When Emma Payton was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma at age 8 in 2013, her family flew from Manchester in
England to Oklahoma City, where she was treated
at ProCure Proton Therapy Center. Emma rang a
bell installed at the center to mark the end of her
treatment there. Moved by the ritual, her mother,
Tracey, was inspired to popularize the practice back home in the
HOW YOU CAN VOLUNTEER
Ringing a bell to signify the end of cancer
treatment dates back more than two decades
in the United States. In 1996, retired Navy
SEAL Admiral Irve Le Moyne introduced the
practice when he brought a brass bell to the
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
in Houston on his last day of treatment. As
Le Moyne explained to the hospital staff, bells
are used as a timekeeping device at sea, so
sailors associate ringing them with the end of
a work shift. —S.Z.
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PHO TO COUR TES Y OF TRACE Y PA Y TON
Tracey Payton established the End of
Treatment Bells fundraiser in 2014 to
pay for bells for cancer treatment centers
in the United Kingdom. Friends, family
and other supporters continue to make
donations to the charity. As more health
centers adopt bell-ringing ceremonies,
patients and their loved ones are able to
mark a major milestone in their survivorship. “The bell is not just great for the families, it’s great for the staff as well,” says
Payton. She explains that each ringing of
the bell serves as a testament to the “hard
work and dedication” of the department’s
nurses, doctors and specialists.
Of course, not everybody diagnosed
with cancer will reach a point where
their treatment can come to an end.
Increasingly, the bells installed in cancer
centers are being used to observe other
milestones. It could be a patient’s 10th
round of chemotherapy or simply a birth-
day. The idea is to celebrate successes
whether large or small—it’s up to the
individual to decide how to reflect upon
The Payton family presented their first
bell to the Royal Manchester Children’s
Hospital on April 9, 2014—the day Emma
had her last chemotherapy session. In
the years since, they have raised funds to
pay for almost 200 celebratory bells for
centers throughout the United Kingdom.
While ringing a bell can be an exuberant experience, it’s important to consider
other patients in the surrounding area. Centers should be mindful of where they
place their bell so that bell-ringing ceremonies are not insensitive to patients
still in treatment.