Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Ring Those Bells
In the late 80s, possibly early 90s, my husband ran in the Houston Marathon. We were living in Houston at the time, but I was not at the finish line waiting for my husband as he crossed. I was home with our two (at the time, one more would come later) children. I did not realize then how supportive it might have felt to my husband for me to be there waiting for him as he crossed the finish line.
He called after the run (probably from his car phone) to tell me about it, and to my surprise, he was crying. He's always been more emotionally demonstrative than I am, but still, tears were not what I was expecting. I did not understand.
This memory came to me on Friday as we were driving in for my chemo treatment (#10 of 12!). I was thinking about the last time and how it would feel. There is a bell that patients ring on their last treatment. Tears started to well up in my eyes as I imagined myself ringing that bell (don't worry, I squelched them quickly!). In my imagination, at first, I thought I'd ring that bell umpteen times and make such a clatter with it that everyone could hear. And then I remembered how quiet I am and how I don't like attention, and I realized I'd be uncomfortable ringing the bell, period. But, in my imagination, I have already settled that I will ring the bell, and I will be thinking of all the people who have been beside me in this journey, and I will imagine that all of those friends and loved ones can hear the bell (and, dang it all, tears will probably be shed!).
And here's the thing--now I know why the tears threatened to spill. This has been a physically taxing journey, just like my husband's marathon. And I will have done all those things, fought the good fight, ran the race, stood in the arena, and whatever other metaphoric description you can name. I owned this journey (most of the time!) and "bless Pat," (an expression from my family, or somewhere, I have no idea who Pat is!), it will be a time of celebration and tears. I know that.
But I also know that after that bell has been rung, I have to return in six weeks to have a cat scan done to see if I am clear of the cancer cells. My mother says I will be, and I will be able to carry on with the rest of my life. About the same time she was saying "Until," (getting ready to refer to my six month check ups that will be required for five years) I said, "I can carry on with my life in six month increments!"
And so I end up where I started, with restrictions imposed upon me. I will not be considered a survivor until I have made it to five years cancer free. In some ways, that is annoying and occasionally, worrisome, but none of us every really knows how long we have on this earth. Many of us never really have to come face to face with that fact, and we rock blissfully along thinking we have all the time we will ever want or need.
I'm okay with my restrictions. Others have far worse restrictions. I will ring that bell and hope for the best.