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Ring the bell! David Santiago’s donation uplifts patients at cancer center

November 02, 2021

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David Santiago and his late wife, Betsy, who died from cancer in 2020.

David Santiago and his late wife, Betsy, who died from cancer in 2020.

David Santiago rang a bell to celebrate his final cancer treatment at WellSpan York Cancer Center.

The 59-year-old Dover man then donated the bell to the center in memory of someone else who lost her own battle with cancer: his wife, Betsy.

It was a bittersweet moment.

“That bell is for everybody who goes through chemotherapy,” said David. “I hope when people ring that bell, it signifies to them that they’ve conquered cancer and it’s a big victory for them. But whatever happens next, they should never give up and always stay positive.”

The bell Santiago donated looks like a small school bell and hangs on a wall in the center. It replaces a smaller, portable cow bell that patients used to ring when they finished treatments or as a symbol of hope during their treatments.

“This special bell plays a memorable role in our patients’ cancer treatment,” said Susan Stokley, cancer center director. “It is an uplifting moment for everyone when patients ring the bell that David donated. Patients are excited. Our team cheers and celebrates their hope with them. It is an emotional moment for many people.”

Ringing the bell was an emotional moment for David, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer last year. Santiago had his prostate removed and received hormone therapy while recovering from surgery.

“After I recovered, I started my radiation treatments,” he said. “I thought I was going to have a lot of side effects, but compared to what my wife went through, it was a walk in the park. I just wish it was like that for everyone.”

Betsy Santiago was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2008. She had a tumor in her pancreas removed, and then went through chemotherapy. She later learned the cancer had moved to her lung. Later, Betsy was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Her cancer journey lasted 12 years until her death at the age of 50 in 2020.

Around that time, Santiago started experiencing some pain in his pelvic area. After his diagnosis, he underwent his cancer treatment at WellSpan.

David’s bell was installed in the renovated WellSpan York Cancer Center, which opened its doors to patients in April after a 67,100 square-foot, $45 million expansion.

The center provides comprehensive, integrated cancer care in one convenient location, including radiation oncology, outpatient infusion with a pharmacist onsite, clinical trials and research, and a wellness center. The expanded center is designed to treat the whole person through the whole journey, from cancer prevention, screening and diagnosis through treatment, to support and recovery, all in one place, in a calm and healing environment.

For more information about the WellSpan York Cancer Center, go here.