In 1733, the English poet Alexander Pope penned the famous line, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” in "An Essay on Man, Epistle I." Over three and a half centuries later, Pope’s words still resonate with profound meaning. No matter the circumstances, humankind continues to have the capacity to hope for the best – to believe that, despite how bad things are, there is still the potential for them to get better.
Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is one of the most difficult experiences anyone can face. Yet cancer patients, caregivers, clinicians, and scientists all around the world continue to fight every day in the war against cancer. Together they fight to keep hope alive and ensure there is always the potential for “things to get better.”
Last month, Bonita Ball, MSN, RN, the nurse manager of the inpatient oncology unit at Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH), was making her usual daily rounds. That’s when she met 37-year-old Quintine Burgess, who was finishing her last day of treatment after six longs months of chemotherapy. Burgess smiled widely as she said the following words to Ball: “I’m finally finished.” Burgess then proceeded to tell Ball of her journey since she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. “She demonstrated a strong sense of faith and hope – a story of a single mother who had so many obstacles to overcome while going through her treatment,” said Ball.
During their conversation, Burgess admitted to Ball, “I made it to this day and I just wish I could ring the bell.” Then she sadly remarked, “I was told you don’t have a bell for me to ring.”
That was all Ball needed to hear.
She immediately called a staff huddle and together they immediately got to work to give Burgess the closure and hope she needed. Determined, Ball and staff started making inquires and investigated until, surprisingly, they actually located a dinner bell in the hospital.
Quintine Burgess, center, is shown here in front of the Hope Bell with the inpatient oncology unit staff of PAH.
Bearing bright balloons, the bell, and a festively decorated cake, the staff gathered in Burgess’ room on her last day of treatment as she was preparing to go home with her teenage daughter. Together the staff read aloud a poem Ball wrote especially for Burgess.
“The rest is hard to place in words,” said Ball.