Millie’s Miracles, by Yvonne Sica
It is 2013. The neurologist’s office is cold and my granddaughter is small. Millie is three and has no appetite. She sleeps 16 hours a day. Her lethargy stumps her pediatrician; they send us here. We wait.
Millie squeezes her doll and I squeeze Millie. The neurologist arrives, MRI in hand, and the words hit my gut and my knees buckle and I am on the floor.
I clutch my grandbaby, choke tears, and try to focus but I can’t with words like brain tumor and cancer and optic hypothalamic glioma and blindness; these are words I cannot bear and I want to hold my Millie’s ears to stop them from entering her body. But it is too late.
It is 2016. Millie is six and brave and endures chemotherapy and needles and MRIs. Since 2013, we face chemo weekly then every other week. She misses school and doesn’t speak for days after each treatment. I retire from teaching to care for Millie so my daughter—Millie’s mother—can work without juggling full-time healthcare.
On a good day, I take our girl to Southeastern Guide Dogs to see puppies. Their school is near our home, and Millie laughs at puppy breath and tiny paws. We learn that not all dogs become guide dogs, and some need adopted. I email the school and ask. Millie is legally blind now and will one day need her own guide dog. I cling to the thought of “one day.”
It is time for another MRI. Millie is brave, and today for the first time she will endure it without sedation because the drugs make her throw up. I stay with her and the MRI pounds its noise and I stroke Millie’s leg and repeat, “God, we need a miracle. God we need a MIRACLE!” I pray over and over.
It is the day following the MRI with my desperate prayer. I answer the phone and a voice says, “We have a dog for you. Her name is Miracles.”
I am speechless.
Miracles arrives on Millie’s seventh birthday and she is elated. “Best day ever,” she says.
Millie wakes up to Miracles. She falls asleep with Miracles. On silent days, the sick days after chemo, she hand-signals for Miracles and Millie strokes her arm and Miracles shares her comfort. On good days, Millie feeds her and takes her to the yard and Miracles always runs back to Millie.
Miracles is everything this grandmother hoped for. She is boundless cheer and endless love. She is furry and warm and cozy. She is never sad. She is Millie’s “best day ever,” over and over again. She is answered prayer. She is Millie’s Miracles.
Soon Millie will ring the bell, that joyful ritual known to cancer survivors (and grandmothers) who celebrate the last treatment. And then the long-term watch begins, and as Millie dances forward to life after chemo, and learning Braille, and spending more time in school, she’ll share each day with her very own Miracles.
(Editor’s note, March 2021: Millie’s grandmother, Yvonne Sica, first shared this story with us in 2017. Millie is 11 now! Miracles is still her best friend, and Millie’s condition is stable as she continues her journey with treatment and medication. She enjoys her butterfly garden, growing vegetables, and playing with Miracles.)