The first of its kind in Southeast Asia, the Bravery Beads programme inspires young patients to remember their personal triumphs at combating cancer.
  • Bravery Beads programme to help children cope with cancer
  • Beads presented after milestone event or procedure
  • First of its kind in Southeast Asia
Motivated by his experience as a paediatric patient with a severely broken arm in his childhood, Dr Jason Leen, a Duke-NUS alumnus and a year two Paediatrics Resident in SingHealth Residency, raised an idea to support young patients going through the upheavals of cancer treatment.
His colleagues at the Duke-NUS Pediatrics Interest Group (Duke-NUS PedsIG) saw the potential in the idea and brought it to life.
“Bravery Beads” are given to children with cancer to collect and string together whenever they complete a procedure or treatment. They represent milestones and procedures like birthdays, bone marrow transplant, MRI/PET scan and chemotherapy. The keychain of beads can be hung onto bags during hospital visits, or kept by parents for children under six.
Then a young House Officer attached to KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) in 2012, Dr Leen bore witness to the daily struggles of young patients and was moved to seek feedback from the Oncology Department. “I wanted to alleviate the distress that treatments and procedures can bring. My exposure to a similar bead accumulation programme in Toronto, Canada came to mind one day on the train to work,” Dr Leen said.
“It was an attempt to create a sustainable programme with high impact. We wanted the most bang for our buck, especially for our long-term patients we see through the years.”
The Bravery Beads programme is supported by the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF). Ms Liow Hwee Hsiang, Senior Counsellor and Senior Child Life Specialist of CCF @ KKH, facilitates a team of social workers and healthcare professionals to execute the programme. The team includes the Duke-NUS PedsIG, CCF, and doctors and nurses at KKH’s Haematology/Oncology Department.
There are currently 24 categories of beads and they are more than the sum of its parts. With the significance of a battle trophy or lucky charm, a bead presented after procedures can lighten the distress of pain or fear for a child.
“Like any excited child with a sticker or card collection and getting a new one, we hope to give paediatric patients the experience of still being kids,” Ms Liow explained. Dr Leen agreed,
“Children with cancer have to grow up really fast, so we hope to lift their spirits. The beads represent strength and positivity on their treatment journeys.”
The uncertainties and fear of cancer treatment are very real to families and tough to moderate. However, the humble box of beads is a poignant reminder to the team that the programme deserves continual efforts for helping young patients cope with major illnesses.
At the heart of the programme is the hope to brighten up a family in their darker hours, and to encourage a child to remember his strength and tenacity at overcoming the odds. It is an important psycho-social tool for handling health issues at a young age, and a first of its kind in Southeast Asia.
“We are still in early phases, but we want to drive home a message of hope to young patients: that you have overcome the odds with each bead collected. We hope Bravery Beads are positive reminders of what they’ve been through and can inspire them to do anything in life,” Dr Leen said.