I didn’t know until our life was invaded by cancer, that the last day of chemotherapy is a major hurdle. There is a large bell hanging on the wall at the treatment center that is rung by those who have completed their course in chemo. Family members sometimes come and make it a celebration. I began to think about that in Betty’s second month of treatment and the fact that the last day of this horrendous treatment would be a great day to have a party. I called family and a few friends to see if they could assemble. Then I called the boys, Josh and Caleb to see what their schedules were. Josh and Emily had just moved to Pennsylvania to a new church and Caleb and Nadine were in Colorado. Josh’s work was very busy and Caleb would be in the middle of finals at Ft. Lewis College in Durango. I said, “Boys, we’re celebrating your Mom’s last day of chemo on April 20, and it would be great if you could attend.” Without hesitation they both said, “We’ll be there!” So it was on. Now, to keep it a secret! For the next month, everybody that was related to Betty or had a close acquaintance with her lied through their teeth to her. Flight arrangements were being made, banners were being constructed and big pink buttons were being printed that read, “NO MO CHEMO.” Betty asked several family members if maybe they could come for her last day of treatment and most all of them said they were regrettably busy. More lies! The party was in the works. The nurses knew it, the staff at the oncology department knew it, friends knew it, relatives knew it. People we didn’t even know, knew it. Everybody but Betty knew it. What a terrible weight that was! It was like sin without confession. I’m just guessing here…, but it was a heavy load!
While she was taking her last treatment, the crowd gathered. She had no idea that basically everybody she knew was waiting for her and the bell. Doctor Vukelja, Betty’s oncologist came to help her ring it. As her hand was on the rope, I said, “Hey let’s open the door to the lobby so everyone can hear it. The door opened and there they were, a sea of familiar faces belonging to those that loved her and prayed for her and came to support her on this new road. Then the boys stepped out of the group and it was basically over. I asked the doctor if they had cardiac paddles on hand for when her heart stopped. I could just see the headlines: “Lady beats cancer but dies of heart attack!” Her face was priceless. I will never forget it. All these awful months of surgeries and treatments and medications and needles, for just a brief moment in time were washed away by a flood of joy and peace provided by family and friends. It was my first experience of laughing and crying at the same time. We yelled and cheered and applauded. She did not faint or collapse, though she did falter for a brief moment, but when she recovered, she rang the thunder out of that bell!