Celebrating Cancer Patients is a ‘Ringing’ Tradition

Celebrating Cancer Patients is a ‘Ringing’ Tradition

  • January 6, 2022

Epic Care’s dedicated staff members know how to provide the cancer patients in their care with high-quality treatment, patience and respect. They also understand the importance of celebrating their patients’ milestones along the way.

Entering any one of Epic Care’s several East Bay cancer care locations, you might hear a bell ringing proudly through their halls.

The ringing has become a tradition for their cancer patients whenever they conquer a special milestone, like finishing a course of treatment.

“This bell-ringing tradition began in Epic Care’s radiation treatment department, where patients rang once to mark the end of their treatment,” explained Colleen Birmingham. As a dedicated nurse with more than two decades of experience, she noted that being diagnosed with cancer can be scary for patients, and so finishing treatment is “just such a celebratory moment.”

“They’re thankful it’s over,” she said. “They’re thankful they were able to achieve it.”

Even new patients look forward to that bell-ringing day, with some starting to talk about it on their first day of treatment. Other times, friends or family members, some of whom may have accompanied the patients to their appointments, will take the lead in planning the celebration.

The Evolution of the Bell-Ringing Tradition

Seeing the joy and pride it brought their patients, eventually, the bell-ringing tradition made its way to the infusion (chemotherapy) side of cancer treatment. Among the seemingly endless tubing and whirring machines, there was a new hope. Proudly evolved in its new location, the bell ringing tradition became something more. “While radiation treatment takes place for a limited time,” Colleen explained, “that’s not necessarily the case with chemotherapy because patients need more cancer care depending on how their bodies respond. The variations for the end of treatments are individualized.”

Now, instead of making a patient wait until the end of their treatment to ring the bell, patients could use it to celebrate other milestones or something they’re proud of. The new bell-ringing tradition also allows the patients to share their thoughts and feelings with those gathered.

“Seeing the birth of a grandchild or getting to a wedding — I’ve seen the celebrations of the bells for that,” Colleen said. “The tradition has become something patients look forward to.”

From her perspective, Colleen could tell that the change makes the patients “feel like their voice is heard or like they can say some of these things out loud, and share it with their family.”

“At Epic Care, because we view them as family, and they view us as family,” she said. “We know them intimately, emotionally and physically. We understand what they’re going through, so we enjoy their moments with them, to kind of pause and reflect on their journeys, and find the joy sprinkled throughout.”

4 Other Ways Epic Care Celebrates Cancer Patients

Epic Care happily supports other ways to celebrate milestones for its patients.

  • Epic Care in Pleasant Hill breaks out pom-poms.
  • In Dublin, the Epic Care office kindly asked for one patient’s celebration that everyone wore purple. At that same event, the patient had them all don hats.
  • Patients often want to take pictures of the people who have taken care of them.
  • Epic Care staffers also present the patients with a certificate known as the “purple heart.”

“Patients get teary-eyed when they get their purple heart because every staff member signs it,” Colleen added.

The celebrations give patients a chance to bring closure to a significant chapter of their lives, she added.

“Depending on the type of cancer they have, they may not be finished (with treatment),” Colleen said. “They might be moving on to surgery; they might be moving on to radiation. So a lot of times, it’s kind of just marking that period of time that they’ve accomplished.” The celebrations serve as reset points for patients to move on to their next steps.

For some patients, Epic Care celebrations also serve as a chance for some self-reflection. They reminisce about how they felt when treatment began and how their feelings may have changed over time. Learning that date of their final treatment means a lot, Colleen noted, “because it means, somehow, this long journey that they didn’t want to be on may soon be over.”

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, patients didn’t miss out on these experiences.

“There is not one patient who, chemotherapy-wise, has missed their treatment because of COVID-19,” Colleen praised. Although family members couldn’t join patients for their treatment because of precautions against spreading the virus, Epic Care never closed.

Epic Care knows the value of the little triumphs and protects their patient honoring traditions throughout.

“Epic Care keeps on top of things,” she said. “It’s kept our patients safe, heard, and honored.”

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