I remember as I was nearing the end of my treatment, an Irish friend Anne told me about a large bell in a cancer wing of an Irish hospital. When patients had finished their treatment, they were encouraged to ring the bell to mark the end – a sort of celebration – it seemed like a lovely idea.
When I first heard about this, I couldn’t get the image out of my mind. I couldn’t wait for my treatment to be over, but would it be a celebration? Every time I imagined ringing the bell I wanted to rip it off the wall. Rather than it being an ‘air punching’ moment, I imagined screaming out, relieved it was all over, but angry too that I had been subjected to this treatment.
As part of my ‘therapy’ I would listen to songs on Spotify whilst driving back and forth to the hospital. The song Ballerina by Van Morrison would often crop up on a playlist from his album Astral Weeks. One of the lines of the song is ‘All you gotta do is ring a bell’. The song went round and round in my head, conjuring up the vision of me trying to ring the bell in the hospital. While singing along there would be tears rolling down my face.
As the final day of radiotherapy neared, I was exhausted and literally burnt out. I stared at the wall during the treatment and then pulled my gown back on, feeling numb. The radiologist turned to me at the end with a smile on her face, and said ‘this is your final session.’ I just burst into tears, sobbing as an enormous weight lifted from my shoulders. She comforted me by saying that I had been well dressed with make up on every day. I replied ‘yes, I’ve tried to be strong for too long.’