If you happen to be passing by Jim Carney Cancer Treatment Centre and hear a bell ringing out, don’t be alarmed – it’s a sign a patient has reached a milestone in their treatment.
The Centre is one of the hundreds of hospitals and cancer units worldwide to install a bell for patients to ring when they reach a milestone during their cancer journey.
Clinical Nurse Manager Sarah Kennedy said in the UK, where she hails from, bells are used at most chemotherapy units to celebrate the end of a patient’s treatment.
In the 12 months that followed Sarah’s proposal, the centre talked with patients and its team about how the idea could be made a reality, including when it should be rung.
Both patients and staff decided the bell should marking milestones, rather than just the end of a person’s treatment.
Now they can ring the bell whenever it feels right for them – that could be after their first treatment, at the halfway mark, at the end, or even if they decide to halt their treatment for whatever reason.
That’s led to the bell being called the ‘Cancer Treatment Journey Bell’. A plaque for it carries a poem penned by a former cancer patient, Jane Brady, alongside a Te Reo Māori version of the poem translated by Kaumātua Te Ihi Tito.
“We didn’t want to exclude anyone for any reason and wanted it to be a positive experience for people to ring the bell regardless of where they are on their cancer journey,” says Sarah.
“Everything had to feel right and more personal to Te Tai Tokerau. The map and images of Northland and the words are perfect.”
The bell was donated to the treatment centre by a former patient, Charlie Smith, who has since passed away. Sarah said it would have been wonderful for Charlie to see it installed.
His wife, Julie, said she’s very proud of Charlie for suggesting the bell. Charlie had it ordered specially, as he wanted a nice-looking bell for patients celebrating their treatment journey.
Since the Bell was installed on Monday, 21 August, four patients have rung the Bell. Sarah said it was a very emotional experience for everyone at the centre, including staff.
John Langford was the first to have the honour of ringing the bell after four months of chemotherapy for bladder cancer.
“Being the first person to do it felt good. Had I known the significance of it, I would’ve had my wife there as well, as she has supported me throughout my treatment.
Sarah said hearing the Bell has been quite emotional for the team and will be a great morale booster for everyone at Jim Carney Cancer Treatment Centre.
This bell is here for you to ring
While those around you cheer and sing
Already you have come so far
You’re stronger than you think you are
The journey’s hard, make no mistake
Each day, small steps you need to take
With love and strength to you we say -
This bell will help you on your way.
Kei konei te pere hei tangi maau.
Ahakoa te hunga e noho tata ana ki a koe e harikoa ana, e waiata ana.
Kua tae mai koe ki te tawhiti he kaha ake koe i to whakaaro.
He uaua te haerenga, kaua e pohehe.
Ia ra, nga takahanga iti e tika ana kia mahia e koe i runga i te aroha me te kaha
Ki a koe ta matou korero. Ma tenei pere koe e awhina i te huarahi