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Cathy And Stretch

Since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, Cathy Scibelli of East Norwich has been on a journey of discovery; accompanying her is a three-inch tall teddy bear named Stretch.

Stretch became an important part of Cathy’s life one day when she was about to leave her house for treatment. She glanced over at her collection of stuffed bears (from the days she wrote a column called “Travels with Teddy” for Teddy Bear Review magazine) and the tiny brown bear on her bookshelf caught her attention. She tucked him into her purse. From then on, Stretch, named by Cathy’s husband because of the bear’s long legs and arms, accompanied her to all her appointments and treatments.

After a mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy, Cathy felt she needed to do something that would take her mind off of worrying. Using her writing background—she had been a freelance writer and editor at Prentiss Hall—she decided to write a blog and Stretch became a main character.

She writes about cancer but mostly about life, with postings such as International Rabbit Day (Sept. 21), gingerbread houses and pet rocks. “I want to show people that I’m living a normal life and that cancer isn’t my life,” she says. “People with cancer can have fun.”

Stretch often appears at the end of her blog to provide some humor. Recently Cathy wrote about a press conference at Monter Cancer Center where she was a speaker. Stretch was with her and in the blog he complained that they didn’t have a green room with coffee and donuts.

It turns out that Stretch is a bit spoiled. He never went back on the shelf and now has dozens of little rooms in nearly floor to-ceiling nooks in Cathy’s apartment where he lives an enviable life with his game rooms and exercise rooms, a grand dining room, a meditation garden, and even his own desk with a computer.  

Says Cathy, “If someone had told me five years ago that after all the time and energy I’ve spent getting a degree and building a writing career that I would be writing about a three-inch teddy bear, I’d have told them they were crazy.”

But her message is serious. Through her blog she urges those faced with serious illness to not waste their time obsessing about possible negative outcomes or what they’ve lost, but instead to find something they love to do,  “something that lets you forget about all the bad stuff and literally ‘zone out,’” she says.  

She also stresses the importance of getting the right doctors. “Much of my courage in dealing with my disease, while at the same time reevaluating my life and making some major changes in my views and the goals I want to accomplish, is due to the constant support and loving care of my doctors.”

Last year Cathy’s cancer had moved to her bones and she went back on chemo. Today the cancer is under control and she continues to present her positive message, with Stretch at her side.

Cathy’s blog: