Squiffles, the cross-eyed lion


It was a small, bean-bag lion. Through a haze of anaesthetic, I stared at its notable squint and crooked nose. What was I meant to do with this? “Fank you,” I muttered drunkenly. “Put it on my locker.”

The night after surgery for cancer, I lay awake, trying to pray.

It hurt too much to cry. I sensed something watching from my bedside locker. One glass eye stared at me, while the other looked into the distance. The lion looked as forlorn and deserted as I felt. I dragged him onto my bed and held him close. I eventually fell asleep with him cuddled against my damp cheek.

I called him Squiffles and kept him tucked beneath my blankets out of sight. Somehow this funny little creature gave me strength. When I left the bed, I would tuck him away safely in my drawer.

One day, a hospital porter arrived unexpectedly to take me to x-ray. I shoved Squiffles under my pillow and clambered into the wheelchair. When I returned to the ward, I was mortified to see my little lion perched on the pillow of my newly-made bed, watching the door for my return with one of his eyes.

“What’s his name?” a patient asked.

Another called for me to bring him closer. Some of the nursing staff smiled at him, and one even greeted him each time she came near my bed. My little lion became a mascot in that ward of hurting people. The lady in the bed next to me got her husband to bring her furry dog from home.

Some weeks later, I read a book by a psychologist who had been through cancer. One chapter leapt at me: Do you have a Teddy? She explained the value of something small and cuddly to help deal with major emotional trauma. Of course she used psychological terms, but I was just relieved to find the cancer hadn’t gone to my brain. I wasn’t completely crazy.

I could love and hold this little creature any time of the day or night. He lay cuddled against me, watching me constantly with one of his two glass eyes. He accepted me as I was. He never slept. He loved me unconditionally . . . just like the Lord.

I often curled up in a chair with him on my lap as I prayed. Sometimes just picking him up brought comfort and made me sense the Lord’s presence.

As my treatment drew to an end, I needed him less.

The day of this post, the 10th of November 2014, marks the seventeenth anniversary of the day Squiffles came into my life and cancer left. He lies on my dressing-table and I hardly notice him. I guess that’s a good sign. It shows me I’m well, both physically and emotionally. I just hope he doesn’t feel rejected.

How about you? Do you have a teddy? Or a lion? Please leave a comment below and tell us about him—or her.

Then one of the elders said to me “Do not weep! See, the LION of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed. – Revelation 5: 5

Shirley is the author of Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer, a book of 90 encouraging messages based on Scripture and anecdotes from her own cancer journey. She is also the author of hundreds of inspirational articles published in print and online. She lives in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

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2016-10-16T21:09:23+00:00 November 10th, 2014|Categories: Cancer|Tags: , |2 Comments


  1. Marion Ueckermann November 24, 2014 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Amazing what God can use, Shirl, to meet our deepest needs 🙂

    • Shirley Corder December 7, 2014 at 8:05 am - Reply

      Thanks for commenting, Marion. Yes, a fluffy small creature can be so meaningful to anyone going through a time of deep tragedy or stress.

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