Add To Cart — A Wildfire Story

Header image: Pam Crichton of Ten West Photography 

Cancer is fucking expensive, and money is necessary. Time spent in Cancerland is rife with expected, unexpected and seemingly never-ending costs — regardless of length of stay. Even with workplace benefits to cover medications and insurance to cover long- term disability leave, I have spent a small (ahem — large) fortune since my diagnosis. There have been an abundance of purchases — some necessary, some to – very temporarily – soothe my aching heart, and many, if not most, to make my extended stay more tolerable. Add to cart.

When I was first diagnosed and facing unknown pathology and prognosis, I needed to make a will. Nothing like a little cancer to make you adult and take care of business. I also needed a bolster, some button up pajamas, a belt for the drains, stool softeners, a mastectomy bra, a prosthesis to fill one side of said bra, bamboo hats, soft camisoles to buffer between clothes and my sensitive chest, and good boots I could easily slide on/off with one hand for my wintery, solitary trips to appointments. A mastectomy pillow, 10 foot phone charger, heated blanket, pregnancy pillow, silk pillow case and various other accoutrements made my day-to-day more comfortable. An iPad to binge shows while recuperating, and a new computer so I could write as a form of therapy were indulgences, and turned my Covid “I can’t go anywhere, but I will again someday” vacation savings into dust.

I think my favorite, and most practical, purchase has been my recliner. Before my first mastectomy, I purchased a “grandpa” recliner from Costco. Because we were in lockdown, my options were limited. Not much of a looker, “Carl the Cancer Chair” swiveled, rocked, reclined in two spots (foot and headrest) and had a USB port, all for the low, low price of $549.00. Carl got me through my 8-week recovery, and promptly broke — stuck in a reclined position for all of eternity. One of the many good things about Costco is their return policy — I was able to return Carl, no questions asked, for a full refund. One of the many bad things about Costco, is their ever-changing offerings — alas, there were no more Carls available. Which is probably a good thing, because I had planned to burn him anyway. I had visions of a a front yard fire, signaling the end of treatment. But here I am, almost two years from diagnosis, and this sojourn in Cancerland is not yet over.

Prior to my reconstruction surgery, I upgraded to a higher quality, less grandpa, more buttery, caramel leather recliner (not from Costco). This chair held me through another recovery, chemotherapy, hours of IV hydration and staring off into space, and post-oophorectomy Netflix bingeing. This chair has a groove the exact size of my ample bottom, and is roomy enough that I can snuggle a kid, while watching one of their bedtime shows. This chair is now a permanent fixture in my living room. It has no name, apart from “mom’s chair.” I never thought I would be one of those parents with a designated seat, but here we are.

I do not take for granted the benefits I have that have afforded me services and supports to live more comfortably in Cancerland, and that are now helping propel me forward to the rest of my life. Recovery, and life after cancer, continue to be fucking expensive, and money is necessary. Self-care costs money, and I don’t mean manicures and facials (don’t get me wrong — those are nice, too). Naturopathic care and supplements, psychotherapy, healthy food, massage therapy, osteopathy, acupuncture, yoga — I am doing “all the things” to fill my cup. I know that I can’t pour from an empty one, and my old one definitely had a slow leak, patched from time to time with shitty bandages.

Cancer has changed my relationships with people, places and things; money is no exception. I give more freely, as I have a better appreciation of what it feels like to receive, and I probably spend more freely too, as I am keenly aware that I will only live once. And to me, memories are what make life worth living: ice cream cones with my kids, good books, family vacations, dinners with friends, artsy- fartsy experiences with my spouse, and a very comfy recliner.


Kate Ellis • Currently on extended leave from her job as a Kinship Worker in child protection. Diagnosed at 42. DCIS, LCIS and IDC, Stage Ib, ER+, PR+, two variants of unknown significance on the BRCA2 gene. Kate is an avid reader, people watcher, and binge-watcher of good shows. Her hair is finally growing back – and it’s light and curly (formerly dark and wavy). She is anxious about the many awkward phases of “growing out” ahead and welcomes any tips. Kate is a mom and stepmom, and lives in the Waterloo Region of Ontario with her spouse and two small-ish children. • @lump_into_lemonade


This piece has been republished with permission from WILDFIRE Magazine, the “Money & Cancer” issue, published originally August 13, 2022. More information available at  wildfirecommunity.org    

WILDFIRE Magazine is the only magazine for young women survivors and fighters of breast cancer under 45 years old. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, WILDFIRE is a beautiful, story-based bi-monthly magazine published on different themes relevant to young women survivors, from stage 0 to stage IV. Beautiful and ad-free! Visit  wildfirecommunity.org for more info.

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