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Beads of Courage- Representing a Childhood Cancer Journey

Each bead tells a story of bravery and strength – of power and determination. Beautifully strung together the beads curate a personal journey no child should ever have to share. Lurie Children’s Beads of Courage program helps patients express experiences that can’t be fully captured in words. 

More than 850 Beads of Courage tell Elizabeth Abbott’s, 3, story with childhood cancer. After experiencing back pain for weeks and then falling ill with a fever, Elizabeth’s concerned pediatrician sent her to a local ER where she was then transported to Lurie Children’s and diagnosed on January 3, 2019 with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), a type blood and bone marrow cancer.

Shortly after her diagnosis, Elizabeth began collecting her Beads of Courage. Each bead is a visual representation of all Elizabeth has endured and overcome. Her mom Jenny said, “Initially, I found the beads to be incredibly helpful to me. It gave me something to focus on- listing all that Elizabeth had suffered in those first few weeks, having a visual representation, a way to visually quantify, the strength and courage she showed while dealing with things no three-year-old should have to deal with. I found it therapeutic to sit and string her beads, giving some sort of order to the chaos our lives had become overnight.” 

Beads of Courage provides patients like Elizabeth a sense of ownership over their experience and a unique, tangible way to share their story with others. The hundreds of beads Elizabeth has earned represent different milestones in her cancer journey. She has earned a bead for pokes, x-rays, inpatient stays, chemo, surgeries and more. Jenny said, “Elizabeth has gotten involved in adding beads to her string and is proud to show them to family and friends, explaining what different colors mean. Even though she is only 3, she knows which ones are which.”

For Jenny, the beads have given her a different perspective while her daughter undergoes treatment. “Looking at the incredible string of colors, it is truly hard to comprehend. She has come so far and has been through so much. When we share our story through the beads, people often get teary eyed, thinking how unfair life can sometimes be. I am incredibly proud and truly in awe. Elizabeth has a strength and courage that puts the rest of us to shame. She is stronger than anyone I know, and her courage and smile are what have kept me going, moving forward during this journey,” said Jenny. 

“Elizabeth's beads allow us to reframe our thinking and share her journey in a positive light. Instead of focusing on the pain and sadness that is childhood cancer, we are able to focus on the strength and courage that our little one has shown in the face of adversity.”

And at the end of Elizabeth’s cancer journey, Jenny said, “I hope she will be able to look back at what she may not even remember and know that if she could go through all this, she can truly do anything in life.”


Our Beads of Courage program is funded by the Young Associates Board, as well as the Ann Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation. If you would like to contribute to the program, please contact the Foundation at 312.277.7500 or foundation@luriechildrens.org

Learn more about Beads of Courage

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