Teddy Bear Tonic

Teddy Bear Tonic

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Teddy Bear Tonic

It was my fortieth birthday, an event some women dread, but others celebrate. For me, it was time for my first mammogram. I always made sure I followed the guidelines for preventative health care. This year, the kind woman at my gynecologist’s office told me that it was time to add mammograms to the annual checkup.

As luck would have it, the first available appointment was on my birthday. I hesitated. After all, who wants to spend her birthday at the doctor’s office? Then I recalled some advice that I’d once heard: your birthday is a perfect reminder for annual physicals.

While I was feeling somewhat intimidated by my first mammogram, the staff made every effort to put me at ease. Just when I thought I was done, however, the nurse came in and told me they needed to repeat the films. There was a thickening, she said. Nothing to worry about though, large-breasted women sometimes needed to be repositioned.

I waited again. The nurse came back and told me that the doctor would be right in. I thought, That’s nice—the doctor takes the time to see everyone who comes in for a mammogram. It gave me a feeling of confidence.

But my confidence vanished when the doctor informed me there was a suspicious area that required further study. “Not to worry,” she said. “Everything’s fine.”

So down the hall I marched for an ultrasound. The room was dark. The doctor was serious. Trying some humor, I said, “The last time I had an ultrasound, there was a baby.”

But there was no baby this time, and soon I was asking the dreaded question. “Is it cancer?”

The doctor was noncommittal, “This concerns me,” was all she said. She suggested a biopsy. Right then and there.

I was not ready for that. My simple mammogram had turned into a six-hour marathon session. I had been shuffled back and forth for one test after another, now culminating in the biopsy.

I drove home on automatic pilot. Luckily, the doctor’s office was a mere five minutes from my house. I drove through traffic wearing my sunglasses, which hid the tears pouring from my eyes. I stifled the screams I felt rising in my gut, as I thought, I am forty years old, too young. It’s my birthday. Why is this happening to me?

Unfortunately, my three kids were already home from school when I arrived. I didn’t know how I was going to deal with this cancer scare, but one thing I did know was that I could not deal with the kids at that moment.

I had to pass through the family room to go upstairs to the sanctuary of my bedroom. Hoping the kids were completely enthralled by the television, I went through the room quickly, then ran upstairs and threw myself on the bed, unleashing all my pent-up rage and fear.

A knock on the door heralded the arrival of my oldest daughter, fourteen-year-old Robyn. I couldn’t let her in because my distress was too obvious. “I’ll be right down,” I shouted through the door.

Robyn went away, and I breathed a sigh of thanks.

It seemed just a few minutes later when the door opened. My husband, Paul, walked in, and looked on helplessly as I dissolved into a puddle. He gathered me in his arms to offer what comfort he could.

“Robyn called me. She thinks you have breast cancer,” he said simply.

How could she possibly have known? It turned out that resourceful little Robyn had not been convinced by my assurances that I was okay. She had known something was wrong when I walked through the house with my sunglasses on. Evidently the sound of my wracking sobs had scared her. (I thought I’d muffled them so that no one would hear.) Young Detective Robyn then consulted my Day-Timer and noted that I had been to the doctor’s office. Not recognizing the name of my usual physician, she looked the name up in the phone book. The large advertisement for the breast center told her all she needed to know. Fearing the worst, she called her dad at work.

I told Paul the whole story of my six-hour ordeal, and he suggested we better face the troops. Letting their suspicions grow would be worse than the truth.

We both went downstairs, and Paul lined the kids up on the couch. It was our first family summit. I cleared my throat. I can do this, I told myself.

Then I looked at the fear plastered all over the young faces of my three children: Robyn, on the brink of womanhood; John, a brave soldier, not quite twelve; and Lisa, still my baby at ten.

I couldn’t do it. Paul took over. Sitting next to me, clutching my hand, he explained very succinctly that I was having a problem. Yes, breast cancer was suspected, but we wouldn’t know until the results of the tests came back.

Robyn, so resourceful and perceptive in spotting the problem, didn’t say a word. She has always been hard to read. John was full of questions; he needed the details. Lisa cried, clinging to me.

Somehow we got through a hastily prepared dinner. It was all I could do to retain my composure. Afterwards, I made an abrupt retreat to my room.

After a while, there was a timid knock on the door. Robyn, my quiet one, entered, clutching the teddy bear she’d had since childhood. She sat down next to me on the bed and handed me the teddy bear. “He’s always made me feel better,” she said.

Such simple words, such heartfelt sentiments. My daughter was trying to comfort me in the only way she knew. I opened my arms to receive the token of my daughter’s love. And yes, that teddy bear did make me feel better at the end of that long and difficult day.

During subsequent days, I traveled a tortuous road. The diagnosis was indeed cancer, but I made it through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Although Robyn is now too old to give me teddy bears, Lisa, our youngest, still bestows familiar bear-shaped tokens of love on me, with pink ribbons attached.

I call it Teddy-Bear Power. It really does make everything all better.

Bonnie Walsh Davidson

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