First off, I admit I have plucked the title of this post from Anne Katz, who uses something similar in the title of one of her books. I like the “ring” of it. For those who are not familiar with the concept, in many cancer treatment centres there is a bell on the wall in the radiation department. During my own treatments, I didn’t notice it. At no time during the 30 visits I paid to the place did I witness someone ring it. And then after I completed my last treatment, the team on duty walked me out to the front of the centre and asked if I wanted to ring the bell. I thought, well sure….? When it rung out, every one in the place turned and cheered. Not knowing that was a thing, I was somehow deeply touched. I often think about “ringing the bell”, metaphorically, the value of ritual and marking milestones.
I think I’ve written before how my circle of friends and supporters has grown through my experiences as a cancer patient. I have found an online forum where I moderate a diet and cancer sub-group. I participated in a six week online support group for post-treatment folks, which we have engineered into a Google Hangout where we have kept in touch weekly long after the formal group meetings ended. That’s a group of people who understand many things that no one else really does. And where we can be free to enjoy some black humor. Many of the people who have come into my life through all of my experiences still follow up with me to see how I’m doing. So, this one’s for all of you.
I’m doing terrific.
I was on a schedule of MRI scans every three months, and I’ve had nothing but clear results. My last scan, in November, was described by my oncologist as “all clean”. It showed nothing but a round dark hole. That means no cancer cells lighting up with the contrast dye. That’s the good news. The bad news, I guess, is that I literally have a hole in my head…
This summer will mark five years since my diagnosis. I’m going to “ring the bell”.
I feel great. My energy is back, and I’ve always had some to spare. I’m self-employed, I started a management consulting firm. This has been an entrepreneurial exercise that has given me the opportunity to learn a great deal about business from an owner’s perspective, and about myself. In my copious free time, I’m working on designing curriculum for a Yoga During Cancer course focused on educating yoga instructors on how to teach in this population.
I’ve also used my learning and experiences through this whole crazy ride to fuel a series of motivational speaking engagements. I never wanted to go into a conference or corporate setting and say “here’s my cancer story”. But I believe in the power of storytelling, and have been gratified to learn that this story can offer a touchpoint for a variety of themes such as performance under pressure, stepping away from the cult of busy, the power of mindful preparation, practicing gratitude and celebration (ringing the bell – STILL the metaphor), connecting to your inner warrior, the power of being authentic, and of course cancer support themes for patients and caregivers. So many of these themes seem to resonate with audiences, framed with personal experience. This really profoundly funnels all of my challenges into a positive energy for me.
So. I’m just grand. Thanks for staying tuned.