Published date: September 29, 2022
Over a typical treatment period, which can last three to five years, children collect thousands of colorful beads as reminders of everything from visiting the clinic to chemotherapy treatments. The color of each bead carries a specific meaning. For example, a child receives red beads after a blood or platelet transfusion. At any point in the journey, patients can look back at their strings of beads, see how much they've overcome and reflect on their battle in the colors of their beads.
Our team of doctors, nurses and specialists fight alongside the patients and their families. Haley Reeves, a Child Life specialist at ACH, teaches patients about their diagnoses and treatments. She uses age-appropriate language and activities to translate complicated medical terms into concepts children can understand. Reeves also coordinates end-of-treatment celebrations for patients who conquer cancer. When patients have no evidence of any disease remaining, the triumphant milestone is marked with a book and a bell.
On their last day of treatment, patients receive a mini parade and cupcakes in their honor. As they walk down the hallway of the Hematology/Oncology Department, the members of their medical team sing "Happy Last Treatment" to the tune of "Happy Birthday" while throwing confetti. At the end of the parade, the patient's final string of beads dangles from the clapper of a very special bell that only those who have beaten cancer can ring. Woven into the strand of beads are the words "End of Treatment" or the patient's name.
Dr. Kevin Bielamowicz, the medical director for the Brain Tumor Clinic, says the celebration recognizes the hard work of the patients and staff. Before the cancer survivor rings the bell, their doctor shares thoughts on the strengths they’ve witnessed in the young patient over the years of treatment.
“We really love to take these moments and celebrate the accomplishments of the whole team, in addition to the family and all that they’ve been through,” he said.
Reeves said the events are a morale boost for everyone involved. "It's always uplifting for our staff, even on the hardest of hard days." She said seeing another patient's victory can also motivate families still in the middle of the journey.
As another memento of their journey, each child also receives a copy of "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Suess, and it's signed by all the members of their medical team. The journey that begins with a diagnosis and is marked with a multitude of beads, ends with the ringing of a bell and a reminder of the bright future ahead.