The Bell

The past few days have been surreal. I anticipated the first day of the run for quite some time, but now that it is here and the run has started, the nerves and everything that I was anxious about has finally been lifted.

Today’s blog was heading in one direction, but after a very emotional visit to Lakeridge Health’s oncology unit, I felt I wanted to write about my mom again tonight.

I am very grateful to be working at Humber College. I work in the “cool” school known as HRT (Hospitality, Recreation, and Tourism) with many wonderful people. If it wasn’t for teaching, I don’t know where I would be today. My mom always dreamed of being a teacher. When my brother and I were young, my mom worked as a teacher’s aid. She was a natural artist and was known for designing the walls of her kindergarten classes. I definitely didn’t get her artistic gene, but thankfully my brother did. The first day of Sophie’s Run II was an emotional day. Our students in the Fitness and Health Promotions Program planned the 5km run/launch of the run, and our Hospitality Event Management and HTOM (Hospitality Tourism Operations Management) students volunteered and created an awareness event on campus. I know that my mom was looking down proud. Although she didn’t achieve her dream as a teacher on earth, her legacy engaged and inspired our HRT students. From above, her dream of teaching is being realized.

The first few days of the run have been tough, but we are finally settling into a routine. Today was our first awareness event at Lakeridge Health. Just like the first day of Sophie’s Run II, today was also a very emotional day. I will never forget the day my mom had her first chemotherapy treatment. Our family was anxious and nervous about the unknown. As we walked into her first chemotherapy treatment, we noticed a bell that was hung up in the oncology area. As I sat there waiting for my mom to be called in, I wondered what the bell was for. My mom’s first round of chemotherapy went very well. We were welcomed into Credit Valley’s Oncology Unity and instantly felt part of a larger family. Everyone waiting and receiving chemotherapy had a quiet bond that was united by hope and a strong faith. At the end of my mom’s first round of chemotherapy we were introduced to the bell. We were told that my mom would ring the bell on her last day of chemotherapy. The bell was significant because it symbolized strength, hope, and in some small way, fear. Fear that one would not get to ring the bell. Although my mom fought the fight of her life and taught me the true meaning of strength, unfortunately, she did not get to ring the bell.

Today, as we made our way into the oncology unit at Lakeridge Health, we had the honour of meeting Henry Westerhof. Henry is currently battling Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer and is in his 7th month of treatment. He inspired me today. His strength and courage is something that I will take with me for the remainder of the run. I know that Henry will ring the bell at Lakeridge Health.

The ending of our tour and visit at Lakeridge Health was marked with a symbolic ring of the bell. Although my mom never got to ring the bell, I was able to ring it for her today. When I rang it, the entire room cheered. Today’s bell made me realize that my mom did win her battle with cancer. She won it because she never let it define her. I don’t want my mom to be remembered for not ringing the bell. I want her to be remembered for the person she was. She was an artist and someone who dreamed of helping others. Today’s bell ring was symbolic and something that I will forever be grateful for.

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10 thoughts on “The Bell

  1. It was so nice to see you girls today and to meet MaryJo, keep going strong, we are all so proud of you for what you are doing, xoxo.

    Sent from my iPad

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  2. I wish the Bell was there years ago when my husband Scott went for treatments. We had our own “bell” to ring on his last day. In his memory I walk in the Relay for Life Cancer walk. Our team has many other ways to show our pride in those who have/had to fight this horrible disease. Their souls are always with us. May the Bell continue to be rung. If not, please remember to do something in its place. Karen

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  3. What an emotional and inspirational experience! You must get your strength from your mother. I understand the challenges that go along with accompanying your mom to chemo. I did the same for months with my own. I was living in New Jersey at the time and would drive up each month, at first for the chemo week then for the chemo week and the following side effect week. Eventually I stayed with my mom till the end. She too taught me about strength , faith, spirituality and humour. I remember a few funny chemo days…one which fell on Halloween. I convinced my mom we should dress up. I went as a fisherman complete with hip waiters, a fishing pole with a stuffed trout on the end, slicked back hair and a painted on moustache. My mom had lost most of her hair so it wS shaven very short and was coming back in a beautiful white gray. What will I go as? Hmmm, we thought for a bit and then my mom had it. Susan Powders the health symbol of the time who had extremely short white blonde hair. So all decked out in a jogging outfit and me with my fish we endured another round of chemo.

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    • Liz…..thank you for sharing your story about your mom with me. I loved the costume story. Humour was definitely something my mom and I shared as well. What a beautiful bond your mom and you shared. I love this story. Thank you again for sharing. Love it.

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  4. Nicole,

    When tragedy strikes everyone starts talking about all these great ideas about making a difference, raising awareness, having an annual event etc. Sadly the reality is few people follow through however good intentioned.

    You my friend are true to your word… Not only did you run an event in 2008 to raise awareness of this terrible disease but you actually RAN from Milton to NYC to do it !

    Here you are again in 2016 pounding the pavement literally again running to Ottawa to continue your quest to educate others about Colorectal Cancer.

    Thank you Nicole for keeping your word.. Your truly are an inspiration !

    Michelle Mangotich xoxo

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