As a cancer patient there is a tradition when you finish your treatment, you ring a bell. Signifying the end of chemo and your new life “cancer free”! I have a few thoughts on this subject.
This tradition can be extremely emotional. With the end of treatment, it is a bittersweet moment. I know that can sound weird but it really is. After you are diagnosed with cancer, you are bombarded with endless doctor appointment’s, scans, blood work, surgery, oncology, radiation, chemotherapy and the list goes on. As you go through the toughest time of your life, your family, friends and support team are there for you every step of the way and drop off food, cards and visits. Your world is upside down and you have never felt so sick or scared maybe a little lost.
As the treatment ends so does the hustle and bustle. And with that last treatment comes the bell. As you pick it up, a rush of emotions comes over you. Happiness, a little peace but also fear and sadness and yes the lost feeling again. Now you are CANCER FREE, so just continue your life as you left it before the diagnosis. The fact is it is one one the most difficult things to do. Also, the fear of cancer recurrence can be terrifying and is a very real possibility for most. I understand what they have gone through and my hope is that they know, some of us understand and get it. Keep fighting and live as much as you can! Do not let the fear run your life, you did not go through all of that shit just to crumple and let cancer win! You are more than that and deserve happiness. You have walked the line between life and death and have come out the other side, embrace this gift! Never waste it!
On another note, that stupid bell!!I remember when I did my first chemo, sitting in the suite and hearing the bell from time to time. I was truly happy for them clapped and cheered as loud as I could! But, I was also sad and jealous, I thought, I will never ring that stupid bell! My treatments will never end! Stupid fucking bell, stupid cancer! I mentioned this to my nurse one day. I told her I was sad about never having the chance to beat cancer and ring that bell! She said, “Well you will ring that bell! Just because you are not cancer free does not mean you can’t ring it!” So at the last appointment came and finished, I walked up to the counter and picked up this “bell”. This bell that held such promise and hope, the sound of the end of chemo (for now, at the time, for me) I thought I would pick that bell up and ring the shit out of it, run around a little ringing this bell as hard as I could, I may never get this chance again! BUT, as I picked it up, I felt small and humbled and it felt big, it was so strange. I felt respect for all who had rung it before me and could feel it’s power. I cried when I rang it. It was a special moment!
After however lol One of the nurses gave a “typical” “standard” little package for finishing chemo. Pamphlets and books all under the topic of “Life after cancer”& “Next steps in your cancer free life”. I was immediately offended and bothered by this delivery. What the fuck! I said “well you can keep this package, I have no use for it, thanks! My cancer is not curable”. I didn’t want to sound rude or ungrateful but I could not control myself. In my head I said, “If you took the time to read my file or treatment page right in front of your face, you would know that, bitch!” She looked at me a little embarrassed and said, “Well there are a lot of good tips in these and it can still be really useful to you.” Let the record show lol, I have never once used anything in that package to this day! It really wasn’t her fault, she just knew it was my last chemo, I do not hold it against her in any way, she was really nice. But damn, I was pissed. And it ruined my moment, oh well!
As I started this new chemo in September, and learned that I would be receiving it until it stops working just to hopefully move on to another, I thought about that bell. And as I hear it from time to time as I get my weekly treatments, I wonder if I will ring that bell again.