“To most people, these beads are just bits of plastic and metal strung together, but to Lena each bead tells a story. Some are happy stories, some are painful stories and some are scary stories. Lena is proud of all of her beads from SickKids and thought it would be a good idea for the kids at Bloorview to have bravery beads: something that would help ease their pain and give them something to look forward to, something they can proudly show to family and friends.”
Cathy McNeill, Lena’s mom, on Lena’s bravery beads program.
Lena leaves a legacy
Lena McNeill was a happy nine-year old who went to school with her twin sister Emma and loved to play soccer, skate and swim.

Then a slight swelling below her knee led to a shocking diagnosis: Lena had osteosarcoma — the same bone cancer as Terry Fox.

After a gruelling year of surgery and chemotherapy at SickKids, Lena rolled her wheelchair into Bloorview Kids Rehab on a mission: to walk again. For 10 weeks, Lena has worked on painful leg stretches and knee bends and exercises like walking a balance beam and treadmill — all meant to strengthen her stiff leg and improve movement and flexibility in her knee. “It’s difficult, effortful, painful work,” says physiotherapist Trischa Lowe.

Lena distracts herself by threading bravery beads onto necklaces — each marking a painful procedure or special accomplishment.

Lena is walking out of Bloorview, but not without leaving a legacy. Inspired by a program she participated in at SickKids, she’s working with child-life specialist Michelle Bernardi and Bloorview Kids Foundation to create the Possibility Beads Program for children in rehab at Bloorview.


Bloorview Kids Rehab | Bloorview’s Resource Centre