Don’t Take It Personal

A comment posted on my blog today struck a chord with me.  Someone expressing frustration and hurt over the fact that I do not take a more personalized approach to my blog and make more of an effort to connect and acknowledge all my supporters.

But how the heck do you do that??

From the get-go I have struggled with how to express my gratitude to the family, friends, and strangers that are supporting me in this journey.  I’ve even blogged about this before.  Spoken to my aunt about it.  Sent thank you cards.  Wrote emails.  But I am realizing it is virtually impossible to personally connect with each and every person.

The reality is that every day is a juggling act…  From the time Miss M wakes me in the morning to the time I tuck her into bed at night, my day is full.  When I’m not being an actively engaged mom to a needy toddler (which takes up most of my time), I’m getting the laundry done, or making dinner, or running a household…  And when I’m not doing all that I’m going in for chemo or Herceptin or getting scans, blood work, or genetic testing…  Then of course I have to squeeze in the daily exercise, juicing, meditation, and healthy eating (which means non-stop cooking because eating healthy doesn’t come in a box that I can just throw in the microwave or oven)…  And still find time for my hubby, friends, family and – oh yeah, this blog!

I wish I had the time to personally reach out to every single person that has sent a card, wrote a beautiful sentiment on my blog, emailed encouraging words, or donated something to help me in my fight against cancer.  I truly do.  I read everyone’s comments on my blog with excitement and interest.  I LOVE hearing your thoughts, inspiring stories, suggestions, and well wishes.  The Graceful Woman Warrior committee in Massachusetts continues to forward me the cards that come in full of love and prayers and positivity – And I keep a rotation of them tacked up to the wall or on the fridge for a boost when I need one.  There are also a handful of folks that have consistently gone out of their way to offer BIG support in ways I never even imagined.

I never saw this coming.  Any of it.  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the enormity of facing stage 4 metastatic cancer at age 37 with a 2 year old daughter and my whole life ahead of me.  Still trying to process the amazing and never ending flow of support and love that just keeps streaming in.  Still trying to understand what this means.  How being in treatment for the rest of my life changes things.

So just know that amidst the craziness of my life I still love and look forward to forging connections with as many of you as possible.  Because those of you who truly know me, know that forging connections is one of my favorite things to do.  I’m a social worker, remember??  It’s all about the relationships.

But if the thank you card doesn’t arrive in a timely fashion, don’t take it personally.  I still love you.

Peace.  – T


25 Responses

  1. I thought this was very well said. I appreciate your blog, and if I may, I was also moved by your father’s latest statement on his website. Best wishes to all your family.

    Carl Rosenberg

  2. You are in a mind-boggling situation! Do what you must, and let the rest go. Blogging this was a good idea; it will help some who’ve never faced such a challenge understand. Coming from a medical background and a twenty year illness, I grok triage!

  3. Hi Terri,
    Truly lovely to know you read comments here.
    I believe that’s all anyone wants (or needs) to know.
    I shall eternally wish you WELL.
    Lee Pelley

  4. Hi Terri

    I find your blog to be enormously supportive to me, individually. Your strength and matter-of-factness around such an awful event gives me personal strength to face my daily trials. I am forced to consider that any complaint I may have in today’s reality is dwarfed by what you are coping with every day. And you do this with evident good grace and courage. Foo on anybody who complains about some imaginary slight. That complaining person needs to get some real-life perspective going, and shed that whining way of looking at things. Please don’t let it get you down, even for a moment.

    Love, Daniel

  5. You should maybe talk to your dad about this. I’m sure that he knows how impossible it is to personally thank every single supporter, especially when one is going through the kind of thing that calls for major support in the first place.

    And yeah yeah for all we know I may have less
    time than you do. I might be hit by a car tomorrow. But come on! We all know that you are blessed/cursed with a situation that makes you really feel how valuable each active good-feeling moment is, and that’s why we’re cheering you on in the first place.

    I, for one, would rather you spent the time that you otherwise might spend acknowledging some (future) kindness of mine just playing with your daughter. Cause frankly that is way more important than satisfying the ego of someone like myself – essentially a perfect stranger who would be so so sad to think that she had put the tiniest burden on your precious time or added the most minute bit of guilty feeling to your overtaxed heart right now. <3

    • Amen!! I’m all about spending every moment possible with my daughter. Soaking in everything that she does and says and is. I realize that being with her (and all my family and friends) is really what is most important to me in life.

      And yes, my dad struggled with similar stuff after my mom passed in 2010. He said there was something like 6,000+ emails from people sending love, prayers, support, and condolences. And we were just so caught up in the grief of it all that we couldn’t possibly respond to everyone. It’s a tough situation. But also a beautiful one. Just having that many people who care enough to even send a note or card or email. We are definitely a loved family. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that and feel grateful.

      hugs, -terri

  6. Dear Terri,

    Love isn’t about reciprocities, thank goodness, or we would *all* be found seriously wanting — since every instant of our existence is a pure gift that we’ve done absolutely nothing to ‘deserve’… Whenever I’m tempted to feel needy for ‘acknowledgment’ of *anything* I have chosen to undertake, I think of my grandma, who sent her wayward grandson dozens of letters for every one that he answered — and just kept on writing anyhow, and never even raised the subject of his maybe writing back more often. Your *life* is your thank-you card to the universe and everybody in it.

    Much love to you and Heron and Marisa and your whole endlessly-loving family —


    • As always John, your prose hits the proverbial nail on the head… My response was not as eloquent (or kind) as my “tiger mom claws” came out big time. But in the end, Terri, her blog followers and my own heart of hearts recognized the truth to your statement that “Terri’s (and our) life is our thank-you card to the universe and everybody in it.”
      And what an amazing, inspirational and wise thank-you card our gracefulwomanwarrior writes each and every day…
      Love you Terri,
      Auntie Laurie

  7. Teri,
    Thank you for the love you have shared with us during your struggle. Know this network will be with you for ever. To quote a very smart man: Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we all refute entropy.

  8. I read that note and re-read it. My two cents say that you don’t owe any of us anything. We don’t correspond here to take any energy FROM you — we offer energy TO you, to spend fulfilling your life. (And I love the notes about Miss M! Toddler stories are da Bomb!)

    That you can find the energy and attitude to be as positive as you are is a testament to YOU (parents and other family members might choose to take a share in the credit there). That you whine so little is a testament to YOU — cause between the disease and the treatment, there’s plenty to whine about if you choose. But you choose to focus on the positive, and good for you!!

    I respectfully submit that this is your place, use it as you will. I further respectfully submit that you don’t owe any of us (your readership) anything at all. We’re here for YOU — by free choice. (Need any help with healthy recipes? I have some favorite veggie-heavy, can be meatless, easily changed up to suit varying tastebuds sorts of recipes that can be shared if you’d like them. Cooking is good therapy, too.)

    I’ve got to second Dome’s quote from a Very Smart Man: “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we all refute entropy.”

    Keep on keeping on — :Dana

    • Thanks Dana! And yes, I would LOVE some new healthy recipes! In fact, if anyone is reading this and has some good vegetarian or vegan recipes or cookbooks to recommend PLEASE send ’em my way ( Being vegan/vegetarian is a whole new way of living for me and I’m still trying to figure it out!
      Cheers! – terri

  9. It is your continued well being that is the biggest thank you anyone could hope to receive – True dana (the name of the previous poster by coincidence?) true giving, exists when no reciprocity is expected at all – and in the end, the giver the receiver and the gift are all forgotten – keep on truckin’ t-l – I’m so happy for your continuously improving health – and appreciate your blog updates enormously

  10. You are amazing and a true inspiration in ways you can’t imagine….nothing to apologize for!

  11. Dear Lee,

    Wow!!!!! I am not sure if you are a “friend” of Terri’s or what, but who the hell are you? Why do you have the expectation of my cousin to write or email each time you send her an email/letter, when she is dealing with the most critical issue of health that any person can deal with? It’s apparent based on your post that you are not a friend, but someone extremely selfish! Can you imagine how she would be chained to her computer for hours on end if she responded to each and every comment, email, letter, or card? No one expects that from her. If YOU expect that, than your are a true dumb ass!!!

    As Terri was wonderfully “tactful” in her last blog,(Don’t Take it Personal), I don’t have to be. It is taking all that I can, to not completely cuss you out! I am family, and I don’t appreciate your bitching and moaning and claiming that we are “all” frustrated about not receiving a letter or a personal email from her! How dare you put that on everyone!

    She is humbly grateful and appreciative of all comments, cards, emails, love, and encouragement sent to her on a daily basis, and we all know that she is doing a damn good job being a new mother of a toddler, running a household, and trying to hold it all together dealing with the physical pain that she encounters with her diagnosis. We are extremely proud of her!!!

    So my friend, if you don’t have anything positive to say to Terri that will encourage her, and it’s obivious that you don’t, DO NOT post anything else on this blog! Our family does not need your negativity during this time.

  12. Anyone who doesn’t take away a sense of awe from all of the positive energy flowing on this site is blind in the worst way; their heart is closed so tightly that no light can flow in.

    Thank all of you who put so much here towards helping a Graceful Woman Warrior with her battles. The battles may seem tedious and never ending at times, but eventually, the war will be won.


  13. Dear Terri,

    I may not know from having personally done it, but from having observed it I can say that I understand what you’re going through. My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. She had two children at the time, ages 4 and 2, and she herself was only 32. While I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Stage IV–I was only nine myself, so I don’t know exactly what stage it was–it was certainly hard for her to juggle being a mom to two active toddlers AND a wife AND deal with her illness, not to mention that she was still working at the time. But she, like you, beat it back into submission. Within a year she was declared “cancer-free.”

    In 2005 it came back with a vengeance. This time it WAS Stage IV…and this time she had not two, but FOUR children. The oldest was eleven, the youngest barely two. I wish you could have met her. The doctors gave her a prognosis of six months at the outside. She lived another four years. She kept working until the last year of her life, and she was active in her church and her community to the very end. She never missed one of her sons’ games if she could help it, and she shaped those boys into men that any woman would be proud of. In fact, her last words to them were, “You boys are NOT going to use this as an excuse to goof off in school, you hear me?”

    I’m not a long-time reader, but even as a new reader I can see the struggle you have to go through every day. Being the mom to a two-year-old isn’t easy at the best of times–my mom’s a preschool teacher, so I should know!–but when you’re sick it’s doubly hard. Don’t worry if you can’t respond personally to every single person who visits your blog. There must be thousands of us–people who are fans of your dad’s work, people who are the families of cancer survivors or the survivors themselves, your friends, your family, friends of your friends and your family–and I know you can’t respond personally to every one of us.

    Me, I’m just happy to know that you’re reading the comments when you can, making posts as you’re able, and living your life to the fullest. To me, seeing your next post–as proof that you’re still kicking cancer’s ass–is all the thanks any of your readers should need.

    Bronwyn S.

    • Love this story of your aunt. Thanks for sharing. And I am SO gonna use the line she used with her kids with Miss M when she gets older about not using cancer as an excuse to goof off in school! :-) – terri

  14. Paying it forward is not a concept that most people can truly understand. The world would be a better place if we accepted the payback that would ultimately come from out there somewhere in the world and did not insist on keeping things simply between whatever parties are involved. It’s an age-old concept called “community”, and you have the gift (or intelligence) to recognize that. This blog is more than can be expected of you- a personal glimpse into yourself and life. People will take what they will from it, and that reflects as much on their own experience as anything. We face these sort of people in our everyday lives, and unfortunately, the insecurity that drives them often leaks out and touches us in ways we never expected. You can’t change anyone’s minds, hearts, or beliefs…only inspire them. I’d like to think that’s why you attract so many amazing people in your life! Who cares about the rest…we don’t know their path. Take care :)

  15. Some people are just jerks and there is nothing we can do about it. Chalk it up to immaturity, selfishness, or whatever, but don’t give it another thought. You are an amazing woman warrior and truly an inspiration to so many, me not the least of them. Doing what you do with such grace and strength could not be accomplished by many. Ignore the idiot.

  16. Hi Terri —
    I met you briefly one afternoon at the Snug cafe here on Bowen a few years ago. I knew your mother for only a very short time throught the zendo. She was a very special person and although I didn’t fully realize it at the time, the friendship and kindness she showed me (I had recently moved to the island with my new family) meant a lot to me, helped me feel welcome and at home. I’m saddened and surprised to hear that you have cancer as well. I wish you happiness and love. From your writing, it sounds like you’ve already found a wealth of that. So please allow me to add mine to the pool. As I’m sure you know, there’s a fundraiser happening here for you. Keep up the lovely writing. Wishing you the best. // John Adams

  17. Dearest Terri, your being and blog are gift enough. I feel personally touched each and every time I am blessed enough to read your blog which is an intimate invitation into your life. You being here is all the thanks I need.

  18. Thank you Terri,

    I came here to steal a bit of the positive energy that I feel every time I visit, the other day. I had just had a biopsy of a spot that I didn’t know about except for having my now routine 6 month mammogram. I was down because I seem to be biopsied after every one.

    Your.kindness to all, on this site, lifted me out of my doldrums. The biopsy came back with just routine stuff. When my doctor told me about it, I instantly thought about you.
    I am crying now while typing because I wanted you to have the same results.

    I continue to send you healing thoughts now, as I send to others who have to deal with this crappy opponent who doesn’t play fair. It is my hope that you have many years of health and joy in the future.


  19. Wow…. that complaint strikes a chord with me, because of my own baggage.

    See, I’d learned that it was wrong to do something and expect thanks, but I still did nice things and yearned for thanks. I was lonely back then, and felt unloved/unlovable, so I’m not harsh on myself over that (except, you know, when I am – many injuries can have residual aches).

    And I learned some detachment over the years, and I wish I knew how. I wish I could find other people who have a hard time with that, and tell them “do this, then this, then that, bam, you’ve got some detachment.”

    But what does help is how much more human I am once I got that detachment. In the past, there were times when I tried to do The Perfect Thing to help someone, and have them be grateful. And now, rather than trying to do The Perfect Thing, I (offer to) do what I – that long-haired weirdo that person met on the internet – can do. And it might not be The Perfect Thing, but it’s a lot more powerful, because it’s coming from me, not from what I wish I was (if that makes sense).

    Heh. And I mention this – that it strikes a chord with me, and that I remember that yearning – because I think you’re doing the right thing. If you tried to be too personal, too attached, to each person who helped, it could drain you. And… well, let me be frank about myself – my yearning was a symptom of my problems at that time. Getting it fed too often could have fed into the damage that was causing it. And I never would have changed. Not everyone has my problems, of course (thank heaven! :-) ), but people do sometimes have lessons to learn, and trying to be more-than-human sometimes lengthens the learning curve for them.

    Obviously, if there were as many people who reached out to you as there are guests at a baby shower, sure, personal thank-you cards are appropriate. But there are too many out there, and there’s only so much time and energy a person has, even when they’re not recovering from a huge trial.

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