| Search

The Significance of a Bell Ringing

Jim & Jean Foley stand next to the bell they donated for Chemo patientsPaul and Debbie Cornell stand by the bell. Paul was able to ring the bell after completing his last chemotherapy treatment. 

The ringing of a bell. This time of year, a bell ringing can mean many different things, from Salvation Army bell ringers collecting donations outside of stores or an angel getting its wings. For those in a battle with cancer, the ringing of a bell signifies a great accomplishment. It means the end of a tough chapter of chemotherapy and/or radiation and the beginning of a new one.  

The tradition started in 1996 at MD Anderson. A rear admiral in the U.S. Navy, Irve Le Moyne, was undergoing radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, and he told his doctor 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. Later, it was mounted on a wall plaque with the inscription:

Ringing Out

Ring this bell
Three times well
Its toll to clearly say,
My treatments done
This course is run
And I am on my way!

 - Irve Le Moyne

Following Le Moyne, bells started popping up in treatment centers across the U.S., and the tradition of ringing a bell three times after a patient completes their rounds of radiation and/or chemotherapy was born. A second poem (author unknown), along with Le Moyne’s, was added to a plaque with the bell to signify its importance.

I ring this bell for myself and every other
cancer patients that has, or is, or will walk the
journey that a cancer diagnosis brings.

I ring this bell for my caregivers, family, friends,
and perfect strangers who have given time, talents,
prayer and encouragement on my behalf.

I ring this bell for each employee that works within     
these walls … thank you for the compassionate
care you choose to give each day.

My praise and thanksgiving is for each of you
and to God, the giver of your life and mine.
I ring this bell, I ring this bell, I ring this bell for you!

a patient rings the bell after completing his last chemotherapy treatment

Thanks to a generous donation from Jim and Jean Foley, chemotherapy patients at Helen Newberry Joy Hospital can participate in the celebration of bell ringing. The Foleys donated a bell that was attached to a plaque by HNJH Maintenance Tech, Mike Johnson, who also donated the wood and finished it himself. Both poems were affixed to the plaque signifying the importance of the moment. If you walk through the halls of HNJH and hear a bell ringing, know that a milestone was met, and a warrior is turning the page to a new chapter.