Check out an article by Cory Fisher about Toby Bear Stories in The Union.
In 2009, Lisa Boulton went in for a routine check up and within a matter of minutes, her life would never be the same.
The doctor found a lump in her breast, and after further tests, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her mother had died of breast cancer 25 years earlier.
“I was thrown into another world in a matter of days,” Boulton said. “My path changed and suddenly I had to learn how to beat this.”
Her life became a series of trips from Nevada City to Oakland surgeons for routine treatments.
Once a portable catheter was surgically imbedded into her chest for chemotherapy, Boulton discovered that seat belts were incredibly uncomfortable.
When her cousin Toby heard about this, he bought a little brown bear at Foothill Mercantile that could serve as a cushion from the seatbelt.
“It was so thoughtful — Toby and I have a lifelong bond — he called me routinely while I was sick,” said Boulton. “I had no job, no income, and only a little savings. I was single, and it took all of my resources to get through this.”
Investing fully in her fight to save her own life, Boulton shifted to an all-organic diet rich in nutrients and began to practice meditation, yoga, breathing exercises and visualization. It helped.
“Through my interactions with other people who were ill, I noticed one common thread — stress,” said Boulton. “Then one day, a thought came to me. Wouldn’t it be great to share some of these healing techniques with sick children?”
That was “the call,” said Boulton, and just as quickly the fuzzy brown bear from her cousin became the vehicle for her mission — to help children with serious illnesses understand there is more to healing than medicine.
She would write stories for children who are ill, featuring the brown bear — whom she aptly named Toby.
In collaboration with photographer and illustrator Lisa Redfern, “Toby Bear and the Healing Light” was published in 2012 by Little Mountain Publishing in Grass Valley.
“Children often hear their inner voice saying ‘I’m sick, I’m not good enough or smart enough’,” said Boulton. “But I tell them they can write their own new story and change the course of their lives. I teach them to stop, breathe and picture themselves filled with white light. I want them to understand the power of healing thoughts.”
The book features the journey of “Toby Bear” from a local toy store into the arms of a sick child who is hospitalized.
Photo illustrations are set in businesses and houses throughout Nevada County — including Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.
In the book, Toby whispers affirmations into the little girl’s ear, about being filled with white light and to “think about feeling better … think about feeling happy … think about feeling loved.”
Toward the end of the book, Toby and the little girl practice simple yoga poses to gain strength.
“Toby Bear and the Healing Light” is now on sale at The Book Seller in Grass Valley, Harmony Books and Inner Path in Nevada City, as well as SPD Markets and Unity in The Gold Country.
When Maryellen Beauchamp, Nevada County’s Public Health Nurse Case Manager for California Children’s Services, heard about Boulton’s book, she ordered copies to give as gifts to the age-appropriate children in her program.
Beauchamp oversees and orchestrates multifaceted medical assistance for nearly 300 Nevada County children with severe health issues.
These can range from growth plate or skull fractures, endocrine, neurological, orthopedic, and metabolic disorders to cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and premature infants.
These families are often required to make long drives to special care units at the likes of UC Davis, UC San Francisco and the Stanford University Medical Center.
“I like that the story features Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital — the place where the journey with California Children’s Services begins for many of our families,” said Beauchamp. “It is also a plus that the Nevada County Public Health Department could partner with the local women who created the book. You can’t get well with doctors and medicines alone — it takes the right attitude to make it all work.”
Given the positive reception of “Toby Bear and the Healing Light,” Boulton says the new book is just the first step for the little bear.
She is now in the process of organizing a crowd-funding effort to provide actual, cuddly Toby Bears for hospitalized children to go along with each book.
“My goal is to get Toby into the hands of kids everywhere,” she said. “It brings tears to my eyes when people ‘get’ this book. All the superfluous stuff falls away when you’re sick. This project has given me a sense of passion — I feel vital and alive. Really, it’s all about love.”