In her own private thoughts, there was abundant applause for Reta Ritondaro because she had successfully concluded 312 treatments of chemotherapy for lung cancer.
Her doctor told her after nearly five years of treatment, she was "cancer-free."
That, in itself, was the blessing of a lifetime. However, when Reta left the treatment room at Lake Health/University Hospital Seidman Cancer Center, there were 70 pairs of hands adding their applause to hers.
Lining the corridor at the center were family members, friends, and other well-wishers she did not even know who were there to salute a woman who had had a tough go of it for a while, but was now abundantly basking in the glow of her doctor's positive prognosis.
Reta's eyes welled with tears. The applause from those who had assembled erupted even more.
"Each and every one of them know what I'm talking about," said Reta, her hand sweeping the crowd of people who were shoulder-to-shoulder in the hallway. “They know what they mean to me,” she said, the tears flowing. “I am so lucky; I am so blessed,” she said as she walked through the hallway, giving every person a hug.
It was Reta Ritondaro’s daughter, Melissa Stalker, who organized the welcoming “clap out.” Melissa worked behind the scenes, keeping the secret until her mother finished her 312th chemotherapy treatment.
For five years, Reta has battled lung cancer. She lost one lung to the disease. Now living on the other one, she toughed it out through chemotherapy and an experimental drug.
“The entire time she went through this, the feeling was she would be the person that would make it out on the other end,” said her oncologist, Dr. Joel Saltzman.
He joined the greeting crowd. So did many of the nurses who had come to know Reta over the years of her treatment at the center in Mentor. Reta signed a painting of a tree which those who conclude their chemotherapy treatments sign. She wrote her name above one of the tree branches. Next to it was a bell which is rung by those who successfully complete their chemotherapy treatments.
Reta rang it and rang it loudly. She cried. Her family and friends cried. They embraced.
And Reta Ritondaro left the Seidman Cancer Center a renewed woman. During the entire time of the “clap out,” there were moments when she was speechless. However, as the tears flowed, she smiled. She was surrounded by great medical care, a strong family, faithful friends and a doctor’s prognosis that she was “cancer free.” Reta did not need to say much. Her face said it all.
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