My nephew Sammy rang the bell last week.
The bell in question is the one installed in the oncology ward of the hospital and rung by patients who have completed chemotherapy. Sammy has been under the care of a paediatric oncologist from the age of four, undergoing round after round of treatments over the last three years. He’s lost and regrown his hair, struggled to regain weight and strength, even as the chemo changed the way once-favourite foods tasted, spent more days out of Kindergarten than in, undergone surgery to install–and later remove–an IV port in his chest, endured needle poke after poke, and been hospitalised for normal childhood infections that his chemo-treated body had little defence against.
Ringing the bell is a declaration of freedom from the endless rounds of treatment that have been such a large part of Sammy’s life–and the life of his family–so it is fitting, I think, that he rang his bell on the Fourth of July.Family members tell me that when Sammy was told to ring the bell, he was tentative at first. He had to be encouraged to swing the clapper hard enough to make the bell ring out–harder, louder, Sammy! Celebrate!
I don’t know if Sammy remembers life before chemo. I wonder if life without it will seem strange or will just be…normal, but lighter, easier. He isn’t going straight to his new normal. First he heads off with his family on a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World to celebrate and be feted through the park with a supercharged “Genie Pass.”
But after the celebrating and excitement end, the reward for spending almost half his life fighting cancer is…the ordinary.
To be ordinary…