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    Pictured with Sandra Morrison and Debbie Dobbs (holding bell) are Dr. Curtis Miles (back row right) and staff from the Northwest Georgia Oncology Center, representatives from Community Bank of Pickens County and family. The bell was mounted in the Jasper oncology office last week for cancer survivors to ring after their final chemo treatment.

    It was August of last year when Pickens resident Debbie Dobbs heard the words no one wants to hear.
    You’ve got cancer.
    “You’re devastated,” Dobbs said. “You hear the word ‘cancer’ and think things like, ‘Am I going to die?’ But you have to find the strength to move forward and battle it.”

    Dobbs was diagnosed with breast cancer by Dr. Rosa Langella and referred to Northwest Georgia Oncology in Jasper for chemo to reduce the tumor’s size before surgery.
    Then for six months - every 21 days for six hours at a time - Dobbs sat in the oncology office’s chemotherapy room  while a cocktail of four different drugs was pumped into her body through a port.
    “If you haven’t been through it, it’s hard to describe how sick you are,” she said. “You’re so weak and nauseous and exhausted. It kills the cancer cells but it kills the good cells, too. Going into a treatment was awful because you knew how sick you were going to feel, and each time you get worse because it builds up in your system.”
    Dobbs said she felt so bad that the thought of travelling out of town for treatments was unbearable. She said the local oncology office not only provided her with a place close to home, she said the care and compassion of Dr. Curtis Miles and his staff were unparalleled.
    “I was so grateful this office is in Pickens,” she said. “You didn’t have to wait and they were proactive about giving you medicine for nausea because they understand the reactions. From the moment I walked in they made you comfortable and made you feel like they were rooting for you.”
    Six months of chemo and one blood transfusion later, Dobbs would go in for her very last treatment - and in what has become a widespread tradition her coworkers at Community Bank of Pickens County brought in a bell for her to ring.
    “There is nothing like that feeling of knowing you did it. You survived,” Dobbs said. “The bell, which in my case was a cowbell, is a symbol of victory for survivors everywhere.”
    Then earlier this month one of Dobbs’ coworkers, Sandra Morrison, was able to ring a bell, too - but this time it was a bell that was recently mounted on the wall in the chemo room at Northwest Georgia Oncology. Now every patient who completes treatment there will mark it with the strong, resonating sound of survival.
    “Your life is never the same after cancer,” Dobbs said. “I still have to go in five days a week for radiation, but I have no side effects. There are scans and long-term medications but that bell helps you know the hard part is over.”