Two people are connected by tracks of rollercoasters on their bodies. Four rollercoaster carts are riding up and down their limbs.


You could compare living with lung cancer to riding a roller coaster for the first time. My life with lung cancer is a continuing series of ups, downs, twists and turns with a few corkscrews and dark tunnels thrown in.

I had chickenpox and three stitches in my hand in the late 1970s. That was my medical history until my 2015 stage IV non small cell lung cancer diagnosis. You know what they say. Go big or go home.

Facing my fears

When I was ten, I went from being scared of kiddie coasters to riding the longest, baddest, fastest wooden roller coaster there was at the time. Sometimes childhood peer pressure can override fear. It turned out to be a somewhat enjoyable terrifying experience.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the lung cancer emotional coaster or a roller coaster at an amusement park. They both scare people and force us to find ways to face our fears. Both situations come with the fear of the unknown and anxiety-filled anticipation. Both include feelings of trepidation mixed with exhilaration immediately followed by utter fear and complete panic that turns into laughter and joy and back to fright and distress.

The similarities between lung cancer and an amusement park

At either location, cancer center or amusement park, I’m subjected to experiences I put in the same category as adrenaline junkie sports. In other words, things I would never do today unless my life was on the line.

A roller coaster scenario is similar to a lung cancer support group. Everyone in the group is on the same ride. When the ride stops at the amusement park, there's a rush of adrenaline and sigh of relief. You get off the ride with a group of people. You compare the previous moments with each other. The ride photos show the mix of emotions everyone just experienced. Some people either one hundred percent loved or loathed the ride. Some have mixed feelings of hating every single second of it while being elated and proud that they attempted and accomplished such an extreme experience that was so scary.

Only this roller coaster has no exit

You have choices when you exit a coaster ride at the amusement park. You can run to the line to ride again. Or you can decide to move to a ride that is a bit easier on your emotions and heart rate.

I’ve received favorable test and scan results. Those times brought a temporary sigh of relief. It’s like I can almost let my guard down. But I know how the roller coaster works. I had just climbed a giant hill, I was teetering at the top and preparing for the next freefall plunge into the unknown.

I don’t get the choice to exit the lung cancer ride and choose something easier. It’s like I am strapped in, the restraint is locked and I don’t have a way to free myself. It goes on and on with good reports, setbacks and improvements intertwining and repeating over and over again. The ride never stops and every trip around is eerily familiar but completely different than the one before.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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