Do you have a teddy bear? 

SquifflesOne of the strangest gifts I received following my surgery for breast cancer came from my son Stephen. It was a small bean-bag lion, with a notable squint and a crooked nose.

My initial reaction to this funny little toy was embarrassment. What possessed my son to get this for me? I wasn’t a person who collected cuddly toys. The night following surgery, I couldn’t sleep. I noticed the little lion on my bedside locker, and dragged him onto the bed beside me. He seemed to stare at me . . . out of one eye anyway. With his skew features and squint eyes he looked as forlorn and deserted as I felt. I ended up falling asleep with him cuddled against my damp cheek. This started an unusual relationship. I called him Squiffles, which seemed to suit him, and tucked him out of sight beneath my blankets. During the day, my hand held him and somehow I received strength from his presence. When I left the bed, I would tuck him away in my drawer. Some weeks after I returned home, I read a book by a psychologist who went through the same cancer. One chapter heading leapt out at me: Do you have a Teddy? She explained how she stumbled, like I did, into the value of something small and cuddly to help deal with major emotional trauma. She stressed the importance of having such a comfort object during the traumatic time of cancer treatment. Of course she used psychological terms but that wasn’t the point. I was so relieved to find I wasn’t completely crazy. I came to realize I could love and hold this little creature any time of the day or night—and he always understood. Squiffles accepted me as I was. He didn’t make me feel as if I should grow up. He didn’t turn from my tears. He didn’t look at me with pity. He just lay next to me, watching me constantly with one of his two opposing eyes. As the book said, I gradually needed him less. Today he lies on my dressing-table and I hardly notice him. I guess that’s a good sign. It shows me that I’ve healed, not only physically, but emotionally. I just hope he doesn’t feel rejected . . . So—let me close by asking, “Do you have a teddy-bear? Or a lion? If so, please tell us what you have and what (s)he means to you.

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