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Oncology patients bang gong to celebrate life

Posted Dec 1st, 2011

The Niagara Health System’s Oncology Program staff have installed a handcrafted Celebration Gong in a patient care area at the clinic at the St. Catharines General Site.

A cancer patient who has just completed their last cancer treatment at the NHS Oncology Clinic takes a baseball batter’s stance and brings their arm back, ready to strike. GONG! The sound resonates through the Outpatient Oncology unit. The deep tone is a symbol of life and tradition.

Used for centuries in theatre, song and celebration, the gong is rung today as a celebration of life, a symbol representing the journey to wellness the patient has just completed and the new journey they have begun. The patient beams with pride as staff, patients and family members applaud and hug each other.

The Niagara Health System’s Oncology Program staff have installed a handcrafted Celebration Gong in a patient care area at the clinic at the St. Catharines General Site. Response to the Celebration Gong has been incredible. It has not only helped patients and families, but it has also helped bring staff together.

Since it was introduced in December, more than 50 cancer patients have rung the Celebration Gong to mark the end of their cancer treatment and the beginning of their new lives.

Helmy Flus, one of the program’s team members, saw a documentary in which a bell was used to celebrate life and immediately thought, what better way to celebrate the end of a cancer patient’s treatments and their new lease on life than with a celebration.

“When I saw the documentary and then researched it, what struck me was that it’s a celebration of life,” says Helmy. “Some departments at other hospitals have a bell but we wanted to make it our own. I came up with the gong because the sound of a gong is very healing.”

Helmy passed her idea on to Dr. Janice Giesbrecht, Medical Director of the Oncology Program, who was thrilled about the concept.

“The Celebration Gong allows patients to mark an important milestone and for care providers to share in that celebration,” says Dr. Giesbrecht. “We have already seen and experienced a positive feeling from this event, and it helps create a caring environment between the team and the patient.”

The Celebration Gong is engraved with a Monarch butterfly, the program’s symbol of life which decorates several walls in the clinic.

Niagara Health System