Anthony Cella still gets emotional thinking about the moment he rang the Bravery Bell at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, signalling to everyone who heard that he was finished chemotherapy.
“On the way home, I called my wife and I told her how good of a feeling it was to ring that bell and have the support of everyone who’s been giving me drugs to keep me alive,” says Anthony.
Diagnosed with multiple myeloma—a blood cancer related to lymphoma and leukemia—in 2013, Anthony underwent 35 sessions of radiation.
“I can’t describe the feeling. One of the worst things, probably the worst thing I’ve ever been told in my life,” he says of the day he received the diagnosis. “I actually fainted; I passed out. That’s how much it hit me.”
Following his radiation, the doctors discovered lesions on his spine in 2015 and started him on chemotherapy treatments with a clinical trial of a drug called carfilzomib.
‘I rang the hell out of it’
The Princess Margaret became a second home for Anthony, who was on a first name basis with the nursing team and support staff he described as “unbelievable” and “incredible.”
“On my last day, [the nurses] walked me to the Bravery Bell and I rang the hell out of it and it was very emotional. Because I saw the support of all the people and I had beaten the cancer up to this point and hopefully it continues.”
The Bravery Bell is a traditional brass-coloured bell with a knotted rope dangling from the centre. It was inspired by the clang of the bell that signals the end of a boxing match, an analogy Anthony identifies with.
“To me, the Bravery Bell means that you’re beating cancer,” he says. “Ringing the bell means I’ve won one round of the fight and hopefully that’s the only round I have to do and [I will] stay in remission.”
Anthony rang the Bravery Bell on March 31, 2017 and is currently in remission on a maintenance drug called lenalidomide.
A renewed outlook on life
While the diagnosis and treatments were hard on Anthony, Nadia—his wife of 22 years—and their four children aged 14 to 20, he now tries to make the most of life and not get caught up in the little things.
“Just take care of yourself and enjoy your family and be grateful for every day and every second; every minute that you’re alive. Because it’s great to be alive.”
He speaks to other patients when he has the chance and shares his story as a way to put them at ease and give them confidence as they face their own diagnosis and treatment.
“I like talking about my cancer journey because it’s been a very positive one. I want to try to help people, just the same way people have helped me.”