We debated back and forth on whether to share this story on our blog, as it may let some of you know who we are. But, because it’s such a COOL story, we are taking the risk… If you do know our true identities, please help us keep up our anonymity for now. Now sit back, relax, and grab the Kleenex, you are going to need it!
Our youngest daughter, ‘Jessie’, was diagnosed with cancer in 2001 when she was a year old. We would travel in total 5-6 hours every three weeks to have her examined and treated only to find out we would have to go back again in another three weeks. By chance, we found a Jessie doll somewhere and our youngest just fell in love with her. She came with to every treatment, every doctor visit, and was a part of every bedtime routine. On many occasions ‘Jessie’ had to go to the operating room at the hospital. We would be able to carry her into the OR, hold her while they put her to sleep, but we would always have to leave the OR right after that. The one thing they would allow her to have, was her Jessie doll. We always tell Jessie when we see her at Walt Disney World that she was there for our ‘Jessie’ those times when we could not be.
Our baby girl fought the cancer for a year, but we had a setback when at one appointment they found her eye to be littered with tumors. She lost her left eye to the beast, but we got to keep our daughter, and that was ok with us. We stared at our daughter’s face for the longest time the night before her last major surgery. Knowing that eye would be gone the next day was just too much to bear. But, as always, that Jessie doll would be there for her, and it was a comfort for us.
We are happy to announce that our daughter has been in remission for many years, and she has kept that same Jessie doll on her headboard. So I was surfing the net several weeks ago, and came across the D23 Facebook page that announced that Ms. Joan Cusack would be signing a limited edition doll at the Disney Store in Chicago. I looked at Carl, he looked at me, and the plan was on to email in to be on of the 40 chosen to save their doll and a spot in line.
Several days passed after the email was sent…and after school Carl announced “WE GOT IT!!!” The plans were on for Chicago, getting work off, getting the GPS to handle the directions, and figuring out what to do after the Disney Store meet and greet that morning.
We arrived in Chicago this past week, leaving home at 4 a.m. We wanted to make sure we got into the city without having a lot of traffic. Carl did an amazing job driving into the city, and we parked under Millennium Park. I have to tell you, those parking garages under the city unnerved me a bit…they seem to just swallow you whole!
As we exited the parking garage, a gentleman strolled up to us and said “Tourists, huh?” Was it that obvious? We smiled and laughed as he told us all the cool places to go…only in the Midwest! We casually enjoyed our walk down Michigan Avenue, as every Tom, Dick, and Harry walked briskly to work. Carl said at one point “I feel like we should be walking as fast as them” which I replied “Not a chance, this is OUR vacation.” We just made sure to walk along a certain side to let the workers pass us.
We arrived at the Disney Store…and folks, it was beautiful! We loved the lights, the architecture, the Mickey Mural on the ground, and the animation quotes on the wall. We were second to line up at 8:15 a.m., waiting for the store to open up at 9. Now we knew that you HAD to buy the doll to meet her and get her autograph…that was the catch. But, as always, there were folks there who thought they could get anything signed, and we knew it was a matter of time before they would be told what was going to happen.
9 a.m. the store opened…we followed the line to the left side of the store where we waited some more. People who were in the back of the line ran ahead of us and cut us off…it was one of those moments that I wanted to say something, but it just wasn’t worth it. We were third in line, and ‘Jessie’ would be the first kid to have her doll signed.
Carl went and bought the doll while we stood in line- seeing ‘Jessie’s’ eyes as he brought the doll up to her was priceless. The excitement grew as Joan walked into the room to talk to the press… I thought our kids were going to burst! Time passed and they finally had the “rope drop” and our line was ready to go.
We watched the others before us, smile and get her autograph. They allowed each family, couple, or person to approach her while the line waited back, so no one was hovering around you while you talked to her. It was finally our turn, and Jessie had drawn a picture of Jessie for Joan to have, so I handed that to her first. As I told her that our youngest had made it special for her, Joan was all smiles. I took the opportunity to then explain to Joan our story about our daughter and her journey with cancer. I really wanted Joan to know that the cowgirl she has voiced over two movies now means so much more to our family. We had Joan tearing up, I had tears, Carl started… it was the sweetest and coolest moment ever.
Joan hugged our daughter several times and made a big deal of letting her know that the drawing she made was going up on her fridge when she got home. As Joan talked to us, I could see her adorable sons telling the press our story. Within minutes, we had several cameras taking our pictures with her- it was surreal.
We said goodbye to Joan, and as we walked away, we were asked to do several interviews. Our daughter was a bit overwhelmed by all the attention, but I explained to her it was her 15 minutes of fame and to enjoy it.
You may have seen the pictures, you may know us personally, but you will never know what that moment meant to us. Sitting at the Cheesecake Factory minutes later, we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. It seemed like one amazing dream.
We are back home now, the pictures are printed, the Jessie doll is in our daughter’s room, and we have seen “Toy Story 3.” We will never forget the day we met Jessie in person, and I will NEVER forget my daughter’s face for as long as I live. We got to thank the real Jessie for creating that wonderful character, who was there for our ‘Jessie’.
Thanks for reading!