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Marking milestones: Patients invited to ring bell in celebration



When a bell rings in the Upstate Cancer Center, everyone within earshot cheers. The sound of a ringing bell means that a patient has finished treatment or reached a milestone.

“Staff members gather around to watch the patient ringing the bell, but the sound travels through the halls, and everyone who hears it knows what it means,” explains Colette Zerrillo, associate director of radiation oncology.

Summer Butkins, 30, of Lafayette remembers April 11 as one of the best experiences of her life. She was the first patient to ring the bell, marking her final radiation treatment for breast cancer. The hallway was filled with doctors, nurses and technicians who cared for her since her diagnosis in June 2015, making the experience “absolutely amazing.”

Tracy Allen, 50, of Binghamton (pictured) has similarly fond memories of ringing the bell when she finished her radiation treatments. “The people that are here are incredible people,” she says of the caregivers who exchanged hugs with her that day.

The center has three bells, one on each treatment floor. They were donated by Morganne Atutis of Oswego. She got the idea from a cancer center in Texas where her fiancé was treated. Though he passed away from his illness, Atutis remembers the bells as harbingers of hope and wanted to share that feeling with patients in Central New York.

cancercaresummerThis article appears in the summer 2016 issue of Cancer Care magazine.