After all the excitement of arriving at Disneyland and a fantastic first day on rides capped by a fantastic getting to know each other dinner, it was hard to see how it could be topped when we got up for breakfast for the start of day two.
However I'd clearly underestimated the power of Disneyland as within minutes of finishing breakfast, where there were some tired looking faces, we came face to face with Pluto and Goofy who had come to pose for pictures and sign autographs in the hotel lobby. The transformation was instant and magical as the kids (and some of the adults too) instantly came to life. Here's a picture of ALL patient Noah getting some quality time with Pluto alongside his mum and dad.
After the photoshoot, families had the freedom of the park to go out and make their own happy memories a million miles away from treatment, hospitals and talk of chemotherapy. Wondering around it was wonderful to see families enjoying the opportunity to spend such quality time together. Needless to say it was the kids that were leading the way but there were smiles all round as they created memories that will last for a lifetime.
We were fortunate enough to be a part of some of these memories when we bumped into families on our own way round the park. Families like the Stones whose whole world was turned upside down when dad, Damian, was diagnosed with ALL in 2012. Thankfully Damian is now in remission but only after a period of intense chemotherapy in which he contracted a number of infections which resulted in him being re-admitted into hospital on more than one occasion in a very difficult time for him and his family.
We met Damian whilst wandering round the Toy Story section and before we knew it had been convinced by his two daughters, Bobbie, 7, and Eryn, 4 to take on the Tower of Terror - a ride I had been warned about in advance and was hoping to avoid. While we fretted, the girls couldn't have been more excited! This video I took just before we all got on the ride should give you some indication of just how much they were looking forward to it! Apologies for the fact that it's sideways on - I blame it on it being pitch black when I took it, not the fact that I was terrified of what lay in store!
Next up was a quick stop off in the gift shop to pick up a couple of Disney essentials before being thrust on some more rides including Slinky Dog and Parachutes which, again, the kids were far better at dealing with than we were as the pictures prove!
The fun didn't stop after the rides as we were whisked off to enjoy dinner at Buffalo Bills where we were treated to a Wild West Show that saw us treated to a masterclass in shooting, horse-riding which also gave us lots and lots of opportunities for us to yee-hah in our cowboy hats!
The dinner itself was fantastic fun for families like the Luker's for whom the trip was a welcome opportunity for them to forget about eldest daughter, Emilia's, ongoing treatment for ALL and just enjoy having a holiday like all families should. Here's a picture taken by Emilia's sister, Sophia, of Mum and Dad enjoying letting their hair down at the show (not a bad shot for a three year old!):
Last and by no means least, it was back to the main park and the Princess Tower after the show to watch the fireworks with 5 year old Ellen, and her mum Julie and older brother, Joseph. Ellen sat on my shoulders for the display and she didn't stop talking throughout, singing along to all the Disney songs with a huge smile and pointing out all the characters as they appeared silhouetted on the castle.
Seeing Ellen so full of energy it was easy to forget that she has been on treatment almost all of her life to date and spent large parts of it in hospital.treatment after being diagnosed with both AML and ALL when she was just 2. Speaking with her mum, Julie, and seeing her looking so happy and care free really made me realise just how important this trip really is and made me feel so proud that I was able to play a small part in something very, very special for all these families who have been through so much.