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Before DIPG, we wouldn’t have considered taking two young children to New York City in the winter with absolutely no plan.  But I suppose we can thank DIPG for approximately one thing: it pushes aside unimportant hesitations, makes you consider more than just what’s sensible, and creates a space where you can act on a dream.  One of Piper’s big dreams was to see what she calls “The Statue of America”.  And that’s how our adventure started.

Despite hurdles like weekly doctor’s appointments, having to pack a full arsenal of medications, and the holiday travel rush – we said yes. We knew it would be physically exhausting and mentally challenging.  But it didn’t matter more than telling Piper something exciting was going to happen, instead of just when she was due for her next chemo dose or blood draw.

Serendipitously, we were contacted by a kind stranger named Jennifer Majuta on the day we finally resolved to book a flight. As it turns out, in addition to being a seasoned flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, Jennifer is also a children’s book author and lives just up the street from us.  She generously offered us guest passes to fly standby, and spent countless hours researching routes and walking us through the process.  The day of our trip, as many as six Southwest employees greeted us at the gate, bearing gifts and smiles, and offered to carry our bags on the plane as Piper boarded first. Among the gifts was a Southwest teddy bear Piper aptly named “pilot bear,” and a book titled “Come Fly with Me” written by Jennifer.  It was the perfect way to get her excited about the magic of travel.

Thanks to C. Roese Ramp, the talented documentary photographer we were introduced to early in this journey, we were put in touch with Tova Friedman, a NYC-based photographer, just days before arriving. On our first afternoon in the city, Tova graciously offered to meet us at the American Museum of Natural History so we could have the greatest of gifts, photos of the four of us together.

The next day we embarked on a chilly ferry crossing to see our muse, Lady Liberty.  The expression on Piper’s face when she finally looked up to see the statue was worth every. single. hassle.  Pure awe.  It was as if we took her on a rainbow ride to see a unicorn.  If only we could give her that too.

We also made stops at the 9/11 Museum, which reminded us that great tragedy is part of a shared human experience. Bryant Park brought us holiday cheer, The New York Public Library warmed us up again, and the sky brought us snow just in time to see the tree at Rockefeller Center.

It wasn’t the trip we would have taken before DIPG, instead it was the trip we took in spite of it. It was hard at times.  It was unforgettable.  It was all for Piper, but it was a dream come true for all of us.