Two-Mood Morning

daynasblanketseconddraft-001.jpgI told you I wake up happy and optimistic.  That includes looking forward to my breakfast, which is something I never skip (and you shouldn’t either–don’t get me started!).  This morning I thought a lot about what to fix for breakfast.  Because the prednisone makes me wake up hungry, I had a banana and a cup of coffee while I was thinking, and I read my email and let the dog out and then went back to the kitchen.  I was craving protein, specifically meat, and I compromised with some Better Than Eggs microwaved with shiitake mushrooms.  No big prep-I keep packages of shiitakes in the freezer.  Waved some Mrs. Dash Tomato-Basil-Garlic over it.  It was delicious, but a total nutritional compromise.

You see, when you have an autoimmune disorder like lupus, eating recommendations are for a low-protein diet with the majority of your proteins coming from non-animal sources.  Dr. Weil explains this and gives very specific recommendations in this article:  “The Wellness Diet:  Anti-inflammatory Diet Basics and Diet Tips” at http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02012/anti-inflammatory-diet.  If you search on his website you can find it in a briefer form, but I love you dearly and would like you to have the more complete information.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a problem for me.  At heart and in practice I am usually a vegetarian/vegan.  But my ability to comply with that is sorely compromised by the evil prednisone.  I shouldn’t say “evil” because it is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and the cornerstone of most treatment for auto-immune, allergic, or severe inflammatory conditions.  It is a life saver, given properly.  But every treatment is a compromise, and the side effects are what you pay for that life-saving ability.

One of the most vicious side effects of prednisone is that it increases appetite.  It doesn’t just increase appetite, it causes you to feel pressured to eat.  For many people, that pressure takes the form of wanting specific foods, things they don’t necessarily eat when their dose is lower or they are off the prednisone.  It seems that most people are pushed toward high-fat foods like cheese and meat, and toward foods that are high in sugar and simple carbs like pastries and cookies.  I Googled “prednisone and eating” this morning to see what other’s experiences have been, and was propelled into the second part of my two-mood morning.

One of the huge list of references I found really caught my eye.  Midwife with a Knife   at mwwak.blogspot.com/ is the two-year blog of a young woman who is completing a fellowship (extra training in a medical specialty) in maternal and fetal medicine and also dealing with newly-diagnosed ulcerative colitis.  That particular colon disease is an inflammatory, auto-immune disorder like lupus, and the first line of therapy is controlling the disease with prednisone.  The entry that came up on Google dealt with how prednisone was affecting her eating, but the parallels to my own life and memories dredged up and feelings evoked by it all kept me reading for more than an hour. 

I have been close to tears since I began reading about her situation.  Don’t get me wrong-she details her hectic, pressured training, the trials of her own illness, the interactions with her family (good and bad) all in a very matter of fact way, with no quest for sympathy.  Her tone is generally upbeat, and there is no hint of surrender to the pressures that she is under.  Indeed, there may even be some failure to realize how far from reasonable her situation is.  When you choose a life in medicine, you are choosing to make such extreme sacrifices that somewhere in your mind you have to readjust your perceptions of what is normal and human.  There is a good bit of cognitive dissonance involved in this readjustment.  If you have an illness that is best served by decreasing stress and living a healthier lifestyle, the validity of your career decision is tested daily. 

I left a kind comment for this young obstetrician .  What I wanted to say was “Pack up your forceps and stethoscope and run like hell!!!!”  I didn’t do that.  I pulled myself out of medicine one inch at a time, going from full-time private practice alone to full-time with a partner, then part-time, then part-time in a clinic setting, then part-time in an easier specialty, finally to retiring completely.  And though I say “completely” I still treat a few friends and family, still do more than the required continuing ed every year, maintain my license and DEA registration and pay my minimal malpractice insurance fees and state professional privilege tax (damn you, Tennessee!). 

This is what the cognitive dissonance is saying:  Essie my girl, you trained so hard, and worked so long, and invested so much of yourself in medicine that even though the lifestyle clearly was detrimental to your health, you must hang onto whatever piece of it you can manage.  What crap! 

Thank God for knitting.  Thank God for the chance to have a supremely creative existence.  That includes the drawing, painting, poetry-writing, mosaicing, cross-stitching, sewing, crocheting and everything else that is so active in my life now.  Did I skip piano-playing?  and bad singing?  and the two-minute dance with Ellen every morning?  My life is a breath of fresh air.  My life is no longer killing me.

So, wiping away the tears for that young woman and hoping the best for her, I am looking at today.  As promised, I finished the first strip in Dayna’s afghan.  I have to stop calling it a blanket, as it is intended to be about 36 inches x 52 inches.  To achieve this, I am casting on 48 stitches with size 4 US (3.5 mm) needles.  I am a fairly loose knitter, and I certainly am not going to sear my fingers by trying to tightly knit a substantial size cotton, but if you are a tighter knitter you will want a slightly larger needle, probably a 5 US.   The photo that I opened with shows one end of the first completed strip of the afghan.  The whole strip has four colour blocks, rose quartz, oatmeal, rose quartz, and persimmon.   Last night I laid out the strip with the remainder of my skeins of Cozy Cotton and figured out how I wanted the other two strips arranged.  You’ll see what I chose as we continue to work on this baby. 

daynasblanketseconddraft-002.jpgThis is the other end of that strip.  Don’t you love the bright punch of colour that the persimmon brings in?  daynasblanketseconddraft-003.jpgI think you can see now in this enlargement of the oat block that it has strips of seedstitch (knit 1 purl 1 through the entire row, knitting on the purls and purling on the knits) alternating with bands of double seed stitch (also called double moss stitch).  About.com has a lovely knitting stitch glossary for detailed explanations of how to achieve many of the common stitches at http://knitting.about.com/od/stitchglossary/Learn_to_Knit_Knitting_Stitch_Pattern_Glossary.htm

and I try to be consistent about using the names that they use there when I’m refering to them.   

daynasblanketseconddraft-004.jpgThis enlargement shows one end of the blanket strip.  You can see that I’ve chosen to put a few rows of garter stitch at the end-I just like the finished look it gives the piece.  In addition, there is a garter stitch border around this block consisting of four stitches at the beginning and end of each row.  Since I cast on 48 stitches, this leaves me 40 stitches to do the pattern I’ve chosen.  For this particular block I’ve chosen to make squares in two sizes.  The larger squares are 8 stitches x 10 rows, and the smaller squares are 4 stitches x 5 rows.  Remember that a stitch is wider than it is long, so you get a truer square by making the number of rows slightly more than the number of stitches. 

Whew!  Enough!  Gotta get an order ready to mail and contemplate dropping in at Yarn Works Inc for their open house.  Knit happy, people!

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2 Responses

  1. Your posts are just golden…and really helpful.
    Ever think about writing a book?
    You should. As you continue to post everyday, observe the directions you write in and see where it takes you. Your background and personal experience with your retirement and the Lupus could be very helpful for other people in similar circumstances.
    I am so glad to have met you….

  2. Thanks for your kind words about and on my blog. As soon as I get around to updating my links, I’m planning on linking to your blog.

    There are times when I want to pack up the forceps and run like hell, but one of the advantages of subspecialty training is that once you finish, you have more control over your lifestyle. I have learned that I can’t work 100+ hours/week for a long period of time and stay well. 🙂

    I’m not much of a knitter, but I like looking at your knitting pictures, too. My mom knits a lot, and I still have, and treasure, an afghan that she made me. 🙂

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