Ringing a last treatment bell can be a milestone in the recovery process for many with cancer, signaling the end of chemotherapy, radiation or other ongoing treatment and providing a sense of closure and the hope of moving on.
Ryan Walker, a St. Luke’s clinical engineering supervisor based in Boise, knows firsthand just how important ringing the last treatment bell is.
Last year, his wife, Amelia, was receiving chemotherapy at St. Luke’s Cancer Institute Boise.
As her last cancer treatment was approaching, the couple talked about ringing the bell. His wife wasn’t sure if she wanted to. The treatments were physically and emotionally draining, and she still had some time before she could celebrate being cancer-free.
During her final appointment, she decided she wanted to ring the bell. Out of convenience, her appointment was scheduled in Meridian, but when they asked if she could ring the bell, they discovered Meridian only had a handbell, as opposed to a wall-mounted bell seen at other sites. They rang the bell but left a bit disappointed.
The Walkers subsequently donated a last treatment bell to Meridian. But it didn’t stop there.
Recently, when Ryan Walker was working at St. Luke’s McCall, he noticed the hospital didn’t have a last treatment bell. The next time he visited, he brought one.
As he travels among St. Luke’s facilities, he now checks to see if they have last treatment bells. If not, he makes sure they do. To date, the Walkers have purchased and donated two bells, which cost $225 each.
Ringing the bell became an important part of my wife’s recovery, and I wanted to make sure all patients have the choice to ring the bell,” he said.
Credit for the concept of the last treatment bell goes to Rear Adm. Irve Le Moyne following his own radiation treatment
therapy for head and neck cancer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
He told his doctor that he planned to follow a Navy tradition of ringing a bell to signify when a job is done. He brought a brass bell to his last treatment. After he recited a poem titled “Ringing Out” that he authored, he rang the bell three times and left it as a donation for others to ring when they finished treatment.
St. Luke’s Cancer Institute received its first last treatment bell in 2018 in Boise from former patient Susan Richelieu. When she started her chemotherapy, Richelieu asked where the bell was; she was aware of the tradition after seeing a photo of a friend in Utah ringing one. When she discovered Boise didn’t have one, she purchased and donated a bell to be used in celebration of her final treatment and others after her.
Laura Crawford works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.