David Taylor rings the bell signifying his "graduation" from radiation treatment at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.
For David Taylor, ringing the bell on the wall in the main waiting area of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center marked the end of 42 days of radiation treatments for prostate cancer – and the beginning of a new chapter in his life.
To add some levity to the occasion, he donned a blue cap and gown for his “graduation.” “I thought, “I’m going to do something different.’ I surprised everybody,” the 68-year-old retired warehouse worker said, recalling how the staff and members of his family laughed and applauded when they saw him.
Reflecting on his weeks of treatment, Taylor said, “You do what you have to do. At the end, I was glad to be out of there.” But he added, “The staff has been fantastic from Day 1. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give them a 10.”
The Department of Radiation Oncology treats nearly 1,000 patients at the cancer center each year. Several times a day, the waiting area erupts in cheers and applause as patients, joined by family members and radiation oncology staff, ring the bell to celebrate their final day of radiation treatment.
“Finishing treatment is an important milestone in our patients’ recovery. Beating cancer is not just about healing physically but also recovering emotionally. Ringing the bell gives patients an opportunity to ring in hope – and get on with their lives,” says William R. Regine, M.D., the Isadore & Fannie Schneider Foxman chair in radiation oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chief of radiation oncology at the Greenebaum Cancer Center. The bell was dedicated several years ago – a gift from a donor.
The department has ceremonial bells at Central Maryland Radiation Oncology, a community practice with John Hopkins Medicine in Columbia, Md., and at the Tate Cancer Center at Baltimore-Washington Medical Center, a sister hospital in Glen Burnie, Md. The bell at the Tate Cancer Center was dedicated on June 26. There will also be a bell in the new $200 million proton treatment center under construction in the University of Maryland BioPark. The center, being built as a result of a partnership between the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Advanced Particle Therapy LLC of San Diego, Calif., will offer the most advanced radiation technology in cancer treatment. At the facility’s recent groundbreaking, everyone in the audience was given a bell to ring at the end of the ceremony to symbolize the spirit of hope that the new proton center will bring to cancer patients.
Elizabeth Nardone, 52, a breast cancer patient, was the first to ring the new bell at the Tate Cancer Center at Baltimore Washington Medical Center. “This bell means so much to a cancer patient and their loved ones. It symbolizes a return to health, hope, strength and survivorship because from Day 1 of diagnosis, you start being a survivor,” Nardone said at the dedication ceremony. “When you hear the bell ring, you know someone has completed treatment and is on their way to getting their life back. If it is you who is still in treatment and may be struggling, you know that one day it will be your turn. I don’t think I will ever hear a bell ring again in quite the same way.”
Erika Maynor, R.T.T., M.P.A., operations director of radiation oncology at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, says, “Many of our patients come in for treatment daily for five to eight weeks. Knowing that the day will finally come when they can ring the bell and be done with therapy gives them something to look forward to. And hearing the bell clanging as other patients celebrate the end of their treatment inspires them tremendously. We celebrate right along with them, and it’s a very joyous moment for not only the patient but also for our staff.”