not be alive. The tumors would have overtaken me for certain. (I'm at chemo right now, as a matter of fact!)

I can sing again! Thanks to the efforts of my ENT, Dr Michael Pitman, and my voice teacher, Eric Michael Gillett, I am on track to be singing professionally again in January. (That’s my goal, anyway!) I am so thrilled to be able to do my favorite thing in the world.

I have experienced incredible grace and love from people near and far, from friends & family to complete strangers. I have received beautiful care packages and generous donations, had delightful coffee/dinner dates, been invited to see plays and musicals, and had home-cooked meals delivered. It has meant so much to be to be celebrated and remembered. With the craziness that life brings everyone on a daily basis, I’m very humbled to have been in your thoughts.

Every day that I can wake up breathing fully, I’m grateful.
Every day that I can make someone smile, I’m grateful.
Every day that I can experience people’s full expression, whether through art, debate, or sharing, I’m grateful.
Every day that I get to express myself, I’m grateful.
Every day that I get to talk to my mom on the phone, see friends over drinks, cuddle with my boyfriend and dog, I’m grateful.

I’m grateful that I made it to one year post-diagnosis.
I'm grateful that I may have two years left.


The hardest thing is that I don’t know how much time I have left. I know that none of us knows that, but I feel the clock ticking on my life in a way I never did before cancer. It’s pretty scary. It’s especially hard when I feel relatively healthy but know that it’s a tightrope I’m walking and things can change at any moment. I feel guilty when I get caught up in the mendacity of day-to-day living - expecting myself to CARPE DIEM every waking moment since I don’t know how many moments I have left. (I’ve come to terms with needing downtime, I just don’t like it!)

I have always had a severe fear of death, even before cancer. I have a wonderful therapist who allows me to explore my fears in a safe place, and I’m on medication for anxiety and depression. But I still have these fears and sometimes they are debilitating.

I’m trying to experience as much as I can while I feel well, but financial worries have made things incredibly stressful. I’m lucky to have great insurance, but not being able to work full time has made me dip heavily into my life savings and I don’t qualify for government disability at this time. Every time I pay rent or buy groceries I see my bank balance dip lower and lower and it freaks me out. So I find it difficult to enjoy things like going out for meals and seeing shows because I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from.

So I’m going to make a request that is always so hard for me to make. My friend Laura set up a GoFundMe, which has made a huge difference for me as I’ve navigated this disease. If you find yourself able to help, it would mean a lot and put my mind & heart at ease: www.gofundme.com/erin-cronican.


If you’d like a tax deduction, you could donate to my non-profit theater company, The Seeing Place. I’m responsible for heading up fundraising (a thankless job!) and if you’d prefer your dollars go to the arts this would be of immense help to me. The Seeing Place has provided me with an artistic home for the last ten years and your support will go a long, long way. You can donate at www.TheSeeingPlace.org.

If you chose to split your donation and donate to both, that would be INCREDIBLE and you’d be my forever hero.

Thanks for being everything that you are in my life...

Photo by Shirin Tinati

Erin Cronican is a breast cancer survivor, whose career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit www.erincronican.com.

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