Wednesday, March 12, 2008

143 acts of courage

By RUTH HILL - The Dominion Post | Thursday, 13 March 2008

CRAIG SIMCOX/Dominion Post

BRAVE ACTS: Each of the 143 beads on eight-year-old Stephen Uelese's necklace represents an 'act of courage' by the boy in his battle against cancer. He gets a hug from brother Ke'es, two.

Each of the 143 beads on eight-year-old Stephen Uelese's necklace represents an "act of courage" by the boy in his battle against cancer.

Every blood test, scan, chemotherapy session, surgical procedure, the two weeks he spent in isolation with pneumonia and pancreatitis, the week he was in a wheelchair because of a bad reaction to medication - each horrible experience is part of his own personal rosary.

"I hate the chemo," Stephen said. "But the beads are cool."

Most child cancer patients taking part in the Child Cancer Foundation's Beads of Courage programme will collect more than 400 beads during treatment.

"Beads of Courage provide the children with a special way of communicating and lets them know just how brave we think they are," foundation spokeswoman Olivia Baylock said.

Stephen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's T-cell lymphoma in October, three months after Wellington Hospital's child cancer unit was forced to close its doors to new patients because of staff shortages.

His mother, Marika Broad, said the family had 12 hours to "sort their lives out" before going to Auckland so Stephen could be treated at Starship children's hospital for six weeks.

Since January, the family had been sent to Christchurch Hospital three times, and it faced another five trips before Stephen could start outpatient treatment.

Being ripped away from normal life was very disruptive for the whole family, Ms Broad said.

"Stephen has been very, very brave but he always asks when can we go home to Wellington."

The practical and emotional support from the foundation workers in Wellington and the Ronald McDonald houses in Auckland and Christchurch had been vital.

"If it wasn't for these non-governmental foundations, we wouldn't survive the journey we are going through."

The foundation's annual appeal is this week and collectors are on Wellington streets today.

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