Ringing Out Cancer Treatment at St. Anthony's Hospital

February 20, 2024
Lonnie Morris is surrounded by well- wishers as he rang the bell to signal the end of his cancer treatment. Morris was joined by oncologist Kamran Darabi and the team on St. Anthony’s Hospital’s oncology unit.


When Lonnie Morris arrived at St. Anthony’s Hospital in September, he was very sick. He’ll tell you so himself. 

“I just had a general fatigue and I was hurting. I really thought my life was over,” Morris said. “I was so sick.”

He didn’t know that he would soon be diagnosed with cancer. But through the comprehensive care of his oncologist and the team on the St. Anthony’s oncology unit, Morris is now in remission. And he thanks the team for their friendship, compassion and care. That inpatient care enabled him to be the first patient of 2024 to ring out his cancer treatment on the unit.

When he arrived at the hospital in the fall, Morris was given several tests. He was then diagnosed with stage IV diffuse large B-cell Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Morris stayed in the hospital initially for more than a month as the team provided the chemotherapy treatments his body needed and the comfort his heart and soul required. He slowly began to regain his strength.

He spent about three months total with the oncology team on AT6 in the hospital’s 2-year-old patient tower. And that’s when they all became like family. 

Kamran Darabi, MD, a BayCare Medical Group oncologist, and Stacey Cunningham, APCL, APRN, worked tirelessly with Morris to coordinate his cancer treatment while he was an inpatient and post discharge. Each time Morris returned as a direct admit for his chemotherapy, his AT6 family rallied around him and supported him on his journey.  

“We all got to know him and were his fiercest cheerleaders,” said Missy York, oncology nurse manager. “Cancer changes everyone – the patient and the caregivers. We are all better people because of this opportunity to get to know and help him.”

At the end of January, with his cancer in remission, Dr. Darabi and the oncology team gathered once more for Morris, this time for him to ring the bell on the unit that signals the end of treatment. It was the first bell ringing of the new year at St. Anthony’s.

Morris happily rang the bell several times as everyone applauded his progress. There is a practice of ringing the bell three times at the end of cancer treatment that represents the restoration of harmony and balance in life.

While many people may be familiar with outpatient cancer care, inpatient cancer care may not be as widely known. St. Anthony’s comprehensive cancer care includes both inpatient and outpatient options, York said.

Inpatient cancer treatment for all types of cancer diagnoses can occur for a few reasons, York said. 

  • The patient has had a bad reaction to chemo in the past and requires hospital level monitoring during and post-chemo.
  • The patient’s co-morbidities put them at a higher risk for side effects that are unmanageable in the outpatient setting. 
  • The patient is unfunded and is unable to follow up with the infusion center. 

“We are here to serve anyone who needs our cancer care whether they need to come in for their treatment or stay in the hospital,” said Tim McMahon, the hospital’s director of operations and director of oncology and cardiology business development. “Our team is there to ensure that everyone receives the correct level of care they need in the appropriate setting.” 

Inpatient radiation treatment also is offered to those who are receiving radiation that is near vital organs such as brain and heart, York added. “This enables us to monitor for treatment side effects,” she said. 

Morris didn’t mind his time in the hospital because it kept him centered, he said. “When you hear Stage IV cancer, you get scared and weary. You think there is no hope,” he said. “But God had other plans.”

And he thanks his oncologist and the AT6 team for all their help and encouragement. “If not for them, I wouldn’t have made it,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
BayCare’s Network of Cancer Care is found in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties. The network encompasses hospitals, surgery centers, breast centers, radiation services, mastectomy resources, cancer treatment centers, infusion, chemotherapy centers, oncology physician offices, patient resources, and support group locations. Click here to learn more about BayCare’s full range of cancer services.