When Blaine had his radiation treatments for his second round of cancer, they took place in Seattle. You might remember (or might not because you know, time has passed and you have LIVES and what have you ...) that I intended to go with him but was unable, due basically to the greatest cluster-fuck of events, ever in the history of mankind. So I never saw the Seattle facility or radiation mask or treatment tables or anything like that.
This past fall, when he underwent radiation again for go-round #3, his new doctors and treatment facility were local, so I was able to go. I attended his consultation (with the oncologist with the sexy accent from New Zealand ...va va voom!) and then went to the first radiation treatment as well. It was very surreal, to watch him climb on the table, and watch them bolt his head to the table with his specially-fitted Hannibal Lector mask that covered him from the top of his head down to his chest. Actually, it was kind of creepy and gross and Friday the 13-ish, but hey, as long as it works, right?
Of course, I couldn't be in the room when they actually zapped him with the radiation, unless I wanted to grow a second head or start to glow or anything. So I sat in the waiting area right outside the treatment rooms. On the wall behind me was a "Survivor Bell" or something like that. Basically, a hand bell attached to the wall with a sign over it that said something along the lines of "Ring this bell to celebrate your victory over cancer ....." You know, the same kind of bell they encourage you to ring when you've had good service at Long John Silvers ..... "ring this bell so you can say, you had some great fried fish today" ..... or whatever.
I didn't attend any more of Blaine's treatments because quite frankly, he didn't need me to. I kept waiting, thinking if he needed assistance I would go, but the entire six weeks of treatment, the side effects of the radiation never got so bad he couldn't drive himself there and back. It was almost half an hour there, and half an hour back, for a ten-minute appointment ..... and I had bon-bons to eat and soap operas to watch, so really, why should I go?
After his final treatment, he came home ..... fatigued, sore, relieved to be done. "Did you ring the bell?" I asked. "The end-of-treatment bell?"
"No," said Blaine, "I didn't."
"Why not?" I asked. "Aren't you glad to be done?"
Well of course he was, but like he explained to me ..... he felt, well, silly ringing the bell. And self-conscious, and perhaps a little gullible and overly optimistic. I mean, what if he had rung the bell the first time he finished treatment, in Georgia (ok, fine, a theoretical bell because there WAS no bell in Georgia) and then the cancer came back, like it did. And then what if he had rung it in in Seattle, and then it came back again, like it did. It would have been sort of embarrassing, you know? Like here he is, this giant douchebag, ringing a victory bell, knowing darn good and well the cancer cells could be spreading through his body at the very same moment he was ringing ??? Being diagnosed with cancer is bad enough --- being diagnosed with a cancer RECURRENCE sort of takes away your naivete' ....
Maybe they should call it a "Hopeful Bell" or something. Like, "I am done with this particular treatment and HOPE I never have to have another, so I will celebrate this specific victory by ringing the bell ...... because I am HOPEFUL that this is the end of my cancer battle."
Does any of that even make sense? Its a symbol of something we desire, but not something anyone can simply claim because they feel they deserve it. Wanting it; working for it; making your intentions known; none of that is good enough and quite frankly, that pisses me off.
Because in the long run, it's not up to us, whether the journey is over or not, and ultimately the bell is nothing more than a wish. And those of us who are perhaps more jaded than others feel hyper-aware of the reality that ringing the bell might prove to be nothing more than a wish, unfulfilled. And who wants to set themselves up for failure like that??? Who wants to be that douchebag? No one.
Blaine finished radiation in November, and had his three-month follow up this week. We got the results of his most recent pet scan a few days ago.
It's a stupid, stupid bell, anyway.