Following two successful personal fundraising campaigns 'Les Trefles du Coeur' was officially founded by cancer survivor Katy Harris in January 2017.
The charity presented the very first Bravery Bell in France to the Centre des Maladies des Seins, at the St Louis Hospital in Paris where Katy was treated. She was honoured to be the first patient to symbolically ring the bell during the inauguration ceremony in April 2017 in the presence of the medical and management staff.
Word began to spread and 2 other bells were acquired and offered to other units within the hospital, another was presented to the unit where Katy received her radiotherapy treatment at L'Institut de Cancérologie de Seine et Marne, Hôpital de Jossigny.
Since then the sound of these bells continues to resonate throughout the corridors as patients celebrate their achievements and feedback from staff and patients has been overwhelmingly positive.
In addition to the bells, Les Trefles du Coeur has been supporting the chemo unit for breast cancer in St Louis Hospital by providing items and activities to help ease the treatment phase for patients. These include donating stylish and comfortable headcovers for distribution to women experiencing hair loss, providing board games and activities to help pass the time during treatment, offering protective nail varnish for patients at risk of severe nail damage due to the chemicals and providing a basic care kit for all patients facing chemotherapy.
In November 2015 breast cancer invited itself into my life and turned my world upside down. After fighting for 11 months on a journey that took me through surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and curie-therapy I had an overwhelming desire to give something back.
Not only to the amazing people who had helped me through but I wanted to ease the journey for patients going through treatment. At the end of my treatment I was surprised to learn that there was no bell to ring, nothing to acknowledge the achievement and give closure to each chapter of this difficult journey. As a native of the UK I was very aware of the tradition of ringing the bell to mark these important milestones. I did some research, spoke to doctors and psychologists and realized that this was completely unknown in France.
This widespread tradition in USA and UK was introduced in 1996 at MD Anderson, Houston, Texas, by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Irve Le Moyne who donated the first bell.
The bell is rung three times symbolizing the restoration of balance, harmony and life energy and the patients read a symbolic poem to celebrate this milestone.
So, with my new lease of life I gave myself a mission - to buy a Bravery Bell for my chemo unit at St Louis hospital in Paris. I live 30km from the hospital so I thought it would be symbolic to walk that same distance and ask friends and family to sponsor me and raise money for the bell.
In November 2016, just 5 months after ending my treatment I walked the 30km distance with two amazing friends arriving to a warm welcome at the hospital and we raised more money than I ever expected.
I was able to commission a bell and presentation plaque, translate the traditional poem into French and start an incredible relationship with the management of the Breast Cancer Centre, Sénopôle Territoire Cancer Nord de l'Hôpital Saint-Louis.
Following the huge response of support, I received I couldn't stop at just one bell so I founded the charity 'Les Trefles du Coeur'.
The name 'Les Trefles du Coeur' is symbolic to my journey.
'Les Trefles': I was offered a clover charm bracelet after surgery, the presence of the symbol multiplied over the months.
'du Coeur': a tribute to the care and love that I received from my medical and support teams who always gave from their hearts.
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My dear Irish friend Fiona, was by my side all the way, Justine, a lifelong friend offered me a beautiful silver bracelet with a Clover charm after surgery. Then the cancer ward is Trefle, which is Clover in French and finally at the end of a dance audition in Paris somebody found a clover pendant, that nobody claimed, so I figured it was there for me. Too many Clovers to be a coincidence, so clover has been my emblem!
Our goal is to provide all French cancer units with bells, for adults, for children, for chemotherapy, for radiotherapy and expand the content and distribution of our comfort kits.
To achieve this, we will continue to produce fundraising events, encourage a network of volunteers to hold their own fundraising events and spread the word through the media so we may obtain as much financial support as possible.
If you are interested in joining in our mission or donating click here.
ALL ABOUT A BELL
THE FIRST BRAVERY BELL IN FRANCE
I want to tell you about the bell! The Bravery Bell. As you know I walked 30km to the St Louis Hospital to raise money and one of the things I wanted to give the hospital was the Bravery Bell.
A tradition in the USA and frequent in UK hospitals the bell is rung by the patient to mark the end of chemo or radiotherapy. It’s really important to close that chapter of months of invasive treatment, and the action of ringing the bell does just that.
Ringing that bell helps with the emotional closure that not many people talk about at the end of treatment regardless of long term diagnosis.
So, after fundraising I went on a quest to get a bell!
Easy to find in USA, not so easy in France!
After hours spent researching I found a company in UK who makes Bells, but they couldn't produce the whole plaque and plinth I needed so they personally sent my request to another company, Scott Terral at Nauticalia in Shepperton, UK, went above and beyond to bring everything together. We chose the wood, type of engraving of the poem, engraved the ribbon on the bell and he was able to get it done before Christmas so I could collect it in person.
I'm so grateful, and the result is amazing.
Even better, I went to collect it myself directly on the way to my family for the Christmas break. I felt like James Bond! I landed at Heathrow, jumped in an Uber got to Nauticalia in Shepperton, told the Uber to wait for me, ran in and picked up the bell and met Scott, jumped back in the Uber, back to Heathrow to continue my journey down to Sussex!! Then of course the bell flew back with me to Paris!
The bell was delivered to the Sénopôle Territoire Cancer Nord de l’Hôpital Saint-Louis in march but was kept quiet until the official inauguration.
On April 11th 2017 in the presence of hospital management and staff I was honoured to be the first patient to ring the bell three times and recite the poem of hope.
Since that day the ringing of the bell resonates throughout the corridors of the unit in celebration of a milestone in a patient’s treatment. A milestone to acknowledge the courage and achievement of the last months, a milestone of embarking on a new chapter, saying thank you and good bye to the amazing medical and support teams. A milestone towards the next step in this journey of fighting cancer.
A moment of emotion and closure.
The original bell deserves to be the most elegant. Since the inauguration I have found a distributer of bells in USA and the charity has commissioned the engraving in French and purchased 5 more bells which are currently being placed in Cancer units in Paris.
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" Une amie vient de terminer son parcours de chimio ; l'équipe l'a invitée à sonner la cloche du courage A cette occasion elle a remis un poème à l'équipe et nous en avons fait un diaporama que nous vous partageons "
" A friend has just completed her journey through chemotherapy and the staff invited her to ring the bravery bell, to mark the occasion she wrote a poem and we made a collage of wonderful photos "