Your Health: Ringing In A Victory Against Children's Cancer
Published October 10th, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Children with cancer face enough trouble, but the government shutdown is causing even bigger problems for some. Clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health have been cut off while the government is shut down.
That doesn't necessarily affect every child with cancer. But if the government seems broken to them, something much smaller - but more symbolic - of victory over cancer has been broken here in North Central Florida. A liberty bell of a different kind is now ringing out freedom once more.
Fighting cancer is not only a physical challenge, but a mental one as well. And so the victory celebration marks an important milestone. For children at UF Health in Gainesville, the milestone needed a little repair.
Despite the painted ceilings, colorful walls, and childlike writing, the UF Health Pediatric Cancer Center can be scary for children. Several years ago 11-year-old Ava Mason underwent treatment for biphenotypic leukemia.
After two and a half years of treatment, Ava is cancer free. On her last day of treatment, she did what all kids who are discharged get to do - ring a bell.
"They get to ring it for a symbol that they're done, no more," Ava says.
But, the bell was broken. Parts went missing and were never replaced. Ava had to "ring" it by tapping it with a pen. And without a clear ring, it just didn't feel right.
"The last day of treatment is the best day of treatment," Ava's mom Jennifer Mason says, "it should be symbolized as a shiny, brand new bell."
It was an idea Ava took to heart, and decided that for her birthday she would ask for donations instead of presents. Within 17 minutes of making her request online, friends and family donated enough money for a new bell, and then some.
With $170 raised, they bought a bell, a plaque to mount it on, and a stool for smaller survivors to stand on when it's their turn to ring.
Ava is just happy to be done, but behind that smile lies the ability to pass it on to other children one ring at a time.
The Masons have started their own foundation called Giving Gators, raising money to help meet the needs of pediatric patients and families receiving treatment at UF Health. If you want to support their efforts visit facebook.com/GivingGators
For more information, and to help in the fight agaisnt children's cancer, you can also visit these organizations:
STOP! Children's Cancer
Gainesville Police Department's "Cops For A Cure"
St. Baldrick's Foundation
Alex's Lemonade Stand
Children's Cancer Research Fund
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