The words that every person dreads to hear!  Can you imagine hearing these words if you were a young child diagnosed with cancer or if it was your child diagnosed? 

Cancer is never a subject that you want to deal with, but it’s particularly hard to deal with when it affects a child. Unfortunately, cancer does not spare young people.  Did you know that over 45 children will be diagnosed in Canada this year alone?

Go Gold Campaign for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer is never a subject that you want to deal with, but it’s particularly hard to deal with when it affects a child. Unfortunately, cancer does not spare young people.  Did you know that over 45 children will be diagnosed in Canada this year alone?

Childhood cancer awareness is something that I am passionate about and something that I have spent the last two years lobbying for.  In 2018, I was crowned Miss Teen Ontario East and during that pageant weekend I was informed about childhood cancer and the struggles and challenges that young cancer champions go through every day.  It was eye-opening and something that has changed by life.  Meeting the young cancer warriors, learning their stories and seeing their treatments is something that affected me and made me realize the nightmares of a childhood cancer diagnosis. 

I had the opportunity over the past 16 months to speak to school assemblies, community groups, youth groups and various organizations about childhood cancer and the lack of funding that exists for new treatments, research and less invasive protocols.  It is astonishing when you realize that only 4% of cancer donations in Canada are directed towards childhood cancer.  This percentage needs to change and it will not change unless we spread awareness of the need for change for childhood cancers and lobby to make a more valiant effort to increase that percentage.  Too many children who are diagnosed with cancer at a young age, if they survive, are suffering long term side effects from the aggressive treatment plans that they need to endure. 

Kids should not have cancer!  They should be running and playing in true child-like fashion.  They should not be spending days and nights in a hospital ward enduring lengthy treatment protocols that make them weak, sick and tired.  Over the past two years I have been introduced to many young cancer champions and have learned about their individual treatment plans and what they have had to endure at such an early age.  It is so hard to fathom what these amazing young heroes go through just to survive but I was introduced to a program that gives each cancer champion the option of cataloguing their personal cancer journey; THE COURAGE BEAD PROGRAM.

The Courage Bead Program was introduced by the Candlelighters organization and is funded through them as one of their key support programs.  The Courage Bead ‘necklace’ is a unique and very impacting visual representation of each child’s individual journey.  As part of my Miss Teenage Eastern Ontario charity platform “Raising Awareness of Childhood Cancer” I would like to take the opportunity to follow one child’s cancer journey through her courage beads. 

At diagnosis at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, a young cancer champion is presented with a leather string and their initial diagnosis bead.  This is the start of a long journey that can be captured by coloured beads.  A selection of coloured beads which are coded to correspond with a specific treatment are available to the patients and are awarded at the end of each procedure.  The length of the necklace depends on the individual protocol and the subsequent treatment plan that is determined.  Depending on the diagnosis a childhood cancer treatment protocol can extend from a shorter timeline tracked in weeks to a lengthy treatment plan that can go on for years!  Yes years!  The Courage Bead necklace that I am going to present to you through my platform extended over a 2 year complex treatment plan period that also involved extensive therapy sessions, multiple surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and too many blood pokes to count.  To put it into perspective, this particular bead necklace, when presented in its entirety will go around the perimeter of a school gymnasium twice!  It is a humbling and overwhelming visual when you see what this child went through at such a young age!

When extended this young cancer champion’s bead necklace go around the perimeter of a school gymnasium TWICE!

This young cancer champion’s necklace was painstakingly created and catalogued to portray her cancer story in beads.  I started to count the number of beads on the necklace but I gave up.  It was too overwhelming.  The colour coding is unique and very specific on each necklace.  This necklace has the following:

  • A courage bead for the initial diagnosis day and several other courage beads that were issued for several traumatic situations that occurred during her journey
  • RED beads indicate every time the child received a blood poke.  The necklace is literally overwhelmed with red beads
  • WHITE beads represent every chemotherapy treatment received
  • CREAM beads identify the number of radiation treatments given
  • GREEN beads indicate the number of special clinic (therapy sessions) that the cancer champion had to go through
  • BRIGHT PINK beads signify the lumbar punctures that had to be endured
  • BLACK beads represent the number of antibiotic infusions that the patient had
  • BLUE beads count the number of nights spend in hospital
  • PURPLE beads indicate the number of blood or platelet transfusion that the individual had
  • LONG STRIPED beads are given for every major surgery that she went through
  • RAINBOW STRIPED beads are given for minor surgeries
  • LONG PURPLE Beads were given for stays in the ICU at hospital
  • HAPPY FACE beads are given when a cancer champion needs some special cheering up
  • Special picture beads were given for specific events ie:  meeting the Senators
  • GOLD BEAD signifies the end of chemotherapy for a cancer champion

Researching this particular Cancer Champion project has been so impacting for me!  I have listened to the stories and met young cancer heroes but to actually see a visual representation of what they endured is so impacting!  It has truly changed my outlook on life. 

A message from this young cancer patient “Always find something to make others smile!”

I have learned from these young cancer champions that life is way too short to sweat the small stuff and that every day is a gift and we should respect it as such. 

I have learned that we need to GIVE BACK to others.  We need to find a passion and volunteer!

I have learned that each success is much more meaningful if there is a recipient for my efforts. 

I have learned that no matter where I am in life, I will always support and volunteer for childhood cancer charities.

I have learned that I am only one person, but if I can enlist just one more donor or one more volunteer to a childhood cancer charity organization, then I have made a difference.

I have learned to never give up when a task seems to difficult.

Most of all, I have learned to always be respectful and grateful for the important people in my life because they may not always be there!

Awareness = Funding which results in a change!

Be strong, Be Brave,


Written by: Emma