Two-year-old former cancer patient rings bell to mark end of treatment

Date: 07 February 2023

Group photo of Tadhg Mealey and mum Courtney

A bell on a children’s ward for young patients to ring to mark the end of their cancer treatment is finally chiming after three years of silence.

Two year old Tadhg Mealey and his mum Courtney were invited back to Dolphin Ward at Medway Maritime Hospital on Friday 3 February so the toddler could ring the End of Treatment bell ahead of World Cancer Day on Saturday 4 February - almost two years to the day since his treatment ended.

Although the bell has been on the wall of the ward since early 2020 it was installed just a few weeks before the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, due to visiting restrictions being put in place by Medway NHS Foundation Trust to keep patients and staff safe from the virus, the ceremonial occasion was put on hold meaning no child or young person who had completed their treatment was able to ring it during the pandemic.

Now visiting restrictions have been eased by the Trust, the Children’s Outreach and Specialist Team (COAST) are starting to invite children, who completed their treatment during the pandemic, back to the hospital so they can ring the bell which was installed as a symbol of hope.

Mum Courtney, from Wigmore, said: “It was great to be invited back to the hospital and for Tadhg to ring the bell. While he is unaware of what he went through and probably doesn’t truly understand the meaning of ringing the bell at the moment, for me it signified how far we have come since his diagnosis. That chapter of our lives is now behind us and we can move on as his cancer is not expected to return - thankfully.”

Tadhg was born on 3 July 2020 with a small lump under his left eye that doubled in size within a matter of days. Fourteen days later he started chemotherapy treatment after doctors diagnosed him the day before with infantile fibrosarcoma - a type of tumour among the soft tissue which is often found in children under the age of one. After seven months of chemotherapy treatment Tadhg then underwent surgery to remove the tumour from his left cheek bone on 8 February 2021.

Courtney added: “When you hear the word cancer the feeling is awful. Straight away you think of death, you go into a bubble and can’t think of anything else. You ask yourself ‘How can a baby be born with cancer? Why my baby?’ It didn’t just have an effect on me but my parents, my four siblings and the extended family.

“We are a strong family who support each other and stay positive. Tadhg coped really well with weekly chemotherapy and we could see the lump shrinking which was a good indication to us that it was working.

“The staff at Medway Maritime Hospital were exceptional throughout Tadhg’s care, especially the children’s oncology clinical nurse specialists who visited us at home twice a week during his chemotherapy treatment to change his dressings and take bloods as well as after his operation.

“I’d like to say a big thank you to all of the staff who helped care for Tadhg. He is now a healthy little boy who attends nursery. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them.”

Tadhg continues to have MRI scans every four months at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and will remain under GOSH’s care until the age of 18.

Jayne Black, Chief Executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: “No child should ever have to go through cancer but when they do it is really important for them and their family to be able to mark the end of their treatment as it is an important milestone.

“Ringing the bell is not only a symbol of their journey and everything they have been through, it also marks the start of the next part of their lives – something which should be celebrated. I really hope it helps other children look forward to their treatment finishing.”

You can watch an interview with Tadhg's mum thanking staff here.


  • Summary:

    A bell on a children’s ward for young patients to ring to mark the end of their cancer treatment is finally chiming after three years of silence.

    Read about two year old Tadhg Mealey and his mum Courtney being invited back to Dolphin Ward so the toddler could ring the End of Treatment bell - almost two years to the day since his treatment ended.