Disneyland with a side of cancer
I’m in a friend’s Redmond driveway, ready for our kids to have a playdate together. My husband has come along to haul Allison’s car in the back of his Jeep, so she can race her friend Jacob who has the same car (in green, not pink) around their large yard. Gunny’s telling our friend about the additions he wants to make to the Jeep (which is quite new and his current obsession). I tease him, saying “Hey why don’t we use some of that money on a trip to Disneyland?” Cue awkward laughter on my part that means, ha-ha I’m kidding but not really.
“Let’s go,” Gunny says. “Let’s go this weekend.”
“Pffft.” That was a dismissive mouth sound, not a fart.
“Actually…how about next weekend?”
“We…we can’t. We’d need plane tickets and stuff.”
“You mean like these?” Gunny pulls out his phone to show me confirmation for two tickets from SEA to SNA (that’s Santa Ana/John Wayne/Orange County).
“You’re taking me to Disneylaaaaaand?” I burst into tears. Then hysterical laughter. Then a combination of both.
My husband surprised me with a trip to my favorite place on Earth. Because he wants to make me happy and he’s the nicest man in the galaxy. Here’s what happened:
The Otter Pop Debacle
This happened two days before Disneyland, but it has bearing on the trip. What happened was that I, in my wisdom, while binging on Season 4 of Law & Order: SVU decided to eat SEVEN Otter Pops. Because they’re cold and delicious and I love them.
Then, around two a.m. I began waking up every ten minutes for some super exciting action: diarrhea. This is a common chemo side effect, but I obviously contributed to the problem with my questionable dietary choice. This issue continues most of the day and is barely slowed down by Imodium.
Eventually, the well runs dry and I sigh a sigh of relief and vow to never let an icy pop cross my lips again.
I woke up early to pack my bag for our trip. It had been the longest week on record because I was counting the minutes until Disneyland. Allison was staying home with her older sister and that was particularly exciting because she was giant asshole the last time we were there at the tail end of our cross country “victory lap” celebrating Gunny’s retirement from the Marine Corps.
My head sort of hurt and I figured some caffeine would get me moving. So I drank coffee. Big mistake. Big one. This triggered another bout of the runs, though no where in the same league as the Otter Pop Shitstorm. But it was worrisome! I mean, it’s not like you can use the bathroom anytime you like on the airplane! And then I thought about the plane that made an emergency landing because someone took a dump so foul it infested the aircraft. Oh god, I don’t want to be that person!
Gunny got home from work and I sheepishly confessed about the coffee which we both agreed was another dipshit move by yours truly. But what was done was done and I took Imodium and swigged Pepto Bismal. It was all I could do!
The Airport Run
We drop Allison at her day camp and head for the airport. I’m fine most of the way there. I’m taking tiny sips of water, afraid that too much of anything in my guts will make bad things happen. I just need to get to the airport, right? Well, about three minutes from the airport…guess what? I have to go. Like, NOW. Like clenching my butt cheeks and rocking back and forth and muttering to myself while Gunny wails, “I could have stopped anywhere!” Me: “I didn’t need to, until RIGHT NOW!” Am I going to shit my pants in the car? If I do, can I still make my flight, make my trip? I could throw my shorts and undies away and change into the clothes I’ve packed, right?
Gunny steps on the gas and drives to Arrivals. Squeals to a halt at the terminal and I jump out and RUN. He’s parking the car while I’m bolting for the baggage claim restroom. And I made it in time. My Apple Watch logs my heart rate at 38. 38 while I’m running. This concerns me. Minutes later it’s 167. But I’ve had an echocardiogram recently. My heart’s not showing any signs of damage. But I’m cold and clammy and feeling really really bad.
I reconnect with Gunny, who’s got my backpack. I make a preemptive stop in the restroom after we get through security (nothing) and we board our flight to John Wayne. Until the seatbelt light turns off and the bathroom is once again available I silently repeat a hybrid incantation in my head, half prayer (the only one I know) and half something else. It went something like “Hail Mary full of grace please don’t let me shit on this airplane.”
Paradise Pier Hotel
We love this place and have stayed here on three out of four Disney trips together. When we checked in, the very nice front desk clerk Ines asked if we were celebrating anything. I lifted the edge of my Roswell baseball cap to show her my chrome dome and said, “Kicking cancer’s butt.” She told me good luck and got a little misty-eyed. When we came back to our room that night, we found a signed photo of Minnie Mouse, a very sweet card from the staff, and Mickey rice crispie treats and milk!
When we checked out on Sunday I saw Ines at the desk and I told her “I suspect you were responsible for the special treat in my room.” She nodded and smiled. I told her how kind that was and how much it meant to us. Disney magic is REAL, yo.
I won’t go through a blow-by-blow of every thing we did, but I will mention a few things.
The first time you use your ticket (we had three-day Park Hoppers), they take your photo so you don’t pass your ticket to someone else. The older man taking our picture was from Ireland and had an awesome accent. I asked if I should take off my sunglasses and he said, “And maybe your hat.”
I made a “Uhhh” noise and lifted the edge so he could see the situation.
“Ah, nevermind,” he said, his face full of understanding. “Have a great time, kiddo.”
It was a little thing but it meant a lot to me.
I’m self-conscious about my bald head. It’s jarring to see a bald woman and I don’t want anyone–especially at Disneyland!–to have to feel sorry for me or feel awkward or anything. Right or wrong, it’s how I feel. The first stop we made in the park (after the obligatory castle selfie) was Mad Hatter in Fantasyland where the plan was to buy some ears! Unfortunately, ears just don’t cover a lot of real estate as I discovered.
This just wouldn’t do. Luckily the youth-sized Minnie cap with ears fit my teeny bald noggin perfectly.
I was super happy with my hat. Until I went on my favorite ride of all time: Big Thunder Mountain. I just didn’t feel like it would stay on my head and so I wanted to take it off, but was ashamed of my head. Gunny reassured me that it was fine, but I still teared up a bit. I’m not sure why. The injustice of cancer fucking with my Disneyland experience, maybe? Anyway, no one pointed and laughed, the world kept spinning and over the course of the weekend I rode Big Thunder three more times and no fucks were given about my hairless state by me or anyone else. Though when I heard that Billy Corgan was spotted on the ride looking pissy I had to check the photos to make sure I hadn’t been mistaken for the Smashing Pumpkins guy. Phew.
Gunny had booked dinner at Blue Bayou, which is the best place ever. I was nervous though, because the food is pricey and I hadn’t eaten anything close to a real meal in a couple weeks. I’d been living on chicken broth for the most part. So much so that on the plane ride I’d thrust my arm under Gunny’s nose and asked him if I smelled like chicken broth. I felt like it was leaking from my pores.
Anyway, I ordered the Beef Loin Strip and it was amazing. I ate meat and I liked it! And afterword I had much more energy because that’s how food works. It’s actually fuel for your body! Did you KNOW THIS? Amazing stuff.
We watched Fantasmic in the VIP section (part of the Blue Bayou package with dinner) and then, though the park was open for three more hours I was done. I walked slow. I had to stop and rest pretty frequently. And I made lots and lots of bathroom visits though I had no more “incidents.” Or should I say “shitcidents.”
The next day, Saturday, was Magic Morning at Disneyland. If you’re staying at one of the three Disney hotels on site, you get into the park an hour early. So, we got up and had a little breakfast and headed for Space Mountain. We zipped through the minimal line, and just as we’re climbing into our spacecraft…
Uh-oh. I have to poop.
So, as I lurch through the darkness, my sphincter clenched tighter than Scrooge McDuck’s fist, I’m screaming, but it’s not from joy and thrills. My mind is racing. If I shit the spaceship, how fast can I run away? How quickly can I get to the bathroom? Will Gunny be able to buy me pants at Star Trader? How will he get them to me in the ladies room? What’s Disney protocol for a Code Brown? This is not how I wanted to start my day.
Luckily, the O-ring held, and I managed to make it off the ride and into the bathroom, where I lingered so long Gunny started sending me “Are you okay?” texts.
After that, I was okay. I made pit stops between rides, but the rest of the day was super fun. I met Tinkerbell and Silvermist in Pixie Hollow, went on a bunch of rides, bought a bunch of souvenirs, and even ate a corn dog from the Little Red Wagon. It was 86 degrees though, and I was moving slow. People were so nice to me though. When we went to find a shady place to eat our corn dogs, a woman and her friend gave us their bench. She said, “I was watching you and your face is much too red.” She was an x-ray tech and her buddy was a nurse and they insisted that I drink water and go back to the hotel for a nap. Thank you for your kindness, ladies. I will pay it forward.
We went back to the hotel and napped, and god love him, my sweet husband keeps up a string of sexual innuendos that imply I’m still attractive even though I look like a cross between Dana Carvey as a turtle and Voldemort.
We had some room service dinner and went back to the park around 8pm to try to catch the parade and fireworks. Well, it turns out that if you want to actually see a Disney parade you’d better claim your slice of curb two hours before start time. So that didn’t work out at all. Same deal with fireworks. A bit disappointing, but I was far, far, too worn out to care much, and we returned to the hotel soon after. I felt really guilty that we weren’t spending every moment on rides, but Gunny kept saying the weekend was for ME and we would take it at my pace.
It turned out that we walked nearly 20,000 steps that day. If you asked me if I could possibly walk that far–even prior to chemo!–I’d have said “no way in hell!” but I was wrong. I did it and lived to tell the tale! Go, me!
On Sunday we spent a few hours in the park riding rides and meeting Tigger, Pooh, and Captain Hook before heading back to the airport and home. It was a really great trip and I will never be as awesome as my amazing thoughtful sweet and perfect husband. And I’m super duper grateful that I didn’t shit myself on Space Mountain. Tomorrow is Round 5 of chemo. As Gunny said. “In four weeks, you’ll be done. No more chemo.”
Update: A couple of months ago, I posted about my daughter’s mysterious/suspicious mole and how freaked out I was. Yesterday she was seen by three very nice doctors at Seattle Children. And…it’s A-OK. No signs of malignancy! They didn’t even need to biopsy it. Things we learned: scalp moles behave differently than other moles. If you can see hair growing through the mole, it’s fine! Also, scalp moles are often two-toned and it’s perfectly fine and nothing to worry about. Common two-color scalp moles are “eclipse nevus” (a ring of dark brown around lighter brown) and “fried egg nevus” which is dark in the middle and light on the edges. Here’s my baby modeling her gown.