Is ringing a bell really necessary when ending cancer treatment?
I think not.
This debate has been going on for a few months, probably longer. I never considered writing about it, but changed my mind last week after reading a piece by my online friend and fellow advocate Jo, aka abcdiagnosis, called, It’s time to call time on the “end of treatment bell”. You should read it.
My first thought upon learning about this bell ringing dilemma was, are you kidding?
This one seems like a such an easy fix. How could this even be up for debate?
Stop ringing the darn bells!
Turns out, a lot of people disagree with this easy solution. Maybe you’re one of them. If so, hear me out. Then share your viewpoint with a comment.
Some say ringing a bell when you finish chemo or radiation is good closure. I get that. I do.
I was a chemo basket case. Hated it. Hated everything about it. The big room where you had to sit with everyone else going through the same hell. The very idea of poison purposely being pumped into your system. The recliners. The annoying TV shows. The no privacy. The conversations you didn’t need to listen in on. The side effects. The weight gain. (Yes, I said gain.) The hair loss. The looking sick thing. All of it. I hated ALL of it.
When I finished, I was relieved. No, I was thrilled to be done. I wanted to celebrate. But not in my cancer center. I couldn’t escape from there fast enough!
My cancer center had no bell. Thank God.
What if there had been one?
I did get a certificate and a bottle of sparkling apple cider something or other. And the chemo nurses congratulated me and probably offered hugs. I don’t remember for sure. I do remember that I was not in a hugging mood.
I also remember feeling very awkward. And a little annoyed. I didn’t need or want a certificate. I’m not sure what happened to it. I think I tore it up and threw it in the trash.
I mean, what was I supposed to do with it? Frame it? Put it in a memory book?
I think not.
But back to the bell ringing…
When you are metastatic, you are in treatment for the rest of your life. The. Rest. Of. Your. Life.
Some patients take oral chemo. Others hook themselves up to those darn chemicals every couple weeks, or whatever their particular schedule might be.
Again, there is NO end.
So, think about sitting there in that recliner as a metastatic breast cancer patient (or other type of metastatic cancer patient) and hearing those damn bells time and time again, knowing you will never be ringing one.
Not quite so celebratory sounding, right?
Now, there are some with mbc who say they don’t mind hearing the bell ringing. In fact, some like hearing it.
Bell ringing reminds them of camaraderie, hope or it’s just a nice distraction there in the chemo center. There are many reasons, I suppose.
But many metastatic patients DO mind. In fact, deep down, the bell ringing irritates the hell out of them.
And herein lies the problem.
As far as I’m concerned, the solution here is simple.
In a word – EMPATHY – it’s about that.
Bell ringing is divisive. And insensitive.
Wanna-be bell ringers need to think about how never-to-be bell ringers feel when they hear the sound.
It really is that simple.
Sometimes, it’s not all about you. It’s about the person sitting next to you too.
Cancer centers bear most of the responsibility here. Just don’t have the darn bells. Or the lame rainbow picture/message.
I mean really, what are we, ten years old?
As my friend Jo (she lives in the UK) says in her piece:
It seems a modern-day phenomenon that everything has to be celebrated loudly and brashly. I believe this new way of celebrating finishing chemotherapy arrived from the USA.
Doesn’t that make you proud my fellow American cancer patients?
All this reminds me of when I was in the classroom. Bell ringing might be entirely appropriate there, needed even, for some students marking achievements. There’s a reason teachers use stickers, awards and yes, sometimes bells!
But that is for children, for crying out loud.
The appropriate place for ringing an end of chemo bell would be in a children’s chemo room. In fact, kids getting chemo should be able to ring a bell every single time they finish a session.
I am all in favor of children who are cancer patients ringing bells as often as they want.
And I am certainly in favor of adults celebrating at the end of chemo or radiation too. But for goodness sake, do it in the parking lot, on the drive home, at a restaurant or wherever. Buy yourself some bells to ring for when you get home, if you want to ring a bell.
But stop ringing bells in (adult) cancer chemo rooms!
Lord knows we have bigger problems to contend with, right?
I can’t wait to hear what YOU think. Even if you disagree with me.
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Do you agree or disagree with me on this bell ringing debate?
Does you cancer center have a bell for this purpose?
Did you, or would you ring such a bell?
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