Fighting for his life, 7-year-old boy finds courage through strand of beads

Click to play video: 'Beads of courage sign of strength'
Beads of courage sign of strength
WATCH ABOVE: It’s a relatively new program, but Beads of Courage has given many young people strength during difficult health issues. Wendy Winiewski introduces us to a program participant whose beads tell the story of a lengthy fight – Jun 3, 2016

Blood draws, CT-scans, radiation and chemotherapy — they’re all part of a story that has become Joel Bachman’s daily life since being diagnosed with cancer in December, 2015.

“Medulloblastoma,” said the seven-year-old, easily able to pronounce a word many have never even heard.

“It’s a tumor,” he explained. “Right here,” he pointed to the back of his skull where a scar marks the location the tumor was before Dr.’s removed it.

READ MORE: Make-A-Wish grants teen brain cancer survivor’s wish in Saskatoon

The six-month journey is summarized and captured by a colourful strand of beads.

Seven-year-old Joel Bachman is battling medulloblastoma cancer. Each step of the journey is marked by adding a bead to his long strand as part of the Beads of Courage program. Tyler Schroeder / Global News

“We have 168. Was that the last time we counted it?” Joel asked his mom, Marla Bachman. She reminds him two new beads were added today.

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“Every single bead that he has is a sense of accomplishment for him,” said his mom.

Joel is a participant in the Beads of Courage program. While the tumor has been removed, Joel is only half way through his chemotherapy treatment and is expected to have more than 300 beads by the time treatment is complete.

“Every needle poke, every bag of chemo, every radiation day, that’s another hurdle that he’s overcome. And he can sit and look at the beads and reflect on what he has gone through so far.”

And that’s exactly what he does.

“30, 31, 32 … ,” counted Joel sliding each black bead along the strand.

“The black ones are the pokes and I’ve had lots of pokes. I don’t even know how many,” Joel said, but thanks to this program, he can easily tally them.

When he and his mom unlooped the two strands and tied them together, the string was longer than the four-foot two, Joel is in height.

Joel Bachman’s necklace is longer than he is tall, symbolizing his long journey with cancer.
Joel Bachman’s necklace is longer than he is tall, symbolizing his long journey with cancer. Tyler Schroeder / Global News

Saskatoon’s Doug Gillespie brought the program to Canada. It originally launched at Royal University Hospital to help any children or teens coping with serious illness. Recently, the program expanded to the Saskatoon Cancer Centre.

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Doug Gillespie was instrumental in bringing the Beads of Courage program to Canada.
Doug Gillespie was instrumental in bringing the Beads of Courage program to Canada. Ali Gillespie Kraft

“This was his goal,” explained Doug’s daughter, Ali Gillespie Kraft.

“For him it was to get it into the cancer agency for the kids, the [pediatric] cancer agency because this is where his journey started,” explained Gillespie Kraft.

Oncology social worker, Colleen McBride said it’s making a huge difference, especially when a cure might not be possible.

“So the Beads of Courage program gives me a way in to say, I see you, I hear you and I understand,” said McBride.” And that matters because this is your story and your life and a life experience is worth embracing.”

A life experience the Bachman’s are hopeful Joel will be able to reflect on, through the beads, now and into the future.

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“This will be right up there with his hockey trophies, with any awards he’s ever received or accomplishments,” said Joel’s mother.

The entire program is funded through donations. According to Beads of Courage-Canada, approximately 750 participants are enrolled in Saskatchewan. It costs approximately $30 per child per year for an annual total exceeding $20,000.

The Beads of Courage Colour Festival FUN RUN is scheduled for 9 a.m. CT on Sunday in Lakeview Park in Saskatoon.

Donations can be also be made online.

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