Ringing the Chemo Bell – yay or nay?


Have you heard of the chemo bell?

If you’ve been in a cancer centre you have most likely heard it ring throughout the hospital. Ringing the bell has become a rite of passage for some oncology patients who have completed chemo or radiation. Some patients love ringing the bell to signify finishing one step in their cancer experience while others think this is an insensitive ritual to the many patients who will never be able to ring the bell themselves.

We asked our Canswer Hive if they have rang the bell and here is what they had to say:


Sarah says:

I rang the sh*t out of it! I earned it!

Julie says:

I rang it the first time but since becoming metastatic, I feel like the symbolism of “being done” and “surviving treatment” is lost. 

Emily says:

I got to ring the bell after Herceptin and I was surprised how happy it made me. I’m glad I didn’t ring it after chemo because I always considered each chemo “done” a week after treatment.

Jennifer says:

I rang it after the first time I did chemo but haven’t rang it the last four times. I feel like the first time jinxed me. 

Heather says:

My cancer centre didn’t have a bell but my MIL felt the symbolism was important, so she brought a bell to ring privately after my last chemo. 

Ashley says:

I loved hearing people ring the bell while I was getting treatment. It filled me with happiness for those people and hope for myself. I was hesitant to ring my own bell because I don’t like drawing attention to myself, but once I grabbed hold of that rope, I rang it loudly and proudly.

Kim says:

I loved it. It was a beautiful way to mark the end of a really hard part of this fight. We also walked out with pink balloons and let them go into the sky.

Shanna says:

I rang it when I was done chemo, and will ring it again at the end of Herceptin. It is the sound of charms to turn the page. I don’t see it as our journey or fight being over – just the end of a sh*tty chapter in our new lives. I love hearing people ring that bell! It’s such a powerful sound.

Jessica says:

I was unsure about ringing it, but my nurse encouraged me to do it. As I rang it, everyone in the units stood to their feet and applauded. I was overcome with emotions and my husband had tears in his eyes. My favourite nurse came over to me and gave me a great big hug. It was one of my most memorable moments in life. I’m glad I rang it.

Vesna says:

I rang it when I finished treatment for Stage 2, but having now progressed to Stage 4, I shudder at my photo holding the bell toggle. It feels like a broken promise or a symbol of my naivety at that time in my life.


Maja says:

I received my chemo treatments at Sunnybrook Hospital and they don’t have a bell. There are people who will be receiving treatments forever that are Stage 4 and will never be able to ring it. What I did instead was bring a poster my nieces drew for me and take a picture with it on my last day of chemo. That was more meaningful for me.

Sonya says:

At my cancer centre they decorate chairs with streamers and you break them to sit down for your last chemo. Same symbology, much quieter.

Cassandra says:

Instead of ringing the bell I took a picture. During my first treatment someone rang the bell and the lady across from me (guest of a patient) was visibly upset and left the room crying. The patient she was with was not doing well. I decided at that point I didn’t need the bell if it caused pain to others.

Carys says:

My cancer centre didn’t have a bell. I was relieved because I had anxiety building up about that experience. That said, it was a bit anticlimactic to finish and just leave.

Suzanne says:

As someone who will never get to ring the bell, I am glad that my hospital and others have remembered and considered those of us with MBC.

Mallory says:

I chose not to ring the bell because treatment never felt final, with Herceptin and Tamoxifen. BUT having said that, I LOVED hearing people ring that bell. It’s such a powerful symbol. I appreciate when people come together as a community and I think the bell did that for everyone who heard it. It’s not a fight you’re fighting on your own, and that is important to remember. Collective emotions are powerful.

Shelley says:

I didn’t ring the chemo bell because I know far too many women who will never get to.


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