Posted by: Teri Simon | 2012/08/12

Living on the Roller Coaster

roller coasterIt’s a given for all of us that life is filled with ups and downs, easy times and hard times, good stuff and bad stuff, and all kinds of in between stuff.  At any given moment, things can go from one extreme to the other, and adapting is how you survive.  Well, adapting and a lot of other stuff. Life, it seems, is lived on something of a roller coaster.

I’ve felt the force of the ride a bit keenly in the past several days, not so much physically, as I continue to feel good and, although I confess to overdoing it a bit in the past couple of days which has forced me into an extended rest period today, I have been able to participate in what I’d call “normal” activities for a welcome change, like getting to help friends, going out to lunch, and doing dishes and laundry and cooking and such.  So physically, bear in mind, I’m good and that part of the roller coaster is coasting along just fine, thanks.  With rest periods.

It’s more on a emotional level that I’m feeling the roller coaster’s upside down and inside out and topsy turvy effects.  You see, while I’ve been enjoying feeling better, and going to Vanderbilt weekly either for my chemotherapy treatment or for fluids and getting labs drawn that seem to indicate that all is going well with this Taxotere treatment, several of the people I care about have just this week gotten not so good news.  And I am reminded that life seems to always be like that:  I’m doing really poorly and everyone else is doing well, or I’m doing really well and people I care about are having a tough time.  We seldom are all doing well at the very same time.  Of course, seldom are we all in a rough spot at the same time, too.

Some, I suppose, would call that balance.  I dunno.  I guess there’s something good about it:  if we ALL were doing poorly at the same time, we couldn’t help one another out at all.  Still, if we were ALL doing well at the same time, wouldn’t there be so much good that could happen in the world as we celebrated that joyfulness and shared it with others?  It’s weird, though, for me, to be feeling good and hoping for better, while knowing one fellow cancer patient friend is dealing with terrible reaction to pain medications, while she’s dealing with a really harsh chemotherapy treatment.  The son of a friend is facing surgery this week, the recovery/rehab from which may make his return to college this semester impossible.  One friend is awaiting biopsy results early this week that may alter the very course of her life.  Two people I know have fathers in the hospital, and things look like they’re improving, but only time will tell.  One friend, a cancer survivor, got good news at her doctor appointments last week regarding her cancer (there isn’t any), but now is in physical therapy for degenerative joint disease.  One friend, another cancer patient, has scans like I do on Wednesday, and that’s always a nail-biter time, even if you feel like your treatment is working. And she recently went through a bit of a hell with her treatments.  (Yes, I’m starting to get a little nervous now about my scans.) The friend of a friend of mine is in hospice, these being her last days on the planet.

It’s like they’re in different cars on the roller coaster ride of life, and I can’t catch up to hold hands and sit with them as they travel, because I’m in my car and on my part of the roller coaster, and it just isn’t the same place.  And it feels awkward for me sometimes because I get so very much support all the time from so many people, and I almost feel limited by how supportive I can be for all these people because, face it, I still need rest periods all the time. But also, I’m in a happy place and a hopeful place with my treatment (although, I say again, yes, I’m getting a little nervous for Wednesday, cause ya just don’t know until ya get the scan results….), and I want to be happy with everyone else, but everyone else just isn’t in that same happy place.  It’s not quite the same as Survivor Guilt, but you see where I’m at with this, right?  Just a different hill or turn on the roller coaster.  Sigh…..

I guess today’s blog is an opportunity for the Flying Elephant to kind of turn the tables.  If you get what I’m talking about, and have felt the “I’m up when you’re down” kind of awkward feeling, and have figured out how to manage through it, share, would you?  Comment and advise.  I could use your input.  This awkward part of the ride ain’t really doin’ for me, if you know what I mean!

I’m looking forward to your advice!


Teri, the roller coaster riding Flying Elephant



  1. Teri while I am new to living with lung cancer I have been wearing my other hat as a Multiple Sclerosis spouse caregiver for 22+ years and since that first Thanksgiving morning when my wife awoke unable to walk and barely able to see or talk while our 18 month daughter started to wake in her crib in the next room … I can testify the every day of every year has felt like I am in a different car than anyone else on a roller coaster … lung cancer diagnosis for me feels more like on some days the whole coaster has derailed.

    As always thank you for sharing your story of living.


  2. Catherine- this is outstanding advice! Thank you so much for sharing it!
    Peace for your path,

  3. I reckon it’s like a relationship. Everything will be okay so long as at least one of the partners in that relationship can be strong. The crisis may change, different partners may suffer – but so long as one person can be positive and well, it helps the couple as a whole.

    It’s got to be the same with friendships. In my experience while working and sharing in the cancer-field . . . if everyone is low at the same time, no one can really help anyone else. If everyone is is a good place (thankfully), then that’s the time to host a party and celebrate. But if it’s more like a sea-saw, then at least someone has the strength to give support.

    I remind myself of these few things when the awareness and support become too overwhelming:

    -I can’t control other people’s situations
    -my health is not depending upon others health
    -take a break from giving support the moment it becomes too much. There’s no shame in that, and it will sustain your ability to continue being a good friend.
    -Always celebrate your good moments, without any ounce of regret. If these people really love you, they want to do well – as I’m sure you do with them.

    Long-winded advice, but that’s my experience! I love your roller coaster analogy. It’s a great way to depict the emotional journey.


  4. So right, Reba! Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Thanks, Johnnie- I will do so!

  6. Thanks for this, Judith! You really helped!

  7. Teri – God is using the gifts that He has given you to support and enourage others. The most brilliant discourse I have ever heard on stress management is when Jesus said “Don’t worry about tomorrow. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” Amen!

  8. Continue to care for yourself. The very best thing any of us can do for others is lift them up in prayer. That’s most powerful and can be done regardless of our own condition. 🙂

  9. I don’t exactly have advice: more like an observation. That is: you are a meta-thinker/feeler. You think about what you’re thinking/feeling. As do I. Not a bad thing…just a little crazy-making when you (I) catch yourself (myself) doing it.

    Another observation: helping others means a whole lot to you. You’re great at it. So you’re pained when you’re feeling either too bad, or too good, to be doing your “helping thing.” Maybe I can, after all, segue into advice: the universe isn’t dependent on your, alone, help. Others can/will step in to fill the void temporarily left by you. So, relax and accept where you are and how it is, at this time.

    Hoping for great scan news,


  10. thanks for the prayers, and amen! and glad things worked out for jordan!

  11. thank you for the encouragement! blessings back to you!

  12. I think the acknowledgement that you can’t do it all and support every one all of the time is enough. You have a huge heart and all are welcome inside and all have their very special place you just can’t sit and have tea and scones with every one every day. You have given me endless insight into what goes on in the mind of a cancer patient and a lung cancer patient. I feel like I understand my mother better through your words. I thank you for putting yourself out there.

  13. Teri, I know exactly what you mean and I too wish I knew the answer. I want you to know that you help me just by reading your blogs. You are encouraging as well as up-lifting. I will be praying for you on Wednesday. Our God is a mighty God and he hears our prayers. Love to you, Sharry


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