Cancer survivors ring ‘Bell of Hope’ during dedication and celebration ceremony

Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 9:32 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - The sound of hope and a sense of accomplishment filled the Bell of Hope Reflection Garden Tuesday evening as many people celebrated surviving cancer at the Anderson Regional Cancer Center.

Jeana Bennett’s survivorship started on January 6th of 2022 when doctors diagnosed her with lymphoma.

“It was below the knee three-fourths of my femur and it was large enough that it broke my leg. So I was in a wheelchair for 3 ½ months while my bone was healing and I was going through the treatments. So as we did that we started thinking this cancer is bigger than I am and there has to be a reason that I’m going through it. We started looking for something that we could give back to the community and that everybody could benefit from. And we weren’t really ringing the bell. We weren’t celebrating what we needed to celebrate as survivors. Your survivorship starts on the day of your diagnosis not at the end of your treatment because on the day of your diagnosis, you are a survivor,” said Bennett.

Bennett first rang the bell in 2022 after coming up with the idea to create the Bell of Hope Reflection Garden with a team of doctors and other survivors.

“I was so overcome with joy and it still gets me. So I rang the bell on June 7th last year and there were 125 people here and there were 18 physicians and 20 plus people rang the bell and that’s what this is about sharing the love and finding the joy through the hardest of adversity,” said Bennett.

Ringing the bell is an emotional, triumphant celebration and as survivors walked up one by one a sense of hope was felt through the crowd. Ronna Nichols’s cancer journey started in 2018 at the age of 51 with breast cancer.

“Just since my diagnosis I’ve lost friends that were in the journey before me, that now their journey is over and to have the Bell of Hope now was so awesome. Although we just put it up last year I did get to ring it and I rang it 5 times for each year of survival. It just means a lot because its freedom, its passion, its anger. It’s everything that comes along with something else taking control of your body that you can’t do anything about but try to survive,” said Nichols.

And as for words of encouragement for those of you going through your own cancer journey right now…

“Whatever, however dyer it looks we can hope for a great outcome. Whether that’s a complete cure or buying some time, giving them a chance to be with their loved ones, quality. It’s different for everyone but it’s hope that they can accomplish whatever we’re trying to get out of their situation. If you give someone a why, they’ll find a way,” said Anderson Regional Cancer Cancer, Cancer Committee Chairman, Matt Cassell.

Anderson Regional Cancer Center said the bell is for any survivor to ring anytime, no matter where they received treatment.

Anderson said the Bell of Hop Reflection Garden was made possible through gifts from more than 40 donors who helped create a lasting tribute to cancer patients, The garden features an iron bell, a hand-carved wooden cross, flowers, and beautiful benches.