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I've Got Cancer & I'm Going to Disney World!

Remember the episode of Sex and the City when Carrie gets dumped via Post-It note? And she doesn’t want that day to become known as the one where she got dumped via Post-It, so later that night when she gets cited by the NYPD for smoking a “doobie” on the sidewalk outside a bar, she vows that’s how the day will be memorialized instead?

I get it. I’d rather that 2014 doesn’t go down as the year that I had cancer. Sure, I could look at it as the year that I beat cancer, although the credit really goes to the radiologists and surgeons who detected and removed it. All I did was show up for a bunch of appointments and let them inject me with some sedatives. Other people did the very complicated work.

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Two days before my bilateral mastectomy, an opportunity was presented to me to take my young daughters to DisneyWorld. The trip was the chance of a lifetime, if you have 2- and 5-year-old Disney-obsessed daughters, that is. But the timing was unfortunate—my surgery was scheduled for February 14, and Disney would have to happen on March 13. I was told to expect a minimum four- to six-week recovery time, so at under four weeks, it seemed marginally bat-shit crazy to expect I would go to the happiest (but also craziest) place on the planet after losing both my breasts.

But as my dad likes to remind me, I have a need to learn everything the hard way. So I said yes to Disney. My mom agreed to meet me in Florida and help out, and said kindly, “You never acted liked a princess before, and I don’t expect you’ll start after this surgery.”

At that point I didn’t have a choice, because if I wanted my girls to meet the Disney princesses, I had to act like a gladiator/robot/woman of steel, not one with a crown of crystal roses who was afraid to get her hands dirty. So I schlepped my kids on two planes down to Orlando and watch with delight as they devoured the rides, characters and waffles at every conceivable turn (seriously, you can find waffles at every meal in Disney World).

2014 will not be known as the year I had cancer.

The upside is that I have a video of my older daughter telling me that I am the world’s greatest mommy, which I intend on putting on a continuous loop and playing for her in my own version of Chinese water torture the next time she gets in trouble and tells me she doesn’t love me anymore.

The downside is that the trip wreaked havoc on my not-even-nearly healed body. The days were long (although blessedly not too hot for mid-March in Florida). Just when it was time to rest my head on a pillow each night, it seemed the alarm was already going off the next morning so we could get out in time to meet Winnie the Pooh or Doc McStuffins for breakfast.

As we flew back from Orlando with my boobs more sore than ever (thanks to the dearth of my good post-surgery drugs, I’m now relegated to plain old Tylenol and Advil to soothe what ails me) and a low-grade fever accompanied by a sore throat, I realized, however, that 2014 will not be known as the year I had cancer. Rather, it’s the year I realized for the perhaps the first time that I will do anything for my children.*

I had one breast removed preventatively so that I could reduce the chance of it becoming afflicted by cancer eventually. I couldn’t face the prospect of my kids growing up without their mom. I’m sure somewhere inside of me I always knew that, but it took a cancer diagnosis to really be able to articulate it. And, really, I will do anything for my kids: even if it’s lose body parts and shortly thereafter witness them grinning from ear-to-ear while clinging to Mickey Mouse as if he were a long-lost relative.

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At the end of 2014, I have a feeling my aches and pains half-empty glass will lose out to the overriding feeling of being able to remain on the happiest place on earth, which is wherever my kids are. (Although the recollection of never-ending waffles will likely be a close second.)

* I would give my life for my kids, but I realized that I do, in fact, have a limit, which is waiting in line for four hours to meet Frozen’s Anna and Elsa. Thanks to a little Disney magic, however, we were able to skip the line and meet the world’s most popular sisters.

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