Bell's peals signal hope for childhood cancer patients

As this report from ABC11-WTVD commemorates, patients of UNC Hospitals' pediatric hematology-oncology can ring the newly gifted "victory bell" to mark the completion of their chemotherapy treatments—and the beginning of rest of their lives.

September 10, 2015

Mariah rings the bell to mark the end of her treatment.
A news report from ABC11-WTVD shows a bell in UNC's pediatric hematology-oncology clinic being rung for the first time, signaling the end of chemotherapy treatments for a young patient—and the hopeful start of a cancer free life.

"It feels like a big accomplishment!" says Mariah after ringing the bell, who just completed treatment for for rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the skeletal muscles.

The bell's chimes bring a smile to Mariah's face and encouragement to other patients in the clinic, encouragement that is often needed when a child has a diagnosis of cancer. "It's like a bad dream you just want to wake up from," says her mother, Lashawnda. "When one person has cancer, the whole family has cancer."

As the bell chimed, applause rang out through the clinic to the satisfaction of Stuart Gold, MD, UNC's chief of the pediatric hematology-oncology. "I think the kids are going to say, 'Look! Little Johnny just rang the bell; in six months, I'll be able to ring the bell!'"

Dr. Stuart Gold
That sense of hope is necessary, says Dr. Gold, because so many people view a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence, and he thinks that's a mistake. "We actually cure over 80 percent of childhood cancer these days."

Mariah, an eighth grader from Durham who has an insatiable love of reading, can't wait to get back to school now that she's finished her treatments. She was the first person to ring the bell, donated by the Optimist Club of Chapel Hill. This is her second round of treatments—and hopefully her last.

Her mother has never given up hope—and she encourages other families affected by childhood cancer to keep the faith. 

"Never lose hope," she says. "Never give up, never."