No, not wedding bells, but end of treatment bells! A few months ago a bell was installed in my local hospital’s chemotherpay suite. The tradition is that patients ring the bell when they have completed their final chemotherapy treatment, to signify moving on to the next chapter, and the end of a dificult journey, like some sort of graduation ceremony.
The words on the plaque next to the bell read:
Ring this bell
three times well
its toll to clearly say
my treatment’s done
the course is run
and I am on my way!
As this new initiative comes into play I have been hearing the bells more and more frequently on my hospital visits. The idea is that it is a celebration, onlookers cheer and clap to celebrate whilst a person rings the bell after their last round of treatment. Personally, I have found this particulary difficult during my more recent visits; having a stage four diagnosis, and no end date for treamtment means that i’ll be recieving immunotherapy for the rest of my life, so I won’t get that chance to ring the bell…ever!
Part of me understands the process and why it is important, however I’ll be the first to admit that I feel sad and also slightly angry that I don’t get to ring the bell, and can’t help but feel it’s a bit on an insensitive process for those who can’t. Not everyone will make it to the end of their treatment, or like me do not have an end date. If you’re in my shoes no treatment is a sign of impending death, as I cannot live without it.
I often think the ringing of the bell might be a bit premature, some patients may have to return for more treatment in the future, without having had a scan to check the drugs have done the job they were meant to. It seems to early to celebrate something that is so unpredictable, although I’m sure that being able to acknowledge the victory of reaching the end of a cycle is important and empowering to patients, but part of me will always feel it is unfair on those who aren’t able to celebrate in the same way.
I am sure that the bell ringing creates a feeling of positivity and hope for some, and marks the beginning of a new chapter. I can only imagine a life free of treatment and hospital appointments, and having something to symbolise the end of an awful ordeal. Maybe I am being overly negative or sensitive, but If someone rings the bell or not it doesn’t determine if they will go into remission or stay cancer free. Perhaps there are other ways patients can celebrate without it being so public?
I understand that there are now a number of bells in chemotherapy suites up and don’t the UK, and I am sure it is great for many patients and their families. However, I know I am not the only stage 4 patient in this position. No matter how hard I try to stay positive, I know I won’t get to the ring the bell, as I don’t have a future without cancer in my life. Yet again, I can add it to the long list of things I am missing out on.