So, after receiving the green light from Meg's oncologist, we loaded the car and headed north to Great Wolf Lodge. This family trip required some additional equipment: wheelchair, Zofran, feeding pump, feed bags, lots of Pediasure and Duocal. Once we played Tetris loading our bags and equipment and three very excited children, we hit the road.
We have never before been to Great Wolf Lodge. Our room was amazing: a balcony, fireplace, kitchenette and loft. The water park was seasonably crowded with young families. Despite the chaos, Meg managed to attract a bit of attention in her canary yellow wheelchair and bald, little head. Thankfully, children have short attention spans and the lure of the water park quickly diverted their gazes.
So much about Meaghan has changed but she still loves swimming. Though no longer able to swim independently, her joy was not dimished. Snugly strapped into a life vest and secure in her parents' grasp, Meg stretched, kicked, splashed and laughed herself giddy. She chased Maddy and Ethan around the pool. She water-skied with Daddy and jumped up and down with Mommy. Ed and I begged Meg to take breaks from the pool. Her compromise was to let us "swim gently" with her. That's what I enjoyed most; feeling her head against my chest, watching her legs moving rhythmically through the water.
Meaghan was completely happy. In the water, she didn't notice people staring. Her limbs moved freely, unfettered by ataxia. In the humid, chlorinated air, amidst the boisterous screaming and laughter of children, Meg rejoiced in her body's abilities. She was normal in the pool.
Aside from therapy at Children's Hospital, we haven't been in public a lot with Meaghan. Children's reactions to Meg are fairly consistent: bewildered staring. Adult reactions generally fall into three categories. Some adults are so oblivious to their surroundings they cut in front of her wheelchair and don't hold doors. Some adults stare at us with a mix of fear and pity, with this odd head tilt that conveys, "Oh man, cancer AND in a wheelchair?!" The remainder meet your gaze, return your smile and offer basic courtesies. I'm saddened to report there a few that fall into the latter category.
The excursion was unexpectedly difficult for me. Outside of the pool, it was difficult for me to be happy. The trip, while "free," came with a high price. We were there because of one reason. And there's just no escaping it. You can ignore cancer only for a very short while. So, when I remember this trip, I work hard to remember Meaghan's joy. She didn't care why she was there. She was just plain 'ol happy and busy having fun!