Photo by Jake Noren on Unsplash

Just when Jo Kasten’s adult son encounters schizophrenia, she discovers she has breast cancer. Meanwhile, her marriage faces a test. Count All This is a story about love and loyalty, addiction and madness. This is the fourth chapter. Find the first chapter here.

The day after the mammogram, I got a call from Eddy around two o’clock in the afternoon.

“Hi, Mom”

“Eddy, Hi!” I gushed, relieved he wasn’t still angry, glad he’d made the effort to call. “How are you doing?”

“I’m okaaaaay,” he stretched out his words, a sly smile in his voice. …


My rowing mentor Tom Lundgren, who took over the boat after I rowed out to Alcatraz, which is visible in the background.

Last week I had one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. It was on the day of the Alcatraz Invitational, when swimmers come from all over the world (or at least the country, in these Covid-cramped times) to jump into the cold water of the San Francisco Bay and swim like mad across shipping lanes about 1.5 miles to the safety of the cove at Aquatic Park. The fastest ones do it in about 28 minutes.

No, I wasn’t one of the 350+ swimmers who participated this year (about half the normal number). I was in one of…


Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Just when Jo Kasten’s adult son encounters schizophrenia, she discovers she has breast cancer. Meanwhile, her marriage faces a test. Count All This is a story about love and loyalty, addiction and madness. This is the third chapter. Find the first chapter here.

The mammogram I got a week later didn’t go well from the outset. When I checked in at the Women’s Center, the receptionist wanted paperwork I didn’t have.

“Do you have the referral from your primary care physician?” she asked cheerfully. She was young and blonde and wearing blue scrubs, as if she’d just come in from…


My Uncle Tommy through the years. The middle one is a screenshot from an old home movie, a clip of which is linked below.

My Uncle Tommy died this month. He was a charming and lovable and talented man, the youngest in his family, last of my mother’s cohort, beloved by his own mother, my formidable Grandma Claire, whom he called every day when she was still alive.

He also was a contributor to Fourth Wave, which gives you an idea of how open to life’s bounty and new experience he was. Here was a man in his 90s, unafraid to publish stories on a feminist website. As editor, I reasoned that old people are yet another disempowered group — the people Fourth Wave


Close up of Mama Ray by Wangechi Mutu at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, Fall of 2021. All photos by author.

I first read about the new exhibit at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in a glowing review in the San Francisco Chronicle. Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu created works in response to, and conversation with, the mostly white-people art that hangs throughout the beautiful old building erected by prominent San Francisco families.

The exhibit is called “I am Speaking. Are You Listening?” And judging from the photos displayed in the Chronicle story, I knew I would like it.


Photo by Ben Marcin as part of this photo series of homeless camps in Baltimore for the Daily Mail.

Just when Jo Kasten’s adult son encounters schizophrenia, she discovers she has breast cancer. Meanwhile, her marriage faces a test. Count All This is a story about love and loyalty, addiction and madness. This is the second chapter. Find the first chapter here.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Camp was later. Let’s go back to the onset of my son’s mental illness, or addiction, or vision quest — whatever we’re going to call it.

A week or two after the correspondence on Instant Messenger, Eddy showed up at the house to talk. He sat on the bed in the…


Photo by author

Just when Jo Kasten’s adult son encounters schizophrenia, she discovers she has breast cancer. Meanwhile, her marriage faces a test. Count All This is a story about love and loyalty, addiction and madness. The title comes from the dragon in John Gardner’s novel Grendel: “‘Personally,’ he said, ‘my great ambition is to count all this’ — he waved vaguely at the treasure around him — ‘and possibly sort it into piles.’”

Here’s the first pile.

So much happened that year, it’s hard to remember. I’m going to try to set the events down faithfully, without considering whether they make a…


Photo by Susan Gold on Unsplash

I’ve never understood why Sally had such an impact on me. Maybe it was the timing — her presence in both my worlds, standing on the cusp between when everything made sense and when it all fell apart.

Sally was in the picture when my son had his first psychotic break, standing strong at the center of the maelstrom, certain she had the answers, that she knew how to help my boy. But why did I believe her? She was just a teenager!

She’d been to prom with him, the two of them looking healthy and handsome in their fancy…


One thing women want is the company of other women. This photo is of my sisters and great niece repairing an old quilt. I’ve heard that when women work on a quilt in a group it’s called a quilting bee, and I love the name. So here we are spending a lovely afternoon at the bee. Photo by author.

“The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?’” ― Sigmund Freud: Life and Work

What do women want? I’ve heard this question expressed many times over the course of my life. When I was growing up in the ’60s, popular movies and TV shows suggested that women were radically different than men, with mysterious and sometimes strange or even silly needs. Yet the answer is not strange or silly or mysterious. Women want what…

Patsy Fergusson

Tree hugger. Tour guide. Top Writer. Feminist. Newly-baptized Bay swimmer. Editor of Fourth Wave. https://medium.com/fourth-wave

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