In March of 2013 I was hospitalized on the 7th floor of the University of Washington hospital. I will spare you a repeat of the details as there are several posts outlining my stay if you care to read about them (Where’s Loretta and Another night in Paradise.) I did spend some time walking the halls as I only needed to be in my room for antibiotic infusions. During one of my sorties, I found a bell that is behind the main desk. It was donated John Charles and Gwedolyn Sowray to be rung when one is finished cancer treatments. I thought about ringing that bell from the first time I read the plaque until yesterday, when I actually did ring that bell.
I had a doctor’s appointment (shocking, I know) at UW so thought I would take a side trip to the 7th floor. I felt a bit weird going and asking to ring the bell but the staff were thrilled. They said they love when former patients come back and ring. They also said that not many do come back. I was asked if I wanted to ring it by myself or have some staff present. I opted for staff. The front desk person called around and soon there was a small but very enthusiastic group to celebrate the ring. I asked if the bell was really loud and was told to just ring it as hard as I wanted. So I did. It was loud. Loud in that deep, resonance that vibrates into your inner soul. I rang it three times.
When I got home, I did a bit of research to see how and when the ringing of a bell to signify the end of cancer treatment started. What I found was this poem written by Navy Rear Admiral Irve Le Moyne.
Ring this bell
Three times well
Its toll to clearly say,
My treatment’s done
This course is run
And I am on my way!
Admiral Le Moyne had head and neck cancer and was treated at MD Anderson Cancer Center. In 1996 he had a bell installed outside the main campus Radiation Treatment Center. Ringing the bell three times symbolizes the restoration of balance, harmony and life energy. So here’s to a life that has balance, harmony and lots of energy!