Posted by: Teri Simon | 2012/04/08

Don’t Blame Me!

blameHello, my friends.  I hope this weekend has been a special one, for all of you who marked holidays and holy days during this time.  For everyone, though, I hope that each day and each weekend brings you something special, noteworthy, and lovely.  It’s important, I think, to recognize the gift of every day, whether there’s something significant attached to it or not.  Yes, I confess, it kind of took lung junk to get me to realize that with the full impact it deserves, but I have, indeed, made that realization, and I encourage each of you to make it as well!

So, you’ve noticed the title of today’s blog, “Don’t Blame Me!” I got my feelings hurt a few times this past week, so I feel the need  to vent, need to enlighten, need to blog!

Early this past week, I ran into an acquaintance I hadn’t seen for quite some time.  This person was aware of the fact that I have lung cancer, but seemed, for whatever reason, to not believe me when I reiterated that I had never been a smoker.  I mean it!  There I stood, for a full 5 minutes, trying to help this person understand what so many people have so much trouble understanding:  regardless of your smoking history, your family history, and your health history, you, yes Y-O-U can get LUNG cancer!  (or pretty much any kind of cancer, for that matter)  I think it’s on the verge of criminal that lung cancer has so long been associated with tobacco use.  I mean, let’s be real about the smoking thing, shall we? Smoking causes a plethora of health and social problems.  Smoking is related to a lot of cancers, and lung cancer has been the media darling of them all.  But not all of us who have this dread disease EVER smoked, or had a family environment filled with it.  And as for other environmental risk factors of lung cancer, like radon or asbestos?  Frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn.  Because, you see, by the time so many of us who are outside the parameters of risk factors (i.e., smoking) are diagnosed, we’re in the late stages of the disease, just like me, and by then, who cares WHY you have cancer?  You just kind of care THAT you have it and want to know what you’re gonna have to do about it.  So, smoking is not at the root of this evil disease for me, and it kind of hurts my feelings when folks don’t believe that.

Later in the week, I found myself in the role of educator, after several medical organizations suggested, quite wisely, I think, that there are a number of tests and procedures which are not especially helpful for some patients, such as chemotherapy for people with end-stage cancer, i.e., stage IV metastatic lung cancer. I first read about it on Yahoo news.  A writer for our local paper, The Tennessean, interviewed me for the article that appeared on the front page of that paper this past Thursday.  You can read all about it here. When the writer first spoke with me, she was coming from the angle that doctors are trying to refuse patients medical care, which is just an angle, not the whole story. That kind of offended me, because I have got plenty on my plate to deal with without having to shift the focus of someone in the media because her previous focus was so fuzzy it was funny!  I am an advocate for those of us dealing with lung cancer, those who are trying to help us deal and live with it, and those caring for people who are dealing and living with lung cancer.  I truly am happy to inform and educate.  I am a hog for attention, opportunities to speak, and chances to enlighten. It was just that it happened to be the same week as I entered a Phase I clinical drug trial, and that has left me wonky enough.  To have been selected to be interviewed because I have stage IV cancer was just kind of insult on top of injury, as if I already hadn’t spent the week marveling at how fast things can change in the course of treatment and how depressing it is that there isn’t such a thing as stage V cancer.

The final item on my “hurt” list isn’t something isolated that happened over the week, but rather is something that has been on-going, and really causes ache to my heart.  Many of you are going to be maybe hurt yourselves when you read this, but hey, this is my blog and my opportunity to tell it like it is, so here goes:  A lot of people feel that I am not being cured of my cancer because my faith is weak.  Seriously.  I’ve heard it indirectly and directly, in hushed tones and right out loud.  It hurts every time.  Every single time.  People actually think that if my faith were stronger, I wouldn’t have cancer anymore.  This makes me so sad!  It reminds me of a friend I had a couple of years ago, also a cancer patient.  When he died, there were those in his religious community who blamed him for his own death, citing the same thing:  lack of faith.  So hear me now and hear me clearly:  DO NOT SAY THIS ABOUT ME OR TO ME ANYMORE!  My faith is strong, always has been.  My walk with my God is MY walk with my God, and you don’t get to pick and choose how that walk is supposed to go.  That’s between my God and me.  Period.  I heard a story that came out of the 9-11 tragedy that kind of tells what’s between my God and me quite well: It seems one of the victims of the tragedy was trapped for several days in the rubble, but came out alive.  When asked about it, the person said, “I knew I was always with God.  If I’m here on earth, or I’ve moved beyond, I’m with God.”  That’s how I feel, my friends:  my God is always with me, and I am always with my God.  If I’m alive or dead, I’m with my God.  You may mean to tell me that you’ll miss me or you don’t want me to go so soon (and frankly, neither do I), but when it comes out as “you don’t have enough faith” it hurts my feelings.  And that’s a hurt upon the hurt of cancer that I simply do not need.   And as fate would have it, my friend, Tina S., posted this on her Facebook page today:

dali lama

I like this message.  I like it a lot.  It allows me the opportunity to tell you that there is no cure for death.  It is inevitable.  It doesn’t scare me, but I don’t relish the thought of leaving any time soon.  Yet I understand the peace there, and that’s OK with me, especially after all I’ve been through.  So if I die before any of us would like, do me the favor of not blaming me, neither for having gotten cancer, nor for dying.  Please.

Tomorrow, I will go back for more lab work and to see the fabulous Leora Horn and figure out why I’ve been coughing so much, so short of breath, had so many migraines this past week, and so much pain.  If there’s something significant to report to you, you’ll hear from me tomorrow.  Otherwise, I wish you a blame-free week, as I thank you for all your loving care and support.

Teri, the Don’t Blame Me Flying Elephant



  1. this blog rocks!! There is only one God. He loves his children. He does not use illness to punish us. Sadly, there are many who believe that we get sick because we are not ‘good ‘ enough. Those church members should know God on the level I know God. The God that lets me crawl up into his lap, and he holds me in silence, and lets me feel safe. Yes he is the same God that will punish me, that will slap my hands when I stray, that will give me reminders when I am being ‘bad’. But he is a forgiving God who loves us. He wants us all to turn to him, in good times and in hard times. God does not turn his face from us, no, we turn away from him.

    Bless you Terri, for your faith and your opportunities to share it!!

  2. You’re welcome to email me at
    Peace on your path,

  3. Hi Teri, I just recently discovered your website and have purchased both of your books. I was diagnosed with Stage IV adenocarcinoma with pleural effusion of the left lung in July 2011. I really enjoy reading your blogs and admire your outlook. I too was devastated by the diagnosis since I was a happy and healthy “young” 60 year old wife, mother, grandmother, and teacher at the time of diagnosis. I would like to contact you directly to discuss treatment options, experiences etc. Sounds like you’re getting great care from your “flight crew”. I also would like to tell you about a possible treatment option that I’ve heard favorable reviews about and was wondering if you had heard about it. How would I contact you?

  4. I have been there on both counts and feel the same way. It hurts. I’m sorry you’ve been there too. Sometimes people try to protect themselves by saying “I won’t get this horrible disease because my faith is strong or because I did not smoke, so I will be spared”.
    This of course hurts us. Hugs to you! And good luck this week!

  5. I am so glad that you wrote on this subject. This is something that drives me absolutely crazy. It makes me just want to beat up the person(s) who think this way. They have obviously never experienced hardship. Ignorance is what it is, and it needs to be called out. So thanks for doing that!
    Sending passover kisses.

  6. Feel free to email me at flyingelephantbook
    I wish you all the best and much peace on your path!

  7. Dear Teri, I am outraged that anyone would directly or indirectly accuse you of lacking in faith or being guilty in any way of causing your cancer. I’m not trying to be a hero but if I had heard such things being said to you or about you, I would have appeared to be demon possessed as I would have come unglued! I’m proud you spoke out in this way. I’m also sorry, on behalf of humankind that you had to bear such things as this. I’m fond of you, and of all for which you stand. I only pray I would have even half of the faith you have displayed or an ounce of your class!
    Proud to know you, my friend.

  8. Teri- I’ve been reading your blog and would like to get in touch with you directly. I’m starting scans tomorrow hoping to be admitted to the same trial. I too am a cancer warrior, just started my third yr, but not lung. Stay strong, keep fighting, and keep telling it how it is.

  9. Never have you done anything but love and support me!

  10. AWESOME awesome awesome blog!! I hope it is “heard” loud and clear! If I ever/have ever done or said or implied anything that is/was hurtful to you I am sorry, please forgive me.


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