The gentle chiming of a bell never sounded so good for Sam Hopkins.
After more than three years of leukaemia treatment, 15-year-old Sam is cancer-free. He marked the conclusion of his long journey on Friday by becoming the first person to ring Wellington Hospital’s new end-of-treatment bell.
“It feels unreal. This treatment has been part of my life for the last three years so finishing it is awesome,” he said.
Paediatric oncology social worker Lorraine Tetley was inspired to install the bell after seeing them used in Canterbury and around the world.
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“It’s a symbol of hope for the other families who are just starting their journey but also recognition for what the family have been through because it’s long and it’s hard,” she said.
“Everyone around the whole ward can hear it and know that this is the end of their journey.”
The Child Cancer Foundation, who often partner with hospitals to provide support services, funded the new bell. It is the second in this country and the 91st worldwide.
United Kingdom resident Tracey Payton has been instrumental in the spread of the bells across the globe, crowd funding and partnering with charities to get them out there.
“We aim to offer an end-of-treatment bell to every hospital where children are receiving ongoing treatment,” she said
“It’s not just a bell – it’s a symbol of hope; of feeling like you are winning the battle.”
While the majority of Sam’s caner treatment took place in Wellington, he first heard about the bell concept during a brief stint at the Children’s Haematology Oncology Centre in Christchurch.
“I remember hearing the bell a couple of times and the staff singing a happy end-of-chemo song as well,” he said.
“It’s a cool tradition that is starting here.”
Ringing the bell was not the only milestone Sam reached on Friday. The occasion was also an opportunity to finish what has become an impressive necklace.
“Everything you do basically gets you a bead, symbolising something hard or a struggle you went through during your treatment, he said.
The beads, of which Sam has close to 1000, represent each individual treatment as well as special achievements such as nights spent in hospital.
“I now have a purple heart, which is the end of treatment one so it feels awesome to finally be able to finish the journey.”