Cancer free, patient rings the brass bell to celebrate the end of treatment at Providence Saint Joseph’s Disney Family Cancer Center

An ecstatic Virginia Blannen was the first to ring the newly installed bell at the Providence Saint Joseph Disney Family Cancer Center on Oct. 12 to mark the successful end of her cancer treatment.

Blannen, who is retired, traveled from her home in Inglewood for 10 days for a special form of radiation treatment to cap treatment that began after her March 31 diagnosis.

“I never thought of ringing a bell. I never thought I would be in that situation,” she said. “I thought it would be more for those who go through chemo and radiation and might still be challenged. My heart goes out to all of them.”

Following surgery in May and an earlier round of radiation, she came to the Disney Family Cancer Center and underwent brachytherapy radiation treatments administered five days a week for two weeks. A group of friends and her son took turns making the drive to Burbank.

Cancer center caregivers gathered to share the celebration that included ringing the bell – a long-time tradition for cancer patients, but new at the Disney Cancer Center.

“May the ringing of the bell always be a celebratory moment in the course of our patient’s care,” said radiation oncologist Karen Sokolov, M.D., who treated Blannen.

The Disney Family Cancer Center installed the brass bell in the lobby on Oct. 9 as part of its Breast Cancer Awareness Month celebration.

Radiation therapy often comes with side effects of nausea, exhaustion, sometimes hair loss and more. When Blannen completed her treatment and was given the opportunity to “ring the bell” to mark this milestone and close a difficult chapter, she was excited to do so and celebrate.

The history of ringing the bell dates back almost 30 years when the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas initiated a bell ringing ceremony at the end of a patient’s radiation therapy treatment. They adopted the symbolic gesture from the Navy’s tradition of ringing the bell after completing a task that went well.

The Disney Family Cancer Center is one of few centers in the region that provides brachytherapy.

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