I was sitting with my trainer in the office at the barn on Friday when I got a phone call from my mom. She had just gotten off the phone with our local newscaster who was asking for an interview for the #OliviaMeetsJimmy campaign. I, of course, thought they wanted to set up a time for next week. They wanted to come right now and the newscaster would be arriving in 20 minutes. I practically dropped the phone when I hung up. When I told my trainer what was about to happen she immediately called her husband, who is also my trainer, to tell him to get over to the barn and help.
I looked down at my outfit and quickly realized that my neon colored sweatshirt would not be the best option for the camera. My hair already draws attention and the neon would not help. I called my mom and asked for a different sweatshirt. I went with Ulman blue. If you know that group you’ll understand the reference. Then we realized Joe would be on camera since they wanted to feature him in the story too. My trainers quickly trimmed his whiskers while he was hanging out in his stall. He was oblivious as to what was about to happen.
I figured that during my interview they might ask about any organizations that I had worked with in the cancer world. I made a phone call to a friend who is part of one of the organizations I was going to mention, just to make sure I said the correct things. He gave me the information I would need and was happy to have it mentioned in the interview. I also made a quick phone call to a family friend who I knew would want to be there in the action. I was very happy when she answered the phone and was willing to drop everything and come over to be part of the fun that was about to unfold.
When my mom arrived at the barn I quickly changed and got Joe out of his stall. Within seconds the newscaster arrived and wanted to begin filming while I was getting Joe ready. He wanted to capture me brushing Joe at all different angles. When he was filming near Joe’s face there were a couple times when Joe got very close to the camera. I was waiting for him to try and bite it thinking it was food.
After grooming and tacking up he wanted footage of me riding. After trotting around the ring a couple times he asked if I would go over a jump. Normally I would have said yes but I hadn’t jumped recently and I didn’t want to become an Internet sensation for falling off my horse while going over a jump. While I was walking out of the ring with Joe he wanted to get some “candid” shots of Joe and me. At this point Joe was more concerned with the hay that would be awaiting him in his stall for lunch. Luckily my trainer quickly grabbed some treats to distract him and help him pose.
Once I put Joe away, the newscaster wanted to do the interview segment. My mom and family friend helped me put on my Tonight Show hat. If we were going to get our point across, we were going to be bluntly obvious. I was asked the usual questions: what’s your age, where are you from, what kind of cancer do you have, when were you diagnosed, and so on. Then I was asked about the campaign and how it started. If you saw the interview I will save you all the details. The one part of the interview that was cut was when I talked extensively about the organizations we have worked with. I talked about the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults and ThinkBIG Pediatric Cancer Fund. I talked about both groups and what they do. I even made sure to say the names of the people from our area that are heavily involved in them. If you want more information on these organizations feel free to type them into a search engine or social media website. They also have been on Operation Olivia.
Later that day the story was aired on our local news at various times. The major comment I got from everyone was that my horse Joe looked great in the interview. I just hope his new found fame doesn’t go to his head. I went from flying under the radar to being on the news. The story has taken off on social media and was shared by several people. Thank you to everyone who is helping with the #OliviaMeetsJimmy campaign. It went from an idea being presented to me at my kitchen table to being part of a story on the news. It has grown into people posting pictures with the #OliviaMeetsJimmy campaign and now a smile challenge where people will challenge their friends to tell jokes. In case you were wondering this is my go to joke, “Why do seagulls fly over the ocean? Because if they flew over the bay they would be bagels!”
As I mentioned in an earlier post we went to Disney recently to watch my sister run in the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February. The race route was 13.1 miles that started in Epcot, looped around the Magic Kingdom and finished in Epcot. The race was on a Sunday morning and my mom and I decided we would cheer everyone on at the finish line. The night before the race Sam and our friends decided they would meet at 3:45am at the monorail to head to the race. They had to be there early since the first group of runners started at 5:30am. What I like to call the die-hard runners. I was all set to wake up around 6:30am and meet my mom at the monorail by 7am to head to Epcot. We both knew they would finish around 10am.
The morning of the race I woke up around 4am to what sounded like music playing next door. It was a loud base type noise. It sounded like it does when you drive up next to someone at an intersection and their playing music so loud you hear the bass. I, of course, called my mom who told me that it was music for the race. She had opened the window in her room to make sure she wasn’t hearing things. They were already playing music for the race to get the runners excited for what they were about to endure. Only at Disney would they be blasting music at 4am. Luckily I was able to fall back to sleep.
I met my mom at 7am and we took the monorail to the transportation center where we switched to the Epcot monorail. By then the race was in full swing and as we were riding towards Epcot we could see the runners. At one overpass in the highway there was a DJ with huge Mickey hands playing music and pumping up the crowds. All the runners below were raising their hands at him mimicking his movements. I also noticed at various points throughout the race there were places where you could stop and get your picture with Disney characters.
We got to Epcot and walked towards the race finish line. I was tracking Sam with my phone and every 45 minutes we got updates on her progress and her estimated finish time. We were part of the Cheer Squad section, which included getting a free t-shirt, blanket, and clapping hand to use for cheering. It also got us into this tent near the finish line that served breakfast. After eating our breakfast I got my pictures taken with Belle, Chip, and The Beast. We decided to go sit in the grandstand area and watch the runners go through the finish line.
At the finish line they had 2 DJs who were commenting on the various costumes and pumping up the crowd. Not only were they sarcastic, they were hysterical. They would point out the various costumes and talk about them. Everyone in the race wore a costume. We saw people dressed like Olaf, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Cruella de Vil and a Dalmatian, men dressed as princesses and woman who were their princes, Elsa and Anna, Elvis, Waldo, and anything you can think of. At one point a runner went across the finish line dressed as Prince, the singer, with a guitar, black wig and a purple suit. We saw two marriage proposals at the finish line. Thankfully both women said yes. However if I was one of them I probably would’ve said, “It took me finishing a half-marathon for you to finally propose?”
The crowd was filled with many families and friends who were there to cheer their runner or runners on. At one point a father and his three young children were sitting near us cheering for their mom as she went across the finish line. There was also a woman holding a sign that said, “You didn’t die!” Since I was sent the updates on my sister’s progress we were able to figure out when to pay attention for her and our family friends to cross the finish line. We spotted them and cheered as they finished, although I highly doubt they heard us. However, in the video I took you can clearly hear me cheering for them.
We met up with them after they crossed the finish line and everyone was happy to receive their medals. They got goody bags filled with various foods to eat to help restore their bodies after walking/running 13.1 miles. We stayed until the last person crossed the finish line. As she was limping towards the finish line Mickey and Minnie looped their arms through hers and walked with her over the finish line as confetti cannons went off. How many races are there that are you able to see that happen?
My sister told us during the race that she got her picture taken in front of the castle at the Magic Kingdom. She said she ran through the castle while Elsa and Anna were waving to everyone. At various miles they could stop and get their pictures taken with the Disney characters but they said the lines were long and they didn’t want to get stuck behind the people who were pacing the race. Apparently if you weren’t up to speed and got behind the pacers at the next mile marker you had to board a bus and were taken to the finish line. At the last mile she told us there was a gospel choir singing to the runners to help get them through the last part of the race.
In the end they all had fun in the race. I think the 13.1 miles part was not fun but they had entertainment along the way to help get them to the next mile. I hope they do the race again next year so I can get to go back to Disney. It was a well-organized race and fun for everyone who attended it. I know we had fun watching the various runners go across the finish line. I would highly recommend anyone who loves to run to do one of Disney’s race events. One of our family friends said she ran in another half marathon in the fall and it wasn’t nearly as entertaining as this one. Now for me, the only way I would participate in a half-marathon would be if someone else were pushing me in a wheelchair.
The last time I went away on a trip was in July of 2013, right before I was diagnosed. I spent the past year and a half at home recuperating from chemo, surgery, radiation, biopsy, and everything else that you can think of. Recently I considered a vacation to be the time period when I would get breaks from my chemo pills. I usually got breaks when I was getting really sick from the chemo and it was time to take a week off. However, in February I went to Disney with my mom and sister for a week for an actual vacation.
In April of last year my sister signed up to be in the Disney Princess Half-Marathon. It was scheduled for February and we decided we would make a trip out of it. My major concern about traveling was if I would have to take my chemo pills. I didn’t want to have to worry about getting sick or being exhausted while in Disney. The last thing I wanted was to be waiting in line for a ride and then all of a sudden get sick. Thankfully my doctor said I could take the week off while in Disney. I was more than happy not to pack my chemo pills and other random medicines.
We arrived in Disney and settled into our hotel. We hadn’t been there in over 12 years. We decided to go to the Magic Kingdom the first night for dinner and to walk around. As we rode the monorail to the park I noticed that everyone was in his or her puffer coats and boots. It was 45 degrees outside, which in my book was a heat wave compared to the negative temperatures we left behind at home. Since it was cold out, there was no line for Splash Mountain so my sister and I practically ran through the line area to get on the ride.
While we were on the ride there was one other person in the boat with us. It was a boy, who we later found out was from Detroit. As we were going through the ride he turned around and asked us where we were from. My sister told him. He then proceeded to ask, “Are you from the ghetto or the suburbs?” We both stared at him and I tried not to laugh out loud. My sister responded with, “I’m sorry what did you say?”, trying to play it off like we couldn’t hear him. When he asked us the same question again she told him, "the suburbs". After he turned around in his seat we couldn’t stop laughing. At one point we were laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Only we would be asked that question on our first ride at Disney.
The next day we went to the Magic Kingdom again and went on several rides. We did the classics such as Space Mountain and of course the Enchanted Tiki Room. I got to meet Elsa and Anna from Frozen. I specifically went there to get a picture for a friend since she loves them. My one doctor also joked with me before I left that some of the children at the park may confuse me with her since we have the same hair color. Luckily that did not happen. We spent the entire day at the park and had dinner at Tony's Town Square, which is the Italian restaurant from Lady and the Tramp. Everywhere we went everyone was so happy and excited to be in Disney.
The next day we met up with our family friends since they were also running in the half-marathon with my sister. We went to the running expo in the morning so they could pick up their numbers. After that we went to Hollywood Studios. We went on the Tower of Terror. That ride still scares me. You would think after 12 years I wouldn’t be afraid but, good joke. As we were walking through the hotel I could feel my stomach already turning into knots. Once we got into the ride I knew there was no turning back. As you all know the ride has a pretty impressive drop not once but 4 times. I even knew when it was coming but still screamed a lot. The photo perfectly describes how I was feeling because I looked terrified. It still is one of my favorite rides. Afterwards my hands were shaky for a little while but it was totally worth it.
After spending the afternoon in Hollywood Studios we went to Epcot for dinner in France, which was delicious. Then again all the food in Disney is amazing. I had several Mickey shaped soft pretzels while in the parks and of course the Mickey ears shaped ice cream. Another good thing about the food there is that it is geared towards all ages. Let’s just say I thoroughly enjoyed my popcorn chicken on several occasions. It was nice to be able to eat and not worry if I would get sick. Needless to say I took full advantage of it.
On Sunday morning my sister and our family friends ran in the Disney Princess half-marathon. My mom and I went to cheer them on. I have a whole post dedicated to the race alone since it was an experience in itself. After the race we went to the Magic Kingdom again and went on rides. We had dinner at the Beauty and the Beast Restaurant, “Be Our Guest”. It has three dining areas all modeled after the movie. We got our picture taken with the beast too. After dinner we said goodbye to our family friends since they were heading home the next day. They had come in for the weekend for the race. We had a great time together and laughed a lot about everything you can think of.
One of our last two days of the trip we went to my favorite place, Discovery Cove, where we swam with dolphins. I will be writing about that by it self too. You have so much to look forward to now! On our last day we went back to Hollywood Studios. I went on Tower of Terror twice with my sister and I screamed the whole time. We also went on Rock 'n' Roller Coaster twice, which was a blast. My favorite picture is one of my sister that they took right before they launch you into the ride. While I was smiling she looked scared to death. We are still laughing about the photo. We went on other rides that included the Great Hollywood Movie ride and saw a couple of the shows too. I am happy to tell you that the Indian Jones Show has not changed in 12 years. We ended the night by having dinner at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant. It is modeled to look like a drive-in theatre and you sit in cars from the 50s and 60s. While you are enjoying your dinner you get to watch old Sci-Fi movies. I thoroughly enjoyed my burger, fries, onion rings, and milkshake.
What I liked most about Disney is that no one knew anything about me. I wasn’t bombarded with people asking me how I am doing or feeling. No one stared at me because of my white hair or commented on it. They probably figured I was a super Elsa fan. I didn’t have to think about when to take my chemo or worry about the foods I couldn’t eat. I did get a wheel chair after the first day since my knee was sore from all the walking. I know my doctors will be happy I did that. My family pushed me around the parks because we were constantly on the go. It was nice to get away and go on a family vacation. We haven’t been able to do that in a long time. After we left Disney I found myself in a “Disney Depression”. I had gotten so used to the routine of getting up and getting on the monorail or a bus to go to one of the theme parks that I didn’t know what to do. Don’t worry I quickly got back into my usual routine after resting from our busy vacation.