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Is Ringing a Bell at the End of Cancer Treatment Really Necessary? #cancer #breastcancer #chemotherapy #radiation

Is Ringing a Bell Really Necessary When Ending Cancer Treatment?

Is ringing a bell really necessary when ending cancer treatment?

I think not.

This debate has been going on for a few months, probably longer. I never considered writing about it, but changed my mind last week after reading a piece by my online friend and fellow advocate Jo, aka abcdiagnosis, called, It’s time to call time on the “end of treatment bell”. You should read it.

My first thought upon learning about this bell ringing dilemma was, are you kidding?

This one seems like a such an easy fix. How could this even be up for debate?

Stop ringing the darn bells!

Turns out, a lot of people disagree with this easy solution. Maybe you’re one of them. If so, hear me out. Then share your viewpoint with a comment.

Some say ringing a bell when you finish chemo or radiation is good closure. I get that. I do.

I was a chemo basket case. Hated it. Hated everything about it. The big room where you had to sit with everyone else going through the same hell. The very idea of poison purposely being pumped into your system. The recliners. The annoying TV shows. The no privacy. The conversations you didn’t need to listen in on. The side effects. The weight gain. (Yes, I said gain.) The hair loss. The looking sick thing. All of it. I hated ALL of it.

When I finished, I was relieved. No, I was thrilled to be done. I wanted to celebrate. But not in my cancer center. I couldn’t escape from there fast enough!

My cancer center had no bell. Thank God.

What if there had been one?

I did get a certificate and a bottle of sparkling apple cider something or other. And the chemo nurses congratulated me and probably offered hugs. I don’t remember for sure. I do remember that I was not in a hugging mood.

I also remember feeling very awkward. And a little annoyed. I didn’t need or want a certificate. I’m not sure what happened to it. I think I tore it up and threw it in the trash.

I mean, what was I supposed to do with it? Frame it? Put it in a memory book?

I think not.

You might want to read, Chemotherapy – The End Is Really the Beginning.

But back to the bell ringing…

When you are metastatic, you are in treatment for the rest of your life. The. Rest. Of. Your. Life.

Some patients take oral chemo. Others hook themselves up to those darn chemicals every couple weeks, or whatever their particular schedule might be.

Again, there is NO end.

So, think about sitting there in that recliner as a metastatic breast cancer patient (or other type of metastatic cancer patient) and hearing those damn bells time and time again, knowing you will never be ringing one.

Not quite so celebratory sounding, right?

Now, there are some with mbc who say they don’t mind hearing the bell ringing. In fact, some like hearing it.

Bell ringing reminds them of camaraderie, hope or it’s just a nice distraction there in the chemo center. There are many reasons, I suppose.

But many metastatic patients DO mind. In fact, deep down, the bell ringing irritates the hell out of them.

And herein lies the problem.

As far as I’m concerned, the solution here is simple.

In a word – EMPATHY – it’s about that.

We do not need more walls in Cancer Land.

Bell ringing is divisive. And insensitive.

Wanna-be bell ringers need to think about how never-to-be bell ringers feel when they hear the sound.

It really is that simple.

Sometimes, it’s not all about you. It’s about the person sitting next to you too.

Cancer centers bear most of the responsibility here. Just don’t have the darn bells. Or the lame rainbow picture/message.

Is Ringing a Bell at the End of #Cancer Treatment Really Necessary? #breastcancer #advocacy #chemotherapy #radiation

I mean really, what are we, ten years old?

As my friend Jo (she lives in the UK) says in her piece:

It seems a modern-day phenomenon that everything has to be celebrated loudly and brashly. I believe this new way of celebrating finishing chemotherapy arrived from the USA.

Doesn’t that make you proud my fellow American cancer patients?

All this reminds me of when I was in the classroom. Bell ringing might be entirely appropriate there, needed even, for some students marking achievements. There’s a reason teachers use stickers, awards and yes, sometimes bells!

But that is for children, for crying out loud.

The appropriate place for ringing an end of chemo bell would be in a children’s chemo room. In fact, kids getting chemo should be able to ring a bell every single time they finish a session.

I am all in favor of children who are cancer patients ringing bells as often as they want.

And I am certainly in favor of adults celebrating at the end of chemo or radiation too. But for goodness sake, do it in the parking lot, on the drive home, at a restaurant or wherever. Buy yourself some bells to ring for when you get home, if you want to ring a bell.

But stop ringing bells in (adult) cancer chemo rooms!

Just stop!

Problem solved.

Lord knows we have bigger problems to contend with, right?

I can’t wait to hear what YOU think. Even if you disagree with me.

To get more articles like this one delivered weekly to your inbox, Click Here! #KeepingItReal #SupportYouCanUse

Do you agree or disagree with me on this bell ringing debate?

Does you cancer center have a bell for this purpose?

Did you, or would you ring such a bell?

If you like this post, please share it. Thank you!

NOTE: Featured photo by F. Carter Smith via MD Andersen. Bell/rainbow photo via bmjopinion. Both are used in accordance with the Fair Use copyright doctrine.

Is Ringing a Bell at the End of Cancer Treatment Really Necessary? #cancer #breastcancer #chemotherapy #radiation #advocacy #metastaticbreastcancer

52 thoughts to “Is Ringing a Bell Really Necessary When Ending Cancer Treatment?”

  1. I ring the bell every time. I have 4 T-shirts. I celebrate the end of each round, knowing I will be back. I am not loud about it. One small ring. Hugs from the staff, knowing I will be back. I really don’t socialize. Headphones in, book open. I hang ornaments from my med tree. I have crazy socks and colorful blankets. I simply have to find some happy. Childish? Absolutely. Jealous of the “One-and-Done” folks? Yep. I think we all need to do what works for us. They can take out the bell or leave it. Hope everyone grabs some happy, though.

    1. Liz, Thanks for sharing. The thing is, others are impacted by what choice is made. People need to consider this before ringing the bell.

    2. I find myself less and less jealous of the one and done. Seems like a lot of them are back sooner or later.

  2. I agree on the bell-ringing and would have felt very awkward if I had been asked to ring a bell surrounded by so many people who will never see an end to their chemo. I do remember feeling “unseen” by my healthcare workers who did not acknowledge in any way that it was my last day of chemo (my infusions lasted a year). A discreet greeting card handed to me on my way out of the infusion center signed by my oncologist and nurses would have been much appreciated. God knows I sent them all many cards, brought food for them, offered empathy for THEIR role throughout my year of hell.

    1. I made it out alive, Gotta say, I kinda like your idea of a simple card discreetly handed out as a good alternative. Come to think of it, I got a card after my biopsy and that was very much appreciated. Sometimes less is more. Thank you for sharing.

  3. My center did not have a bell, which was just fine with me. I really didn’t want to call attention to myself, whether it was the first infusion or last, just get in, do it, get it done. I understand the hurt that those who will see not end to their treatments must feel, so I agree, the bells are unnecessary. A simple “good bye and good luck” would be just fine with me.

    1. DeedeeM, I agree with you. Goodbye and good luck wishes seem adequate. And maybe a simple card as ‘I made it out alive’ mentioned in her comment. Bells just seem unnecessary. Obviously, not everyone agrees. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. I agree with you, Nancy. My chemo room did not have a bell and unless you brought in goodies to celebrate the end of your treatment (I did not), no one knew. I liked my anonymity in that room. And when I had to go back for Zoleta infusion, it was like PTSD. It is not a pleasant place. Now that I’m Stage 4, and I know I might face it again, I’m absolutely dreading a new chemo room (because I have a new doctor), and chemo. I don’t want any damn bells. I can’t help but think of the line For Whom the Bell Tolls, espcially now that I am Stage 4. No thank you; no bells. Let me read my books and suffer in silence.

    1. Linda, That line – for whom the bell tolls – seems rather ominous. Hadn’t really thought about that until you brought it up. There’s a lot to be said for “quiet”. Why the need for hoopla anyway? Thank you for chiming in. Maybe that’s a bad pun! ha.

    2. I keep thinking of the line “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets it’s wings” which is ALSO not a message one wants to think of in association with cancer.

  5. Omg!! Thank you for this article. I’m not the only one who hated the stupid bell.
    I was lumpectomy no chemo just rads.

    But I told them at end I did not want to ring the bell
    The tech goes….oh but you have to ring the bell ….

    I was like ….really …..

    Barley rung it out of feeling guilty .

    I wish now I would of stood my ground and refused.

    Stupid dumb ass bell….
    Thank you

    1. Carol, I’m sorry you felt pressured to ring a bell. That’s definitely not right. No one should feel forced to ring a bell. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this one.

  6. When I finished my last Chemo at the hospital the nurse that was with me brought me to the nurses station and she gave me an easy button to press which says “That was easy” when you press it. It was tongue in cheek and the nurses there all gave me hugs. I cried the whole time. I was alone I did not want anyone with me on that last session. I felt I had to do this on my own.
    At the Canadian Cancer Centre where I had to go for my radiation they had a bell or gong type thing at the front main sitting area. When I was done my final rad treatment, I said good bye to all the technician staff there and headed straight to the lobby…again on my own. I got to hit the gong which I did really loud because I felt I did something that I would never had wanted to do. For me it felt satisfying. The cancer volunteer driver I had took a picture of me to show my family.It’s not right or wrong. Each their own I guess….

  7. I hate the bell ringing!! There, I said it Nancy. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to get that out of my system. Its one of the reasons I love your blog….you always pick the greatest topics to expound on! No wonder you keep winning those awards for best blog for BC….you are the best….by my standards anyway! 🙂

    Now, back to the bell…..did I say ‘I hate it’? My cancer center didn’t have one, thank God! However, I cringe when I see photos or videos or hear stories of people getting to ring the damn bell. Its a childish & unnecessary activity that can truly offend others like me who are Stage.

    But being metastatic is not the only basis for my dislike of this ‘end of chemo’ ritual. We have become a society that needs constant affirmation of every achievement. The ‘everyone can’t be a winner, so let’s celebrate the losers too’ mentality has been gaining ground among school children who will never learn the graceful art of being a good loser at this point!. To me, its similar to the shift from supporting the victim of a crime to being patronizing to the perpetrator. We have become so overly sensitized to the needs & feelings of the wrongdoers in our society that the victims are lost in the shuffle and are either under-protected or poorly defended.

    While I’m not making a comparison of perpetrators of crime to chemo patients who get to be ‘bell-ringers’, I’m simply pointing out that it leads to the same thing. Its not even an award, it’s an attention-getting action that says, ‘Look at me. See what I did!’ Why don’t we award bravery medals for patients who come back each week for the toxic mix that awaits them? To me, that makes more sense. Thank you…I feel better now that I’ve had this catharsis!

    1. Carol, Thank you for sharing so clearly how you feel. You might be right about the attention-getting action motivation. Not entirely sure. I think most people just ring it because it’s there and it’s expected. So, why have it there at all? Problem solved. Why the need for a big production in a public setting? I don’t get that. Ringing a bell is pretty insensitive to patients like yourself. That’s just how I feel about it. A quiet goodbye and good luck would suffice. Possibly a card, which would be something a person could keep, and it would be way more personal. And thank you so much for your kind words about my blog, Carol. You’re sweet to say those things.

    2. Having been with Jo on This Morning this week, it’s good to keep reading perspectives. I absolutely do feel the need to challenge it being attention seeking. It couldn’t be further from the truth for anyone and if any of my cancer friends or oncology parents saw this it would be extremely hurtful

  8. My hospital (MSKCC) did not have a bell, at least not back in 1999, when I finished chemo. So far, my breast cancer has not metastasized. I agree that bell-ringing can be hurtful to patients who will never be finished with chemo, and that there shouldn’t be bell-ringing. Besides, with many forms of cancer, one really can’t be sure that the cancer won’t return and more chemo will be needed. Celebrate another way, as said in this eye-opening article.

    1. Carol, Yes, celebrate all you want when you got out of there. Why can’t people just do that? Thank you for reading and taking time to comment too.

  9. Neither my chemo nor my radiation center had bells; we got certificates and hugs from staff. In addition to the psychological divide, I think the bells are awful for the jarring sensory overload they can foist on patients who feel sick, haven’t had enough sleep, etc.

    The only time I rang a bell was during an event six months before my diagnosis. I participated in a 9/11 memorial fitness challenge at my local hospital, in which we climbed the equivalent of the height of the World Trade Center. On completion, each participant rang a bell set up just outside. I fervently hoped the windows were sufficiently soundproofed so that the incessant ringing wasn’t driving the patients nuts (or compromising their recovery). It was a great event, but having those loud clangs in a hospital setting was a real head-scratcher for me.

      1. I was happy to read this article. I thought it was just me who thinks bell ringing is a bad idea. In fact, a few months ago the receptionist at the cancer center where I get care said they were taking a survey and did I think it would be a good idea to have a bell to ring. I said no, I did not. The receptionist asked why and I said, “Because it would make everyone else feel bad!”

        In addition, I don’t get the pink culture around breast cancer! Is any other disease associated with a pastel color or fun fund raising walks or T-shirts with quips on them? To me all of this trivializes breast cancer and its treatment. It’s not a battle. I’m not a warrior. It’s not a fun event and I don’t have to be wear pink.

        1. Pamela, At least your cancer center was thinking about this bell idea and put out that survey. I wonder what the results were. Good for you for speaking your mind. I just don’t get the need for a bell. And yeah, the pink ribbon nonsense got carried away, and we keep paying the price for that. Thank you for sharing your opinions.

  10. I don’t know, if the cancer center I go to has a bell. I have 2 treatments left, and will be done by July 22. If my center has a bell, I will ring that sucker as hard as I can. It will be the final bell of a round that I am fighting. If the cancer returns, then I will deal with it then. Right now I am celebrating life. If you find it childish, then don’t ring the bell.

    1. Shirley, The thing is, there are other people the bell ringing affects. As I wrote, it’s not all about you (I’m not speaking to you personally here, of course). Why not celebrate in other ways that won’t potentially impact others in a negative way? Thank you for sharing your thoughts and good luck with those last two treatments.

      1. Thank you for this article Nancy. I discussed this topic with my 26 year old daughter, and she understood both sides on this topic. I guess that I didn’t realize that it affects people in different ways. If someone else was ringing the bell, I would be happy for them. I am still learning about cancer, and how everyone has their own story. Life has changed for me, going today for shot of Xarzio for low white blood count cell, will have double mastectomy and ovary removal in August. My point is, cancer has taken so much away from me, but I wont let it take away my spirit. With that being said, this is a good topic to discuss, and will share with friends and family and get their views. Thank you for your well wishes, and for giving me something to think about. Looking forward to your next article.

    2. Amen Shirley! This aggravates me! My mother and my father never got to ring that bell. They both succumbed to that damn disease. Now my husband is battling it and on Sunday he will be finished with all of the 96 hour (yes, 96 HOUR) infusions, IT Chemo via lumbar punctures every cycle, and all the other ‘goodies’ that go with having cancer. When he rings that bell, he said he is ringing it for himself, HIS journey; but also for all those who didn’t get to, those who may not get to, for our family, for their families. Selfish, is not wanting others to feel and celebrate their joy, because it upsets you. ” It’s not all about you’, some say. Actually, in this case, it is. It’s THEIR journey. They should heed their own words. Some people are so deep in their misery that they cannot be happy for others. It’s self centered, and that’s ok. It’s THEIR journey, but others have the right to celebrate just as much as they have the right not to. It’s terribly sad that people believe that it is a failure to have empathy when someone celebrates THEIR journey, although it upsets you. All cancer patients have earned the right to celebrate as they wish. If you don’t like it, put on some headphones and read book, tune it out. For many, it’s a sound of hope.

      1. Dawn, I don’t agree with your position on this particular issue, but I respect it. I’m very glad your husband will soon be finishing all those infusion sessions. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

      2. Dawn, I love how you state your husband is ringing it too for those that didn’t make it. A lot of parents on our ward ring it for their children who have passed as it’s an end of the pain and suffering and the support they receive from the ward family is incredible. Not one parent on our ward has ever resented another child ringing it. We have become part of a family in that we feel happiness for others even in our darkest times xx I know that’s not how everyone feels and I respect that but to take away the bell when it’s so symbolic for many would be heartbreaking xxx

  11. For whom the bell tolls……………….
    I had to look it up, we have all heard it, but perhaps have not really listened to it…….

    The passage by Preacher Poet John Donne: “No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, . . . any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

    And then of course, there was Hemingway’s book……
    Of course, tolling is not the same as ringing, so does any of this apply?
    A ringing bell has so many meanings throughout “time” and history.
    Some sad some glad some happy some mad
    It was a way of communicating to the many

    I was not invited to the chemo room, my Onco DX score was 19. I was so grateful for that,
    I dreaded even thinking about chemo. I would have cried if I had to go thru that.
    Radiation seemed so much easier, so much less invasive or scary. It didn’t make me cry.
    It was still scary, don’t get me wrong, but it just sounded a little more tolerable
    ……………and I could fit it into my schedule.
    Once they finally worked up “my plan”, they gave me my “club card”. It would unlock the door to the inner sanctum where you would first go put your cute little johnny top on and sit and wait for your name to be called. I was in and out in 15 minutes or less.
    I opted for the earliest appointments in the morning so I could go straight to work after.
    Yup, I worked every day throughout the treatments and there were 35 of them.
    Seven long weeks in July, August and September. Thank goodness for air conditioning……….
    On the last day of the last treatment, I was very ready to move on. There wasn’t a bell,
    there wasn’t a party, no farewell card, but there were a couple hugs and my final remark of
    “I’ll almost miss you but never want to see you again.”
    I showed my club card for the last time and they asked me if I wished to keep it for whatever reason or I could turn it in so they could destroy it. Didn’t have to think about that one too long.
    I left it behind, I left the big door behind and all anyone saw was my behind walking
    (almost skipping) out of the building.
    I was finally free……………
    or so I thought……………..
    If there had been a bell, I am pretty sure if they had me ring it, I would have ripped it off the wall in my zealous need to be gone,………. long gone………outta there, man………
    I was burnt to a crisp and soooo done!…… Well done……..

    A little over 2 and a half years have passed since that day. So much has changed.
    I never did find freedom.
    The side effects of the tiny little pill made sure of that.
    My little brothers fatal bladder cancer also made sure of that.
    I don’t know if there was a bell in his chemo room after he completed his 5 months of treatments (he was already stage 4 and died anyway 4 months later)………..if he rang it,
    I know he would have rung it zealously, angrily………..
    (likely, actually, ripping it off the wall)

    Okay, now back to the question at hand.
    My experience was different, I was put in a giant room and machine and everyone ran out and hid behind the 10 foot thick wall and left me alone.
    Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t touch the bell with a ten foot pole if I were in a chemo room full of people with cancer. But that is me.
    I have this problem, I have empathy for others with cancer like I never would have had before.
    I have had quite the education in Cancerland.
    I don’t like it and I fear I know too much now.
    It has clouded my views, it is a burden I cannot shake. I keep a lot to myself now.
    Okay, not everything, here I am, prattling on and on. (Thank you Nancy!)

    But I guess if someone wants to ring a bell, well, hells bells, ring it loud and clear, for all to hear.
    Do what “ap peals” to you!
    Perhaps an angel will get her wings and all will be okay with the world.
    My wings were removed when I had my lumpectomy, radiation
    and started taking the demon pill……………..
    but I am working on getting them back someday.
    Personally, it does seem insensitive to ring a bell for yourself if there are others who wish they could ring the bell, but know they never will. I have this weird guilt thing, it’s just me.
    I would think before you ring. But it’s your thing and you do what you want to do. I get it.
    Or, just sneak out of there and go buy yourself some new shoes,
    flowers and your favorite dessert instead!
    And then maybe go to the beach and kick them shoes off!
    (And then get an ice cream)
    okay, okay, you may not feel like doing any of that,
    but a nice nap
    in your own bed, couch or lounge chair

    with a fuzzy pet and fuzzy blanket
    would work too……..

    1. Tarzangela, Thanks for sharing that info about the line, for whom the bell tolls. Food for thought there. I like your ideas about getting some new shoes, flowers or a favorite dessert. And of course, the nap and/or snuggles ideas are great no matter what the circumstance. At the very least and as you mentioned, patients should think before choosing to ring a bell or not. Thank you for sharing. You always add so much to these discussions.

  12. When I went through treatment for breast cancer there was no bell ringing to announce the end of the last session of chemo. I never even heard of such a thing until the last few months when I started to read about it in some blogs and see some discussions on Twitter. I don’t know if that’s changed here in Ireland in the intervening years but I hope it hasn’t. I wouldn’t have wanted to draw any attention in this way to the end of what was for me an horrendous experience.

  13. Like Marie, the hospital I attended for treatment didn’t have a bell – and I had never heard of a cancer bell until recently. I thought we were immune here in the UK, but a friend who had treatment in a different city had a bell. I actually refused chemo after the first cycle, it was so toxic – but then I had a year of Herceptin, along with 3 other women. We got on really well, and we all finished treatment within a few weeks of each other, so we arranged to meet up at a local pub for lunch, which was nice because it wasn’t specifically linked to cancer treatment, but rather it was a recognition of a temporary friendship that had developed under difficult circumstances.

    1. Julia, I’m wondering when exactly this bell ringing idea was set in motion. I just don’t see the need for such a thing especially when there’s a chance the sound can be distressing for some patients. I’m glad you made some friends during treatment and you got together to “celebrate” that. I tended to retreat from other people undergoing treatment. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Appreciate it.

  14. Good grief, where has common sense gone? There was no bell in my cancer clinic, thank goodness. I can’t imagine how the families of terminal patients must feel knowing that their loved one will never ring that bell. Such a silly idea. I celebrated in my own way with my loved ones when I got home.

    1. Lennox, I think it’s about common sense too. My cancer center did not have a bell either, and I am very glad about that. It is rather trivializing, in my view anyway. Dear Hubby and I went out to eat at Red Lobster. Although, I’m not sure what the state of my appetite was. I don’t remember. But he sure enjoyed it, and his feelings counted too. The really outrageous thing is that some patients feel “forced” to ring it. Thank you for reading and taking time to share your view on this.

  15. My oncology center just recently installed a big, brass ship bell in the chemo room and seeing it for the first time a few weeks ago was incredibly defeating for me. I’m still trying to understand why. I’m a metastatic breast cancer patient which has spread its nasty tentacles into my bones and liver. I’ve received oral chemo and once that stopped working, moved on to the inhibitor drugs in the hope of staying alive to celebrate my 60th birthday next spring. Needless to say, the appearance of the bell pushed a flood of emotions around my own terminal case and made me wonder how I will respond once that bell goes off while I’m waiting for my double bummer injections (fulvestrant = 2 shots in the bum simultaneously). I’ll never be able to ring that bell as this cancer will ultimately rob me of everything, including my life. I’m wondering how I can work up the will to smile and celebrate about something I will never enjoy for someone I don’t even know. This disease takes so much from its victims and it is so hard to deal with without thoughtless, discouraging “traditions” reminding me (very loudly) that mine is a death sentence.

    1. Sue, I just don’t understand the need for anyone ringing a bell when it’s hurtful to some. People can celebrate the milestone, but do it on their own time and in a different space than the chemo area. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this. Don’t worry about working up to that smile. I’m sorry you even have to think about this awkward (and unnecessary) situation.

  16. On my first trip to the cancer centre to start a 20 session course of radiotherapy, I had just got changed and walked into the waiting area to the sound of a loud bell ringing repetitively and a group of 3 people (patient and 2 supporters) hugging and smiling with tears of joy running down their faces. Completely unexpectedly, it tipped me right over the edge, I started crying with complete and utter sadness and I just couldn’t stop! Not because I would never get to ring it, the aim of treatment at that time for me was “cure”.

    My husband had gone to get himself a cuppa and was shocked to see me in floods of tears on his return. He asked me what was wrong with grave concern on his face but I couldn’t speak! All I could do was wave my hand in a gesture to let him know I couldn’t speak but to try and reassure him that I was OK (which clearly I wasn’t!)

    I’m a fairly “quiet” crier, not much sound comes out but boy, can the tears roll!! I was a sodden mess when my name was called. I got up and walked toward the treatment room, tears still streaming down my face while approaching the lovely technician who had called my name. Her face dropped when she saw the state of me. I was just about reaching the stage of being able to speak through the tears and I reassured her that I was OK, I was just having one of those “bad days”! And once I had calmed myself enough to start treatment, we cracked on and I went to join my hubby back in the waiting area.

    I was then able to explain to him that, I didn’t know why, but when the patient had rung the bell it just really upset me. I went on to say it was silly really because it signified a good thing for someone but when my husband asked if I wanted to ring the bell when my treatment was over, I knew categorically that NO I DID NOT!! I threatened him to within an inch of his life not to even attempt to change my mind or “surprise” me when my last session was “done”!

    I later discovered that the bell didn’t belong to the cancer centre but had been bought in by the patient that day, which gave me some relief at least, that I would not be asked if I wanted to ring it. Personally, after that experience, I just couldn’t bear the thought that my action of “celebration” by ringing a bell may elicit the same sadness for someone else that the bell had for me that day!

    I explained that to my hubby and he did understand, yet, he obviously had the need to “mark the occasion”; when I walked out of the treatment room, for what I believed to be the last time, he was sat with his phone in his hand, he took my photograph as I approached him and with a sheepish smile, he held out his phone and said “press that button” I saw no obvious reason not to, so I did… the phone gave out a very quiet, single “ding” and he said “that’s your bell”!

    I huffed a sigh of exasperation and said “come on, lets get out of here”. I couldn’t be angry with him, I recognised he had a need to mark the occasion some how but knew how I felt and that I would have been mortified if he had presented me with a loud, repetitive bell so he “compromised” and marked the occasion with a very quiet single ring that no one but us could hear.

    I suppose what I take from this is that everyone is different, some want anonymity and/or have an innate drive to consider (and not to upset) others, while others need something to celebrate and mark an occasion and can, sometimes, be oblivious to the effect an act could have on those around them (or else they just plain don’t care!)

    I have given thought to whether I would have wanted to ring a loud bell of celebration, if hearing it that first day hadn’t upset me so much? The most honest answer I can give is probably not. Not only because I wouldn’t have wanted to draw attention to myself in that way but also because I hope I would have had the incite to recognise that it may have the ability to upset someone else… and I probably wouldn’t have wanted to “push fate” either if I’m totally honest!!

    As it happens, I will be going back to that unit soon, for more radiotherapy as I now have metastatic disease and the goal of my treatment has shifted from “cure” to “control” so I still won’t be “done” after this next round of treatment finishes. The expectation is it will come back either in another lymph node or organ and I will then progress to chemo, presuming I want to continue with treatment at that stage! Do I want to hear that bell ever again? That’s easy, I will never be in that situation again, the unit don’t have a bell so the question is rhetorical… but it would still be a point blank no from me, even if it weren’t a rhetorical question!

    1. Gail, Thank you for your detailed response. I think the way your husband marked the occasion you shared about was fine – using his phone and doing it a more subdued, private manner. I’m sorry you were so upset that time you heard it before your treatment. And now as metastatic patient, I’m sure you are relieved your unit has no bell. I hope that doesn’t change. My best to you, and thanks again for sharing.

  17. I thought I was the only one feeling weird about the bell. Apparently not. I did noticed at my infusion center I never saw a bell hanging on a wall, nor did I hear one ringing. I was very fortunate each patient had a private room with a door, TV and some had windows. I often just sat and tried to enjoy the quiet time, while trying to figure out what to do on this journey my live was shoved in. Upon my last treatment, I was actual a bit sad. The staff was great and I would miss the staff. I also loved the weekly quiet time. However at the same time I was tired of being poisoned and going through the unknown of what will my body do this time. At the end I was so happy that my body would be recovering, instead of getting worse each week. The last day, the staff put posters up in my room, which brought me to tears–actually that and their card was the best gift of all, and the best way to mark the moment. I was asked what kind of party would I like, and my response was I don’t want to disturb anyone else. They said no this is about you-what you want and asked if I wanted to ring the bell. I had been told it was a big deal and I should ring it–so I said I would. As I finished they rolled in a bell in my room, which I gave one ding. I felt sort of silly, because this is just the end of the chemo…I still had mastectomy and radiation and reconstruction (which I am still struggling with a decision on)…so this wasn’t the end. I still have a long road ahead of me. Would I have rung the bell again…no. I can remember how horrible I felt when I would hear others say they were done with their last round of chemo. Sure I was happy for them, but at the same time I couldn’t see the end of mine. The facility did the right thing and hid the bell when not in use, and asked patients what they wanted. They said some people held huge parties, and others did not. All I remember is how I felt. Just like the color pink (didn’t like it before, definitely hate it now) those rituals shouldn’t be forced upon others. I do like the idea of ringing the bell after every treatment…like one more down—everyone cheer. I think I could be happy about that for everyone there. I know I was happy to see many of them each week, because that is one more week of living they were given. And that is worth celebrating!

  18. My daughter was 3yrs old, and was over the moon when she finished Chemo after 1 1/2 years. We all Thank God she is still here! We are Blessed even with the post issues!! It is a celebration that they should if they want to celebrate the end. Saying Goodbye to those who knew us, were there threw the horrible times. CANCER SUCKS and any rejoicing is good. You were obviously one of many that can be thankful they are still here. You are able to write your opinion, and that is great. And after seeing my only child go threw horrid I would be proud if her new cancer center had the bell!

    1. Karen, I’m so glad your daughter is doing okay. I completely agree that children should be ringing bells all they want! Best wishes to you and your family. Thank you for sharing.

      1. Hi Nancy, I love reading different perspectives because for me there isn’t a right and wrong, winners or losers…. as we all know cancer/chemo is brutal and devastating. The bells were brought into the UK by a lovely mum of an 8 year old cancer warrior who rang the bell in the US. In no time at all adult patients were requesting to sponsor them for their hospitals. Many Adults find the bell so symbolic, it doesn’t ring to say cancer is gone.. it could just be a milestone… whatever gets you through… sometimes the next 5 minutes. I’ve seen so much reference this week to children’s wards being different from adult wards, it’s okay to have bells on children’s wards but not adults, bell ringing is childish I find this so difficult to comprehend, cancer is horrific for all. There are children who are incurable but it’s almost like it’s different and they don’t matter. The bell was tremendous for us when Josh rang it in 2014 and again this year. Every single parent on that ward came together when a child rang a bell, it was a beautiful moment. The parents whose children were terminal or gained their wings are some of the bells biggest advocates…. and that’s the same in adult wards… however I will never say that’s all parents… i’m sure some do struggle. Its all about balance and compromise but we shouldn’t justify it’s okay just on children’s wards when clearly they are making a massive difference for so many adults. Hope that makes sense xxx

        1. Jane, Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Like you, I like reading different perspectives too – on any issue. Guess you know how I feel. 🙂

        2. Tuesday during my Dad’s chemo, Mom and I had to stay in the waiting area as Coronavirus mandates social distancing and extreme risk to cancer patients. As we sat there a man a couple years older than me stood by the counter with his wife. He told the ladies behind the counter that he was cancer-free. When he turned I said ,”congratulations!!” He smiled and stood closer. “They removed my bladder and prostate and a couple feet of intestines and put in a colostomy. That’s why I was in the bathroom.” (I hadn’t noticed except that he wore a backpack.) My Mom who was next to me was waking up and asked if he’d had a particular procedure she was familiar with. He repeated to her all he said to me. She asked again about the procedure and I answered her. “No, Mom.” “Oh…Congratulations!” She recovered. “Thanks!” It was strange to hear him explain in a devastated way how many organs he lost in the process of regaining his health to a level where he could again enjoy many comforts…after he left, my Mom turned and spoke quietly to me. Of all the kinds of cancers your father has, his is the very worst. He will never recover.” “I know. I’m so sorry Mom.” She added, “He will never be done with this…”I’m sorry, Mom.”

          While we could celebrate with this survivor his joy and truly clap, yes, we clapped as he and his wife left the office, almost as you would a newly married couple leaving the marriage venue….

          My parents are stoic and wonderful. They are priceless and have added their contributions of helping others throughout their lives.

          I don’t think any of us (my Dad, Mom, brother or sister) would begrudge someone a celebratory bell ring. We will never ring it. My Dad will not recover, merely be sustained by chemo for the rest of his life, unless there is a cure found. But, I celebrate happily with everyone out there who beats cancer and I celebrate with everyone out there who beat cancer another day by fighting it. You are amazing.

  19. My mum died of cancer at the age of 54. It was many years ago, but thank goodness they didn’t have one of those stupid bells in her oncology ward at the time. Knowing that nothing could cure her and that we were going to lose her was nothing short of mental torture. The thought that people can be self-centered enough to not consider what terminal patients and their relatives must really feel when they hear it being rung is mind blowing. It can only add to their anguish, even if they are pleased for the person leaving the ward. It may be have been well intentioned, but in reality, it’s one of the most thoughtless, cruel ideas ever. If there’d been one on the ward when my mum was dying, I’d have totally lost it.

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