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Cancer survivors celebrate at Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital

Jody Coon

THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- For cancer survivor Jody Coon, ringing the bell was celebratory and significant. Tradition has it that the “ringing of the bell” signals the end of active cancer treatment. Six years ago, in 2012, Coon was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid CML Leukemia (CML). Then, in 2016 came the prostate cancer diagnosis.

“It was such a scary and difficult time for me,” said the 46-year-old former police officer who was injured in the line of duty in 2000 and now owns an executive security and bodyguard service company. While his original prostate cancer treatment didn’t begin at Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital, it ended there successfully.

“I had surgery to remove my prostate at Houston Methodist in the Texas Medical Center, but unfortunately we discovered the cancer wasn’t just limited to that area, so it couldn’t be completely eradicated and consequently I needed radiation,” he explained.

“I began my treatment at a local cancer center that was close to home. The experience was often non-personal, confusing and disenchanting. But when Houston Methodist opened theirs in The Woodlands last July, I turned to them and what a difference that made.

“The doctors and therapists were incredibly compassionate and actually took the time to get to know me as a whole person, not just a disease. It was unexpected. Their level of confidence and care was sincere – over and beyond being ‘trained’ to care. They truly showed it; I really felt it from them. My surgeon, urologic oncologist Dr. Brian Miles, my hematology and medical oncology specialist, Dr. Priya Ramshesh, and my radiation oncologist, Dr. Peter Morgan, were so on point as a team. They let me know what to expect and encouraged me to call them directly if I ever had a question or concern,” he said.

One day, while waiting for a radiation treatment, Coon saw the staff presenting another patient with balloons to celebrate the completion of cancer treatment, but he noticed the new center didn’t yet have a bell to ring.

“It laid on my heart, and so I was compelled to donate a 70-year-old nickel-plated brass ship bell that had been in my family for nearly 50 years. I knew in my heart it belonged at the center. They accepted it with appreciation and installed it right away,” he said.

Having grown up in the country, Coon remembers as a child playing way out in the fields with his brothers, and when it was time to come home, his parents would ring a bell on the barn. The sound of that bell would guide them to find their way back home from the woods. “Last year, after I had gone through the treatment and learned it was successful, I was glad to begin finding my way back to my normal, active life. So ringing the bell – that special bell – was very meaningful for me and I was happy to share the moment with the staff. They had become like family to me, and as odd as it sounds, I have to admit that I miss seeing them every day. Even the valet got to know me over months and the guys would say, ‘Hey Mr. Coon, how are you doing? You’re looking great today!’”

Coon grew up around healthcare. His stepfather is a retired neurologist. His mother, who was a nurse for 40 years, is now battling cancer herself. “I am so grateful she is receiving care at Houston Methodist because I can’t be with her as much as I want to, but I know she’s in great hands. How they treated me and how they are treating her is so profound for me.”

On June 12, Houston Methodist Cancer Center at The Woodlands hosted a special celebration during its monthly cancer support group. In recognition of National Cancer Survivors Month, the center honored those who have successfully fought the disease, including Coon.

Survivors often describe the journey of fighting cancer like going through a dark tunnel and fear of the unknown. But to hear someone to say, “I’ve been through this and it’s going to be okay” brings light and hope.

Cancer survivor Linda Clements also attended the celebration. She was living in Spring, TX, when Hurricane Harvey displaced them to Kingwood, TX. Shortly thereafter, she found a lump on her throat, which turned out to be tonsil cancer. It was her third bout with cancer since 1995 and 2014. Since she and her husband of 39 years, Lewis, were established patients at Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital, she commuted from Kingwood to The Woodlands for surgery and cancer care.

“There was no question where I knew I wanted to go. Everyone was exceptional, all the way from the receptionist to the technicians to the specialists,” said Clements. “Since Lewis had the difficult job of being my caregiver, they were all so very nice to him, too. Dr. Morgan and Dr. Ramshesh are top-notch and truly fantastic and amazing. Dr. Morgan is the most wonderful doctor I’ve met in my life. He really cares about his patients and takes the time to sit down and visit with you. All of the other cancer patients I’ve met have said the same.”

Cancer survivor Linda Clements with husband, Lewis, at the cancer survivors party at Houston Methodist Cancer Center at The Woodlands on June 12, in recognition of National Cancer Survivors Month to honor those who have successfully fought the disease.

Cancer survivor Abb Allen with Kim Gensler, RN, BSN, Infusion Nurse (left) and Lindsey Pimentel, RN, BSN, CHPN, Clinical Coordinator (right) at the cancer survivors party at Houston Methodist Cancer Center at The Woodlands on June 12, in recognition of National Cancer Survivors Month to honor those who have successfully fought the disease.

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