We did it! We went to Disneyland! Thank you to all of our amazing donors who helped make the trip possible! Thank you to Allyson Patterson, Aileen Fontana, Charlene Herzing, Doug Herzing, Patricia O’Brien, Javeed Shah, Frank Sierawski, Terrah Barkley, Bronwen Thiebes, Andrea Barry, Melissa Ritchie, April Catlett, Mark Nicklas, Linda Buchanan, Sarah Christensen, and the Lemont Township High School Class of 1995!
It was a quick trip–two travel days and two days in the parks–but the difference it made in our lives was incredible. I have told a few friends who have asked how it was, “I think it was so absolutely amazing because we went into it with very low expectations!” If you can believe it, Dan and I were slightly dreading it. We would never find ourselves interested in a place like Disneyland if we didn’t have a child, and the aspects of Disneyland that involve crowds, heat, lines, rides, and lots of expenses just overwhelmed us. As the trip neared and we started packing, I also found myself in withdrawal from two medications–suffering from headaches, jaw pain, teeth grinding, shaking, insomnia, dizziness and an upset stomach. The night before we left, I only got three hours of sleep, so I was not looking forward to travel and nervous about how I would do Disneyland with depression and anxiety.
I am thrilled to report that the first day of travel, Thursday, went fine and I got a good night’s rest in the hotel. Friday was our first day in the parks (Disneyland and Disney California Adventure) which seemed to momentarily cure me with the large amount of water I drank, hours of walking, a generous dose of sunshine, and time with Dan, Raine, and our friends. It also helped that my new medications were not giving me any new side effects! That alone was worth celebrating after the difficult last two months. Dan realized the crowds weren’t too bad, also kept hydrated with water, and fell in love with watching Raine experience everything. We timed the trip so that he would be traveling in between chemo treatments, and at the furthest outset from one. He not only did well, he was a rock star. We met our friends who came from Berkeley to join us–Dan’s best friend, Art, his wife Andra, and their kiddos Lucy and Wyatt. We discovered a decent pizza restaurant, established a relaxing routine of park and pool time, and found our groove. By the end of Friday night, as we all sat cuddled in the dark and watched the World of Color light/water show, I began to feel like I never wanted to leave. :) Excited to discover we could all ride most rides and that Raine was up for anything, we spent Saturday doing as much as we could! We visited both parks again and while we didn’t see everything, we made it to some favorites like Splash Mountain, Cars Land, It’s A Small World, The Haunted Mansion, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Raine got to pick out souvenirs, eat more than his fair share of sweets, and stay up late hitting the rides at A Bug’s Land in the dark with Lucy. A special treat was returning to our hotel Saturday night to hang out with Art and Dan’s other best friend, Jeff, who drove out from North Hollywood with his partner, Gwen, and a serving of one of Dan’s favorites–delicious polish sausage.
There are moments from this trip that I will cherish always… The pure joy Dan and I each felt watching Raine experience everything. The exhilaration of dropping and whirling on rides while holding Dan’s hand or hugging Raine. Laying on a towel at the pool, resting with my eyes closed while the sun warmed my skin, slowly evaporating the water all over me. Watching fireworks from our hotel parking lot the first night. Feeling a sense of pride that I could carry Raine, walk for hours, and sustain my energy while having Fibromyalgia. Also feeling gratitude as I watched Dan do the same, after all of the treatments and complications he has had since his diagnosis. We felt healthy, alive, and so very grateful.
Our last ride on the last night was Flik’s Flyers, a gentle whirling machine in A Bug’s Land. Raine rode in a life-size chinese food carton with giant leaves and twigs to create a balloon like flyer. Dan and I were alone in an animal cracker box. We sat across from each other, holding hands. As we swayed in the dark, I closed my eyes and gripped his fingers, enjoying the warm evening rushing over my shoulders and cheeks. I smiled and opened my eyes as Dan said “I love you.” And we kissed.