Emotional walking as a cancer survivor
This year was the first time I participated in Relay for Life in Bermuda.
I walked the Survivors’ Lap that opens this immensely popular fundraising event. We survivors, caregivers and people who are currently affected by cancer were proudly wearing coloured sashes and smiling. One woman was even wearing a superhero costume, and many were holding hands.
Our walk sent a happy message of hope and optimism that people do survive cancer. You proudly show the world the power of faith.
We passed the Circle of Honour and all the people around us clapped and greeted us like we were heroes. They smiled at us, rang bells, showered us with purple confetti, took pictures and shouted congratulatory and supportive words. It was incredible, tremendous and touching to the point of tears.
I never expected this support and well wishes from strangers. My husband Bill held my hand tightly and embraced me, as he did every day during the difficult time. We looked in each other’s eyes and he said: “We did it, Nina!”
It was a beautiful celebration of life, past, present and future. It was a moment of victory.
As I walked and listened to the sound of the ringing bells, I remembered a very meaningful moment that happened 13 months ago.
It was the instant that signalled the end of my treatment and the beginning of a life free of cancer. As I walked out of the radiology centre, the staff gathered and, with smiles, told me to ring the large brass bell on the counter.
When I arrived at the centre months before, I saw the bell and asked about it. The nurse had smiled and said: “It’s a tradition. You ring it when you finish the treatment.”
Through all the harsh months, I looked at that bell when I entered and left the building. Each time I thought, “One day I will ring you. I will ring you so hard.”
Here I was on this last day with the staff urging me on. I grabbed the handle and rang the bell with all my might. I felt the sound resonate through me and down the hospital halls.
Everything seemed to stand still in that moment, and I felt a deep joy that was impossible to describe.
The applause seemed distant, and I travelled both inward and yet far outside myself. I was on a beach looking at a blue horizon as a brilliant silver wave crashed over me in a shower of warm ocean spray. The ringing in my ears brought me back. I was smiling, waving and I walked out the door and into the sun.
I went into the next building and asked my doctor, “What should I do next?”
I felt uncertain and confused. She laughed. “What do you mean? Go! Just live your life!”
I was stunned. What? Just continue to live after mortal fear, pain, despair, sleepless nights, uncertainty and tears?
It is impossible for me. I cannot JUST continue. I have been brought through a fire and it has burnt away everything that is unimportant. I am left with gratitude and joy and endless possibilities to make a difference in the lives of people.
I came back, and I want to ignite my life and the lives of people surrounding me with hope, courage and strength. We are all riding on a river to a destination we cannot see. Faith and hope and determination and love will get us there.
For each of us there is a bell we need to ring. Be it cancer or heartbreak or hardship, we must find that bell and ring it with all the strength that is in each and every one of us.
Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at www.ninalondon.com
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