I was recently interviewed on K-Lite radio for Santa Barbara’s Cottage Children’s Hospital. To most people, I’m sure it was no big deal, just a mother talking about her young daughter’s cancer experience to encourage listeners to donate to the local hospital where she was treated and cured.
And it really wasn’t a big deal, except that it was. Because, almost six years later, after my life has spun itself into a comfortable pattern of normalcy, I’m compelled to remember those dark days by once again sharing my story with others.
Over the past few years, I’ve become quite adept at weaving those painful memories into the back of my mind like a skilled seamstress who has managed to hide that dark strand of yarn underneath the clean white stitches. But by reliving those frightening first days in the hospital, I’m obliged to unravel the memories and bring them back to the surface again.
I’m wise enough now to realize those memories are a gift — the surgeries and the blood transfusions; the unimaginable pain of witnessing a 2-year-old suffer through chemotherapy treatments; watching Isa lose her hair until there was nothing left but a smooth dome of skin; seeing her belly bloat from the steroids; waking up in the middle of the night to touch her puffy cheeks to check for a fever; the overwhelming feeling of fear in my stomach that never went away — and all the while wondering if my baby was going to die.
Because if I don’t remember, I will return to the way I was before Isa got sick, when life was not as miraculous as it is today. These memories remind that I have to let go of what is not important.
I have to be thankful that my little girl is healthy and beautiful and that she is still here with me. I have to remember that what I have right now in this very moment is enough, and that my gratitude has the power to disentangle those little worries that I so expertly knit together into a tangled ball of dissatisfaction.
I have to remember the joy of coming out of the darkness and into the light.
— Jessica Winters Mireles is a mother of four, a pianist and writer. She graduated with a bachelor of music degree in piano performance from USC. She has taught piano in the Santa Barbara area for more than 25 years, and she maintains a studio of more than 35 students. She is an avid gardener, reader and published writer. She has a blog titled Allegro non tanto, which means fast, but not too fast — which is her basic philosophy on life.