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  • Kendall

Conquering Villains With the Magical Power of Perspective

I am a freelance columnist for Friedreich's Ataxia News. I was recently published on my column, My Darling Disability, and I wanted to share it here, too. You can either read it by following this link, or just keep scrolling below.

I am the first to admit that I am a Disney fanatic. I have always loved the replicated ideas in Disney movies that friends and family can come together and discover strengths they never knew they had to help good triumph over evil. So, naturally, I love going to Disney World and celebrating these themes.

I was fortunate enough to go to Disney World, Disneyland, and even Disneyland Paris as a kid. When I became a mom, I couldn’t wait for my children to experience the magic of Disney for themselves.

Of course, as with pretty much every milestone, celebration, or other event since I was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) in 2013, I had to adjust my expectations and consider my abilities, or lack thereof.

I have now been to Disney World in Florida during three different stages of my FA disease progression. While the logistics and nuances of my experiences have changed, one thing remains the same: The magic of Disney is available whether or not you choose to believe it.

Kendall, her husband, Kyle, and their son, Brooks, visit Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in 2017. (Courtesy of Kendall Harvey)

When we took our then 2-year-old son, Brooks, to Disney World in 2017, I was six months pregnant with our daughter, Collins. At the time, I was still walking independently. I would become fatigued and a little wobbly by the end of the day, at which point I would accept assistance from my husband or friends. I chose to rent a scooter to get around the parks to save my energy and keep my unborn daughter and me safe.

We then took both kids to Disney World in 2019 to celebrate Brooks’ fifth birthday. I was using a walker full time at that point, and I had just acquired a wheelchair-walker combination. My family pushed me in the wheelchair when we were in the parks, and I used the walker at the hotel.

We recently returned from our third trip to Disney World, this time celebrating Collins’ fifth birthday. I can still walk with assistance, but it takes extreme concentration and uses a lot of energy, and I move very slowly, so I decided to rent a scooter again.

Kendall’s family visits Disney World’s Magic Kingdom again in 2019, this time with their daughter, Collins. (Courtesy of Kendall Harvey)

I have to say that as I have become progressively more disabled, I have become an even bigger fan of Disney trips. I know that might not be a popular or common sentiment, but I have my reasons.

Firstly, the cast members at Disney are kind and accommodating. They are well trained to make smooth modifications to ensure safety and comfort, and they always do so with smiles on their faces.

Secondly, there is so much happiness there that it’s nearly impossible to spend a lot of time pouting about a disability. Everywhere I looked, I saw faces alight with joy and magic. Kids get to meet their favorite Disney characters, families laugh about their most recent roller coaster adventure, and people enjoy Mickey Mouse-shaped snacks. The joy is contagious!

Lastly, it is a great opportunity to take a break from the normal routine and try new things, including trying out a new outlook.

I talk a lot in this column about perspective. Through years of trial and error, I have found that there is great power in intentionally choosing the right perspective to view challenges.

Life with FA has more challenges than I care to inventory, and it is easy to get sucked into a dark mindset. But if you picture yourself as a Disney movie hero, you can conquer the FA villain with the magical power of the right perspective.

Kendall and her family in the same shot this year. (Courtesy of Kendall Harvey)

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