Posted by: Teri Simon | 2012/03/25

When the Shoe is on the Other Foot

shoesSo weird is life in the Land of Lung Junk, my friends.  The ups are a bit higher, and the downs are a bit lower, and limbo is gray and frustrating.  I begin today’s missive, however, with a bit of bright news that I have (finally) been accepted into the clinical drug trial I was hoping to get into.  If all things continue to go well, I’ll get started next Monday.  Whether I prove to be the Poster Child for this treatment or not, I’m kind of glad to be starting to do something as opposed to doing pretty much nothing about my cancer for the past couple of months.  Don’t get me wrong: respite from chemo is AWESOME.  It’s just that it’s allergy season, and I have a lot of trouble distinguishing between reasons for my discomfort and my cough, i.e., “was that allergies, or was that the cancer?”  At least with a treatment, I have a chance to get my mind focused on something other than my own questions, you know?  Anyway, limbo is about to end for a moment, and something else will take its place.

Weird, too, in the Land of Lung Junk, or, I suppose, any kind of Junk for that matter, is the give and take of when the shoe is on one foot or on the other.  For example:  each Sunday, I make the solemn trek to my local Kroger for groceries.  (And how funny is it, I ask you, that when you’re pushing your cart out of the check-out aisle, they say to you, “Come on back?”  I mean, maybe it’s just a Southern thing, but, y’all, they’re groceries Consumables!  I’m gonna have to come back!) I typically pick up what I call “The Usual Suspects,” staples like bread and milk and fresh fruits and veggies and stuff for Joey’s lunches at school.  I know my local Kroger like the back of my hand (which, when you’ve been poked and prodded as much as I have, is pretty darned well), despite the fact that they remodeled last year, and bread, which used to be on aisle 3, is now on aisle 14.  It isn’t hard for me to navigate the store, although it still surprises me the times when I have to sit in the back of my car before loading the groceries into it (like happened today).

Sometimes I run into people I know, and enjoy impromptu conversations (“How are you?  You look so good….”).  Once, I had what I called Doppelganger Sunday, where, every time I turned down an aisle, I could have sworn I recognized the person a few feet away, only to come closer and realize it wasn’t who I thought it was.  When I was in the throes of chemo last year, I would try to brave the Kroger, often with my son in tow, clinging for dear life to the shopping cart, lest I lose my balance or my energy and crash to the floor.  Sometimes people would lower their gazes as I passed them by.  Sometimes they would quickly turn their carts  in the other direction, as if my obvious cancer was somehow contagious, and they risked infection if they came too close.  Once, a woman came up to me in the produce section and said, “If your hairstyle is a sign of your survival, then congratulations!”  I thought that was pretty cool.  In fact, brave and cool.  It took courage for her to approach me, not knowing me from Eve, and not knowing how I’d receive her comment.

So, today, as I shopped, I noticed a bald woman also shopping.  She took her time, but it wasn’t like she was taking her time to enjoy the time in the store; it looked more like she kept forgetting why she was in the store and in that part of the store, every time I saw her.  And the shoe, my friends, was on the other foot.  It was I who was at the crossroads so many of you have been at with me:  Do I speak to her?  Do I pass her by?  Do I offer assistance?  Do I keep my big mouth shut?  Will it offend her if I go up to her?  Will it comfort her if I do?  What is the right thing to do here in this situation?

For my part, and for your sakes, well, I hate it if you’ve ever been in that situation (and don’t lie:  a lot of you have told me that you have!).  As far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to approach me, call me, email me, or ignore me as you see fit.  If I’m not available, I have voice mail, or will email you back when I have time or energy.  If you say something that comes out in a way you didn’t intend it, I will give you the benefit of doubt.  I appreciate more than you know the kindness of your hearts.  But when that shoe fit so snugly on my foot this afternoon?  Well, I’m a little bit embarrassed to tell you, but I did……nothing.  No, wait, that’s not quite true.  While I didn’t go up to the woman, even when, as I was exiting, I saw her with her paid-for bag of whatever go back into the store as if she’d forgotten something, and offer to help, I did what I know I can always do:  I prayed for her.  I prayed for her to come out of whatever fog was in her head at that moment and give her clarity to get this shopping job done.  I prayed that she have a joyous afternoon in the sunshine coming down on Nashville.  I prayed that whatever her condition (because bald doesn’t always mean cancer, y’all), she be treated with wisdom and respect and success.  I prayed that she had someone or something loving to go home to.  I prayed, too, that I be forgiven for doing nothing but pray for her.  There was likely an opportunity in there somewhere for me to do something nice for someone else, and I didn’t take it.  Yes, I prayed for my own forgiveness.

It’s weird in the Land of Lung Junk.  Every day is bizarre and often not so fun.  But I have to admit, it’s weirder still when the shoe is on the other foot.

I wish you a week of knowing all the right things to do and say in all the right moments.


Teri, the Flying Elephant



  1. Teri I wish you the best luck next week on the new trial. Prayer was good also in the store. I also look forward to seeing you Sunday. I think about Clemente leaving May 30 and I feel sad. I then think about what time I am wasting feeling down. I need to be grateful instead for this beautiful day and for waking up today! So may you have a beautiful day and a day of feeling wonderful. Love you my friend.

  2. What an excellent article, my friend. Your prayer was very touching. May you also be treated with all the love, respect, and care that you truly deserve. May the sunshine on Nashville lift your spirit to fill you with pleasure and happiness. I am glad to hear that you got into the trial you have been wanting. You remain in my daily prayers.

  3. The shoe on the other foot! How interesting is that? Sometimes it seems that we go through life with our blinders to protect us. I hope that I can be braver and reach out to others. Thanks for your message.


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