Ringing in sounds of hope and healing

Summer 2012

It's a busy Friday morning in the clinics at LHSC's London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP), interrupted briefly by a small ring that roars with meaning for three-year-old Vanessa Knelsen and her mom, Susie.

Vanessa has just finished four weeks of radiation  therapy, and with her mom at her side, the shy but brave little girl gently strikes the gong that sits in the atrium of the LRCP, marking the end of her treatment. "The gong ceremony represents closure for my family, allowing us to finish that chapter before moving on to the next treatment," says Susie, amidst the claps and smiles for her brave little girl.

The gong—which is taller than little Vanessa—sits in the first floor atrium of the LRCP just outside radiation therapy. Upstairs on the second level, a small bell sits on the registration desk to the chemotherapy suite. And countless times each day, the atrium will be filled with the robust sounds of the gong and the distinct peal of the bell, signifying that a patient has completed radiation therapy or chemotherapy treatment.

"During our busy clinic hours there are hundreds of people in the atrium, so every time the sound of the bell or gong is heard, many of them will stop and clap," says Laurie Carneiro, coordinator of the chemotherapy suite.

The bell in the chemotherapy suite was donated a few years ago to the LRCP by a young female patient who wanted a way to mark the end of her chemotherapy treatment. More recently, a bell was also made available for radiation therapy patients, which was replaced in March by the gong that was donated by Strickland's Auto Mart.

"Hearing that gong or the bell always makes me smile", says Dr. Nancy Read, a radiation oncologist at the LRCP. "You know someone is done their treatment and about to get back to their life. While some may choose not to ring the bell for personal reasons, they are all celebrating a new beginning and it provides everyone in the cancer centre patients, families, staff and physicians with renewed optimism."

For Vanessa, the next step in her journey will be anti-rejection therapy as she continues her fight following an August 2011 neuroblastoma diagnosis (a cancerous tumour). In her three short years, Vanessa has already undergone two surgeries, a stem cell transplant, chemotherapy, and now can add radiation therapy to the list. 

Just like her hit on the gong, Vanessa is small but she is mighty. And while some hit it with gusto and others like Vanessa give it a gentle tap, every bang of the gong or strike of the bell at the LRCP is full of meaning, achievement, and hope for a bright future.

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Vanessa in front of the gong
Vanessa in front of the gong
A bell sits on the registration desk to the chemotherapy suite.
A young patient hits the gong signifying she has completed radiation or therapy or chemotherapy treatment.
Vanessa sits outside London Health Sciences Centre with her mom, Susie.