In the winter of 2010, at the age of 29, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Just nine months later I was scheduled to celebrate my 30th birthday with family and friends aboard a cruise of Hawaii. Since I am an avid Disney fan, in particular Minnie Mouse, and had never been to the west coast it only made sense to stop off in Disneyland on our way to Hawaii. It was my fear that my new diagnosis would jeopardize all that being able to happen.
Instead, the trip became my inspiration. The doctors, nurses, and hospital staff all became aware of my trip and were there cheering me on at each visit and treatment, reminding me of what awaited me at the end. Through multiple surgeries, months of chemotherapy, and radiation it was the upcoming trip that kept me going. Before I knew it September was here and I was on my way.
Since one of the things being celebrated was my upcoming 30th birthday we decided to eat at the Minnie and Friends character breakfast during our second day in Disneyland. Without kids of my own I was definitely one of the oldest participants there but that didn’t stop me from visiting with the characters and looking forward to seeing Minnie herself. As the breakfast progressed I was able to see most of the characters, including the fairy godmother who came over and spoke at length with my mother and me after noticing my “I’m celebrating” button. As the conversation drew to a close the fairy godmother wished me well and continued good health. And in true Disney fashion just at that moment music began playing and Minnie herself magically appeared and made her way to my table. I was so overcome with emotion I began to cry at the realization that I had not only beaten cancer but also arrived at the destination that just nine months earlier had been in jeopardy.
Thank you Disney for giving this big kid at heart the strength necessary to get through the fight for her life.
- Renee Heatwole, 32, Hampstead, MD
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