PLATTSBURGH — When bell chimes echo through the halls and exam rooms at the FitzPatrick Cancer Center, patients and staff alike take a moment to offer their congratulations for someone who has reached a milestone.
The bell, which resembles a tiny Liberty Bell — without the crack — and is used to celebrate each patient’s advancement beyond radiation therapy during the overall treatment program to combat cancer, was erected earlier this year to highlight that important plateau in treatment therapy.
“It gives the patients something to look forward to,” said Linda Ellsworth, a registered nurse at the Cancer Center who came up with the idea of an “end-of-treatment” bell when she learned of a similar program while at a conference in Philadelphia.
“It gives them the chance to ring the bell loud and clear and say, ‘My treatment is over, and I’m out of here (the radiation-therapy wing at the center),’” she added.
The bell ringing, which reverberates with authority when used, does not mean a patient’s cancer treatment has ended but symbolizes success with the radiation phase as patients move on to the next step in their overall treatment plan.
Since the first chimes rang last spring, several patients have completed radiation therapy each week, Ellsworth noted. She recalled one week when nine patients moved on from the radiation phase of their treatment by ringing the bell two or three times each.
“It’s completely voluntary,” Ellsworth said of the practice. “Occasionally, someone chooses not to ring the bell, and that’s OK. We still celebrate their accomplishments.”
Marion Keyes of Cadyville chose to chime in when she completed radiation therapy a few months ago.
“I started singing a jingle (while chiming the bell),” Keyes said of that moment of celebration. “I’ve got my bell in my hand going ding-a-ling-a-ling,” she sang in fond memory of that moment.