Bell Holds Special Meaning for Cancer Patients

Cancer patients ring a bell to celebrate the end of their chemotherapy treatments.

No such bell existed at Cobleskill Regional Hospital in its infusion room until Georgette Freund and her husband, Frederick, donated one in 2020.

Cobleskill Regional Hospital's Donated Bell for Cancer Patients
Cobleskill Regional Hospital's Donated Bell for Cancer Patients

Freund got emotional just speaking about how much the sound of that bell means to her. “I am definitely a survivor,” she said.

Freund’s prolonged journey with breast cancer began in 2005. Known by her co-workers as ‘Nurse Gigi’ for thirty years, this mother of four stands four feet, 11 inches tall.

A routine annual mammogram at age 47 showed micro calcifications the size of salt granules in her milk ducts. The technician was suspicious of what she saw and the doctor ordered an ultrasound to take a closer look.

Freund was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma. Surgery and radiation were recommended and she had a lumpectomy.

Further testing after the radiation lead to a call from her doctor who said, “We did not get all the cancer.”

A biopsy determined that the cancer had started to spread to her lymph nodes.

During a second surgery, Freund had several lymph nodes removed under her left armpit. “Recovery took about 3.5 weeks and healing from that surgery was more painful,” she said.

Twelve years later her cancer returned. 

Freund also has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a type of lung disease, as a result of smoking since age 11.

During a CT scan or computerized tomography scan of her lungs three years ago, a suspicious mass was discovered on the side of her left breast, the same breast operated on in 2005.

“My lung capacity is terrible! It is only 58%. I quit smoking cold turkey three years ago when I learned that my breast cancer returned,” she said.

Freund needed a double mastectomy performed by Dr. Andrew Griffiths, interim general surgery residency program director and trauma medical director, Bassett Medical Center. 

"Breast cancer affects approximately one in eight women. Literature suggests that women with the same tumor characteristics as Gigi’s have a 14 percent risk of cancer recurrence in 20 years."

"Gigi embodies the spirit of a cancer survivor, and her generous donation will assist other breast cancer survivors," said Dr. Griffiths.

Nine months of chemotherapy a couple of times a month followed. “This chemo was the heavy duty type they do in Cooperstown that takes three hours each treatment,” she said. “It was exhausting.”

Freund credits Amy, her nurse navigator at Bassett Cancer Institute, with coordinating all the follow-up appointments needed with the multidisciplinary team of experts assigned to her.

Freund rang the cancer bell at the Bassett Cancer Institute when she finished her treatments there. She continued infusions at Cobleskill Regional Hospital taking a drug known as Herceptin, recommended by Dr. Anush Patel, chief, division of hematology/medical oncology, Bassett Cancer Institute.

June Furstman, an oncology nurse in Cobleskill, said, “Gigi is amazing. I will always admire how Gigi continued her positive attitude and bravery during her treatments despite how she was feeling. She's one tough gal and one of our patients I always think about. I'm glad we keep in touch!"

'Gigi' Freund
"Nurse Gigi" Freund, cancer survivor & philanthropist

At the suggestion of her two daughters, all three of them got an identical tattoo above their breasts.

“The three butterflies are symbolic of the three of us with love and strength, a bond that can never be broken,” Freund says. Each tattoo has a pink ribbon. Freund’s tattoo reads “Survivor.” Her daughters’ tattoos say “Hope.”