The bell as a symbol

 

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I keep the bell my work family gave me on display so I have a constant reminder.

I’m helping a friend use Penguin Cold Caps. She is triple positive like me and is nearly finished with 6 rounds of TCHP. I inquired of one of her chemo nurses about ringing the bell when she finishes. I hadn’t heard a bell ring during her treatments which I found strange considering the high volume of patients this cancer center could accommodate. Surely people finish every day!

The nurse told me that they didn’t do it anymore because, “some people went a little overboard.” For once, I had nothing to say. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of such a hurtful, selfish policy.

There is nothing more powerfully healing than the sound of that bell ringing for finishing cancer treatment. Nothing. That sound ringing for other patients gave me indescribable strength and encouragement. It reminded me each time I heard it that this ends. This hell ends. The louder it rang, the more it soothed me.

When I think about that sound ringing for me it still brings tears to my eyes. That was the most sweet and satisfying sound I have ever heard. And I rang that thing like my life depended on it, because, basically, it did.

Did I “go a little overboard”? Damn right I did. I earned it. We earned it. And everyone else in the room needed it too. If there is ever a time to overdo something, it is that moment.

What do you get to do when you finish the grueling task of chemo? I guess, at that particular cancer center, you just say, “Cheers, thanks a lot.” Then you pick up the planet that you’ll be carrying for the rest of your life and go home. No cheering. No celebration. No encouragement to others still in the thick of it. Nothing to honor the enormous accomplishment of completing the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do.

Of course, patients with good support systems celebrate in other ways I’m sure. But, what about those that don’t?┬áIt is very sad.

The bell, that sound piercing through the silence, is a valuable symbol. It honors the patients’ battle and it also pays tribute to the battles that aren’t won, the raw difficulty of both. It announces to the room that progress is made every day and reminds that room to not give up. Most importantly, it celebrates the person ringing it. They did it!

I hope that treatment centers don’t take that away from us and I hope that this treatment center reconsiders their silent policy. Ringing the bell, loud and proud and as overboard as possible, is the farthest thing from a disruption.