In January, 1996, I had a mastectomy for breast cancer. While in the hospital, my sister brought me a bear as a gift. In the days and nights to come, I would hug the bear, crying on it, not knowing whether I would live or die. That bear became a great comfort to me.
In February, 1996, I met a wonderful person at a breast cancer support group meeting. Her name is Gail Turnbull, and she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in October, 1995. In September, 1997, Gail had a recurrence. Soon after, I was sitting in the parking lot of a local department store, waiting to go in to do some volunteer work for the American Cancer Society. I had a small scrap of paper, and in only a few minutes, I wrote the poem 'Bear It All'. I then bought a bear and gave it to Gail, along with the poem. She liked the bear and poem so much, that I decided to give away as many bears to breast cancer patients as I could afford.
Before long, J.M. Family Enterprises heard what I was doing, and donated 500 bears with pink ribbons. The response was amazing! I was able to attend American Cancer Society-sponsored breast cancer forums and pass out bears to all of the ladies attending. Soon afterwards, I started giving bears to all the ladies with any kind of cancer, and later included men. It was an amazing sight; the men enjoyed the bears just as much as the women.
After several friends told me they would donate money to help with the cost of the bears, I decided to form a non-profit organization. So, after much thought, we decided on a name, had the poem copyrighted, and here we are! Since then, several companies and many individual contributors have donated money and bears.
I regret to inform you that Gail lost her nine-year battle with breast cancer on September 20th, 2004. I lost a good friend that day. Please remember, always tell your friends and family often how much they mean to you.