Cancer survivors strive to share their joyful noise

sally shipley familyA bell ring can signal numerous things. When a bill rings at Carle Cancer Center, it means someone has something to celebrate—many times the ring marks the end of a long and difficult cancer treatment.

A family donated a bell to the cancer center in memory of a loved one so people today can mark the end of their cancer treatment.

For Sally Shipley, who worked at Carle Cancer Center helping people fight cancer through research, hearing that bell today reminds her of her own journey. She found herself a patient almost six years ago when she developed cancer.

"Doctors found stage two breast cancer in 2010," said Shipley. "After surgery, I had 20 weeks of chemotherapy, 52 weeks of targeted therapy and started hormonal therapy."

It was a long road to recovery. The cancer came back in December 2014.

"I had more surgery followed by more chemo and radiation this time," she said.

A year ago, Shipley was able to finally ring the bell. She finished chemotherapy and made plans to ring the bell at the end of her last treatment to celebrate—just like she saw others do during her work day. Her family made sure it was special.

"I invited a lot of family and friends to come to Carle to see me ring the bell," Shipley recalled. "Some drove from a far as three hours away to surprise me. My three kids were there. And several friends took time off of work to celebrate with me."

Carle doctors and nurses also took part in the special moment. "Chemotherapy and radiation are a big deal. The providers invested in my care—like they do with every patient. I had such great care, and I'm glad they were there to celebrate with me," Shipley said.

Carle Cancer Center providers love to celebrate milestones.

"Cancer is scary. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are scary," said Christine Plotner, BSN, RN coordinator at Carle Cancer Center.

"We work with each person and walk them through chemo and radiation. We are with them each step of the way to help them during a trying time. We let people know what's going on during treatment so they aren't afraid of the unknown.

"So, when a patient rings the bell to mark the end of their treatments, it is a celebration for us, as well," Plotner said.

Shipley discovered ringing the bell was a celebration for others who are in the middle of their treatment.

"At first, I worried I would disturb others getting chemo," she said. "But, when I rang the bell, people came out of their private rooms to clap. People with cancer are all going through similar experiences, so everyone celebrates good news."

Today, Shipley continues her support for other patients now managing Research Finance and Regulatory Affairs.

"I have a great job at Carle, but I'll never forget receiving treatment at the Cancer Center. I'm thankful for all the providers, my family and my friends who helped me become a cancer survivor," Shipley said.