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Meet the Moffitt patients who were among the first to ring the bell in 2023, marking the end of their cancer treatment.

For patients with cancer, ringing the bell signifies completion. It marks an end to something, be it a round of chemotherapy or radiation treatments, or an end to cancer treatments altogether. For a group of patients at Moffitt Cancer Center, ringing the bell in the new year marks a fresh start. Hopefully the beginning of a new life without cancer.

Robin Zimmerman was diagnosed with brain cancer in December 2020. Just over two years later, she finished her fourth round of radiation therapy. She had the opportunity to ring the bell after each of her previous rounds but chose not to.

This fourth round was different. She believes it will be the last one.

“I want things to change and to have no more occurrences that I have to go through,” Zimmerman said. “Going through all the chemo and radiation was horrible, but I have a ‘you’re not going to defeat me’ attitude. I’m hoping that can be my New Year’s resolution.”

A retired registered nurse, Zimmerman is no stranger to the bell. She worked with patients with hematologic cancers in the final five years of her career.

“It gives you a different perspective,” Zimmerman said. “I always have felt that with those patients, that I had to bring humor into their life because they come in with very little, if any, and I always tried to bring that joyful spirit and humor.”

Aside from beating cancer, Zimmerman’s other New Year’s resolution is simple. Enjoy life.

“I have three little wiener dogs and we live on a beautiful canal,” Zimmerman said.  “I want to get out on the boat, do some more fishing and just enjoy life. I’m at that age where I should do that.”

Mowing Grass Took a Toll

Curtis Whelan gets a lot of sun in his job as a landscaper. When his dermatologist found a suspicious spot on his arm, he was sent to Moffitt for further testing.

The diagnosis was basal cell carcinoma, a common form of skin cancer.

“Being outside and mowing grass all those years finally took a toll on me,” Whelan said. “You don’t know what it does to you until it’s too late.”

While many basal cell carcinomas can be removed surgically, doctors found that Whelan’s cancer was too deep to remove so he was placed on an immunotherapy trial and given radiation. So far the results have been promising. Whelan’s basal cell tumor has shrunk while another squamous cell tumor on his other arm disappeared completely.

“I’m looking forward to getting it done and over with,” Whelan said. “To get better and be healthier. That’s my resolution.”

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

Thomas Hall is a musician who was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2022. His doctors gave him the choice of undergoing surgery to remove part of his lung or receiving radiation treatments. Hall opted for radiation. Even after multiple rounds of treatment, he never lost his sense of humor.

“They did a PET scan and a CAT scan, so I asked if they found any pets or cats,” Hall said. “And they said no, but we did find a bullfrog.”

While the new year can be an opportunity to make a change, Hall is choosing to simply appreciate everything he has.

“I thought about it when I went to church on New Year’s Day,” Hall said. “There’s not much I want to change. I’ve got a son that loves me and daughters that love me so I’m doing well.”