Bell Ringing for Pediatric Leukemia Remission

Spencer and his parents smiling for a family photo at UVM Children's Hospital.

Bell Ringing. Those words sound so simple, yet mean so much. To most, a bell ringing sounds like nothing special, but to my family it was everything. Hosting a bell ringing meant that my son Spencer did it – he beat leukemia!

He completed 3.5 years of treatments, including years of oral chemotherapy, chemotherapy pumped into his tiny body, multiple surgeries, over 25 spinal taps, physical therapy, weekly appointments with specialists, random hospital admissions and much more.

Spencer’s bell ringing was everything you could possibly imagine. It was 3.5 years of fear being lifted from my shoulders. I was left with a sense of relief. He has spent half of his life undergoing treatments. I’ll never forget the looks on everyone’s faces as we walked down that hall for the bell ringing ceremony.

Our journey with UVM Children’s Hospital started back in June of 2016, and our care team has only evolved and become a stronger unit. I’ll never forget his diagnosis day. The phlebotomist assured me we were in great hands. Upon meeting us he said he’d do everything he could, and he kept his word. Though I was no stranger to the hospital, he walked me to Harvest Café and continued to reassure us that we were in great hands.

Thinking back to all of the nights we spent inpatient, I’d lay awake and often question if this day would come. From the beginning, we were told his odds weren’t ideal and that he may not see kindergarten, but now he’s halfway through second grade. Spencer has had many bumps in his road, but somehow he always overcame them with a smile and such an amazing attitude.

I’d like to think Spencer’s success is thanks to my husband and myself, but I know we couldn’t have done it without the help of his amazing care team. By definition a hospital is: “an institution providing medical and surgical treatment and nursing care for sick or injured people.” When I think of this hospital network, I think of so much more. This hospital has supported us through the unimaginable. Whether it was being my stand in when I was working overnights and staying inpatient with Spencer, or if it was a nurse going to the store on her break to find Spencer’s favorite snacks because he’d had a rough day, or maybe it was the time that so many departments came together and reminded us we were never alone through this journey, and any future ones we may endure.

This hospital is more than doctors and doors to us; it’s a second home. I know upon walking in that we have support and love from many, and I feel so incredibly blessed to also be able to call such a wonderful establishment my workplace. I’m proud to be a part of this team, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to spread the word and allow everyone to experience the joyous occasion that is a bell ringing.

Nicole LaBonte, mother to Spencer, is a UVM Medical Center patient & family ambassador.

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