The Weeks family’s story
Recognising the strength of siblings through Beads of Courage®
Even to people who have never been impacted by childhood cancer, the Beads of Courage® programme is well-known for the way the beads create a physical story of a child’s journey with cancer. One aspect of the programme that is less-widely known but equally powerful is how beads can be used to support siblings through their experience of the journey.
It’s not surprising that children can find it difficult to cope with the cancer diagnosis of their brother or sister. The journey brings many changes to their life, especially if it means their sibling and a parent have to be away for long periods of time. Despite parents’ best intentions, they might feel as if they have to take the backseat while their sibling requires more support.
To help siblings come to terms with what they’re feeling, the Beads of Courage® Sibling Programme is a great way to provide recognition and support of their emotional journey. It focuses on a variety of themes to help siblings cope, as well as creating talking points to encourage communication and healing opportunities.
Monique Weeks found sibling beads a meaningful way to recognise her three daughters’ experiences when their brother Max was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Max was just six and a half at the time, and his treatment required him and Monique to travel every six weeks from their home in Hawke’s Bay to Auckland’s Starship Hospital.
While Max did his beads with his Family Support Coordinator Shannyn, Monique was in charge of guiding the girls through the Sibling Programme. Every time Max and Monique had to leave for treatment, when the girls received special awards at school, and on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas, Monique sat down with them to give them a packet of sibling beads. These special moments of quality time between them encouraged the girls to talk about how they were feeling and reminded them of their importance to the family.
Monique says her older daughters Giana and Leila, who were nine and eleven at the time of Max’s diagnosis, were able to make sense of the situation, but her youngest daughter Amalia struggled to comprehend what was going on.
“Amalia was only four when Max was diagnosed, so she was just starting school when we were in the thick of the treatment plan,” Monique says. “The sibling beads were a lot more important for her development and understanding than they were for the older girls.”
Sibling beads can be used by parents at any time that feels right, to recognise the little moments during a time of significant change. Every bead becomes a special symbol of encouragement, and acknowledges their bravery and courage throughout the journey. Amalia received a special bead the time she came to treatment and helped Monique look after Max, recognising the special connection with her brother.
Monique said her beads were especially effective as a tool to help Amalia with the anxiety she was experiencing, as they helped her feel included.
“Younger kids see the beads as a treat that only cancer patients get, so for Amalia to get her own was very special,” she says. “I saw so much growth in her throughout our journey.”
Child Cancer Foundation encourages every family going through the journey of childhood cancer to acknowledge the experiences of siblings through the Beads of Courage® Sibling Programme, just as Monique has done with her courageous daughters.
We can’t do this without you
Donate today to ensure that more siblings of children with cancer can be supported through the Beads of Courage® Sibling Programme. The families we support will be grateful for your generosity every day.