Marking the end of treatment in a big way

Chemotherapy is an ordeal for anyone — especially a kid.

Damon Billeck knows that for a fact. The 12-year-old developed a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer about a year ago that eventually cost him his arm.

But Damon was determined not just to live life as a normal kid, but to be an advocate for all kids going through the same ordeal.

Knowing that the end of a long course of treatment is a moment worth celebrating, Damon wanted to make it a real celebration for kids at University Hospital. He approached the San Antonio Fire Department and asked them for a bell.

And boy, did they deliver. The SAFD Museum donated an antique bell from a decommissioned fire truck. And the firefighters from Station 11 built a beautiful wooden display case in the shape of a firefighter’s shield where the bell would hang.

The end-of-treatment bell will allow young cancer survivors to mark the conclusion of their long, hard journey with a satisfying tug on the bell — and have a little fun in the process.

It was installed on the hospital’s seventh floor, which houses the pediatric hematology-oncology program, at a news conference in August. Attendees included Mayor Ivy Taylor, Fire Chief Charles Hood, patients, physicians and staff at University Hospital, and a number of firefighters who arrived in fire trucks — one of them an antique — that pediatric patients were able to see and explore before the event.

Family members of three San Antonio firefighters who lost their lives to cancer also attended the unveiling as special guests.

“Being the father of four healthy boys, it sends chills down my spine that something like this happened to (Damon),” Chief Hood said. “But he courageously battled through it and has gone to such extremes to do something that’s going to support the other members of the community that are stricken with this disease.”

Photo caption: Chief Charles Hood (left), Damon (center) and firefighters from Station 11 stand by the new end-of-treatment bell at University Hospital. Photo courtesy Alert Pedroza, San Antonio Fire Department