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Carol of the Bell

The sound of silver bells ring in the holidays for some, but to Joyce Dean, there was only one bell she wanted to hear chime this winter.

In May 2018, Dean was diagnosed with breast cancer following a mammogram and the test results indicated an abnormality. Her doctors found the mass was in stage zero and caught just in time. It was recommended that she have the mass removed and begin radiation as soon as possible to ensure the cancer would not spread. She underwent surgeries and began radiation at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Covington soon after.

“I lost my husband to stomach cancer in 2003 and my daughter to lung cancer three years ago,” said Dean.  “They both passed three months after their diagnoses. I know what that word means, and I’ve seen what it does to good people. I feel so blessed to have met so many other patients, doctors and nurses, and I know it is because of them that I can say I beat this.”

The battle against cancer is not just fought by the patient; it impacts loved ones as well. Dean’s daughter, Dee Stein, said that though most days were manageable for her mom, there were some days that were harder than others. In addition, she stated that it was not until her mother rang the bell and read the letter in the mail saying she was 100 percent cancer free that she, “bloomed like a flower.”

“Watching my mother fight and find the light inside her is the greatest gift a daughter could ask for,” said Stein.

The Cancer Center installed its first bell in 2015 and serves as a mark of accomplishment for those finishing active treatment. The bell also functions as a sign of hope for those undergoing treatment, eager to ring it when their treatment is complete.

Mary Bird Perkins is a key provider within St. Tammany Cancer Center, which offers comprehensive, patient-focused cancer services.

“Ringing this bell
Three times well
Its toll to clearly say,
My treatment’s done
This course is run
And I am on my way!”

“Ringing Out,” by Admiral Irve Le Moyne