Just before my first chemo treatment, I spotted “the bell” on a wall in the waiting area. No one rang it that day, but it gave me hope. That stupid little bell gave me a goal. It gave me focus. It even gave me an outlet.
After that first meeting and making it through my first chemo, I started to form a strange relationship with the bell. I would sometimes stare at it across the crowded waiting room like we were in the school cafeteria and I had been practicing writing “Mrs. Heather Bell” in my Lisa Frank notepad. I would picture myself ringing it. (How many times would I ring it? How hard? Would I cry? Who would be there? Should I look directly at it? Away? Should I buy it dinner first?) I would watch other people ring it and, almost every time, be moved to tears. Eventually, I started to trash talk the bell. And, like, straight up threaten it. I’m pretty sure I told it that I was responsible for cracking the Liberty Bell and it better watch out. I told it that I was lifting weights (pshh, yeah right). I may have even thrown a few yo mama jokes its way. I definitely did that “intimidating” move where you jerk your head forward with crazy eyes. IDK. I’m not very good at intimidation…or trash talk.
Well, last Monday, I FINALLY got to ring that damn bell after my sixth and final chemo! I have to say that I started the day pretty down. Josh and I made our way to the hospital, and I knew that I should be excited…but I was in a funk. I mean, part of it could be that, whether it was my first or last, I was still on my way to chemo and a couple more weeks of feeling not so hot, but I also think it’s pretty scary to come to the end of this. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just wasn’t in a good mood. And I *almost* made it through the day without crying.
I actually felt a little sorry for the resident. We had been discussing things just fine, and he mentioned that my daughters would need to start “vigilant screenings at 25, including breast MRIs,” and I just started crying without warning. He immediately looked like a confused fifteen year old boy, handed me an empty box of tissues, and did a lot of stammering. He obviously doesn’t have children, and I obviously overreacted. I apologized profusely, and he did not mention my daughters again.
But, 25? At 25, I was standing in the same church that both of our parents had been married in and saying “I do” to my husband. At 25, I was figuring out that I wanted to go to nursing school. I was living off of diet coke, cereal, and love. I was poor and so very carefree. At 25, Josh and I read books to each other every night and went on walks whenever the mood struck. We drove around, endlessly, looking at houses for fun and listening to music with the windows down. At 25, I was not worrying about breast cancer. (Should I have been??) At 25, I was not facing my mortality, and I was not inside of an MRI machine fretting. I’m not saying that maybe I shouldn’t have been. I’m just saying that it’s not the 25 I wanted for my daughters, and it just makes me sad.
Afterwards, chemo went as well as chemo goes. I watched some HGTV, sent random texts, wondered why everyone at chemo had hair, and did not inform my nurse that she was supposed to ice my nails when she forgot.
My brother, Paul, and his wife showed up at around 8 o’clock to watch me finish and ring the bell. By that time, I was in a better mood and wondering why there were no late night chemo party rooms. I am always there late, and overall, I am very disappointed at the chemo round table. The movies taught me that I would make my new best friend at chemo. We would laugh and cry with each other when our hair fell out. We would trade foobs (fake boobs) and fingernail polish. We would go to puke into the same trash can, bump heads, look up, and laugh while finger pointing instead. Obviously, one of us would die, and it wouldn’t be me. But that’s just how it goes. jk. jk. For real. And also, does it make you uncomfortable when I say “die?” I’ve noticed that. I can’t just say, “These shoes are KILLING me!” or “I’m DYING to go to the pumpkin patch next week” anymore. But I still do. Because you guys get a little uncomfortable. And it makes me laugh a little on the inside.
Seriously, though, there are six to a chemo room, and they should group them by some demographic. Like the old guys who just want to sleep but bring along their super talkative old lady wives. Group ’em up. Single and ready to mingle. Put ’em together. A knitting club, movie buffs, people who are always coId, retired truck drivers, cat people, people who love Hanson, Harry Potter, cheese, and laughing at cancer. Oh, or BINGO room! I would totally hang out in the bingo chemo room and set out my troll dolls and pictures of my kids and cats. I really think these are solid ideas, you guys.
But anyway, I did manage to make it out to the bell and finally get a piece of that action. I’m not sure what I expected, but more than anything, I was just excited. Since it was so late, there wasn’t a crowd in the waiting room to clap for me. It was just Josh, Paul, Rachael, and me, but I think it was better that way. I got to ring it as much as I wanted. There may have even been some attempts to judo kick it.
A week later, I have to say, there should be another bell for when you’re REALLY done with chemo. Cuz it sho don’t feel like I’m done yet. Soon enough, I know.
I’ve also got some other things on my mind that I need to fill you guys in on, and I’m sorting through a lot of emotions and, really, this whole year. I will update very soon, but for now, I’ll just leave you with this video. It dually represents how awkward I feel while being filmed and how happy I was to ring that thing.