COURAGE. Caroline has it in mountains. She doesn’t really know it nor understand how brave she is (and I’d love to say she gets it from me!) but it is an inherent part of her spirit that has undoubtedly helped her to accept this year’s cancer treatment as simply being another step on life’s journey. Her soul’s journey.

Close up image of brightly coloured information card with 'Courage' in large letters on red background

Almost all the children on the cancer ward show the same immense courage in the face of deep adversity and stress. They, like Caroline, are truly humbling and an inspiration to witness. Their bravery is noticed every single day by everyone the children encounter but it is not always easy to acknowledge that fact let alone help them understand it themselves.

In 2003 someone came up with a perfect way to show the children just how special they are.

Beads for Bravery

A nurse in Arizona devised the brilliant Beads of Courage programme to recognise and salute this strength and courage, for children with cancer as well as other serious illnesses.

The beads represent procedures, milestones and particular acts of courage during the child’s illness, providing encouragement, inspiration and a way to talk about their journey, recording every step along the way and every ounce of strength they’ve drawn on.

Image of multicoloured spiral of hundreds of glass Beads of Courage
To date Caroline has over 400 Beads of Courage

Image of various Beads of Courage information cards

Some 20,000 children in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Japan benefit from this wonderful idea including 5,000 children at 80 UK hospitals (please see below for ways to support, including making beads and bead bags).

Recording Incredible Strength

Caroline LOVES her Beads of Courage. Every single visitor since her diagnosis has been proudly shown the collection (often bringing them to tears at the enormity of what she has endured). It really is an eye opener. On returning from radiotherapy in America she even laid the beads on a hospital chair to show her UK team her newly gained treasures!

Each bead represents a particular event; white is a chemo day, yellow an overnight hospital stay, black is a blood draw. The ceramic and ‘bumpy’ beads are for special events such as mobility challenges, eating difficulties or learning to take medication. There are pet therapy beads, teaching beads and beads for when the children have seen a psychologist as well as for operations, lumbar punctures, scans. The larger, more unusual glass beads are for special acts of courage.

Favourite Courage Bead

Caroline’s favourite is a green and blue patterned courage bead from when her hair finally fell out (notice she hasn’t allowed me to post photos of her during the traumatic hair loss period..). After seeing Caroline during the daily ward rounds, our wonderful oncologist, Dr Gail Halliday, returned with this bead, taking Caroline completely by surprise. It was exactly what she needed and exactly what the Beads of Courage programme was created for.

Close up image of multicoloured beads in child's hand including green, yellow, red and black beads and green and blue patterned ceramic
Favourite courage bead, commemorating bravery after hair loss

This is an inspired and fitting record of childhood cancer. I am proud beyond words of Caroline’s string and the story of courage it portrays.

Make Beads

Glass and bead workers can contribute by making beads.

Make Bead Bags

An online tutorial is available for sewing enthusiasts.

Donate and Purchase

You can donate via Just Giving or purchase a Gold ribbon from Be Child Cancer Aware who sponsor the UK Beads of Courage programme.

Read more about Caroline’s cancer journey at Caroline’s Rainbow.