As tough as cancer can be for an adult, imagine what it’s like for a child or teen.
Young patients, just like adults, have emotional needs and incredible challenges in trying to process, endure and survive a cancer journey. Thanks to an Arizona nurse who recognized those needs, a unique organization now eases the journey in more than 70 hospitals in the United States, Japan and New Zealand.
The Beads of Courage program enables children to display tangible badges of their strength and bravery. First, they get a length of string and beads to spell out their first name. As they go through treatment, the child’s healthcare providers award beads of different colors to represent a procedure or treatment milestone. For example, a white bead represents one chemotherapy treatment; a red bead, a blood transfusion; and a glow-in-the-dark bead, radiation treatment. When children complete treatment, they receive a specially made, one-of-a-kind purple heart bead. Children can also continue to collect beads after treatment during follow-up appointments.
Jean Baruch, RN, BSN, developed the non-profit Beads of Courage program while working on her PhD in Nursing at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She was inspired by her work as a pediatric oncology nurse. It bothered her that children got stickers after treatments which were disposable and discarded. As a camp nurse for Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp she saw how much kids loved bead-crafting activities and started researching why people feel so tied to beads. She also visited the Bead Museum. Located near Phoenix, it is the only museum of its kind in the world. There she learned that humans have used beads for more than 100,000 years as symbols of accomplishment and honor.
With the financial support of family and friends, Baruch developed and piloted the Beads of Courage Program at Phoenix Children's Hospital in February 2004. Funded by private donations, Beads of Courage expanded rapidly and added new programs. Today the Tucson-based organization supports more than 10,000 children and includes medical conditions beyond cancer.
Does it make a difference?