Mother of Childhood Cancer Survivor Comes Full Circle, Returns to Packard Children’s—as a Nurse

After her daughter completed treatment for cancer, she donated an end-of-treatment bell to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. Seven years later, she’s working in the same unit where her daughter received care.

After her daughter completed treatment for cancer, she donated an end-of-treatment bell to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. Seven years later, she’s working in the same unit where her daughter received care.

It’s the moment every child and family affected by cancer longs for–the moment that marks the end of treatment. The ringing-of-the-bell ceremony recognizes a milestone in a child’s fight against cancer:

Ring this bell

Three times well

Its toll to clearly say

My treatment is done

This course is run

And now I’m on my way

J.J Pennington

For Kristin Cosner, RN, CPNP, a Scotts Valley mother who donated the gold bell mounted on a plaque outside the doors at the Bass Childhood Cancer Center, the ceremony has special meaning. Her daughter Gabriella was diagnosed in 2012 with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer that forms in soft tissue, specifically in skeletal muscle tissue. Gabriella, then age 4, went through a year of chemotherapy and radiation at Packard Children’s Hospital. “There wasn’t a bell when Gabriella ended her treatment,” says Cosner. “We just had a small celebration at the hospital.”

Gabriella Cosner was diagnosed at age 4 with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. She received treatment at the Bass Childhood Cancer Center at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.

Inspired by families around the world who shared their cancer survivorship stories on social media, Cosner was determined to bring the bell-ringing ceremony to children and their families at Packard Children’s. With the help and support of her husband and close friends, she founded Team G Childhood Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting families fighting pediatric cancer. She sourced a bell on Amazon and worked with a local business to mount it on a wooden plaque. The bell was hung in a sitting area outside the main doors of the Bass Center.

“The ringing of the bell represents hope,” says Cosner. “Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and knowing that there’s an end. Not a final ending, but a crossroads in this chapter.”

Today 11-year-old Gabriella is thriving, and recently started sixth grade. She enjoys bike riding, swimming and skiing with her family. The Cosners live near the ocean, and Gabriella enjoys surfing with her friends. She also excels in English, and writes some poetry. “She’s very expressive in her words and her thoughts,” Cosner says.

Kristin Cosner, RN, CPNP, donated the end-of-treatment bell that hangs in the Bass Childhood Cancer Center at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford.

As for Cosner, she finished a pediatric nurse practitioner program at UCSF and obtained a master’s degree in nursing, along with her nurse practitioner license. In June, she joined Packard Children’s as a clinical nurse in the Bass Center, where her journey has come full circle. Cosner works in the same unit where her daughter received care seven years ago. She has the opportunity to see first-hand how the bell she gifted to Packard Children’s brings joy to patients and their families. Recently Cosner witnessed an end-of-treatment celebration for a 5-year-old patient.

“I heard everyone coming from around the corner—all the doctors and nurses, child life and social workers, who came in from everywhere,” says Cosner. “They lined up and made a tunnel. I was down the hall, and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, someone’s ringing the bell.’ Holding back tears, I thought, ‘This is what it’s about.’”

Children inspire us constantly, but never more than when they’re facing cancer or blood diseases. The Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Diseases, which is nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report and part of the NCI-designated Stanford Cancer Institute, aims to help children of all ages manage or overcome their conditions.

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