March 19 – Chemobearapy

by Cathy Scibelli


I write a blog dedicated to those with serious illnesses but rarely discuss topics specifically related to illness, preferring to focus on stories that will make people laugh and forget for a while the problems they face. However, there are times when the very act of dealing with illness brings love and laughter into my life. I thought I would share a recent example of how I’ve changed “chemotherapy” into “chemobearapy.”

Every three weeks, I go to the Monter Center on Long Island to receive a “maintenance dose” of Herceptin to control the breast cancer that has metastasized in my body. My blog sidekick, a 3″ teddy bear named Stretch, comes along with me.

Most of the nurses in the center know about Stretch, so when we arrive he’s greeted and fussed over. Last Friday we had a nurse, Jane, who hasn’t treated us before so she was curious about the hub bub that Stretch causes. I explained to her about the blog and introduced her to Stretch. Their eyes met, she smiled at him, and it was love at first sight.

Stretch of course wanted to impress her, so he volunteered to help her by watching my IV monitor. As he was sitting on the monitor, another visitor arrived, a social worker named Sandra who came to tell us about some new support programs the Monter Center is starting for breast cancer patients. In turn, I introduced her to Stretch.

Well, that fickle little bear left his post at the IV monitor, crawled into Sandra’s pocket, and proceeded to charm her and offer his assistance in getting the word out about the new programs. But he deftly managed to get back to the cubicle in time to look as if he had been sitting there diligently watching the chemo monitor just as the alarm went off to indicate the session was completed.

We shared some hugs and laughs all around, Stretch presented Jane with a St. Patrick’s Day plant to reassure her that she was Number One in his heart, and we went on our way feeling that not only had we treated our cancer, we had also replenished our spirit.

Living with a life-threatening illness is like being on a roller coaster. Friday was one of the days when you reach the top of the hill and instead of crashing down in terror, you plunge laughing and waving your arms, forgetting your fears. Unfortunately you don’t get to step off the roller coaster at the bottom. But as the ride continues it’s always good to look forward in hopeful anticipation that the next loop around the bend will be fun instead of scary, and make sure you take along fellow riders who give you courage and inspire you. I was going to suggest you might want to find your own little mascot, too–but be warned that they are high maintenance and tend to take over your blog, as well as run your life.

Cathy Scibelli has been living with metastatic breast cancer since 2012. She blogs about the ways she continues to enjoy her life with her sidekick Stretch who always has a unique perspective on their adventures.


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