The Westra Family
Wish Fulfillment Request is a Trip to Disney Orlando, Fl.
Dear Dreams to Memories,
It is extremely hard to put into words just how much this trip to Disney World meant to our family. We had dreamed of being able to take our four children there "someday", but once I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in February of 2017 it seemed an impossible dream due to medical bills. We didn’t realize I had Leukemia until an illness ran through our family and I just couldn’t seem to get better. I was sent to the ER once evaluated by my nurse practitioner, and after blood work was done, was sent by ambulance to Roswell. We were in shock when they explained it was cancer. I ended up in ICU for about a week, then I was an inpatient for about four months. I returned home for a couple of months, and then was an inpatient again for a few weeks for a Bone Marrow Transplant. I came home in August. I have continued to have clinic appointments about 3-4 times a month. My bone marrow donor is my brother and he is a 100% match so we are extremely hopeful the transplant will take care of the Leukemia.
Throughout this past year we have had an incredible support system. Family, friends, neighbors, church family, and strangers all have helped us. My aunt, mother-in-law, and mom, who eventually moved in with us until November of 2017, all spent time staying with our family as my husband had to continue to work full time. Even with all of this support there has been an incredible strain on our family. I remember my husband having double bags under his eyes as he'd come to visit me once our kiddos were in bed, and sometimes after late shifts at work. He wanted to be home as much as possible outside of work for our kiddos, and then to see me as much as possible at the hospital. It was about three weeks before I was well enough for our kiddos to visit me at Roswell. Our kids visited me when they could, but it was really hard. I remember having a hard time staying awake, and them being hesitant with me across the room. I know I looked pretty scary, no hair from chemo, being hooked up to an IV, and of course one time needed a blood transfusion when they visited.
Cancer impacted our family in ways I never understood others went through before. There was a huge disconnection between myself and the rest of my family. I wasn't asked by my kiddos for help with anything for a long time, even after I returned home. They had gotten used to my hubby or mom being the ones who would help them. My husband and I had a disconnection as he became my caregiver and once my mom moved back home has been doing my "jobs" as a homemaker plus his own. Because I am immune suppressed from the Bone Marrow Transplant, we've had to ask our kiddos to do a lot more in helping to keep the house clean, washing hands and lots of reminders to "use Purell!" I’ve missed a lot of things I used to do with them. Doctor’s/dentist’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences, open houses, school events, have all been handled by my husband.
This trip to Disney World gave us the gift of not only a dream we didn't think possible, but a chance for us to leave some of the effects of cancer behind. This trip gave us the most important gift of connection. Jeff and I had the chance to reconnect as parents and spouses instead of patient and caregiver. At one point we both had the same idea at the same time like we used to before I got sick and it was a huge moment for us. We were on the same page again! We high fived :). Our kiddos used to be amazed how we were able to talk from across a room without saying anything, and we had some of that back again. (Chemo brain doesn't help, but it's getting better:). I was able to spend much needed one on one time with each kiddo, which really helped us reconnect. We loved our room at the Art of Animation. We loved Magic Kingdom. I think my favorite ride was the Tea Cups. I was promised by our youngest daughter and son that they wouldn’t spin our cup, but of course they did :). Lots of fun and laughs! We all love Star Wars so really loved Hollywood Studios. Our oldest son called Hollywood Studios Star Wars world. If you ask them, though, our kids will say their favorite part were the pools. We were also pleasantly surprised by a limo bus picking us up from the airport to bring us home. It was a fun way to end our trip with music and smiles.
Thank you so very much for giving us this precious gift!
Jeff, Juliana, Victoria, Arianna, Michael, and Charlie
Limo service was provided by Advantage Limousine Service LTD, Buffalo NY.