(This segment is about events that took place in May 2003.)
I received a call on May 1, 2003 from a woman who said she was the manager of the Disney Reservation Center’s Guest Services department. I did not recognize the name. She said I would be done working as of May 9. I was to stop by the reservation center that day and hand in any Disney property I still had. This was, she told me, the rule established by the federal Medical Leave of Absence program. (FMLA) I had already been given a year to return and since I had not, it was time to terminate my employment. Visit http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.htm
I realized I would not have the final say as to when I was leaving, and even though I knew I was not ready to return, this call did take me my surprise. I would now face issues I was not prepared to deal with, such as insurance. I had company issued health insurance during the past year, but now, I would have to go with COBRA or some other option. I would need to find alternatives -- and since my brain was not functioning right, this would not be easy. Edward immediately “freaked out” when he heard the news. Actually, we were “both freaked out” by it, but I did need him to be strong enough to get us through. This affected my entire family, so a feeling of insecurity was normal.
At this time, my Mom was undergoing treatments for thyroid cancer. I knew she would be fine, but it was going to be a tough month. My brothers and I had to learn how to help her with a feeding tube, since at some point, she would be unable to eat due to the radiation treatments. So, on top of my own personal situation, I was also dealing with my Mom’s needs. My “frantic” search for “normal” was quickly vanishing.
On top of everything we were already dealing with, Brian received a letter that would change our summer and our lives. He had applied to the New York City Fringe Festival and our show, The Feldman Dynamic, had been accepted. The performance was a “dream” project created by Brian and was about to become reality. I had been the “hold out” for many years, not wanting to do the project due to my fear of being on stage and performing before a live audience. Adrienne was thrilled by the news; not only did she love being on stage but she would now be going to NYC. Edward, who did not have a problem performing (he did a high school musical), was more concerned by the financial aspects of going on the trip and losing time at work. Brian was ecstatic! The Feldman Dynamic would have its world premiere in NYC in late August. Brian immediately got to work on all the details. There was a lot to do and little time to get it all done. For me, it was just another “item” on my “To Do” list. In some ways, I was very excited. I could not wait to “travel” and “get out of Florida.” I was definitely looking forward to seeing something different and a change of scenery was “just what the doctor ordered.” The next few months would be busy with preparation for our adventure. I also needed to work on my “fear of being on stage.” Go to
Adrienne brought in the month of May by earning “A’s” in all her theater classes, an “A” in English, and a “B” in math. She loved being at Seminole Community College and was proud to be in its theater program. I was extremely proud of her achievements. Earning the “A” in English was a real testimony to the effort Adrienne put forth each semester. I needed happy moments like this -- a reason to celebrate.
On May 8, I had my annual mammogram. The radiologist gave me the report immediately... “All is fine.” Another great reason to celebrate. So, in honor of this great report, in honor of Adrienne’s terrific grades, and to take advantage of my final day as a Disney cast member -- I took Edward to lunch at EPCOT’s famed Italian restaurant, Alfredo's. I had a 50 percent discount that was still available, so we took full advantage of this treat. The two of us had a delicious leisurely lunch and then, took a stroll around the park.
May 9 -- I turned in my ID badge and headset. I spoke briefly to a total stranger. I signed some paperwork, being assured that if I ever wanted to return to Disney, I could do so. I was handed a box, filled with all my personal stuff. (A coworker had gone through my desk and belonging, packing up everything for me.) I kept wondering where all my friends were? Where were all the managers I knew? Why was a stranger... this unknown manager, doing my farewell exit interview? That bothered me more than the actual act of leaving. I could not comprehend why, after eight years of dedicated service, I was not sitting next to a person I knew well -- someone with whom I had worked side by side. Sitting across from this “unknown” manager did not make me feel “all warm and fuzzy.” I was upset. My final moments as a Disney cast member were very sterile and unfriendly. My “good feelings” about being at DRC were quickly fading. I wanted out -- immediately. I felt betrayed by the place I had called my “second home” for years. And why?
As I left, I walked slowly down the hallway towards the lobby. I recalled “briefly” all the yeas I had spent in this building. The good times as well as the bad times. I would miss the people -- I had many friends at the center. They were good men and women; they were all hard-working people with whom I had shared many experiences. When I left WDW, I had put in eight years. Had it been 10 years, I would have qualified for a permanent WDW main gate pass. That pass would have given me a lifetime of entries into the WDW parks. Since I missed it by two years (thanks to the cancer) I missed out on this great deal. Thus, the cancer not only took away my chances at having a lifetime of trips into the WDW parks, it took away my job. My benefits. (Health care. WDW cast member perks including admission to theme parks, water parks. Hotel stay discounts. Restaurant and store discounts. And much more!)
Packing up to leave DRC and my incredible benefits -- Too priceless to calculate. Another reason why “cancer sucks!”