I write this blog post with an exhausted, tattered and reminiscent heart as we’ve been through so much in the past 3 weeks. There have been many highs and seemingly more lows but through it all one thing was constant, our love for each other and the love and support of you all. That is why I’m going to kick those feelings aside and focus on the dream that you all helped come true.
Way back on November 16th (sorry, again!) we ventured towards the Happiest Place On Earth in sunny Orlando! We left from a neighboring city, Peoria, due to their cheap flights around 10am and landed around 1:30pm. We were able to maneuver our way to the rental car office which seemed like walking the distance from Illinois to Florida when you have 2 big checked bags, 2 carry ons, a diaper bag, a stroller, a car seat and an infant. First off, Bentley might be the poster child for “fly-able” children. The kid seriously slept for 2 of the 2.5 hours on my chest and reserved the other 30 min of the flight for feeding and then showing off for nearby googly-eyed women. 🙂 He gets his flirting ability from his Daddy…that’s how I lured his Mama! Ha! Secondly this is where our story/trip kind of took its rocky up and down turn. On Sunday the 15th, right before we were to leave for Florida, Lindsay developed some pretty intense back pain. It started out as pretty innocent back pain, more of an uncomfortability but quickly turned to pretty intolerable pain. By the time we got to our resort (45-50 min drive from Sanford) she was hurting pretty good. Let me also add here that Florida must be able to be income tax-free due to their FREAKING TOLLS! Haha Good lord though, there seriously was probably close to $50 in tolls in our ventures down there, unreal. Anyway, we got to our resort around 5pm if I recall correctly and we were both pretty hungry so we got some delivery pizza from a restaurant on our resort which was awesome and then Lindsay decided to go lay down and try to ease the pain. Our room was awesome (thanks Mom and Dad–their timeshare) with a master suite, a guest room with 2 double beds, 2 bathrooms, a HUGE jacuzzi tub, a screened patio and full kitchen, it was pretty sweet. However, the master bedroom’s mattress was pretty firm and was very quickly realized to be too uncomfortable for her back so she migrated to the couch for some relaxation and was able to find some comfort so we decided around 8:30-9pm that we’d call it a night due to being tired from travel and all laid down for the night. Bentley was in the crib they provided (pack ‘n play), I was in the master bed and Linds on the couch. All was well for a few hours but around midnight she came in to the bedroom in tears due to her discomfort. What a way to start a trip, huh? Here we are 850 miles from home with this new, unfounded/undiagnosed back pain in a foreign bed which all shaped up to a “oh crap” moment for us, not knowing what we were going to do for the next 5 days/nights. Thankfully the next morning we were able to go to Florida’s version of prompt care (Centra Care) and get Lindsay some good pain meds just at the time Lindsay’s best friend Sam was arriving. Sam had approached Lindsay a few weeks prior to our trip to see if we wanted someone to come down and be a third set of hands/help at the parks with Bentley and I cannot express enough how grateful we were that she offered and came down. There is quite literally no way we could’ve done the parks without her there and I cannot thank her enough…though we will by buying cute things for her unborn baby girl, Rory. 🙂
After the pain meds were able to kick in, Lindsay finally got some sort of break from the pain and we started off on our first adventure after dropping Sam’s bags off at our resort! Off to Universal Studios! We got to Universal around 2pm and after walking in to the park it was pretty clear we weren’t going to have NEAR enough time to do everything we wanted but we all knew we wanted to focus on the Harry Potter portions of the park and the 2nd park that was all Harry Potter. So we darted past Shrek, Transformers, and a few other attractions to make it straight into Diagon Alley. Bentley was in his stroller being pushed by Sam and Lindsay was in a wheelchair being pushed by myself, this would be the setup for the remainder of our park-going experiences down there. At this point I’d like to mention that Sam is the biggest of the big Harry Potter nerds…her baby shower being thrown by my wife and a few others is Harry Potter themed. In fact, Sam had already been to these parks but she was every bit of a little kid and excited as we were to enter Diagon Alley and let me just say–Universal does NOT disappoint! They repeatedly awed me with their lifelike recreations of the movie, the atmosphere and the architecture. You legitimately feel like you’re in Harry Potter when you walk in there and then you get to travel to the 2nd Harry Potter park by the train used in the movie from yep…you guessed it…platform 9 3/4. Ha! You go on a pretty awesome ride to the 2nd park, Hogsmeade, which is every bit as cool as the first park. In all, we spent from 2pm-7:30pm between these 2 parks and it wasn’t a enough. It’s truly an awesome time and Universal was my favorite park while we were down there…but only by a hair and our mistake. That night we got back and Bentley, who had been AMAZING all day–barely letting out a fuss unless he was hungry, was ready to be fed and laid down for the night. Sam, after enduring a day of travel and park-going was exhausted and headed for bed. Lindsay, who was still in some pain and tired from the meds, was ready for bed so I popped on some Netflix and fell asleep after a pretty awesome 2nd day.
Day 3 was a pretty incredible day. We were able to do Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom in one day thanks to the generosity of Mel Barr and her husband John. They were incredibly gracious, offering up their main gate passes and escorting us between the parks with huge smiles and positive attitudes. It’s incredibly humbling to receive such gracious gifts and support and we cannot thank them enough for their generosity! They took us to Animal Kingdom at 9am, right as the gates opened, and we enjoyed an amazing day at Animal Kingdom. There is nothing in the World that makes me feel more like a kid than a zoo and getting to see animals up close. I told my parents and teachers in first grade that I was going to be a Zoologist and I’ll be damned if I couldn’t still be happy as a clam doing just that! 🙂 Anyway, due to poor time management and inexperience in navigating the parks combined with the 90 degree heat and 100% humidity, we didn’t get to see as much of the park as we’d hoped and what would have easily ended up being my favorite park fell to #2 on our trip. Around 2pm we hopped over to Magic Kingdom and got to meet Mickey and take pictures, got to take pictures in front of the Castle during day and night when it was lit up, take pictures in front of a MASSIVE christmas tree they had in the entrance of the park, see a few of the attractions but in all–we crammed a FULL 2 days of parks into 1 and didn’t get to see a large majority of the park. What was awesome though was we got to be there on the first night of Christmas lights and decor and it was truly what the name states…a Magic Kingdom.
Day 4 was a pretty laid back day, we went to Disney Springs–formerly downtown Disney after eating an enormous breakfast at the “Hash House A Go Go” where I ordered a $17 bloody mary that came with a BLT – yes, an entire BLT — on the straw…it was like drinking America through a straw. Ha! After our shopping at the Disney Springs stores we made our way towards the airport to drop Sam off so she could head home. That was after we made a quick pit stop at the Florida Mall so the girls could go in and shop. We made the decision before we left that Sam would come down for 3 of our 6 days so Lindsay and Bentley and I could have some time with just us to make memories. In hindsight, knowing the pain Lindsay was in and the amount of struggle involved just for us to go get dinner, I would have preferred she stayed the entire time but there were memories made with just us that I’ll treasure forever. After Sam left, we went back to the resort because Linds was in quite a bit of pain and we just had a chill night in where we watched movies and took a dip in our jacuzzi tub together which was a welcomed night of relaxation by me.
Day 5 was easily one of my favorite days I’ve ever had, IN MY LIFE. It’s one of those days that is almost suspended in time, every memory right there at the front of my memory bank in such a way that I can relive it as though it just happened. We went to bed the night before, planning on heading to Cocoa Beach after we woke up and got ready. It was one of my favorite mornings to date with my son, as I woke up before Lindsay–who was snoring (she’s going to deny this–don’t listen to her–she snores! Haha) on the couch, surely still feeling the effects of her pain meds and due to her lack of sleep due to pain thus far on the trip, I stole my son and we decided to have a little Daddy and Son breakfast date. We headed up to the Starbucks and outdoor patio located in the heart of our resort and we sat outside together, him napping peacefully, throwing the occasional “sleep-grin” at me and I was having some coffee, a blueberry muffin and reading the paper. I used to read the paper every day in high-school during breakfast but as technology has grown I’ve moved away from it but there is some nostalgia and a general sense of comfort in reading a good news paper. That is until you read all the smut, violence and political BS in it but hey, this is a good memory so we won’t go there! 🙂 We just had a great moment there, together. Nothing else mattered at that moment besides our family being on vacation, his Mom resting peacefully in our room and him and I bonding as I sipped on and absorbed some nostalgia in those news papers. I even called my Dad to BS with him because it made me think of the moments we’d shared like that over the years and I was in an even better mood when he told me they had 5-6 inches of “thick, wet, heavy shit” on the ground at home…that’s snow for all you non-Midwesterners! We then packed up and headed to the nearest Harley store to have some more Daddy/Son time and he put on quite a cooing and smiling show for the staff at Orlando Harley South. Halfway into our browsing of the bikes and merchandise, I got a text from Linds, so we headed back to the room, rejuvenated and ready for our day. That came to a screeching halt when I got back and she was again in tears with how her stomach and back were feeling. Our beach plans seemed like a huge longshot at that point but she toughed it out and after resting for a bit she said “let’s go, I’ll be fine” so we loaded up and headed towards the A1A. We got there right around noon and were able to get front row parking at the Cocoa Beach Pier. Again, this is a place that if you travel to Orlando for the parks you must find a day to getaway and go to the ocean and find your inner beach bum. It’s only an hours drive away and comes at the low price of $45,314.75 cents in tolls round trip! (It’s seriously probably like $15, though!) Either way, well worth the trip and it’s where I’ve made probably my favorite memory as an adult. I’m honestly getting emotional just thinking about how awesome it was and it’s something I’ll cherish with me til the day I die and it was possible due to your donations so I cannot thank you enough. Before we made this memory, we had an awesome lunch on the pier, overlooking the waves and surfers that littered the water for a few hundred yards in either direction of the pier. We watched the surfers, ranging from 10 years old to probably 60ish battle the waves swimming out and then ride them in for the duration of our meal as Bentley napped in his car seat peacefully. This kid was still like a poster child for travelling with an infant, it was crazy how good he had been which was great due to the other stressors.
We then moved outside to the covered bar and had a drink that was served in an actual, hand-carved coconut that we got to bring home…life was good. Then life reached its greatest point for me thus far, we proceeded back to the entrance ramp to the pier, fed Bentley and put his stroller and our stuff back in the car, grabbed our camera and headed down to the ocean to stick our son’s feet in the Atlantic for the first time together. This is where every step, every movement, the wind, the sun, the sand in my toes all seem so very real. It was a moment in time, albeit only about 5 minutes of our crazy, hectic lives, that I will cherish more than any monetary item, any material or any asset I have. I walked down and dipped his little baby toes in the cool ocean waters as the waves washed up over both of our feet with a grin from ear to ear as he let out a big scream and tucked his feet to his chest and quickly away from the cool Atlantic. I shared a laugh with Lindsay, calmed him down and tried again, this time he was more prepared and didn’t seem to mind at all. Lindsay snapped pictures of this moment, we switched places and I took some of her that are some of my favorite pictures ever, due to the memories tied to them.
After we dipped his toes in the water, we of course wanted to see what he did in the sand so as Lindsay brought him back up from the water, she squatted down and positioned him so he was able to decide what to think about the sand. He wiggled and squirmed his little toes in the white grains of sand as he looked down and even forced a little grin. My heart was full at that moment. A sea monster from the deep could have come and taken me from right there on that beach and I wouldn’t have even cared because my heart was the happiest it’d ever been. I had my beautiful, miracle of a wife holding my beautiful, miracle of a son in front of me, both smiling and sharing a moment that I’ll never forget. For that I thank you all, you made that possible and my heart still swells, just thinking of that day.
We headed back to our resort after stopping at the World Famous Ron Jon Surf Shop and picking up a few souvenirs, of course. After spending our savings on the tolls back to our resort we decided that was enough excitement for the day, as Lindsay was beginning to be in pain again. We got dinner and hung out for a few hours before we all laid down to rest. That was perhaps the roughest night we had down there, as she was puking at night as well as looking to be in pretty considerable pain without rest for the majority of the night. Of course I can’t sleep when she’s like that and on top of that I had to care for our little man so it was a very long night.
Saturday was met with more pain and lack of sleep so we didn’t stray too far from our resort. We went out and did a few touristy things and shopping but we mostly decided it’d be a day in, which was ok because it rained most of the day. We tried an aquarium (Sea Life Orlando) but we made the mistake of doing the guided behind-the-scenes tour without a wheelchair and her back paid for it. We basically walked through the rest of the aquarium without even seeing much because she was hurting so bad. I felt terrible for her and I could tell how frustrated she was so we just headed back to our room and hung out to get some rest before our early departure from our resort. We left at 3:30am to make the hour or so drive to the airport and make our 6:30am flight. Lindsay was in considerable pain still and running low on pain meds due to Florida being a highly ranked state on the narcotic abusing population of pain pill patients. We were both nervous how her and Bentley would do on the plane ride home but again, he slept almost the entire flight and so did she, thankfully, but she was still in pain when we got home. We came back to that crappy snow my Dad foretold of and I had to go start our car that was freezing and apparently snowscraper-less. I ended up scraping 6+ inches of snow off the windshield, side windows and rear window with a plastic mug that we got from the Labor and Delivery wing from when Bentley was born at OSF St. Francis! Haha I didn’t feel AS bad or as absentminded when I had not one, but two other dudes approach me asking to “use my scraper when I’m done” before I showed them what I was using. We all shared a good laugh but I eventually got us unburied and we were able to make it home by the start of the Bears game. It felt great to be back home but we knew that she only had one pain pill left and we had a long, sleepless night ahead of us before meeting with our oncologist on Monday.
Thank you to each and every one of you for your prayers, love and support.
Another huge thank you to our donors for our trip, you each played a huge part in creating memories that Lindsay and I will cherish forever and that’s something you should feel really awesome about!
Thank you to Derek and Ginelle Wyss for hooking us up with Jen who then got us in contact with her Mom, Mel and her husband, John. This saved us so much stress and money…truly cannot thank you enough.
Thank you to Mel and John, we cannot thank you enough for your generosity and selfless hospitality while we were down there. You helped us create some amazing memories and alleviated a massive chunk of expenses on our trip which goes a long way when you have the medical bills stacking up that we do!
Thank you to my parents, Colleen and Wayne, for booking us your timeshare while we were down there. Again, a huge help financially and it was an awesome resort and location!
Thank you to Sam for coming down and making the parks possible with your extra set of hands and attitude! We had a great time and look forward to trips with you, Michael and Rory in the future!
Thank you to Florida for taking all of Bentley’s college fund with your outrageous tolls and theme park prices….good lord! Haha
Thank you to our pilots….ok you get the point, we have SO many people to be thankful for in our lives I cannot possibly list them all here. Just know that you made one of the most amazing trips of our lives possible through your continued support, in all the various avenues. For that we thank you and are incredibly sorry we’ve been so lax on updating this lately. We will be updating a few more times here in the next few days to catch you up to date because there has been so very much happen. We wanted to keep this post light and funny and focus on the amazing time we had on our trip but give some foreshadow into our most recent week plus of life, as it’s been a crazy ride.
Blog at you soon! – Cody