I have a strand of pearls that holds special meaning for me: They were the beads I wore on my wedding day. When you think about it, beads have been around as adornment for tens of thousands of years and have always stood as tokens of a special occasion, a transition in life, the marking of a special day. Sometimes, those days are good, sometimes they can be life-changing and sometimes, like at Children’s Medical Center, they can mark a child’s journey through illness.
You see, Children’s participates in a unique, national non-profit program called Beads of Courage that is helping patients in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and The Heart Center do just that. Each child receives a bead for each procedure he or she undergoes and for every time they come to the hospital or outpatient center. Each bead, underwritten by Heroes for Children for oncology patients, is color-coded to the procedure or visit, so, for example, a red bead means the child has gotten a blood transfusion, a black bead means a “poke” or the start of an IV, and yellow means a night of hospitalization.
There are also “special” beads in different shapes and sizes given to each child for acts of courage or for getting through a particularly bad day, painful procedure or surgery, or sometimes, “just because.” The beads are made into personalized necklaces with each child’s name spelled out in small blocks that remind me of “Boggle” game pieces.
Some children with really serious illness can collect armfuls of beads, MiKyla Pickering, for example. Mikyla, 11, who was from Paris, Texas, died recently from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). It was her second battle with the cancer of the white blood cells. Her mother, Kenda Pickering, says MiKyla collected more than 1,000 beads during the course of her treatment over a two-year period and likens the collection to a “diary.”
Ms. Pickering had this to say about the program:
“Beads of Courage was the best program for MiKyla to help get through rough times and help her see how strong and courageous she was during her cancer treatments for leukemia. The beads were a diary of her treatments…a tangible way to show people and look back at times to see what all she had to go through during her treatment….When she had to do something she didn’t want to have to do during treatment, I would always tell her, ‘You’ll get a bead’ and she could get through it much easier.
“She accumulated so many beads that they were too heavy to wear so she had them put in a special jar given to her by Beads Of Courage that we carried back and forth from home to the hospital. MiKyla would decorate her IV pole with the strands of beads so everyone at the hospital could see them. Beads of Courage is a great program for children and I would encourage any kid receiving cancer treatments to do this…it’s a great DIARY for the kids and even the parents!”
National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Mikyla even designed a special logo that incorporates Beads of Courage to help commemorate this year’s national Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. Visit our gallery of photos about the childhood cancer experience. The theme of this year’s gallery is “For the Moment,” which showcases a day in the life of cancer patients and their families – whether at home, through their struggles in treatment or in recovery. A display piece showing MiKyla’s beads with her biography and the Childhood Cancer Awareness Month logo she designed will accompany public showings of the slideshow. If your gallery, company or organization would like to show this exhibit, including MiKyla’s tribute, contact Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders outreach manager Cristy Ecton at 214-456-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org.