Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ring that Bell!

I finally uploaded the pictures from Jackson's big bell ringing day. It has been over a month, and watching the pictures rotate through as they uploaded to the computer, I found myself getting teary eyed. I worried that I had waited to long to blog about it. I worried that the emotions that I felt that day would have disappeared, or diminished, but they haven't. I still felt a wave of emotions flow over me as I experienced that day again through pictures.

We knew this day was coming. In fact, the first time I ever walked into the ICS unit, I saw the bell hanging on the wall, and it brought tears to my eyes then. It was a sad bell, and when I saw it, the thought of childhood cancer was still just a thought- not yet a reality. I saw a small bald boy playing in the area, and I cried for him, and his family. We had no idea what lay ahead of us. That first time I saw the bell was way back in June 2011.

As Jackson progressed along in his treatment, the bell stood in the ICS unit. We would walk past it several times a day, not really noticing it anymore. Often times we would hear people cheering while we sat in our room, and I would go out to investigate. Every single time I watched another child ring that bell, tears came to my eyes. Every. Single. Time.

I would see others ring the bell, and I would think about how lucky they were to be done with treatment. I would think about how relieved they must feel, and how happy they must be. I read another Cancer Mom's comment on Facebook that said that she was so excited to ring the bell- because that meant that her son could stop getting the nasty chemo that was making him so sick. She talked about how her son would get a tiny bit better between rounds of chemo, but then they would go back in the hospital again, and he would just get kicked in the butt again. She said that this time she was glad that he could get better, and not have to get sick again. I would read her comments, and feel so excited for when Jackson got to ring that bell, and be done with cancer!

I had no idea that I wouldn't feel the sense of relief that I expected to feel when he rang that bell. I thought we'd be "done" with cancer. I thought that all of our worries would be gone, and that life would magically go back to the 'normal' that it once was. Boy oh boy was I wrong!

When Jackson rang that bell, I had such different emotions than I thought I would. I felt relief- yes, but more than relief, I felt panic. Here they were, these doctors, who study and study different illnesses. These doctors have told us for the last 7 months how hard Jackson's type of tumor is to beat. I clearly remember the day that Dr. Afifiy told us that we do everything in our power to beat the cancer, but then we have to turn the rest over to a Higher Power. Finishing Jackson's treatments made me panic because now we've done all we can do to beat the cancer, and we're putting our faith in a Higher Power. What if it didn't work? What if we're stopping treatment at this point, and it didn't work? We have to wait a little over 3 months until Jackson gets his MRI scans to see how the tumor responded to all of that chemo and radiation, but over that 3+ months, we are doing nothing. What if the tumor grows while we aren't watching it?

I had a rush of emotions that day that Jackson rang the bell, I felt joy and triumph and pride. Incredible pride for our boy. Our boy that conquered some of the worst drugs on this planet. Our boy who faced incredible trials with strength and optimism. Our boy who is by far, stronger than either of his parents. Our boy who still amazes me with his strength.

I cried silent tears as he rang that bell. He was so excited to ring that bell, and had been looking forward to it all week- I am sure he was looking forward to it a lot longer than that week. Earlier that day, Jackson told me that he couldn't wait to ring the bell. I told him not to be shy when he rang the bell, and he assured me that he was really going to ring it good. He said "I'm gonna ring it good, because I only get to ring that bell once!"

And he did. He rang that bell good and long, and loud!

Jackson had lots of support that day. We had lots of family join us that day, they were all there to share tears together, and rejoice in Jackson's accomplishment. Not only was Jackson surrounded by family, but he was surrounded by lots of our favorite nurses, techs and even other chemo patients. I have never heard a group cheer so loud for another Chemo Bell Ringer- and I'm not just saying that. Jackson won the hearts of everyone in that ICS unit.

I made Jackson wear his Beads of Courage as he rang the bell. He wasn't so sure at first if he want to wear them, but he agreed, and I'm so glad he did. He earned every single one of those beads by enduring something awful, painful, or difficult. I am amazed at how many he has- over 7 strands of beads.

When he was done ringing the bell, he was anxious to get the beads off and then it was time for hugs. Lucky me, I got the first one!

Even with all of the emotions of an uncertain future, Wednesday, January 25, 2012 was one of the best days of Jackson's cancer treatments.

It was a day our family has look forward to for a long time, and we made it! Jackson made it!

The plaque on the bell reads: