My assumption, these days, is that everyone has a story like this and if you don’t, you’re lucky. However, you don’t know that yet and most likely you’re not reading this. My story begins five days before May 2, 2009. That date practically jumped off the calendar every time I glanced over for the months leading up to it. If the date box could flash strobe lights, it would have. That’s how excited we were about our first family trip to Disney World. I know some don’t see the joy there, just huge crowds of hot, sweaty, cranky adults and crying kids, but not us. My husband and I loved it and to say we were excited, limits how we truly felt. If I could yell here, I would. We couldn’t wait for that day to arrive and our vacation to begin.
Disney World’s theme in 2009 was “What Will You Celebrate?” and we had so much. My 45th birthday, the 2nd anniversary of H’s adoption and AC’s 5th birthday. All good things. What better place to be?
Five days prior to leaving, in the midst of packing and planning, I went for my yearly (since turning 40) mammogram, along with my first ultrasound. My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer at only 49 and her sister at 50. I was used to the concern my family history brought me, but I was also used to breezing through the mammo appointments with an all clear. Besides, this year I had other things on my mind. As any Disney fan knows, trip planning takes over your life. It becomes an obsession. There’s just no other way to be and I had it bad. If the radiologists had done an ultrasound of my brain, I’m sure they would have seen mouse ears, maybe a castle, for that was all I had in there. It was stuffed with all things Disney. There wasn’t any room for thoughts of daily life. However, the ultrasound they did do showed one, so small, so very tiny, yet suspicious cluster of cells in my right breast and in one sharp instant my brain cleared and my heart sank. This could not be happening.
Five days. I had five days to prep for the vacation of a lifetime. Five days to plan our adventures in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot and Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom. Five days to plan our meals, our snacks, our pool time, our fun. What would become of our celebrations, my birthday?
Days slowed into hours and 48 hours later I was having a core needle biopsy and 48 hours after that, just 17 hours before flying off to the happiest place on earth, I was told it was cancer. I heard the words I had been running from for 25 years, ever since my mom was first diagnosed when I was 19 years old. It finally caught me. I was sad and scared, of course, but also, bewildered and that’s not a word I use often, but that describes it. I didn’t know where to turn or who to talk to, and looming right in front of me was a trip with my husband and two small boys. I had to finish packing and catch a plane.