Cancer survivor pursues her passion to sew

Special to her magazineApril 30, 2013 

Four weeks to the day after brain surgery to remove a malignant tumor, Mary Miranda was back in the shop behind her north Columbus home, doing what she loves best -- sewing.

That was the soonest Mary could talk her surgeon at Duke University Medical Center into letting her get back to work. She owns and operates Mary's Custom Draperies & Accessories.

"I sewed as a very young girl," Mary said during a recent interview, adding, "I loved to sew. I made little skirts, little dresses."

In high school, Mary recalled, her teacher told the other girls to "go to Mary; she will help you."

She got into draperies gradually, first doing the drapes in her own house after she and Richard Miranda were married. Gradually, she started working part-time, later starting her own business in California and getting work through interior designers.

Once she decided to start her own business, Richard built her a cutting table and she opened shop in her garage. Eventually, they enclosed the garage and put in a big bay window for Mary to look out as she worked.

She bought several sewing machines from a woman who was going out of business and "fell in love" with the auto-pleating machine.

When she moved to Columbus in 2001, Mary started working at a Publix bakery. After several months, she told Richard, "I've got to sew," Mary recalled. He went to California and brought all her machines back with him. She worked from a barn where they were living at the time, which she named "the cozy shack."

Word-of-mouth built up her business, and ladies would compliment her work, saying they had never seen anything like it, said Mary, who also designs draperies. She met a couple of designers who would bring her work, and she quit her job to sew full-time.

Briefly she worked for another business again, sewing, but she knew she was meant to be on her own. Now living in a house, Richard built another shop for Mary. She has worked on draperies for residents of Green Island Hills, Beaver Run, "all over, even up to Lake Martin," she said.

When her malignant tumor came along and she had to have brain surgery, Mary said, "I asked Jesus to help me not to forget everything about measuring and sewing."

On Saturday, May 27, 2011, at about 10 a.m. Mary was in her workshop, tabling a drapery and got dizzy. She recalled thinking, "Oh, gee, I have the flu. I'll take a nap."

Her vision was impaired to the point "everything was moving around."

She made it to her bedroom and went to sleep, waking up later to put on her pajamas and go back to sleep.

When her granddaughter called the next day, Mary couldn't understand what she was saying -- something to do with the car and Mary needing to sign a paper. When it came time to sign the paper, Mary remembers asking, "What's my name?"

Richard told her he was taking her to the hospital, and she agreed. They went to St. Francis Hospital, where she had some scans done before being transferred to The Medical Center. A tumor was discovered. A biopsy proved the tumor was malignant. Dr. Andrew Pippas saw her twice and told her she needed to go to Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina for brain surgery. He referred her to Dr. Allan Friedman, who laid out the options she had. Not having the brain surgery was a bad option that didn't have a good prognosis attached to it. After seeing tears in her daughter's eyes, Mary agreed to have the surgery, insisting that it had to be at the end of the next month because she had too much sewing to do.

Many "ladies hung on to me," Mary said, expressing her gratitude to them and to Jesus for returning her to sewing so quickly after surgery. She is now considered cancer-free; Dr. Pippas told her there was "nothing there but brain."

Now that she's back to sewing, she stays in her shop 15 hours a day, cutting, sewing, designing -- and still visits clients' homes to measure and consult.

Asked if she considers her recovery a miracle, Mary quickly answered, "Yes, I do."

She spent a lot of time "in bed, praying to Jesus and thanking him."

Contact Mary's Custom Draperies & Accessories at 706-576-6892.

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