Every year, when the weather begins to get a little warmer, signs start popping up all over our city announcing an upcoming county fair. It's an event the locals appreciate. They look forward to the fair because of good food, great rides and lots of fun. The event is even affordable, making this annual fair a wholesome novelty.
Last year, when the fair came to town, I took some of my grandchildren. They were excited to be attending for the very first time and asked if I would accompany them on the rollercoaster ride. I balked and suggested my husband enjoy the ride with them, keeping my reasons for passing up the opportunity to myself.
Rollercoasters have never been my thing. I don't do well with heights. It's not enjoyable for me to be strapped into a metal car with only webbing for protection. I don't relish zipping up and down and around sharp curves. My stomach was not meant for such acrobatics.
But as I watched my husband and grandchildren laugh with glee as the ride began its ascent, I felt an uneasy sensation in the pit of my stomach. I was reminded of how very much a rollercoaster ride resembles the emotional turmoil breast cancer can take on a person.
I remember well the feeling of uncertainty after receiving my cancer diagnosis. It felt like I was making an uphill climb with no idea of my destination. During that time, I was quite fearful. The unknown threw me off course.
As treatment began, the uphill climb turned into a fast-paced downward spiral, full of twists and turns. My emotions were all over the place. One minute I was afraid, the next I was bewildered. Sometimes I'd cry uncontrollably wondering if I was ever going to reach the end. Just as I started to figure things out, the cancer ride would dramatically shift to the right or the left, almost flinging me from the car.
Breast cancer, though similar to a rollercoaster ride, was anything but fun. Never have I experienced anything so challenging. The ups and downs of treatment nearly took my breath away.
Even today, almost five years after being diagnosed with cancer, it feels like I'm still on that roller coaster. As I go to routine appointments, I feel that coaster car carrying me quickly up and those old familiar feelings return.
Whenever I'm waiting for test results, it feels as though I'm zooming downhill at breakneck speed, about to be hurtled toward oblivion. Sometimes, when things have settled down and I have no appointments or tests in sight, I can take a deep breath and enjoy the ride. And when I do, I can even throw my hands in the air, feel the rush of wind in my hair and smile a little.
For the person facing a long-term cancer ride, the emotional roller coaster of cancer can be filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, and side-to-side motions. It can be a very uncertain time and one may wonder when or if the ride will ever end. And while these feelings are probably very common, sometimes it would be nice to have the ride come to a complete stop, allowing us to disembark and return to normal.
Emotional stress comes along with a diagnosis of cancer but when we can understand what to expect ahead of time, it makes the ride a little easier. If your doctor doesn’t take the time to explain what’s coming next, don’t be afraid to ask. Asking might help you avoid the unexpected feelings of being out of control in your own life and maybe, just maybe, you can find a way to grab hold and even shout out a little “Whee!” as your journey continues.