Red Badge of Courage
Happy Holidays

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Today was a big day. I had my 28th and final dose of radiation. And just like that - 300 days after my breast cancer diagnosis - I am essentially done with treatment.*

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They have a lovely tradition in the Proton Lab, whereby "graduates" get to ring a bell to signal completion of their regimen:

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BellIt reminds me of the famous passage from John Donne's Meditation XVII (and Hemingway's novel named after it):

"No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Donne was of course referring to the old village custom of ringing a bell to inform the community when someone dies, his point being that humanity is interconnected and a loss of one is a loss to all.

This bell is designed to inform the community that one has survived, and they did it with the help of the community. At no time does the phrase "no man is an island" ring truer than when you are faced with a difficult situation, as I was for the better part of this year. I couldn't have made it this far without the support of tons of people along the way, and for that, I am very thankful.

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*with the exception of a daily dose of Tamoxifen for the next 5 years

Comments

George C.

Your bravery and candor are astounding.

Eric Wholley

This period seems to have made a huge impact, and on many levels for you. And, that impact seems to carry with it a series of co-existing contrasts - of tragedy and triumph; a powerful isolation and cause for connection; a horrible source of fear and pain and yet, in many posts there are strong allusions to love, hope, and even awe.

I wonder what all this will mean for you going forward. I wonder how it will define you and your perspectives...

David Moran

We have a big bell of course at the monastery and now I will smile when I hear it, Stephanie.

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