Posted by: Teri Simon | 2012/08/05

Adapting and Adjusting, Part 2

grand canyonGood evening, my friends.  Before I get into this evening’s blog, which, by the title, you can surmise is an extension of last week’s blog, I’d like to ask that, if you’re the praying kind, you offer them up for those in need of healing or comfort.  This morning, one of our religious communities, this time in Wisconsin, was attacked in what is right now being called “an act of domestic terrorism.” It would seem we can’t go to our houses of worship any more than we can go to the movies these days without the threat of someone stealing our sense of security, if not our very lives.  It would seem one bad apple CAN spoil the whole barrel.  That scares and saddens me.   Additionally, I’m aware of several people whose health challenges have reached high pitch and are in need of healing and comfort; my guess is you know a few yourself.  So maybe if we raise our hearts a bit, we can ease some of the suffering, and help bring peace to chaos, and that, I think, would be kinda cool. Just my two cents before I get going on the blog….
So adapting and adjusting, part 2.  Yeah, I should have known there’d be more to last week’s story than “small, attainable goals,” and “consider what you CAN do instead of dwelling on what you can’t.”  Of course, that was BEFORE my chairlift was installed in my house last Wednesday.  My great friend, Jack, worked his tush off to find me a previously used chairlift through our local chapter of the United Cerebral Palsy organization, which DONATES all kinds of medical equipment to those who need the items.  Everything from walkers and wheelchairs to ramps and even chairlifts are available!  It was a miracle for me, because those chairlifts are mighty pricey when you buy them new.  And Jack got a guy from UCP to come and help install the thing (with my brother’s and my son’s help, and Jack supervising, too).  I had wanted to get the chairlift before it became a total necessity; walking up the stairs has been a bit challenging for me in the past few months, requiring a bit of a rest period for me, like 5 minutes to catch my breath.  I can still do it, but it became obvious to me that this was likely not a condition that was going to improve over time, but deteriorate.  There are 16 steps from floor 1 to floor 2 in my house, and all bedrooms are on floor 2.  There’s also a bend in the stairway, so buying new would have been REEEEEEALLLY expensive.  What Jack was able to get me was a chairlift for the first 11 steps (before the bend), and I don’t have any trouble with the last 5 steps.  I can actually do up to7 steps before I’m tuckered out, so all is well with the 5 left.  Very cool indeed!

What I didn’t expect was that I would notice THAT much of a difference the second I started using the lift.  BIG difference.  HUGE difference. Grand Canyon difference.  Like, maybe that lift  was installed not a moment too soon.  Like maybe I needed it NOW instead for “in the future.”  And friends, I gotta tell ya, it made me a little sad.  I really did have a pouty period on Thursday when I just felt so sad that, geez, I can’t even walk up my own freakin’ steps anymore without assistance.  Wah.  One more thing I cain’t do no more!

I realized that what I wrote last week reads like so many of my blogs do, with so much positive encouragement as to almost make me seem like I’m not human and can overcome anything.  And I want you to know, with my whole heart, that I’m pretty darned human after all!  I don’t have a corner on the market of being upbeat and positive all the time.  Stuff gets me down.  It really does.  A few months ago, when my health was really bad and I honestly thought I was going to die, my brother and I had a conversation during which he said to me, “You’re very convincing.”  He meant that if I write to you that things WERE bad, but really I’m SO much better now, I do it in a way that lets you know the crisis is over and I’m on the other side and it wasn’t so terrible after all, even if was really really really really terrible.  Like I minimize things for you so you won’t worry.  And I wonder if maybe he was right, and maybe that comes across as arrogant to you or something.  Because the truth is, I still have lung cancer, even if I whimsically call it Lung Junk.  And it still sucks.  Every day.  And I feel keenly its effects on my mind, body, and spirit, even as I fight and heal and work to regain my health.  And it does hurt my feelings that, at the age of 50, I am on Disability.  I didn’t imagine my life would be limited at this age, especially by something like cancer, and had expectations of being the vibrant, working mother I had been, long into my long life.  My reality is that I have to dole out how I spend my energy.  That we all clap and are excited when I can do something like drive myself to my Gilda’s Club meeting, like it’s a huge accomplishment, and not just something I would do with my day.  There is, even in the “Victory is Mine!” moment, a tinge of sorrow that THAT’S what I’m getting all fired up about: a small accomplishment like loading the dishwasher, or folding the laundry.  Yes, I take the victories and small accomplishments and little adaptations, because thank God I’ve got them.  But yes, too, it’s kinda sad.  It kinda hurts my feelings. I just don’t want y’all to get the wrong idea that I’m some kind of Superwoman who breezes by the normal and natural spirit and emotional aches that come from dealing with something debilitating and physically limiting.  It’s hard on me, just like it is for anyone.  Maybe I don’t like dwelling in that space a little more than others, so I work to get beyond quickly and then share with you how I did it, but believe me, I don’t bypass the hard stuff.  I cry, too.  Heck, I take anti-anxiety medications, and a sedative each night before bed!  And I thought you should know.

The rest of the part 2 is this:  one of the greatest changes that’s taken place in me in all this adapting and adjusting is that I so much more readily accept help now.  Like another Grand Canyon of a difference.  Two and a half years ago, when my friend, Julie, told me to “Assume the Position” of receiving, I had no idea what she meant by the “graduate level course in receiving” I was embarking upon.  I can tell you now that in the personal growth department, I have achieved my graduate degree.  I have gone from NEVER (and did you get that word is in ALL CAPS, so I really mean it) accepting help without a huge argument, battle, debate, or something else stubbornly unattractive, to accepting all kinds of help: from Aryia watering and weeding the plants in my yard that Teri M. and Ronnie H. made possible, to Danny mowing my grass, to people bringing us meals, to prayers, to gifts, to visits (even from out of town!), to runs to the store, to Lisa picking up my cats’ food at the vet, to Jack taking on the chairlift project, to more than I could list here, mostly because my brain is on overload trying to remember it all.  I have said “yes” and “thank you” more in the past 6 months alone than I likely have ever done in my entire life.  People who have known me for a long time have noticed, and that makes me kinda proud.  If you’re going to adapt in any way, learning to receive, when all you’ve wanted to be was the giver, is a prime adaptation to make.  Because there is blessing in receiving, my friends, blessings for the ones who give to you, and blessings in the receiving with grace.  Without guilt or shame.  It’s nice, it really is, to truly let that kind of love flow the way it’s supposed to flow.  With gratitude.  Very cool indeed.  Assuming the Position means a lot more to me now than it did way back in the beginning.  It means there’s a line open that was previously closed, a line of loving kindness that makes the world, even in little corners, a better place.  We all need a little help every now and then, and putting some sort of pride attachment on yourself to only allow you to be a giver, well, that just disrupts the natural flow of love and grace and gratitude and goodness.  Bummer that it took Lung Junk, and a long time dealing with it, to get me to learn that lesson, but I’ve learned it.  It’s a good one to not forget.  I have no intention of giving back my graduate degree!

So that’s it, part 2 of what I started last week, the honest truth because we all deserve honesty!  I hope your week is one where you find balance, peace in chaos, ways to give and to receive, comfort and healing, and reasons to smile.  I’m grateful for you!


Teri, the Flying Elephant



  1. patrick-
    here’s what i think: let’s never ever compare our suckage. it only leads to self recrimination, blame, and shame, and guilt. there’s just so little space for those negative things as we all struggle to survive our diagnoses! let’s just admit that suckage sucks, no matter what it’s called, and mine isn’t any worse or easier than yours! instead, let’s just keep cheering each other on, and being real.
    god love you, my friend, for the roles you play in your real life. and may god grant you grace and comfort when it really sucks to be you! i’m in your corner!

  2. Teri THANK YOU! While new to being and blogging as a survivor of lung cancer I have in my other identity as a MS spouse caregiver of nearly a quarter century been blogging for several years. I have found that any entry often is how we the person sharing feels that day. Not every day is a good day. It does not mean we are not trying or even succeeding it simply means we are sharing what is real. Sometimes that might be perceived as upbeat and other times perceived as ‘down’. My God all you longer survivors and survivors of higher staged lung cancers intimidate the hell out of me with what you have ‘survived’. I am tempted to never open my mouth, but I know and hope that the future sees more of all of us. Thank you for being real.


  3. susan, you make me so very glad i wrote that blog! you ARE okay, you are NOT weak or selfish, you are REAL, and this cancer stuff SUCKS! for all of us! there’s no room in what we deal with and live with every day for us to feel the slightest bit guilty or ashamed if we just can’t get our positive energy up. we owe nothing to nobody except to ourselves to live as best we can and enjoy what we can, and piss and moan when the going really is tough and sucky! ALL of us! i’m in your corner, girl!

  4. Terri:

    Thank you for your honesty! I have been struggling with guilt for not being able to be as positive and accepting all the time as my “Lung Cancer” heroes. I do pretty well most of the time, but some days it is sucks to accept all I have lost to lung cancer. I have also learned many lessons and found out I had more strength than I had ever kn YOU are human too. That the sad feelings I have are okay and I am not weak and selfish for not wishing I did not have cmy life back, my REAL life, not this restricted, limited life. Your honesty and strength insires me to persevere.

    Susan Gamble

  5. it’s a little maddening, isn’t it to look good and have something so seriously bad? augh! like we don’t have enough to deal with!
    peace to you, my friend. here’s to getting through the days!

  6. I can relate to ALL of your post. Honestly, I’m there with you on each point. I too wonder if people think I am super human, if I appear too cheerful, or making it look too easy to actually BE on disability…all of it. I just think you should know that there are others out there asking themselves the same questions while taking the same medications to get through the day. Hugs to you Dear Teri.

  7. i so totally get you, diane! here’s my best hint about assuming the position: put a stop-gap in your own mind, so that the instant you want to say “no thanks,” you say…nnnnnn….maybe yes! there are going to be plenty of times when people offer something up and you just don’t need anything at that moment, and saying “thanks, some other time” is easy to do. one of the first neat things that happened for me early after my diagnosis, when i was still able to work and kind of live like normal, was a friend of mine got a food dehydrator. she was making organic apples into dried apples and they were munchy good! she went to the trouble of buying apples SPECIAL FOR ME (which initially mortified me–you’d go to all that trouble? oy!), made the apples, and then left them on my doorstep or in my mailbox! but after the first batch was munched up so fast, when she offered to do it again, i found myself saying, “that would be really nice. thank you.” it was just kind of irresistible, you know? i wrote her a thank you note, but not every time she made me the apples. i think it made her feel pretty good to do something sweet for me, too. so maybe start with little “yes, thank you’s” and build from there. and give yourself a break, diane–this stuff doesn’t come easy to those of us who are used to doing it the other way around! it’s ok to have a steep learning curve!
    love to you!

  8. You speak so much of my truth for me! I could have written your paragraph “I realized that what I wrote last week…”.

    I didn’t get to take my East Coast Driving Tour this summer. But, last week my parents drove me and my daughter from Boston to Lancaster County, PA so I could see many of my relatives. I still needed a 2-3 hour rest each afternoon, but I did get to see a lot of people. I hate that I couldn’t drive myself, I hate it that I couldn’t take my daughter to Hershey Park, and I hate it that I could only stay for 3 days because of my chemo schedule. Cancer can be so constricting! But let’s stand up and cheer because I was able to make the trip and spend time with my family. The problem is that we didn’t choose this way of life. We do control how we choose to live with cancer, though, and we need to remember that! Teri, your positive attitude about how you are living is so refreshing. Do you have any more hints about how to assume the position, though? I’m still only in Gratitude 101!

    Hugs to you and your new energy. Diane

  9. Miss Kathleen!!!!! I remember you!!!! Oh my! This is so cool!
    Joey is now 18, but I had him do an extra year of preschool, so he’s actually a senior in high school this year, looking at where he will further his education. It’s gone by so fast, but with so much fun and love! Glad to know you’ve got a good family of your own now; I hope you’re just having the best time!
    Thanks for adding me to your prayers; they sustain me for sure!

  10. Teri,
    I came across your Facebook page and blog by way of a comment someone left on Ivey Loftin Donovan’s page. I’ve often thought of you, (little, 2-year-old) Joey, and your family since my days at the JCC. You and I had more than one discussion about life, marriage, and family, and what it all means in the context of a faithful life–I still draw on those words from home to time, especially now that I’ve got two preschoolers of my own.

    I’m so sorry to hear of your lung cancer, and will add you to my ever-growing prayer list. Blessings to you, and glad there are small triumphs and the abiding love of friends that can support you in your journey.

    If I’ve done the math correctly, Joey is on his way to college, right? I have, somewhere in the inner recesses of my basement, a sweet photograph that I took of him that year. Will try and find it to pass along to you.

    Take care,
    Kathleen Conner Strickland

  11. i’m honored to be YOUR friend, too!

  12. thank you Teri, your very humble. I’m honored to be your friend, really! 🙂


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