Tri-State woman rings ‘chemo bell’ during surprise celebration outside Christ Hospital

Woman rings bell for final chemotherapy appointment

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - It’s a tradition at many chemotherapy centers for a patient to ring a bell at their final chemo treatment. It signifies the end of a tough road and a new beginning.

A Tri-State cancer patient was told due to the coronavirus restrictions she could not ring the bell. But a surprise awaited her when she left the hospital Friday.

“Instead of having Satan tell me that I’m not going to weather the storm, I’m here to tell you I am the storm!” cancer patient Rickelle Ruby exclaimed.

Rickelle Ruby recently finished chemotherapy for an aggressive form of breast cancer. She was first diagnosed in October after a routine mammogram.

When she finished her 20th round of chemo, she was looking forward to ringing the bell in celebration.

“When it came time to ring the bell, you know, that was a big thing for me," Ruby said. "It was like, ‘Just let me get through and ring that bell!’”

“We told a little white lie,” Christ Hospital nurse Wendy Duesing explained. “We told her we had to put the bell away because of COVID and that she wasn’t allowed to ring it. So she was a little upset at first, and she understood”

Ruby remembers that day too. “Little did I know they [the nursing staff] were in on the whole thing.”

Ruby left the hospital after her final treatment to a surprise celebration waiting for her. She was shocked to see her family, friends and even her pastor waiting for her outside the hospital.

“And then the nurse comes up with the bell," Ruby said, “and she goes, ‘You’re looking for this?’ And I was like, ‘Oh there it is!’ And that’s when I get my meltdown. I get all teary-eyed just thinking about it."

Ruby's nursing staff says it's lonely in the chemo lab right now because patients are not allowed visitors.

But what Ruby’s family did was find a way to celebrate together safely.

“How much that meant to her mentality and how much that helped her,” Duesing explained. “So I just think it’s a tribute to celebrating people in ways that maybe aren’t traditional.”

“There’s been a lot of good that has come out of this,” Ruby said. “I was always close with my family, now I’m even closer. I was always close with the Lord, but now I’m even closer. I feel like I’m a better person.”

Ruby still has surgery in a couple of weeks and then six weeks of radiation to follow. But she’s in good spirits and says she’s in good hands too.

She encourages everyone to not sweat the small stuff and don’t take things for granted.

She also wants to remind women to get your mammograms regularly.

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