5-year-old rings bell, celebrates end of cancer treatments

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SALT LAKE CITY — A bell rings in the halls of Primary Children’s Hospital. It’s the joyous sound of someone celebrating the last of their cancer treatments.

Friday, that person was JP Gibson, the 5-year-old boy battling cancer who was signed to a one-day contract with the Utah Jazz.

Nurses, doctors and family sang a celebratory song to the beat of the Queen's “We Will Rock You.”

“You got a smile on your face, that you can't erase, and you just can't wait to get out of this place. Singing no more, no more chemo — therapy. No more, no more chemo — therapy.”

JP rang the bell to start his cancer-free life.

His mother read the inscription next to the bell: “Ring this bell, three times well. Its toll to clearly say, my treatment's done. This course is run. And I am on my way!” That was followed by cheers.

“It was actually three years ago today that we were sitting in the clinic and he was going through some really hard chemo, and a little boy rang the bell, and they came over and said, ‘Three years from today, you’ll also be ringing that bell,” his mother, Megan Gibson, said, crying. “And I thought, 'We’re never going to make it. This is so hard.' But here we are.”

“It’s kind of hard to take it all in,” his father, Josh Gibson, said. "It’s been a long journey, and he’s been such a good trooper and fighter the whole time.”

You got a smile on your face, that you can't erase, and you just can't wait to get out of this place. Singing no more, no more chemo — therapy. No more, no more chemo — therapy.

–JP Gibson

Thursday, he posed for photos as he took the last of his chemo pills and came to the hospital Friday for his final checkup.

"We're delighted that he's finishing today,” Dr. Richard Lemons, a pediatric oncologist, said. “We'll continue to monitor him carefully to make sure there's no evidence of recurrence of the leukemia or late side effects or complications as a result of this therapy."

JP has an excellent prognosis. This type of cancer has about an 85 percent cure rate.

JP has always been a huge basketball fan, and last October, the Utah Jazz signed him to a one-day contract as a point guard. They gave him jersey No. 1, and prior to a game, JP discussed strategy with coach Quin Snyder and went through pregame drills with the team.

As a grand finale, the Jazz subbed Gibson into the game for the last play of the scrimmage. After taking the inbounds pass, Gibson brought the house down with some sweet dribbling moves to get by Dante Exum and Steve Novak. Once he made it into the lane, the spunky 5-year-old received a helpful assist from 7-foot-1 center Rudy Gobert for the best slam dunk of the night.

It was an important night for the entire family who was able to forget about cancer for just a few hours, but nothing beats Friday.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s over,” Josh Gibson said. “Knock on wood it never comes back.”

To celebrate, his parents told him to pick a restaurant.

“He loves the food at the cafeteria here,” Josh Gibson said. “We said, ‘What do you want to do when you’re done? You can go wherever you want for food,' and he picked the cafeteria."

And what did he want to eat? “Cheeseburger and fries and fry sauce,” JP said with a laugh.

The family is also holding a fun run Saturday, May 2, at Sandrige Park in Layton. The JP Just Punched Cancer 5K and Fun Run will begin at 9 a.m. The goal is to raise at least $1,162 in honor of each day JP has been fighting.

The family has something else to celebrate. Megan Gibson gave birth to a little boy named Theo two weeks ago.


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Keith McCord


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