Donna's legacy lives on through the Bravery Bell


Donna McCullagh, retired nurse manager of the chemotherapy unit at The Princess Margaret, is credited with bringing the Bravery Bell to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

“They call it the Bravery Bell now, but I think it’s the bell of hope because I think it gives you hope,” said Donna in an interview with the Toronto Star in September 2015.

Initially called the Chemo Bell, Donna was the first to bring the long-celebrated tradition to The Princess Margaret to give patients something to look forward to at the end of their chemotherapy treatments. She was inspired by a similar bell she saw at a hospital in the United States and brought the tradition back home shortly before she retired in 2003.

Patients ring bells in hospitals around the world to mark the end of their treatments. The Princess Margaret also has a Radiation Gong for patients to mark the end of their radiation treatment.

Donna recalled, while receiving her own treatment, hearing patients enthusiastically ringing the bell and feeling happy because they met their goal. She rang the bell herself after finishing her last chemo treatment for colon cancer.

“That’s sort of the core of the bell, this feeling that you’ve accomplished something. You went through this—whether it’s six or eight or ten courses of chemo—and you made it!”

Donna spent 25 years as a nurse at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre before undergoing her own cancer journey. She died on September 28, 2016 at the age of 77 and was remembered in a heart warming article in the Toronto Star two weeks later. Her legacy lives on to this day through the Bravery Bell.

(Photo by Carlos Osorio for the Toronto Star, 2015)

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