Isabelle Welch’s kaleidoscope of beads is a collection of special milestones, memories, and relationships forged at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent.
The ballet slipper bead represents her love for dance and time spent in movement therapy.
The silver hammer bead signifies her strength in fighting cancer.
Diagnosed in October 2017 with osteosarcoma, the most common type of bone cancer, 14-year-old Isabelle was given the opportunity to take part in the Beads of Courage program, offered in partnership with Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. Beads of Courage is a nonprofit organization that provides innovative arts-in-medicine programs for children and teens coping with serious illness, their families and the clinicians that care for them.
Through Beads of Courage, children and teens receive colorful beads to commemorate the important milestones in their journey while receiving treatment for cancer.
“My beads are very important to me because they show my journey through cancer and allow me to share my story,” said Isabelle, who has collected 2,130 beads and counting.
Last year during a fall break from school, Isabelle’s dad Jeremy noticed she was having balance issues with occasional falls. After a visit to her primary care physician and numerous tests, her care team discovered a tumor in her lower right leg.
“Isabelle was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and had to undergo months of chemotherapy prior to having surgery to remove her tumor. The surgery was our big milestone,” Jeremy reflects. “Isabelle has had to go through a lot of tough things, and it’s been a very long road. Every test, every therapy … when you’re facing that uphill battle, it’s really tough.”
At Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, Isabelle learned about the Beads of Courage program from Child Life supervisor Amy Heinz. Isabelle has been collecting beads ever since her first chemotherapy visit.
Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital is the first Beads of Courage member hospital in Indiana, made possible thanks to a partnership between Northwestern Mutual and Beads of Courage.
For nearly a year, Isabelle has amassed a collection of custom-made beads on a string that continues to expand.
Her hammer bead is her Dream Bead, which was developed in the shape of the Hulk fist and inspired by the Marvel superhero. Taken from a scene in “The Avengers” movie, Isabelle decided to “smash the puny” tumor, a mantra the Welch family adopted as a source of inspiration.
She has a special bead for returning to Clay Middle School after being on a medical leave of absence.
Isabelle’s hospital school bead was gifted to her by Heather Wiselogle, the hospital-based teacher at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.
“The school bead is my favorite because I just love school,” said the eighth grader, who kept up with her studies while in the hospital by working with Ms. Heather. “Even though I was sick, my mom wanted me to still go to school.”
The larger beads in her collection have varying shapes but when Isabelle touches them, she smiles and refers to them as the “discharge beads.”
“Every time we were discharged, we’d get a clay bead and we really loved it when we were able to go home,” mom Catrina Welch said.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and Isabelle offers this advice to other kids who may be bead collectors or having a tough time.
“Look at your beads and be reminded of the good memories, and never give up.”