When I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree, I had no intention of walking across the stage. I had already walked when I received my Associate’s Degree and didn’t feel the need to do it again. Working towards my Bachelor’s Degree took longer than I anticipated and I was relieved to be at the end of my college journey. I was glad to be done and I was ready to move on and that was that. Or so I thought. After further conversations with my family, I decided to walk and end my long years of schooling at the stage.
I went to the graduation ceremony and while sitting and listening to the opening speech, I looked back and saw the smile on the face of my family member’s – my husband, his parents, my mom and my baby sister. They each sat there with wide smiles, cheering me on and supporting me.
I walked across the stage with a huge smile and a sense of pride. I didn’t understand the importance until I walked across the stage that day. I hadn’t realized that I needed to mark the end of this portion of life and for my family, who supported me throughout my many, many years at college, to witness me receive that degree.
I experienced something similar today.
I remember walking past the bell in the infusion center when I went for my first treatment. I saw it hanging on the wall, read the sign and thought it was neat. I thought it was a nice way to signify the end of chemotherapy treatments. When I first saw it, I didn’t think I would ring it. I’m not sure why but I felt like it wasn’t something that I needed to do. I didn’t think much of it. Until recently.
At my last treatment, I asked the nurse her thoughts on ringing the bell after my first 6 rounds or after I finish my year of Herceptin. Her reply? After BOTH!
As the weeks went on, I started thinking more and more about that bell. I thought about how I felt initially, about it being unnecessary, and I thought about watching a sweet woman cry when she rang it while I watched after my last treatment. I thought about how I cried, seeing her ring that bell and hug her family. And I realized, I misunderstood.
I misunderstood the bell in the beginning. I didn’t get it because it was my first treatment. I was naïve to what the next few months would be like going through these treatments. I misunderstood what the bell meant; what the bell represents.
This bell symbolizes every step of this journey over the last 5 months. It represents every treatment, every doctor visit, every tear, every pain point, every missed moment, every frustration, every moment of fatigue. But it also represents all of the moments in between those treatments – the kind words, the prayers, the cards, the happy tears, the laughter, the family time, the sister snuggles, the dance parties, the new friends and so, so much more. It represents ending this portion of my journey and moving on to the next.
This bell represents strength that I never knew I had in me.
I didn’t understand how important it was to ring this bell, until it was time for me to ring it.
And today, I did just that. After a long, 8 hour day, I stood in front of my wonderful husband, my sweet sister, my kind friend and all of the incredible nurses and I rang the bell.
I RANG THE BELL!
And now we move on!