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!
It was one year ago today that I had margin and node surgery. That day did not turn out as expected. But it is the day that I consider my “cancer free” anniversary day. So, happy anniversary to me. (I wonder if there is a Hallmark card for this occasion?) I decided to go back and reread the posts from that day. Reading those posts reminded me of something I did every time we moved since being married. The last time I would be in our home, I would go from room to room. In each room I would bring a memory to mind of events that happened in that room. I would then say good bye and move on. It was a way to bring closure to that part of my life, in that particular place and time. It helped me make the transition to the next phase of my life. Rereading the posts that Scott wrote one year ago feels a bit like the same thing. As I read the posts, I remembered what I could (being under anesthesia that day made some of it a bit spotty) and processed what happened that day. It is helping me make the transition to the next phase of my life.
Speaking of the next phase, I would not be where I am today without an outstanding group of physicians who have cared for me over the last year. I have written posts about my nurses and radiation techs but not one about the doctors. So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to the following doctors who give so much of themselves to so many people.
V. K. Gadi, Sara Javid and Chrsitine Fang – my team at SCCA
Dan Downey – Downey Plastic Surgery
Jillian Worth and Sundance Rogers – Virginia Mason Clinic Bainbridge Island
Bill Harris – UW Hospital Attending Oncologist
And to Sarah Rice and Robin Houck, for your time and advice during those first scary weeks, for listening to my craziness and calming my frayed nerves and for making that call to V.K. Thank you, thank you , thank you.
It was one year ago tomorrow that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It is not an anniversary I will celebrate. (I will wait until Feb 20 to celebrate one year of being cancer free.) Tomorrow I will have a “normal” day. My new normal. I will go to work. I will get a haircut (more like a hair fix as there is not a load to cut) I will go to physical therapy (dealing with some lymphedema issues where I was radiated). I will take Twix for a walk. I will cook dinner for Scott. I will take Vitamin B12, E, D, evening primrose oil, turmeric, Osteobalance, oral lamisil, anastrozole , peppermint green tea and CALM (to keep the cancer from coming back and to combat the side effects of the drugs to keep cancer from coming back). I will check in on new friends and old. I will text Fiona and talk to David. I will live my life.