Posted by: Teri Simon | 2012/11/18

Am I Still Me?

meHello, my friends.  I’m grateful some of you have been keeping up with my daily Facebook postings about National Lung Cancer Awareness Month.  In addition to heightening your awareness, I’ve also introduced you to some lung cancer patients I consider(ed) my friends and their families, and to a few organizations dedicated to ending the stigma of the lung cancer patient and increasing research funding.  Because I feel like I’ve been good about daily postings about this important month, I feel like I can indulge today and do like they say in that toilet paper commercial:  get real.  I’ll understand if you choose to not read the whole blog, really I will.  Trust me–it’s hard enough to write the durn thing!

Yes, that’s a picture of me as of yesterday, in all my lung cancer glory.  I have very little hair on my head, I spend most of my time in my bed because A) I’m exhausted, and B) exertion such as brushing my teeth or going to the bathroom makes me nauseous, what little I am able to eat must be brought to me, and I keep a big container of littler containers of bottled water beside my bed so I make sure to drink enough.  Also I take potassium once a day.  And add salt to everything.  (Electrolytes are low)  I have to carefully choose which medicines I take daily for things like anxiety or nausea:  some make me constipated, and others, the opposite.  I’d rather have neither, but plugged sucks worse that puking, so there’s that.

I look at this picture of me, so different from this one on my website:

It was taken at least a year before I was diagnosed at a birthday dinner for Taylor and me.  (Our birthdays are a day apart.)  At that time, the smile was of a middle aged woman, with 3 wonderful young adult kids.  She had a full time job, and was a Religious School teacher (which she LOVED). She wrote music with her BFFAEAEAE for their congregation, and it was REALLY good stuff!  She advocated for children, especially those who had been abused.  She loved yard work and was a pretty darned good landscaper.  She even loved mowing the grass.  She cooked and cleaned and was the Queen of Laundry.  She offered help whenever and wherever she could. She wanted people she knew, and even ones she didn’t know, to be happy.

So is that still who I am?  I haven’t worked in over a year; I’m on Social  Security Disability.  I haven’t taught since 2010; a terrible loss for me, but I have no energy for such endeavors now. The last time I wrote a song with Lisa was last year, around this time of year, inspired by a dear man who had passed, for his funeral.  The only advocating for children I do anymore is on Facebook, answering young mom’s questions about pinkeye, and wondering what the hell gives me the right to answer the question anyway?  My kids are adults.  I whimper and sometimes cry when I hear lawnmowers and leaf blowers going.  I miss that work.  Really and truly.  It’s creative work, even when pulling weeds!  I miss it.  I haven’t cooked anything in about 2 weeks (no energy), and it’s been at least that long since I’ve done laundry, thanks to Taylor, Miss Amy, and my brother.  Oh, I still want people to be happy and healthy, but my ability to show it?  Kinda sucky.

Because the truth is, I’M not happy.  I’M not healthy.  My body is chock full of cancer; we now get 600 ml of cancerous fluid drained off my catheter TWICE a week!  The cancer makes me sick, and the treatment for the cancer makes me sick.  I am literally damned if I do and damned if I don’t, because sick and tired feels like sick and tired the same way that dog poop smells like dog poop no matter the size of the dog.  In fact, I just had to take a break from writing this because apparently blogging constitutes exertion and I ended up being sick and losing everything I’d eaten today.  If my red counts aren’t up by Tuesday, I’ll end up needing a blood transfusion instead of a chemo infusion.  What part of any of this can we match up to that smiling face picture on the right side of your screen?  Am I, in any way, shape, or form, still ME?

I feel like at my core, my essence, I’m still Helper Teri, I’m still me.  It’s everything else around me that has had to change because of this effing lung cancer.  I feel robbed, cheated, demoralized, angry, duped, frustrated, sad, and disappointed.  I feel this for my precious main caregivers, too, especially my kids, my brother, Lisa, Aryia, Julie, Kim, Ronnie, Amy I, and Marti. And Felice and the Monday Night Gilda’s Club Group.  We all feel a helplessness that permeates the heart, the very muscle itself, and leaves sorrow that pumps around the body with life’s blood.  It is a pain no pain killer could touch, and a grief no sedative could set right.

And let’s be real:  I love the idea of a “miracle, a full cure,” but my heart doesn’t pray that way.  My miracle looks like successful treatment and no side effects.  Of not puking every other day, and of being able to get out of my bed and go downstairs to make my kids’ lunch in the morning.  Of being able to not only endure this treatment, but to thrive in spite of it.  To bring quality back to my living, because just quantity?  That sadly just ain’t gonna get it for me.

I know you want to do something. I can feel it.  So here’s the thing; if you want to do something to make YOU feel better, please just offer up a prayer or 2.  If you want to do something to make ME feel better, prayers are good.  Musically inclined folks are welcome to call me and sing to me, or, if I’m not feeling too terribly gross, to come over.  I still have a teenaged son in my house, so appropriate food offerings are good.  In the interim between my massages with Aryia, if you’re good at foot rubs or such, I’m game, provided I’m not too sick for company.  If you play Words With Friends, my name is wushie.  Distractions are good for me.  Funny emails are good, cards are good.  Prayers are really good.  Did I mention prayers?  And not just for me, please– for my caregivers, too. For my kids.  For all of you.  For all of us.

Funny.  All of a sudden, I’m feeling a bit more like Me than I have in a while!

I wish you a week of YOU, and a Happy Thanksgiving!


Teri, the Flying Elephant



  1. Bless you and love you all so very much! You are all in my prayers too. My hope is to build my strength against and fight this problem yet again. Still got too much living in me left to do, and meeting your family tops the list!
    So much love,

  2. My dear Teri- the one who made my mom smile and made us feel so much better when you reached out to us. During our time of need. We have never met but have shared stories, calls and prayers. I didn’t know you when you took that picture but the face I see when I talk to you or think of you is the smiling faced on the right. The person I know is the one you mention above. You are our life saver. My my loved you dearly even though she only knew you for a short time.

    I want you to know I still pray for you, your family, friends and for a miracle.

    I so wish I could meet you and wish I lived in TN. opposed to Chicago. Be well my dear friend I’m not even sure what that is right now but at least better than you have felt and I do hope by some miracle things get better. I know it really sucks. I told my dad, brothers and sister what you are going through. We are all sad and said how much cancer sucks. My family and friends are praying for you. You are in my thoughts. I “talked” to my Angels last night and every morning asking my mom and my dear dog to watch over you.

    Love and hugs
    Marian and family to Rita Volinek

  3. Love you, sweet Reeta!

  4. Teri, so I know I told you that I hadn’t opened my computer lately, and that I was not current on ANYTHING in my personal life, so I’m just now reading this blog today, a week after you posted it. Fortunately, I’ve seen your sweet self, even for just a little bit, this past Wednesday. The overwhelming thought I had then was, “How can Teri go through all this crap and yet her amazing, unique, God-sent spirit shines through her so brightly?” – I left you feeling uplifted. You speak so beautifully, honestly, and poignantly, from the heart, what cancer is. But, still, cancer is not YOU. You are unique and separate from that, still sharing your beauty with the world. I won’t quote the bracelet I have at my dressing table, but you are wonderful you. I’m sorry for this horrendous stuff. I wish I could take it away. I will continue to pray for you daily. You are always in the forefront of my mind, thoughts and prayers. I love you, dear Teri.

  5. Teri-Cancer may have done all kinds of things to your body and your life but it CANNOT touch your essence and who you are. Is not that powerful!Big hug for you and lots of prayers.

  6. Daddy,
    It’s a silly kind of request, something from my childhood that only you could do: since I spend so much time in bed with my eyes messed up and nothing great on TV, could you come over sometime and read to me like you did when I was little and was sick?
    I’d love that.

  7. you still look good my friend. you are great person, be stong as always. love azita


  8. I sent you a text, but thought I’d comment here too. Teri, you are YOU…you will always be you…now, then, forever, always. Kind, sweet, funny, caring, heart-first, arms-outstretched, always giving, helping, hearing, responding, anticipating, resource-connecting, educating, nurturing, loving… and forever…even when you feel like total crap….long after your soul has separated from your body….those qualities are your legacy…and our lives, the ones you touch, will forever benefit from having, knowing and loving you. xo

  9. Good Morning, Teri

    I’ve just finished reading your blog.  I hope that you are feeling better this morning.  On the theme of helplessness, I have never felt so

    helpless in my life.  I’ve felt this way since November three years ago. 

    I can do laundry, and I can make lunches.  I can take you places.  I can do  more.  Mom can cook whatever you want.

    In three little words–WE CAN HELP.



  10. Happy thankgiving . I pray for you . You are such great woman , mother, friend, sister. Love to you Azita

    Sent from my iPad

  11. Ok Teri, this is the third response I have attempted and not better than the other two, I want you to know how grateful I feel to know you, unfortunately not the well Teri but the Teri who has been so honest and courageous and open and has given so much to so many who have felt your frustrations and do little for you. I pray for you and thank you for always giving even when you are so so sick. We will never understand why bad things happen to good people – G-g realizes this but still asks us to be kind and loving no matter what – you are proof of this in ways you cannot know – I continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Diana

    Sent from my iPad

  12. You are certainly still you….lots of evidence to back that up! 1)You are brutally honest, yet always using your wicked humor to lighten the tone 2) Despite having zero energy and lots of reasons to curl into the fetal position and stay there, you have written about awareness and others’ stories every day of this awareness month 3) you never let cancer stop you from posting you weekly blog 4) you continue to advocate for children and others even tho you can no longer do that and get paid 5) you mention your fabulous kiddos in virtually every post 6) you are incredibly brave and resilient and finally 7) you express your sadness about this unbelievably horrid situation but never seem to be self-pitying…..
    All of this is Teri being very much Teri….Hold onto all of these wonderful attributes and keep on fighting.
    Lots of prayers for you, your children and family, and all of your wonderful friends and caregivers.
    Much love, Kim

  13. What a woman! I thought that from the first day I met you. Know I think WHAT A WOMAN!!!!!!!! God has His hand on you. My prayers go out to you and your famiy. You are still Teri. Like C.S. Lewis said “We are not a body with a soul. We are a soul with a body”. You have the same soul as you have ever had. You are Teri.
    Big hug and multiple prayers,

  14. Teri – many prayers coming your way. I think you are amazing to be so brave and tell it like it is. Cancer changes us inside and out – so very true, and your continued ability to give is inspiring.

  15. If y’all wanna see things thru my dry, googly eyes, well good luck to ya!
    Seriously tho- may you enjoy unexpected blessings throughout the season!

  16. You are you, you will always be you, and I will always admire you.

  17. Dear Teri,

    A Catholic rosary prayer is coming your way tonight, Teri! My wife Kathy the stage IV fighter receives plenty of synagogue prayers, so it’s due time we repay in kind between the two faiths 🙂 I’ve been the primary spousal caregiver for only three months now, and I know you are only two weeks from your third anniversary. And you know what, Teri? My prayer to God is to give my wife and I the blessing to have three years together, because I read your books, I read your blog, I see your spirit, and I think, if Teri can endure these challenges, issues, pains, etc, then maybe my wife Kathy can do so too. Kathy is not yet ready to fully see the future through your eyes (well, I know you will probably make a joke about that!), but I am praying that in the not too distant future she will find strength in your words. But in the meantime I find that strength and repackage it for her. Tomorrow morning Kathy is receiving an intermedullary rod in her left femur to strengthen it, with possible radiation soon, and we are praying she can get back onto a new chemo to fight the other mets (she’s been off for four weeks now….). So you’ve given me, and Kathy through me, some more strength for this week. And we give thanks to God for you and all of those fighters and survivors who inspire. God bless you Teri! Giving thanks this week is different this year than ever before, but now we find it in the small things.


  18. Teri…of course you’re still YOU. I know it doesn’t feel like it. But the very fact that you can ask the question makes you…you.

    Still, my heart aches for all you’re going through: between the devil and the deep blue sea. You don’t deserve this. No one does.

    Your last paragraph isn’t “funny”…it’s how you feel better after you unburden yourself to your caring, loving community…us. It’s the whole point of how “connection” helps us suffer through the insufferable.

    I’ll come visit after the coming two weeks of company. As for foot rubs…not so much. I can’t STAND having my own feet touched, so I transfer my heebie-jeebies to all feet. Sorry. But: I love-love playing WWF with you, no matter how many games we have going for us. When my phone tells me you had your turn, it means you’re okay.

    You’re so grateful for so much so often, I KNOW you’ll be thankful on Thanksgiving, too. If not, how about a mid-week blog?

    As for me, I’m so thankful I count you among my dear friends.

    Love and hugs,


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