The holidays are filled with the sweet sound of ringing bells, from storefront Santa’s to Christmas carols. But, inside the walls of AdventHealth, a ringing bell means something more. Here, these chimes mark the end of treatment and for many, the beginning of a cancer-free life. To share that joyful sound, a bell choir unlike any other was assembled in Orlando, Florida. Each member of this choir has a determined mind, a full heart and a strong spirit. Each member of this choir is a cancer survivor ringing a bell to shine a light on hope, healing and life in all its fullness.
Eighteen cancer survivors from AdventHealth hospitals throughout the country were invited to join the Survivor Bell Choir to perform Silent Night for an audience of loved ones, AdventHealth team members and local cancer center caregivers. The performance was filmed and is being featured as a TV commercial during the holiday season. Two bell choir members, Deb Holland and Lynda McCoy, are from Gordon County. Both breast cancer survivors, Deb and Lynda felt like the experience changed their lives forever.
Coming into this experience, I really just wanted to meet new people who I could relate to, said Deb. Now I can say that being part of the Survivor Bell Choir has been the most amazing adventure I’ve ever been on.
The choir was made up with people of all walks of life, and there was something different that could be learned from each person, said Lynda. But what we had in common was the spirit that each person gave throughout the entire experience.
When Deb was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was afraid to tell her daughters. As a single mom, she had always put their needs first, and she worried that everything would fall apart. But she found guidance to help her get through her journey. She relied on her faith and realized how important it is to make every day count. Day after day she completed her treatment, and when it ended, and she rang the victory bell marking the start of her new journey.
I do get emotional when thinking about my breast cancer journey, but I've cried a million tears in my lifetime, and right now, I'm just joyful and thankful to be where I am, said Deb.
Lynda was diagnosed with breast cancer not long after she and her husband, Fred, returned from a mission trip to South Africa. Now retired, she worked at Gordon Hospital, soon to be AdventHealth Gordon, and knew it was the place she wanted to receive treatment. Co-workers who were more like family supported her throughout her breast cancer journey, and she too rang the victory bell to signify her triumph.
You never think it's going to be you, said Lynda. But I am so thankful to come out on the other side stronger than ever.
Deb and Lynda, along with the other members of the Survivor Bell Choir, spent four days rehearsing for their performance at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando. Somewhere in between learning their parts and handbell technique, the group formed an unbreakable bond.
I feel like I have this whole new family now, said Deb. We all connected on a level that's hard to describe, and I just know we will continue to be a part of each other's lives.
To put eighteen strangers together and four days later feel like family is incredible, said Lynda. It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.
Coming together to spread their message of hope and healing, the Survivor Bell Choir performance of Silent Night is available on music download and streaming services, with proceeds going to cancer support efforts throughout AdventHealth. Additional videos and survivor testimonials are available on AdventHealth’s YouTube channel.
To watch the AdventHealth Survivor Bell Choir performance, click here.