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Subject:  bennett's bear / spreading hope Date:  3/19/2003  7:00 PM
Author:  scollywaltz Number:  1208 of 3134

this is a little long; but it's a true story, and (i think) worth the read.

when i was in high school, a baby boy that i babysat for was diagnosed with a rather rare form of cancer. i can't remember the terminology now, but it was rare enough that there weren't any promising treatment plans for it at the time. it was definitely considered terminal. bennett underwent a year or two of intensive and experimental treatments, including chemotherapy -- which is a horrible experience for anyone, but especially for a toddler who doesn't understand why the miserable procedures had to be done in the first place. his parents never gave up hope, though. as christians, they had a strong belief that god would heal their child. and...he did. bennett is a healthy and extremely active 14-year-old today.

about a year after bennett was declared "in remission", my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. while there are treatment plans for colon cancer, it is considered to be one of the more aggressive and deadly cancers; the survival rate isn't as high as, say, breast cancer or skin cancer. my mom was devastated, and practically catatonic for awhile because of fear. bennett's mom came over one day and gave her a teddybear that bennett had slept with in the hospital when he was sick. she said that she wanted to give it to my mom, to remind her that there is always hope, no matter how bad the medical odds. my mom put the bear where she could see it everyday, and slowly started to regain her strength. after completing a year of chemotherapy, my mom was also declared "in remission." she is still doing fine 11 years later.

not too long after that, my college roommate's mother was diagnosed with very advanced cancer. by the time it was diagnosed, it had already attacked several organs including her brain. doctors gave her only weeks to live. mom gave her "bennett's bear" when we first got the news, and - i can probably give you the short version: she's still alive and doing well today. she still has cancer, and receives ongoing treatment for it -- some of it very experimental -- but she has a wonderful spirit and is enjoying every minute of the years that the doctors didn't expect her to have.

another friend's mom was later diagnosed with skin cancer. mom had already passed on the bear, but i went out and bought another teddy and wrote out the history of "betsy & bennett's bear" (omitting that this was not the original), and mailed it to her. i hadn't met her yet, but i did meet her later, and she still starts crying when she tells the story about receiving the bear. (she is, of course, doing very well -- i think in remission.) she has since passed that bear, and its story, along to others.

a third cousin recently received another incarnation of bennett's bear after being diagnosed with very progressed cancer.... she is still battling it.

these bears are circling the world now, and whenever a new recipient hears the story, they really do get a renewed sense of hope. i don't think anyone truly thinks that the teddy is lucky, but when they have a real person's survival story to hang on to -- especially those that were really medical miracles -- they start to believe that their survival is not so unlikely. and studies show that optimism actually does contribute to the body's ability to heal itself.

if there are any other survivors out there who would like to pass along "bennett's bear", my mom & i certainly won't let it slip that there's some cloning going on. ;)


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