After a long battle with Cancer, it’s a dream every patient has….to ring the cancer bell. But is this popular tradition affecting other patients in the center? Should the bell ringing ceremony move from cancer centers to front porches?
Ringing the Cancer Bell
Since Admiral Le Moyne rang the first “Cancer Bell” in 1996, the tradition to ring a bell as a sign of victory has spread nationwide. A cancer bell can be found in nearly every treatment facility from New York to Los Angeles. In a study preformed by JAMA oncology, 51 of the 62 national cancer centers have bells for bell ringing ceremonies installed in the infusion area. The bell ringing ceremony is a day in which nearly every cancer patient looks forward to. Surrounded by family, friends, nurses and staff it signifies the ending of a radiation or a round of chemo. It symbolizes the journey to healing and recovery.
Removing the Cancer Bell from Treatment Centers
In recent years, ringing the cancer bell has received criticism from news outlets and professionals around the country. Though it marks a significant milestone in one patients life, it can be a constant reminder to other patients of how far they still have to go. For some terminal patients they may never get the opportunity to ring the bell, yet they hear others ringing the bell day after day. You can imagine how this could depress and discourage some patients.
Another key idea is that recovery for cancer survivors occurs largely outside of the treatment centers. It is the days, months and years after the last chemo round that will be difficult as survivors begin to put their lives back together and start their road to full recovery. Once they leave the treatment center, a large part of their support system…and their reward system is now gone.
Moving the Bell Ringing Tradition Home
In the past year, researchers have began seeking common ground. On one hand, ringing the cancer bell inspires motivation, hope and delight for other patients. Yet on the flip side, the ringing instills feelings of anger, depression and anxiety. This left many patients and family members wondering how they could mark this significant accomplishment while still maintaining concern for those who may still be struggling with their diagnosis.
Then something wonderful came from something so terrible. In early March 2020, the Novel Coronavirus made its way to the United States. Surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic helped us solve this problem. Due to the high infection of the virus, many patients were not allowed to ring the bells upon completion of their treatments. This helped prevent the virus from being spread from one patient to the next.
Patients and family members still wanted to participate in the “bell ringing tradition” so they began purchasing brass hand bells to give to their loved ones. Not only was this beneficial in helping stop the spread of the coronavirus, but it also helped solve the problem of causing distress by ringing the cancer bells in treatment centers.
The Benefits of Ringing the Bell at Home
It wasn’t long before family members, staff and patients began to realize there was a better way to preform the bell ringing tradition. And that better way, was by ringing the bell at home. This helped patients still celebrate their milestone, while being conscious about the welfare of other patients.
It has pleased researchers and hospital staff throughout the country that by ringing the cancer bell at home we have been able to keep the bell ringing ceremony alive, while at the same time showing understanding for those who may never get to ring the bell themselves.
A Keepsake for A Lifetime
Now, instead of ringing the cancer bell just one time in the treatment center, patients can keep a memento of their journey to recovery on their desk or bookshelf. It helps signify the fact that the journey is not over, but ongoing. The evolution of this tradition has allowed family members to inscribe personalized notes, and meaningful messages on the bells. These personalized cancer bells inspire their loved ones much more than the standard bells in cancer centers.
One of our customers shared a tender experience with us as her friend opened one of our brass hand bells, and read the personalized inscription on the bell. Due to the personal nature of the engraving, we will not divulge it, but it brought the recipient to tears as she lifted the bell high and rang her victory bell.
Moving the Tradition Forward
If Admiral Le Moyne could see how many patients his tradition has affected, I think he would be deeply moved. Ringing the cancer bell has been, and will ever be, a major part of a cancer survivors journey. Now, moving the tradition to a more “home-centered” ceremony, we can honor the accomplishments of the survivor and be considerate of those still fighting.
It is our hope that every cancer patient will not only have the opportunity to ring the cancer bell, but to own one themselves. This is why we offer 4 different sized brass bells as well as various engraving options. We love helping you create the perfect wording for your bell. You can view our large resource for end of treatment bell quotes or contact us for more advice.
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Cancer Bell Ringing Ceremony
The full history behind the cancer bell ringing ceremony started by Admiral Le Moyne in 1996. How this bell ringing tradition started and spread throughout the nation.
What to engrave on your bell?
An ongoing list of end of treatment bell quotes we have engraved on thousands of bells ordered in the last 30 years. Get ideas for what you can say when someone finishes treatment.