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The Porch Pirate

We are excited to introduce our second recipient of the Maureen Clarke Grant. Catherine Brown lives in Chicago with her husband, Jonathan, and two  young children, Teddy (6) and Hannah (almost 4). At age 35, she was diagnosed with Stage II, triple-positive breast cancer. She takes tamoxifen daily, recently began a monthly hormone suppression treatment, and has two more reconstruction surgeries ahead of her this year. At the time that she wrote this blog post, she was receiving Kadcyla infusions every three weeks.

After being diagnosed with Stage II Breast Cancer in February of 2019 at age 35, my closest friends and family took turns visiting during my chemotherapy regimen, which began in March and lasted through early July. Visitors helped to look after our two small children, distracted me from my current state as a cancer treatment patient, and, my personal favorite, took it upon themselves to tidy up our house and do our laundry. My sister, Elizabeth, was one such selfless guest, arriving on a Friday night in June. She took an Uber from O’Hare International Airport to our house in the city, not wanting to inconvenience my husband or me with a roundtrip airport run late at night.

This plan worked really well – especially as I was on the lookout for a highly-anticipated package of God-knows-what-cheap-stupid-garbage from Amazon that, apparently, was “out for delivery.” When my sister arrived to our house, miraculously I was still awake and helped her settle into my son’s room, which moonlights as our guest room. Since it was well past my 9:30 p.m. bedtime, we chatted for a little while and then hit our respective sacks. The next morning when I awoke unceremoniously at 5:30 a.m., I decided to check the motion alerts from our Ring doorbell on the app on my phone. Holy sweet little baby llama on ice skates, a porch pirate had been snooping around our front steps, surely looking for my Amazon package! There must have been collusion. Definitely an inside job between the Amazon truck driver and an accomplice. I was fuming and flooded with feelings of fear and violation. A criminal had been on the other side of my front door just a few hours prior!

I watched the video over and over, and then bolted downstairs to show my sister. There he was – bald, average height, looking smug and casual with an upturned collar, taking his sweet time scoping the scene. And then -- like a ton of supposedly stolen Amazon packages, I realized -- it was me. I was him.

I was the porch pirate.

The Ring’s night vision – coupled with my chemo-induced cue ball head – rendered me

completely unrecognizable even to myself. In my tizzy, I completely forgot that I had gone

outside looking for my package before my sister arrived. With tears in our eyes and aches in our bellies, we laughed. Hard. Largely at my expense – but still, we laughed!

And while a cancer diagnosis might temporarily dismantle your femininity, turn you into a paranoid homeowner, or reduce you to an obsessive Amazon package tracker, keep on laughing – even if it’s at yourself and the sometimes utter absurdity of your new normal.

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