Ringing the bell marks a milestone in cancer treatment

For Bridget Reeves, ringing the bell after completing six months of chemotherapy for breast cancer was “a big deal.” Soldiering through nausea, exhaustion and nerve damage, she’d juggled chemo and her job as an MD Anderson clinical studies coordinator for 13 weeks before finally taking leave when she could no longer feel her foot on the brake pedal driving home. Even through the worst of it, the sound of other patients ringing the bell never failed to lift her spirits. “I’d think, ‘Yeah, that’s going to be me. I’m almost there,’” she recalls. When her turn came to ring the bell, she felt both relief that the day-to-day grind of chemotherapy was over and a sense of accomplishment that she was still standing. “I finally felt I could celebrate something,” she says. “I could celebrate I made it through this part.” A tradition with MD Anderson roots Nowadays it seems nearly every cancer facility has bells that patients can ring to mark the end of treatment. But it’s thought that the tradition began at MD Anderson in 1996. A rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, Irve Le Moyne, was undergoing radiation therapy for head and neck cancer and told his doctor, Kian Ang, M.D., Ph.D., that he planned to follow a Navy tradition of ringing a bell to signify “when the job was done.” He brought a brass bell to his last treatment, rang it several times and left it as a donation. It was mounted on a wall plaque in the Main Building’s Radiation Treatment Center with the inscription: Ringing Out Ring this bell Three times well Its...