New Year Offers Renewed Hope for Moffitt Patients

By Pat Carragher - January 02, 2024

For those living with cancer, ringing a bell is often meant to mark a course of cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy or radiation therapy. This ritual holds great significance for many patients and their families. It marks a powerful and positive moment. It signifies the end of a challenging and often grueling treatment process.

Mark Pierce celebrates the end of his treatment for squamous cell carcinoma.
Mark Pierce celebrates the end of his treatment for squamous cell carcinoma.

The sound of the bell serves as a signal to mark the patient’s accomplishment, resilience and hope for a cancer-free future. It’s a way to celebrate the end of a difficult journey and to acknowledge the strength and courage of the individual who has faced cancer.

For Mark Pierce, ringing the bell signifies the end of his radiation treatments for squamous cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer. He’s been undergoing treatment since he was first diagnosed last August.

“I didn’t expect to be ringing in the new year this way,” Pierce said. “But it’s kind of nice to be on the other end of it now. I’m looking forward to getting my health back and spending time with my family in 2024.”

Pierce has been traveling to Moffitt Cancer Center from his home in St. Cloud, about 90 miles away and south of Orlando. He has one infusion appointment left to go, but his New Year’s resolution is simple.

“To not do this again,” he said with a laugh.

Tiana Short completed a round of radiation while she participates in a clinical trial to treat a rare form of sarcoma.
Tiana Short completed a round of radiation while she participates in a clinical trial to treat a rare form of sarcoma.

For Tiana Short, ringing the bell isn’t the end of her cancer journey, but it marks an important milestone. She was diagnosed with stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma in June. The 27-year-old from Winter Haven is participating in a clinical trial and has already completed four rounds of chemotherapy. Now she has a round of radiation under her belt.

“I count every part of the process as its own step,” Short said. “I just take things one day at a time. It’s another step down. Another task marked off before it’s back to chemo next week.”

Since her initial diagnosis, Short admits she hasn’t been as active as she’d like because her treatments have taken a toll on her mentally. Her New Year’s resolution is to change her mindset heading into 2024.

“I want to create more experiences and memories with my friends and family,” she said. “I want to live this year and be more positive and be grateful for the care team that I have.”

Cliff Sadler doesn’t have a New Year’s resolution.

“You don’t make ’em, you don’t break ’em,” he joked.

Cliff Sadler finishes a round of radiation to treat his pancreatic cancer. His wife, Patricia, is a melanoma survivor who was treated at Moffitt 25 years ago.
Cliff Sadler finishes a round of radiation to treat his pancreatic cancer. His wife, Patricia, is a melanoma survivor who was treated at Moffitt 25 years ago.

What he does have is a tremendous family support system. He was dressed head to toe in dinosaur themed clothes that he wore for his 2-year-old grandson, Harper.

“He’s a dinosaur fanatic,” Sadler said. “So I put this outfit together for his second birthday. They’re visiting us for the holidays and he asked me to wear this today.”

Sadler is being treated for stage 3 pancreatic cancer. He rang the bell to celebrate the completion of his second round of radiation. Before this latest round, his cancer was nonresectable, meaning surgeons couldn’t remove the tumor due to its size. The hope is that a combination of chemotherapy and radiation will shrink it enough for surgical removal.

“We caught this pretty early, so we’re just forging ahead into 2024,” he said. “Whatever the day brings, and whatever the year brings, that’s what we deal with.”

His wife, Patricia, was in the waiting room watching as he rang the bell. It was a familiar scene for her. She rang her own bell at Moffitt some 25 years ago. Patricia is a melanoma survivor today thanks to the care she received.

“I remember crying because I didn’t want to leave,” she said. “It felt like home. That’s how well they treated me. The one thing that hasn’t changed, no matter who you talk to, everyone is so kind and helpful. It’s an amazing place. Each person is treated like they’re the most important.”

While her husband may not have a New Year’s resolution, Patricia has a simple one:

“I just want to stay healthy and keep living moment to moment. It’s all you can do.”

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