Marking a Milestone: Ringing the Cancer Bell

Published in Cancer Care Author: Carris Health

The golden bell at Carris Health Cancer Center rings, and nurses and staff gather in the waiting room at the Cancer Center to celebrate—and share tears of joy—with the patient who has rung the bell.

The tradition of the bell began at MD Anderson Cancer Center in 1996 when U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Irve Le Moyne, a patient, installed a brass bell at their radiation treatment center. The significance of “ringing the bell” caught on, and many cancer centers across the nation have also added this tradition. Several years ago Willmar Regional Cancer Center staff brought the thoughtful and caring action forward to their team. The decision was made to add their own bell to the Center as a positive way to celebrate the milestones in their patients’ lives.

“When a patient has completed their radiation or chemotherapy treatments, the joyous sound of that bell rings out,” said Lisa McBrian, RN and cancer care coordinator at Carris Health Cancer Center. “It’s such a wonderful thing for everyone at the Cancer Center to hear though it may mean something different for every patient.”

For some patients the bell may signify the end of treatment all together. Others may soon be entering their next stage of treatment. But for patients and the Cancer Center alike, it is a way to recognize milestones reached in a cancer patient’s journey.

Cancer is emotional for everyone involved including the care team at Willmar Regional Cancer Center.

“All of us at the Cancer Center get a chance to know our patients and their families, and we want to celebrate with them, too,” said Lisa. “It’s really special to be a part of every little victory—big or small—that our patients have along the way.”

Though it may look like just a bell, to everyone at the Cancer Center, it’s so much more. It’s a sign of hope, courage and the strength it takes to walk the cancer journey.