About us Latest news Six-year-old patient collects 12 metres of beads to mark his treatment journey “The doctors said Thomas was lucky I brought him to A&E when I did." Last February, doting mum Gemma was told the heart-breaking news that her five-year-old son Thomas has cancer. Now six, Thomas is visiting Leeds Children’s Hospital on a regular basis as his treatment continues during the coronavirus pandemic. Thomas had been off school for a week with a sickness bug and suddenly came out in a rash, so Gemma rushed him to Leeds General Infirmary fearing he had Meningitis, but the reality was far worse. In less than 24 hours, the family’s world turned upside down as they were told Thomas has T Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, an aggressive type of cancer that progresses quickly. Gemma said, “The doctors said Thomas was lucky I brought him to A&E when I did, if it had been another week, they might not have been able to save his life.” Unfortunately, this is not the first-time brave Thomas has had to fight for his life, he’s spent time on several wards as he had complications at birth and contracted sepsis when he was just two. "When we look back at the beads together and count them, we realise how much of a little fighter he is.” On his very first day in hospital, Thomas started collecting Beads of Courage, a charitable initiative at Leeds Children’s Hospital that is supported by several organisations including Children with Cancer UK and Leeds Cares. Beads of Courage is an internationally renowned charity scheme that first launched in the United States. Children collect beads as part of their treatment journey, each represents a different test or procedure. This positive coping strategy helps children like Thomas have something tangible to tell people about their experience both during and after treatments. Thomas’s beads are now a whopping 12 metres long! His mum Gemma says they have really helped him understand his treatment journey, “Thomas is so proud of his Beads of Courage, collecting them has really helped Thomas understand and explain what he’s going through to other people – he loves them!” Each bead has a special meaning attached to it and collecting the beads is a fun activity for children, helping to reduce procedural anxiety. Gemma is so grateful for the beads which she describes as a ‘visual journal’, “With everything going on it can be hard to keep track of everything Thomas has been through over the past year, but when we look back at the beads together and count them, we realise how much of a little fighter he is.” Thomas’s fight is far from over, as he continues to visit hospital during covid-19 and faces two and a half more years of treatment and collect lots more beads along the way. He is even hoping to collect enough beads to go across his school hall!