KALISPELL — Ten-year-old Wacee Simenson from Chinook battled pediatric cancer for 2½ years, spending the majority of his treatment at Kalispell’s Montana Children’s Hospital.
Wacee completed chemotherapy in early June of 2020 and decided to donate a “Warrior Bell’ to the hospital -- meant to be rung when a child completes treatment for cancer.
It was a joyous day at Montana Children’s Hospital in Kalispell as Wacee donated his “Warrior Bell” to the hospital in front of his team of doctors and nurses, formally signifying the end of treatment for Wacee’s long and hard battle with cancer.
Wacee’s mom Tomi says her son started feeling sick and losing weight in February of 2018 and was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma.
“There was some stomach pain they thought was concerning them, so they did an X-Ray and it revealed a large mass about the size of a large football in his chest,” Tomi said.
Wacce immediately began intensive treatment spending 45 days at a children’s hospital in Denver before transferring to Montana Children’s Hospital in Kalispell to continue chemotherapy.
At one point, Wacee and his family drove from Chinook to Kalispell once a week for treatment -- which is about a five-hour drive each way.
“We lived in Kalispell for about a year and then drove back-and-forth the rest of the time and he just finished treatment the first part of June of this year,” Tomi said.
Tomi said the family wanted to leave behind a legacy at the hospital for Wacee and felt the “Warrior Bell” was the best way to inspire future children going through the same battle.
“We’re just very thrilled that we can do something small for everything that has been done for us,” Tomi told MTN News.
Wacee’s primary doctor at Montana Children’s Hospital Dr. Courtney Lyle says Wacee’s “Warrior Bell” will inspire children receiving care at the hospital for years to come.
“The day that they get to ring that bell and say ‘I’m done, I finished’, really signifies to the patient how much they put into that. How much the families put into that and really a day to celebrate,” Dr. Lyle said.
“You know, there’s certainly moments that we celebrate during the course of therapy but this is really a big day to celebrate to say you’ve done it, you’ve made it and we’re here with you,” Dr. Lyle continued.
Wacee believes his “Warrior Bell” can serve as a message of hope and resilience for all patients and health care workers at Montana Children’s Hospital.
“Stay strong and hope you get will soon and give them stuff that I got a while ago,” Wacee said.
Wacee and his family now travel back to Kalispell once every three months for checkups.