Screwing up my courage

The last thing I want to be right now is special.  The last thing I want is to have to speak about my cancer in front of my children, or to behave as a sick person, or to be limited in what I can do, now that I’m in recovery.  But the truth is, I’m not all better yet.  My lymphedema is pretty bad, with my right arm swelling up in knots and of limited use.  I can’t use it to write more than a sentence or two, although I can type, and carrying my 15 month old 16 month old (Happy MonthBirthDay, Little Bear!) is still out of the question.  But he’s not walking reliably yet either, which means that we’re just screwed unless Daddy is with us or we have the stroller.

Last week I screwed up my courage to ask for accomodation at the Butterfly Exhibit.  This week, I’m asking the aquarium, where we’re members, if I can get special dispensation to push my baby in a stroller, since I can’t carry him, and can’t very well wait for him to decide to crawl up the stairs and around to all the exhibits by himself (He’d get trampled!).

It was one of the hardest letters I’ve ever had to write.  Here’s a copy:

Dear (name deleted):

I have just completed nearly a year of treatment for breast cancer that took both my breasts and all my lymph nodes on one side.  I developed lymphedema in that arm.  As a result, I cannot carry my 15 month old child, who still isn’t walking.  We have been members of the aquarium for two membership years now and have enjoyed it for several years prior, but I have a problem.  Right now, until my little one learns to walk and gets strong enough to make it around the aquarium, I am not able to take him and my older child to the aquarium, as I need the assistance of a stroller to carry him.  My arm and chest are simply too weak to carry him in a backpack or sling, or in my arms. 

We would like very much to continue to enjoy the aquarium this year, possibly even on our own without assistance from other adults now that I no longer need a caregiver.  I spoke on the phone to an associate about this, and she recommended that I talk to you about it.  Would it be possible to issue me a temporary hangtag for a stroller, so that I can bring my children (15 months and almost 4) to see the dolphins with their friends once again?

Thank you for considering this request.

So that’s the struggle of the day.  That and trying to straighten out some of the bills from the oncologist, surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, lymphedema physical therapist, and the resulting schizophrenia from the insurance company.  What a mess. 

What do you think the outcome of my letter will be?  Think she’ll say “Sure, no problem,” or “Nope, deal with it” ?


41 Responses to Screwing up my courage

  1. I think she’ll say, “Sure, no problem.” Or at least she OUGHT to.

  2. Kristin says:

    Underneath it all, I believe that people are really good. (Unfortunately, they also want to follow rules; thus the initial hesitance to break them by allowing a stroller.) I hope/pray/think you’ve got a solid chance of strolling with the fishes soon.

  3. Heather! says:

    I’m so sorry that a letter like that has to even be written. The answer better be ‘no problem! anything else we can do to make your visit a happy one??’ My 2yo has a broken leg and has a cast for another 4 weeks. We’ll probably be going to our kids museum in a couple weeks and they have a no stroller policy–until this, I hadn’t thought twice about asking them to make an exception for her as I also have an almost 4yo and 6mo old.

    Hope the aquarium is a blast and that this letter is but a footnote to your adventures this summer!

  4. Alison says:

    I’d like to believe in the goodness of people everywhere and say that she’ll be perfectly ok with it! I think it would be terrible otherwise!

  5. liz says:

    I think it’s such a shame that you would even have to *ASK* for special consideration or have to explain yourself.
    But, I would surely hope and even EXPECT them to say “of course” and “please be sure to bring the kids over to the XXX exhibit” or something.

    I also believe in the goodness of people, so I hope that you have a wonderful time enjoying the aquarium with your beautiful children.

  6. If I were the recipient of this letter, I’d give you a free family membership, too.

    Getting out and about is a major part of the emotional and physical recovery process. You deserve all the encouragement and praise in the world.

    You’re Supermom, WM!

    Enjoy the aquarium… we love it, too.

    xoxo CGF and girlies 3

  7. Spacemom says:

    Um, correct me if I am wrong, but under the Americans with disabilities Act, I believe the aquarium has an obligation to say yes. You are currently disabled by your treatment. You need to have reasonable accommodation. There should be no issue with this.

    You might want to check with a coordinator in some of your cancer groups, but I am pretty darn sure this falls under ADA.

  8. Karen says:

    I’m with spacemom.

    But if they have any compassion/empathy/horse-sense, they’ll slip a hang tag in the mail tomorrow.

  9. Amy says:

    I’m nearly 100% sure they will say ok – they probably just instituted the original “no stroller” rule to keep crowds down & moving.. Also, imagine the bad press you could wreak on them if they don’t. (And even if you don’t imagine it – I’m sure THEY do…)

  10. I’d be shocked if such a reasonable request were turned down. I am sure you and your boys will be enjoying the aquarium shortly!

    We’ve been meaning to take the kids there for ages–we haven’t been since we moved down to VA almost 2 years ago–but now I think we’ll wait until the real heat of the summer for some air conditioned relaxation with the fishes! 🙂

  11. Unless the director is completely heartless, I can’t imagine how she could deny your request. Do they allow wheelchairs for disabled guests? This should fall under the same category. Until you are strong enough to carry your son reasonable accompdatio be should be made.

    Good luck! Let us k ow how it turns out!

  12. I think you’re smart to do this proactively, rather than feeling like you’re causing a scene in the moment. Good for you. Let us know what they say, will you? I can’t see how they could say anything but yes.

  13. margaret says:

    Wow, I can’t see them denying the request. Our aquarium allows strollers everywhere and is completely wheelchair accessible.

  14. Tracy says:

    I am puzzled by this “no stroller” rule you are encountering. Perhaps this is an East Coast thing? Here in Minnesota, I don’t ever remember not being allowed to take a stroller into a place where children were anticipated. I hope you get the permission, but more importantly, I hope these places start opening up to families. How many other people can’t go these places because of the no stroller rule?

  15. Ally says:

    I also can’t see how they’d answer with anything but a responding yes on this one. I also agree with Spacemom about there being a ADA issue here if they don’t…

  16. CE says:

    Two summers ago, I took my 15 month old (who walked perfectly well) to the Baltimore aquarium by myself. I took the stroller into the stroller-check backpack area and said “I’m here by myself and I’m pregnant and can’t carry my child.” They said, “no problem, we’re not in the business of torturing people.” they gave my a hangtag and that was that. The whole thing took 30 seconds. I am truly surprised you had to go to the trouble of writing a letter detailing your personal details. I have seen other strollers (with hangtags) there all the time to accomodate people with special circumstances, which were probably all done on the spot.
    Good Luck!

  17. JessicaAPISS says:

    I am pretty certain they have to say yes. And this time you are communicating in writing with an administrator, rather than verbally with the um, anxious, butterfly volunteers.

    You are a class act WhyMommy!

  18. Stimey says:

    I don’t know what she’ll say, but I’m dying to find out. Either way, I wanna finally make it out there with you. I’ll even carry Little Bear. (I’ll make YOU chase Jack and Quinn.)

  19. Mary Beth says:

    I also agree with SpaceMom that this should fall under ADA. Perhaps you should have your doctor write a medical note regarding your arm and that you are not able to carry your child, or any weight at this time. If they will not allow a stroller then they may need to provide you with some kind of assistance (like a volunteer to carry your child) and we Mom’s know how that would go over with a stranger carrying your 16 month old!!!

  20. Kayris says:

    If they say no, *I* will be writing a letter to the Aquarium to express my displeasure.

  21. Your letter is dignified and to the point. You will find the organization will provide for your situation. Most of these places have the status quo for the regular crowds but do not intend for it to affect those requiring accommodation for some legitimate reason.

    I spent 8 years getting a medical diagnosis for my child and the battle didn’t end there. I spent 8 years fighting to keep him safe in a school environment. I learned a few things along the way, one of the most important being…. there is always a way to make it happen. Sometimes you have to push a little and other times you have to make big waves to reach the goal. No institution or person is perfect and sometimes they need guidance.

    There is absolutely no need for you to apologize or second-guess yourself. I find it odd that strollers aren’t permitted in this venue you mention. HOw do other parents get about with their young ones? Perhaps this place needs to be a bit more clear on who they are discouraging the use of strollers to begin with?

    Enjoy your day out with the boys. There is nothing like experiencing life through little ones, when the smallest things bring about the greatest joy and wonder in their eyes.

    Now we need to do something about TEENS!!

  22. carosgram says:

    Sure, no problem

  23. maryelena says:

    My guess is you’ll have no trouble with the Baltimore Aquarium — I’ve seen strollars with hang tags every time I’ve been there. I don’t recall if the tags were dated though, if they were they might ask you to get a new one with each visit (and would hopefully just give you a letter to show each time if that is necessary so you don’t have to explain with each visit).

    I also think that the other comments are right on regarding the ADA — they are a public accomodation and they need to take reasonable steps to make the facility accessible to you.

    Enjoy your visits there — it is always such fun to watch the kids’ excitment.

  24. flutter says:

    if she doesn’t accommodate you I will kick her right in the teeth.

  25. They had better approve it! You are a loyal customer and they should care about your needs! It is the right and moral thing to do (not to mention practicing good business.) Good for you for standing up for yourself and your children in a respectful and proper way!

  26. planetnomad says:

    There’s no way they won’t say yes.

  27. Ruthie says:

    The answer better be, “Sure, no problem”. If not, continue on up the chain until you get a yes, and a comp for another 2 year membership at the aquarium!

  28. momma knows says:

    I bet it’s sure no problem 🙂

  29. babe it will totally be ‘sure! And here are free vouchers for something or other!’

    And if not then there is something desperately wrong.

  30. PunditMom says:

    If they say no, you know there will be in uproar from us.

  31. Cheryl says:

    I work with our county’s ADA coordinator and she thought your request represented a “reasonable accomodation” that the aquarium would have to honor. I simply can’timagine that they won’t. Enjoy the aquarium, my girls always loved the hands on tidal pool where they could hold the starfish!

  32. Michele says:

    if she has a heart at all she’ll say ‘sure, no problemo’ regardless of what the rules are. You have asked so kindly and really put yourself out to her (assuming its a she). Rules were made to be broken and I cannot think of better reason then yours =)

  33. Amelie says:

    I very much hope they say yes. Have fun with the fish!

  34. Sarah S. says:

    I hope they say OK. The aquarium is so cool. Good luck 🙂

  35. Jenn says:

    A true believer in the ultimate good in all, I’ll cast my vote in the “no problem” box.

  36. Alice C says:

    That brought back very painful memories. There was an occasion, a long time ago, when I had to do something comparable. I had not expected it to be a big deal. I had not prepared myself. It was awful.

    But it passed and I got on with my life.
    And so will you.

  37. Of course they should say “Yes”. I’m hoping that’s what they will say. Enjoy your outing!

  38. emily says:

    i wanted to reply a few days ago, but got busy–anyway this post makes me remember I should just worry about myself, and stop judging those around me. I try hard to do this, but often times when people see others “breaking the rules” such as using a stroller or working from home we get angry–we should just be thankful that we can do the task without the extras and let those who need the change enjoy themselves too. good luck and i will pray for all of the families impacted by this and other diseases that take loved ones too early.

  39. Susan K says:

    Why Mommy – please clarify which aquarium you are talking about. I had assumed DC, others here are assuming Baltimore.

    If by some craziness we need to be irate with someone, we better write the letter to the right people!

  40. whymommy says:

    Everything is okay — the director emailed me back and said yes, just stop at stroller check and explain, and they’ll give you a hangtag.

    I am relieved.

    Thanks, though — it’s so good to know that you guys have my back!

  41. NoRegrets says:

    It’s hard to ask for help…but yes, ADA is a good thing.

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