I’m going to ring that bell.
I wasn't at first, or at least I didn't think I would. But a guy can change his mind.
I am getting ahead of myself. Let me fill you in. Last May I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, as you may already know if you are a regular reader. In August I had my prostate removed. That was supposed to be the end of the story, but it wasn't.
My cancer had already spread. My doctor indicated that I would need to undergo "a little radiation."
"A little" turned out to be 40 sessions, and since my health care professionals couldn't pinpoint the exact location of my cancer they prescribed a kind of scatter-shot program, targeting its last known location.
I know a lot of people who have had "the seeds" and to a person they all told me that the radiation treatments "weren't bad," so I wasn't really all that concerned when I went in for my first treatment. That would change.
One of the first things I noticed on the afternoon of my first visit to the radiotherapy clinic was a little bell on the receptionist's desk. There was a sign next to the bell that said, "Celebrate your last treatment! Ring me."
I looked around at the crowded waiting room and said to myself, "There is no way I would ever call attention to myself by ringing that bell."
That first day was quite an experience. Three young ladies led me into a room that had five yellow signs on the door. Each sign warned against entry because dangerous levels of radiation were present. Five. And yet the lady in the blue scrubs told me to come right in. Something didn't add up.
They had me lie on a little table and put my head on one hard-plastic booster and my feet on another. Then one of the women had me lower my trousers down to my knees while she held a cocktail napkin over my private parts. It would have helped my ego if she had used a dinner napkin.
Next a different lady took a permanent Sharpie and drew little circles and squares and boxes all over my pelvic region. I looked like an X-rated crash dummy. Next she added insult to injury by giving me several tattoos. She didn't let me pick the design, either. She did, however, promise that when it was all over I could get a mermaid. If the mermaid hurts as much as those little dots, I'll pass.
The entire time, understand, I am flat on my back on the table, exposed to God and everybody, while a bevy of young women take turns decorating my nether regions.
Then one of them bound my feet with a giant rubber band and handed me a rubber teething ring to hold. Next they lined up my brand new tattoos and body markings with a series of green lasers on the ceiling. Once I was all lined up they slid me inside a big metal "death ray" machine that looked like it was right out of a Buck Rogers comic book and went and hid in another room -- behind four-foot-thick walls that I am certain are lined with lead.
For the next 10 minutes or so the machine moved in a semi-circle around my body, stopping at various places to emit what I assumed were beams of radiation. When it was all over, the ladies descended upon me, unbinding my feet, lowering the table and lifting me to a sitting position. My pants and I were on our own.
Then they sent on my way, cheerfully promising to "see you tomorrow!"
They did, too. And the next day. And the next. And the next and the next. They saw me every day, except Saturdays and Sundays, for nearly nine weeks.
Those people who told me there was nothing to the radiation must have had a different type than I had. The treatments made my tongue sore, played havoc with my digestive system and bladder control and seemed to zap every bit of energy I had. I am personally responsible for a sharp spike in the sale of Preparation H. Plus, I just couldn't get used to the embarrassment of the whole cocktail napkin thing, even though the young ladies who took care of me throughout the ordeal were professional and caring and absolutely wonderful in every way.
In fact, I will miss seeing them every day -- especially Bernadette and Vi who have been my primary caregivers.
But I won't miss the treatments or the fatigue or the devastation to my body. I won't miss any of that. Now I have two treatments left and will finish up around 3:45 on Tuesday and I guarantee you -- at 3:45 on Tuesday, I'm going to ring that bell. I'm going to ring it loud and long.
And then I am going to celebrate by taking myself out to dinner. I'll give you three guesses as to where.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at email@example.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.