Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ringing the Bell

My last post generated some comment conversation about Henry ringing the bell. I thought I'd give some details.

Henry's radiation at Hopkins took place in the same arena for kids as well as adults. He received excellent care there. We felt so very well cared for everywhere we went at Hopkins.

The radiation oncology suite for me was an odd place. There wasn't much privacy, and since Henry needed to have a general sedative for each session of radiation, we were often there for 2 hours to get 3 minutes of radiation. So we met a lot of people.

The first group was what I called the Prostate Club. I of course have no idea what their diagnosis was, but there was a steady group of well appearing sixtyish looking men in their business suits who would show up in the morning, quietly and without speaking change into a hospital gown, enter the radation room, and be off to their day. Then followed a motley crew of outpatients who showed up in various degrees of health, some in wheelchairs, mostly walking but looking tired, for their treatments. Occasionally, an inpatient rolled by in a stretcher, usually looking pretty sick. Sometimes we chatted and got the story, always sad, and sometimes they were too sedated. Everyone smiled at Henry (which is not to say that he always smiled back).

Near to the treatment rooms was a bell on the wall. When treatment was over, you rang it. I'm not sure if it was a thankyou or a f*ckyou to most patients, perhaps a weighted combination of the two. We saw many people ring that bell, from the prostate club to little old ladies clawing to get out of their wheelchairs and ring that thing. The staff, the patients, anyone around would stop and clap everytime it rang.

Henry loved to watch. He knew he would get to ring it on his last day. He used to whisper to me so no one could hear, "She got to ring the bell. I'm gonna ring it three times."

He didn't ring it three times. He rang it four times.

This is the poem that was posted next to the bell. I don't have a good shot of the bell. I'm not sure why he looks so serious in this picture, he was all smiles this day.


A Doc 2 Be said...

I don't know what broke my heart more: the poem or your little shaver son, Henry or the combo.

Much <3 to you for posting his pic once again!

rlbates said...

Good for Henry!!!!

Rach said...

I second AD2B's sentiments. My eyes just welled up. What a brave boy, that Henry. and what a brave mom.

Katerina said...

What a sweetie.

Snickollet said...

What a sweet story and picture. What a sweet, sweet boy. Another one crying here.

...tom... said...


"...much to tell and much to toll ..."


So many online like to think they are 'writers' and can turn a phrase with the best of them.

. . .until they see something real and from the heart and realize 'the best phrases' are born of life's challenges and experiences.

Humans are tied to rituals and their unwavering constancy. I am sure 'the bell' speaks in its own way to everyone who hears its peal. I am sure, in the moment, it rang bright and true for Henry.

Thank you so much for sharing the info and the moment. (And you know if I ever pry too much . . .just ignore me. ...:minism:...)


femail doc said...

Wonderful idea that bell, and wonderful story yours and Henry's who rang times four!

Anonymous said...

That broke my heart and brought tears. Thanks for sharing.

Kathy said...

We sat in the radiation oncology waiting room at St. Jude 5 days a week for 6 weeks during my son's radiation.

There is no bell there, it's a small celebration with all the nurses, confetti and balloons, a present.

We were staying 2000 miles from home at RMH, 2 of the five rooms in our hallway were occupied by other boys getting radiation. Both of those boys were dead before a year had passed.

Another mother whose son was going through the same treatment for medullo at the same time as my son turned to me with tears streaming down her face the moment her son had been taken back. Standard risk medullo having better "statistics" than others, she'd been told he had an 80% chance of living 5 years.

So she asked me if that meant there was a 1-in-5 chance that he'd die, she asked how to live with that fact, she asked when she could stop worrying.

I told her the concern for her son would end only with death, his or hers, and that both of us would just have to learn to live with it. I told her that PNET (what my son has) carried a lower statistic but I didn't look at statistics because the truth was that he either had a 0% or a 100% chance of beating his cancer, and that whether he beat it or not wasn't in my hands.

At the end of radiation, the T-shirt and one of his balloons read:
"RAD"ically changed!!!

I'll say...