The work kept her going. Through chemo and recovery from cancer surgery, Ariel Czerwinski, who performs for children as Miss Ariel, kept thinking about that CD she wanted to finish.
“I was still in the hospital, recovering from the surgery, thinking, ‘If I do anything else in this lifetime, I’ve got to release this CD,’” she says. “It was just so important for me to get that art out into the world.”
Now the CD, titled “Good Times,” has been released, and Miss Ariel is in remission and doing well. She sat down with us recently to talk about her journey these past few years.
AFM: Tell us about your family.
Miss Ariel: My husband Rich and I have two children: my son is 17, and my daughter is 14. We just marked 12 years of being back in Austin. I’m originally from California, but I’ve lived in Texas most of my adult life. This is my true home.
AFM: How did you get into children’s music?
Miss Ariel: I’ve always been musical. When my son was born, I wrote a couple of fun little songs. When he went to kindergarten, I wanted to find a part time job. So, I applied to MOPS [Mothers of Pre-Schoolers] at Grace Covenant. They found I had some musical talent, so they asked if I would be their music teacher.
I was given a room and some instruments. I didn’t have a song list or CDs, so I just developed my own curriculum. I got better, I released my CD, and I started my own business.
AFM: How would you characterize your style?
Miss Ariel: I like doing all the preschool standards. I just love doing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” because I love seeing the kids. They know the song. I love connecting with kids on that level. And I do a lot of my own songs, and we’ll do activities with props, drums, shakers, scarves, puppets and seasonal songs and songs of counting.
AFM: Tell us about your latest CD.
Miss Ariel: My new CD came out in October. It’s more of my original songs, along with a couple of songs that are in the public domain. I like weaving the new with the old. A version of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” is on there. I made it into a song about feelings. In the liner notes, there’s things to think about, teachable moments for each song. My producer, Ross Carnes, owns We Love Music. He really helped me go to the next level. He has such a great vision. He played a bunch of instruments on the CD like drums, percussion, bass guitar.
AFM: How long was the CD put on hold?
Miss Ariel: I started recording in April 2016, and almost a year later, I was diagnosed with cancer. We had almost everything recorded, and I had to put the brakes on it for chemo and recovering from surgery. And that was the right choice.
I know a lot of people work while they’re having chemo. I don’t know how they do it, because it’s so, so hard on the body. I knew I couldn’t release the CD until I was better. That was one of my big goals. It was such a big project, and it wasn’t just labor-intensive. There’s a lot of time in there, and a lot of money.
AFM: How did you discover you had cancer?
Miss Ariel: I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what was wrong. I was having bloating in my stomach. I didn’t have any pain. And then I was working on a party for my friend’s 50th birthday, and I was just not myself. I was exhausted, and I had back pain, and my stomach really started swelling.
My family doctor thought it could be a cyst on my ovary. I was sent to a gynecologist and then an oncologist. She told me the only way to diagnose ovarian cancer was through surgery. It could be a cyst or I could have cancer. That’s a hard position to go into surgery and wake up from. Nothing really prepares you for that. I had my surgery in June 2017, and I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, stage III C. I did chemo until the end of 2017.
AFM: You’ve said Wonders & Worries helped your family.
Miss Ariel: My son was older, but my daughter really benefitted from their programs. I think just having someone to talk with relieved her fears. Both kids were afraid to show me how afraid they were, because they saw how much I was going through. I got some literature in the hospital, on how to tell your children about cancer. That was very helpful, because I didn’t know what to say.
Wonders & Worries has a lot of different things available to meet people where they are and give them the type of help they need. So, during the month of October, for every CD I sold, a dollar went to Wonders & Worries. I also performed at their event this fall. I was glad to do that. I just can’t say enough good things about how they’re helping families.
AFM: Do you have any advice for people during Cancer Prevention Month?
Miss Ariel: I had a gut feeling that something wasn’t right. We know our own bodies. We either listen to those cues or we don’t. Take care of yourself. If I can’t take care of myself well, I can’t take care of my family well. I’m really grateful to God for his healing in my life. That’s part of my story, too. I relied heavily on my faith to get through that time. Our church, Hope Chapel, really did help us feel cared for.
AFM: Any last thoughts?
Miss Ariel: I just love living in Austin and doing music here. My favorite thing is when people are singing with me and the kids are doing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and they’re connecting. That’s my favorite thing.
February is Cancer Prevention Month. For more information, visit cancer.org
By Sherida Mock, editor of Austin Family Magazine