"Once a week I go for chemotherapy, and there is a bell in that department called 'The Bravery Bell'. Every time someone finishes their last session, they ring the bell, the nurses clap and hope they will never see that person there again".
Miriam Segura, who lived in Mijas, died from cancer a year ago. Her case went viral thanks to her blog 'Psicococina de Ideas', where she told of her experiences and where, in February 2016, she referred to this bell and the way that cancer patients celebrated the end of their nightmare while she was in a hospital in Toronto.
When she came back to Spain and was undergoing treatment at the Costa del Sol hospital, Miriam suggested that a similar system could be used there. Sadly, she died before seeing it happen, but this week her relatives, friends, colleagues at the AECC cancer association and staff at the hospital made her dream of a bell come true. The Oncology Unit now has its own 'Bell of Dreams' and on the day it was inaugurated several patients who had just finished their cancer treatment made it ring out loud and clear.
"We are very happy to have brought this project to fruition, but at the same time very nostalgic. We have done what she wanted," said Concha Navarro, Miriam's mother, at the ceremony. "For Miriam, what was achieved by this bell was so important, not only for the patients who rang it but others who heard it and had hope, that she was desperate for there to be one here. And we've done it. Every time this bell rings, it is a reminder of Miriam's dream," she said.
Concha has played a key role in this project, working alongside the AECC. "Many people have worked together on this campaign, and it is wonderful to see them here today to see the bell, which is the first one in Malaga province," said Paloma Gómez, an AECC volunteer at the Costa del Sol hospital and vice-president of the Fuengirola branch.
"The first time I heard of this was through Miriam, when she came to this hospital. She really wanted this to happen. She wanted to show the world what can be done. It started off as Miriam's dream, and her mother has been the one to complete it," she explained.
Support for the project
The project received immediate support from the AECC, the Costa del Sol hospital and the companies which made it possible to install the bell on the fourth floor. In fact, the one in Marbella is just the first step of a more ambitious project to introduce this initiative in every hospital possible, and the Spanish Association Against Cancer has been sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Janssen with that in mind.
The presentation of the bell, which was an especially emotional occasion, was part of the Costa del Sol hospital's 25th anniversary celebrations, but it also marked the departure of Antonio Rueda, the head of the Oncology Department, who is leaving to join Emilio Alba's team at the Malaga Regional Hospital.
His farewell coincided with a very emotional and meaningful ceremony "because our patients are the centre of everything we do here. All cancer patients are heroes; they face different types of problems, and meeting patients who are fighting their own battle and trying to help others at the same time is commendable. This is a campaign of bravery and hope. The bravery of the people who are fighting cancer and the hope that one day there will be good news and they will be able to pass the joy of that news on to others," said Antonio.
"Every ring of the bell means there has been good news on this floor of the hospital and that is important for every patient, because it shows them that other people are getting over this problem. It gives them strength to carry on with their own battle".
María José Muñoz rang the bell this week. She was celebrating the end of her treatment for breast cancer, the second in ten years. "Patients share something in common and get on well together, and everyone is delighted when there is good news for others. This campaign is going to do a lot of good. It is a sign of hope," she said.