Bell at UNC Pediatric Cancer Center rings in hope

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A bell at UNC's Cancer Hospital tolled for the first time on Thursday, as an eighth grade girl from Durham completed her last chemotherapy session.

The bell, donated by the Chapel Hill Optimist Club, was unveiled in UNC Hospital's pediatric division. Children receiving treatment may ring it three times in celebration of completing chemo.

UNC Pediatric Oncology division chief Dr. Stuart Gold said the sound of the bell ringing gives children in treatment something to look forward to.

"I think the kids are going to say 'look at little Johnny just rang the bell, in six months I'll be able to ring the bell!'" Gold said. "And I think you know, we try to give all of our families hope."

Gold said families should have hope, because cancer treatment outcomes are better than ever.

"People think of childhood cancer as a death sentence, or that we lose most of the kids. But we actually cure over 80 percent of childhood cancer these days, which is really a pretty phenomenal statistic," Gold said.

Mariah Andrews is the eighth grader who got to ring the bell for the first time Thursday. Her mother, Lashawnda Williams, said Mariah has stage-four rhabdomyosarcomas. This is the second time her daughter is battling cancer.

She said even though she's overjoyed that Mariah has completed her chemotherapy. She hasn't beaten cancer yet, but her treatment is moving along.

"Never lose hope. Never give up, never," Williams said. "That's not an option. It's not in our vocabulary: can't, won't. No. We will. We will fight. We will win, every time."

Lashawnda said Mariah will continue with other treatments, such as surgery and radiation therapy.
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