We Don’t Want Your Cancer Beads

Steve McKinionUncategorized32 Comments

Monday was a terrible day for Harrison, meaning a terrible day for his parents.

We discovered that he was entirely unwilling/unable to take oral medications. We tried swallowing pills. Gag. We tried hiding the pills in ice cream. He chews his ice cream (and every other soft food like pudding and applesauce), so he just crunch down on them and threw up because of the terrible taste. We crushed them into a powder and mixed them with every conceivable food he would eat. Same outcome. He threw up 5 or 6 times just trying to take medicine.

Of course, that medicine is THE MOST IMPORTANT HE’LL TAKE to get into remission. Figures.

Then they needed to change the dressing on his port. The port is a device installed just underneath his skin with a line into a major vein and directly into his heart. This will be the place where they will draw blood, deliver chemo, and pass him other medicines for the next three years. There is currently a needle protruding from it covered in gauze and help in place by water- and air-proof tape. If it gets infected, he dies.

Changing the dressing meant removing the tape, sterilizing the area, and reapplying. If you’ve ever had a serious injury you can image how tender and sensitive that area would be. Ripping the tape off, pushing and prodding around, and cleaning the area was excruciatingly painful. Ginger and I just wept as our son begged them to stop while still fighting to remain strong.

Harrison was miserable, and his parents were beside themselves over his misery.

Football from Eli Manning

In the middle of it all, a sweet lady came in to walk through with Harrison his “Beads of Courage.” He got a long string and began to collect beads celebrating his successes. One color for getting the port, another each time he took medicine, another for every “poke” with a needle, etc. In the end he’ll have a huge string with his name and his beads, a reminder of the courage he showed kicking cancer in the teeth.

As I listened to this lady, and watched Harrison’s eyes light up, it struck me, “I don’t want your beads.”

We are discovering that the community around leukemia patients and families is unbelievable. We’ve gotten emails from people we’ve never met in Kentucky, Virginia, and Georgia who have been or are going through what we’re enduring (and have to endure for the next several years). Out of no where they have rallied around us. It’s been incredible. I didn’t know this community existed.

The beads now identify us with that world, the world of leukemia.

I wanted to ask the lady to leave and not come back. I want to tell the people who have written that we don’t need their emails. The thousands of text messages, voicemails, emails, facebook posts, and tweets of love and support? No thanks.

You see, those things, like the beads and the community they identify, are for kids with cancer…not my son.

But we are a part of that community. My son is now that leukemia patient who’ll lose his hair, grow big checks, and look a little funny. Ginger and I are the parents who’ll fear every night that our son may contracted an infection and die by morning. We’ll have a bag packed to rush to the hospital every time he has a fever. We’ll cancel trips, drain our savings, and watch our son suffer.

So, he needs the beads. We need the beads. Not because they are magic, but because they identify us with a community of fellow-travellers. Without them, we’ll not be able to endure.

We need the calls, texts, emails, visits, facebook messages, tweets and retweets. Why? Because in every one of them we find a reminder that our Heavenly Father cares for his children. While they all remind us of the hell we are in, they also prove the heaven that life in the Kingdom of God is.

Scripture tells us that the wilderness is a place of disease, destruction, and death, but that the Kingdom of God is a place of life and peace, a place where there is no more crying or dying. And while we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come,” we enjoy the benefits of that Kingdom now in community with his people.

Yes, we’ll take your beads. And thank you very much for them.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

(Psalm 73:25-26 ESV)

32 Comments on “We Don’t Want Your Cancer Beads”

  1. Steve,

    I have prayed for Harrison since reading about his diagnosis. May the Lord grant you & your wife much strength and deepening faith as you walk this difficult path. Thanks for sharing part of your heart and testifying to the sufficiency of our Lord’s grace to you in this trial.


  2. Dr. McKinion,

    I want to thank you for your willingness to allow family, friends, students, and complete strangers into this part of your live. I am encouraged by your transparency and your faith. Know that your SEBTS family is praying for you. I also wanted to leave you with this. I hope it is encouraging to you and Ginger.


  3. We are continuing to pray for Harrison and your entire family. You and your family are close to my heart and I promise to pray for you thru this entire ordeal and beyond when Harrison is fully healed. Suzanne and I have 3 kids now ourselves and cannot fathom the pain and anguish you are in watching him go thru this. However, at SEBTS I learned more from you than just historical theology. I learned how to trust the Scriptures and believe on the Father. So I know God will sustain you thru the impossibilities and lead you thru the painful valleys.

  4. We have been praying non stop, we have asked families in PR and Nicaragua to pray. Ciara asked her friend from school to pray. Her fried attends Colonial Baptist when her friend was about to ask the youth pastor to pray for you all, he had a prayer request of his own “pray for Harrison Mckinion”. Know that your family is very loved and that we are all praying very hard for all of you.

  5. We are praying for Harrison and your family! May the Lord continue to give Harrison strength and comfort as well as your family! We are friends of Randy and April and I shared Harrison’s story with my son. My son wants to send Harrison a present to lift his spirits, so I hope to send him something this week. We will continue to pray for Harrison and your family! May God continue to give you much comfort during this trial! Blessings. The Caudle Family.

  6. Steve and Ginger,

    Hugh and I read your post this morning. We are fervently praying for your family. Our hope is to encourage you by reminding you of Haleigh. She has surpassed all the hurdles that have been set before her, but the day she was born we found out that her pulmonary valve was completely blocked. We were devistated and terrified. It meant her life would not be what we had dreamed. It meant our lives would be altered because of it. Now I can say it wasn’t about us at all, but all for the glory of God. When I see what she is able to do now athletically and academically I am in awe of the hand of God. Now we see that she is so much stronger than the two of us put together. Hang in there coach. Your team is praying for you! The Tucker Family

  7. Dr. McKinion, I’m a graduated college student from southeastern. My husband plays w Matt Papa (We heard about your son through Phil. Then twitter). I’m also a new mommy to a 10 wk old son. My whole little heart is praying for harrison. Oh I pray the Lord upholds him with His right hand. And like I pray for my son, Leland, I pray for Harrison, that he will be a tree rooted deep in the Lord, planted by His steams of water, life eternal, providing shade and rest to others, and glorifying the Lord. Thank you so much for writing. And for living for Jesus, no matter what.

  8. Steve, I remember when this moment hit me after Ben’s death. I suddenly realized that I was the guy no one wanted to be! While they loved me and empathized with me, they sure didn’t want to take my place. That was a devastating realization. Then I remembered that the Lord had taken my place when He gave His Son to pay for my sins. I knew then that I was in good company, even when I felt so alone in my struggle. The Lord truly knows like no one else what you are feeling. And better yet, He can do something about the pain and heartache that no one else can ease. Trust Him, brother. Loving you guys in the midst of this.

  9. Dear McKinion family,

    I am Becky’s mom and just wanted to let you know that Pat and I have been joining others in the Throne Room during this storm in your life. I am praying Ps. 46-1-3 for you because I can imagine that you feel as if earth has given way. I know that God is your refuge and strength. However, I just wanted to let you know that as a child about Harrison’s age I experienced the peace, love and wisdom from our Savior during a storm of my own. I know without a doubt The One and Only ministered to me in a way I have no vocabulary mighty enough to express. I tell you this to give testimony that Our God is the expert in wrapping His arms around Harrison and comforting him beyond what we could ask or imagine. Those times with Jesus when I was a child were and are some of the sweetest stones of faith in my life. I believe this for you and your family and Harrison. Praying relentlessly,


  10. Dr. McKinion,

    I can’t pretend to know the suffering that you and your family are going through right now and I won’t try. I remember sitting in class listening to you share stories about your children with the class, and how you displayed a self-evident love for them. I’ve never met your son, but I love him too. And I hurt for him and your family. Not because of the stories, but because of our common bond in Christ. My family is praying for yours. Maranatha.

  11. Praying for another way to administer his mess besides pills! God is able! Of this I’m certain!

  12. when my great niece had life necessity heart surgeriesafter birth, our family discovered a congenital heart defect community of supporters and prayer warriors. That was key to helping everyone walk through all that happened in the first months of her little life. I’m sure you will find the same need served through this new community you have found. God knits lives together for a purpose – each serving a purpose in a unique way. Will continue to pray for Harrison’s complete healing, and for the strengthu all need for each day! Thanks for sharing….

  13. I read your letters through Leah Phillips Finn’s facebook page. And I have been praying for your little son’s healing. My husband and I found a documentary about the doctor in Texas that treats cancer and has a very good success rate in treating advanced cancer patents. The doctor’s name is Stanislaw Burzynski. We are not related to him in anyway but when we watched the documentary and saw testimonies of people and there were many children among them that he treated my husband and I both cried. My husband’s mom passed away over 2 months ago. She had breast cancer and if we would have known about this doctor 4 months ago things could have been different. There is a Burzynski patents and clinic page on facebook for anyone who is interested. From what I understood his treatments have almost no side effects and are more efficient that chemo and radiation that they normally offer.

    You’re son has been on my heart and I will continue to pray for his healing! Please let me know if there is anything I can do or can help with.

    Blessings, Gulmira Hamlett.

  14. Steve: My family and I have fervently prayed for Harrison since your initial tweet concerning him and we will continue to do so, asking the Lord to heal your son. Jason Lee is right: Harrison is a tough 10-year old.

  15. Thank you for sharing your story. Ive taught kids how to swallow pills using raspberries to get used to the sensation…wondered if this might help. Blessings and His peace on your difficult journey ahead.

  16. I’ve been praying specifically every day for him to be able to get those pills down. Will keep praying:)

  17. Prayers for Harrison. I am a strong Christian and completely believe that our heavenly father can provide miracles. He has blessed you all to be the parents of Harrison bc you all are helping him be the strong little boy he is today, and he will show you all how strong strong really is. Bless you and your family prayers are sent.

  18. Hi. Your story caught my attention because of the title. I am a glass maker. I have made beads for beads of Courage.
    My heart goes out to you and your family. I am so sorry you’re goi g thru this and I just want you to know that the people I make those beads with pray for each child that they will go to. Sending love and prayers.

    1. I am certain the kids who got the beads you made were greatly blessed by them. Thanks for helping in that way.

  19. Thank you for sharing your heart and the feelings you had on your son’s diagnosis. ALL is terrible and the battle more than difficult. Our grandson was diagnosed with ALL when he was almost 7 and it was a frightening time – I am so thankful that he became such a warrior and your son will to, along with you, his parents. Our grandson is 15 and a strong, happy cancer free young man. I pray the same for your beautiful son. I appreciate the scripture you noted at the bottom of your post. This is a fallen world – but God, His kingdom and our eternal home in Heaven will be perfect and joy will fill us in His presence. May God’s grace fill you and give you the strength and help you each need at this time.

    1. Wonderful news about your grandson. These kids endure some unspeakable difficulties. I thank God with you that you grandson is doing so well, and pray for many years of healthy living.

  20. As a huge supporter and bead maker of Beads of Courage, I read the title and thought oh how rude, I must read why they would not want these beads we make. After reading reading your story I was bawling, sending prayers and lots of hugs. Keeping the beads coming.

    1. Thank you, Michelle. And thank you for your work with beads of courage. We have experienced firsthand how much they can be a blessing.

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