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Thanks to UK-wide charity, End of Treatment Bells, and the support of Chris Kent, consultant oncologist and clinical lead for radiotherapy and Helen Cooper, superintendent radiographer, bell number 87 now has a new home in the Radiotherapy Department at Leicester Royal Infirmary.
In September 2013, Tracey and Phil Payton’s eight-year-old daughter, Emma, was diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer. Part of her treatment meant travelling to Oklahoma for Proton Beam Therapy, where she got to ring a bell when she finished her radiotherapy.
In August 2014, Tracey and Phil used their family’s experience to launch ‘End of Treatment Bells’, a charity which has since introduced 89 bells into hospitals across the UK for children and adults with cancer to ring after their gruelling treatment.
Bell 87 donated to Leicester Royal Infirmary, was sponsored by Sian Robinson. Sian and her daughters raised the money for the bell with a ‘cake n cuppa’ event at their home. Sian explains: "We decided to become a sponsor after meeting Tracey (Payton) and her family when our daughter Ella (now 10-years-old) rang a bell in Oklahoma three years ago following proton beam therapy.
“Something as devastating as your child having a tumour which needs surgery and radiation was made so much easier as the bell gave us a chance to celebrate. My daughters posted leaflets about it to our whole road, made a sign for the door and Ella even made a unicorn cake for the centrepiece!”
Installed on Thursday 23 March, the bell has now been rung by several patients, including 37-year-old, Helen Tomlinson from Loughborough. Helen and her family celebrated the end of nine months of treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer with a cheer and a ring at midday on Friday 7 April.
Helen explains “When I saw the bell arrive in the Radiotherapy Department, I thought it was a great idea. Just the thought of being able to ring it a few weeks later brought tears to my eyes. As I reflected on the gruelling treatments of the previous months, seeing the bell just underlined how close to finishing I was. When my time came to ring the bell it was a happy and tearful moment, which symbolised the end of a long and difficult journey, and, more importantly, marked the beginning of a new chapter in my life, free of treatment."
Helen's husband, Steve, and their two children, May (5) and Hugh (1) were also there to mark the very special occasion for their family. The children even had a little ring on the bell too! Helen continues: "They have been my inspiration and motivation through these difficult months. It has been especially hard for our daughter May, who has been waiting patiently for her Mummy to get better, so, as she says, 'we can do more fun things together now' and for her, ringing the bell means 'Mummy's better now'.
“I've heard the bell ring several times since it arrived, and, each time, like me, the patient has been congratulated with a round of applause - what a lovely and uplifting way to mark our achievements. Some patients may have to return for further treatments at some point in the future, but being able to celebrate these small victories is important and empowering. Thank you to Sian Robinson and her family, End of Treatment Bells and staff at LRI for giving us this opportunity.”
Lorraine Williams, Head of Radiotherapy for Leicester’s Hospitals, added: “Completing a course of Radiotherapy is a momentous occasion and every time we hear the bell ring, it is followed by cheers and applause from staff and other patients in the waiting room. It creates a feeling of positivity and hope throughout the whole department, and although it’s only a small gesture we hope it makes the radiotherapy treatment a little bit more manageable for all of our patients like Helen.”
Further information about End of Treatment Bells can be found on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Endoftreatmentbells/