By Dom Cioffi
In the waiting room outside the lab where I receive my daily radiation treatments for cancer, hangs a nondescript gold bell about the size of a large grapefruit. It is mounted on the wall via a small wooden plaque with a loose hanging rope attached to it. Above the bell is an inscription:
“Ring three times loud
Celebrate with the crowd
My treatments are complete
Victory never felt so sweet.”
I didn’t notice this bell during my first week of treatments even though it hangs right outside the doors that lead into the inner sanctum of the Mayo Clinic’s cancer technology center (the place with the 12-inch wide metal doors that protect workers from the incessant onslaught of radioactive waves).
However, last Friday as I was waiting for my appointment, I received my first introduction.
As I was sitting and reading, through the doors came an elderly woman and her husband, obviously having just completed a treatment. It wasn’t hard to tell who the patient was and who the caregiver was. He walked with a sense of pride, beaming with a wide smile. She was far less animated, strolling purposefully toward the doors to leave.
I looked up for a moment just to catch her walking across the front of the waiting room. He, however, had stopped at the doors and was reaching up to ring the gold bell, which I was now noticing for the first time.
She slowed for a moment while he proudly rang the bell three times. He then announced, “As of this moment, my wife is cancer-free!”
Perhaps out of embarrassment, perhaps to hide the tears that I sensed were gathering in her eyes, perhaps out of pure exhaustion, she bowed her head and sheepishly disappeared through the doors.
Everyone in the waiting room broke into applause as the husband acknowledged our gesture and then humorously responded, “Now I can put her back to work!”
It took me just a moment to understand what had happened. Initially, I had clapped more out of a mob mentality than having any understanding as to why. But after looking at my wife and mother, we all knew what it meant.
After a moment, I walked up to examine the bell. Reading the inscription, I began to ponder how many times that bell had been rung and how many people had gone on to lead normal, healthy, happy lives afterwards.
I stood back for a moment and stared at the bell and started fantasizing how it would feel when my day came to be declared cancer-free. Would I ring it loud? Would I add any words? Would I smile? Or would I just walk past the bell out of pure exhaustion and let someone else do the honors?
Throughout this process, I have tried very hard not to get ahead of myself, not to count the days left in my treatment, not to think of the time away from my son, not to think of the advances made at my job without me there. I can only control the very moment I am in and that is where I need to reside. Going any further will just cause me unneeded anxiety and stress.
Like all good technophiles, after I sat back down, I grabbed my iPad and started researching cancer bells. What I discovered was both uplifting and inspiring.
Victory Bells (as they are known) are located in cancer centers around the world. They are to be rung when a patient has finished the final treatment, and they symbolize not only an ending, but also a new beginning and the restoration of harmony and balance in their lives.
My day to ring the Victory Bell is still far off, but when the moment comes (because I definitely know it’s coming), I will ring it as loud as possible. Cancer will not be my byline, but rather a chapter within a very long story.
This week’s film, “Bridget Jones’s Baby,” happens to be the third chapter is a very successful series of films about a hapless yet adorable English girl who has never had much luck when it comes to finding love.
Once again starring Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth (but with a shamelessly absent Hugh Grant), this incarnation of “Bridget Jones” has her firmly established as a newly svelte, successful television producer but with the same litany of insecurities. The problem now is that Ms. Jones’s biological clock is ticking.
Of the three films, this one barely keeps up with the previous two. The charm and endearing nature of the original pictures is lost temporarily as “Bridget Jones’s Baby” tries too hard to be contemporary. However, once this approach is discarded and the characters are allowed to shine, the essence of what made these pictures great is finally allowed to shine through.
A frumpy “C+” for “Bridget Jones’s Baby.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at email@example.com.
By Dom Cioffi