Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Normalcy is the best Christmas present of all

TJ Sharpe shares his holiday trip to Disney with his wife and kids and how he almost let cancer define his trip - almost!

Normalcy is the best Christmas present of all


My Dad asked me the other day, in a somewhat contentious debate about the merits of a day trip to Disney World being the best idea, “You’re not giving up or anything, are you?” His question, and concern, was understandable – after recovering and taking it easy for the last several weeks, a slightly impulsive decision to join my family for a day at amusement parks can easily be seen as “getting it in now.” 

That’s not why the Sharpe family was at The Most Magical Place on Earth, though. Our cousin had a dancing audition there, and Jen wanted to combine seeing extended family with a trip to the park. I felt up to tagging along for the ride to Disney and planned to join them in the evening at the Magic Kingdom. In the meantime, I would take care of some busy work in the room – paying bills, submitting insurance stuff, and generally getting us somewhat caught up with life.

Then I looked in the mirror. Forget cancer, or even major surgery recovery.  My kids were going to Disney, the youngest one for the first time. I am still recovering, but it wasn’t like I was or am incapacitated. Was I really going to sit and fill out forms and use my current medical state to justify a few hours of busy work? Was I really being given the chance to create a special memory and passing it up for AFLAC and Wells Fargo paperwork?

Off went the computer. Back into the to-do folder went the forms. On went the socks and sneakers and comfortable walking clothes. It’s not exactly carpe diem, but looking in that mirror, I remembered the first blog post – “I am not letting cancer define me” – and told a surprised and delighted Jen that we were taking the children to Disney World, right now, and that we had better hurry because the lines are already getting long.

It wasn’t a bold statement, and I didn’t exactly run it by every medical professional involved in my treatment (“ask forgiveness, not permission”), who left me with standing orders to wash my hands often, get in some moderate light exercise, and otherwise live normally. I chose, instead, to be me, live life, and get my exercise in at The Mouse’s headquarters –  calculated/mitigated germ exposure be damned. I was going to push myself and see how I did – and over a day and a half span, we spent almost 15 hours across three parks, and it felt GREAT.

I don’t know if it was the optimal choice for my physical health (I was careful about not being reckless with rides and germs and all), but I do know that mentally and emotionally, I felt better than any point since my son was born. I walked all over Disney World and Hollywood Studies – even back and forth to the parking lots (putting a double stroller on the tram was actually more work than I thought).  I did the Tower of Terror and Star Tours, although I conceded that roller coasters might not be the best idea and passed on those. I got to sit next to my little girl and help her aim as we shot virtual darts and paintballs at Toy Story characters. I was bringing my family some normalcy for Christmas, and it was the best present I gave them – and gave myself.

What would you have done?

P.S.  I also bought the Annual Pass.  Hey, Stage 4 Melanoma… that is what I think about you and your “life expectancy” and “survival rates.”

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About this blog
T.J. Sharpe is sharing his fight against Stage 4 Melanoma. A South Jersey native and Bishop Eustace graduate, he currently lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his wife Jennifer and children Josie and Tommy. He was Patient #1 in a clinical trial at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa as the first person worldwide to use this sequence of treatments to fight melanoma, and is currently in a second clinical trial at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale receiving Merck’s anti-PD-1 drug Lambrolizumab

The Patient #1 blog will update the progress of T.J.'s fight against cancer, and also touch on many cancer-related topics.

Follow T.J. on Twitter and Facebook.

T.J. Sharpe
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