S4-EP2: Emily Moore on Vulnerability, Life, and Becoming a Cancer Survivor

Oct 22, 2021


The hard stop of death is something those of us beyond midlife are trying to wrap our minds around. But what if you’re in your early 40s? Debbie interviews her 43-year-old niece, Emily Moore, about what she’s learned about life after a brutal course of chemotherapy to eradicate breast cancer.



Debbie brings her 43-year-old niece, Emily Moore, onto the podcast to talk about life and death and her recent grueling course of chemotherapy to eradicate breast cancer.

Emily teaches English at Stuyvesant, one of Manhattan’s competitive-entry public high schools. She’s also a published poet (one of her poems was published in The New Yorker), and has a PhD in English. She lives in Brooklyn with her wife and two young children.

Those of us beyond midlife are (supposedly) starting to wrap our minds around the hard stop of death. So Debbie asks Emily what it was like to, unexpectedly, be forced to stare death in the face in her early 40s. But Emily doesn’t really answer because it turns out it was the wrong question.

Instead she speaks eloquently about how much energy she’s put into fighting for life (she calls it putting on her “game face” despite how horrific the chemotherapy was) and how vulnerable she now feels and how that has changed her.

She also talks about how she’ll never be “okay” again, meaning that things won’t ever really return to the way they were before her cancer diagnosis. And she compares it to our collective wish to go back to the pre-pandemic “normal” of 2019 and how that probably won’t happen.

Tune in to a powerful episode to listen to Emily’s lilting voice and positive take on her experience.


Mentioned in this episode or useful:



By Emily Moore

April 7, 2008

Here’s to the rock star with the crooked teeth,

the cellist, banker, mezzo bearing gifts,

the teacher with the flask inside her jeans—

those girls who made us sweat and lick our lips.

To the jeune fille who broke my heart in France,

the tramp who warmed your lap and licked your ear,

the one who bought me shots at 2 a.m.

that night I tied your pink tie at the bar.

Who smoked. Who locked you out. Who kissed my eyes

then pulled my hair and left me for a boy.

The girl who bit my upper, inner thigh.

My raspy laugh when I first heard your voice

toasting through broken kisses sloppy drunk:

To women! To abundance! To enough!


Published in the print edition of the April 14, 2008 New Yorker. Reprinted with permission.


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