the war escalates

i hit the wall today.  no caps because my fingers are stiff and sore and it takes extra reach and force to hold down the shift key.  my wrists, shoulders, elbows, ribs, hips, knees and feet also hurt.  my cheeks are red and hot to the touch.  my feet are so stiff that i have to grab for support when i first stand.  yesterday i could feel the heay artillery of the b cells really pushing me, and i increased my prednisone.  doubled the steroids, in fact, from 7.5 to 15 milligrams per day.  it’s not a big dose, but is a relatively large increase.  today started rough and stayed rough.  can’t tell the steroids have done their work. 

this makes a weird dilemma.  i can either ride this period out with increased steroids-much more than i’m taking today- for the time until my treatment next month, or i can request earlier treatment.  my rheumatologist isn’t thrilled with every four months, and probably won’t like making it sooner.  the oncologist, however, told me i should be treated when i needed it, and i think i’m the definition of “needing it” right now.  hmmmm.

i don’t want more steroids for five minutes, much less three or four weeks.  guess i’ll make the rounds and see what the docs say and if they can agree.  i hate making the rounds when i’m sick.  doctor visits are so much easier when you’re well. 

i’m temporarily putting down my other projects, including the recycled cotton fingerless mitts i started yesterday.  i’m making easy crocheted chemo caps so i will have goodies for the unit when i do go for treatment.  i hate to go to a party empty-handed. 

this evening i had dinner at a newish thai restaurant named ‘rain’.  the green curry was so lovely i wanted to take a swim in the bowl.  it had veggies which included frozen peas and carrots, and wonderful tofu that was perfectly fried.  i didn’t mind the frozen veggies.  the cute little diced carrots took me back to my childhood.  i could probably use a supply of them right now; slicing and dicing isn’t going to be easy with these hands. 

dinner was a send-off for my niece, who is moving to chicago so i have a good city to visit.  yes, it’s all about me.  actually, she is moving to solidify a relationship and enhance an incredibly well-rounded life.  i admire the versatility and foresight of people who embrace a variety of roles and trainings, and work so that one overlaps another and another and they all interact.  if it’s not too hectic and far-flung, it must be very fulfilling.  i’ve never felt that i was a unidirectional, narrowly defined person with a single, immutable focus. 

after dinner i had to pass the mall to get home, so i stopped to purchase elastic thread to use in the occasional knitted piece.  the store was closed.  i returned to my car and drove to the next craft store.  i borrowed a handicapped parking space, trudged to the door and through a million other craft areas to the back of the store.  no elastic thread.  i was frustrated by the difficulty of the task, the energy drain and pain from walks that would ordinarily have been easy. 

at home now, i lack the drive to clear off my bed.  i’ll sleep with a pile of paperwork, a knitting bag, my computer and a stuffed animal on my bed.  not that it matters.  that side of the bed has no inhabitant.  might as well make good storage space.

i’ve got good books and lots of yarn.  i think i’ll need them for the next little bit.

peace.

Chemo Reality

Big reality check.  I went for my lupus chemo treatment yesterday.  I take them every four to six months, and each treatment set consists of two treatments, two weeks apart.  This was the first tiime I’d been with a group that was expressing the difficulties of their situation.  Previously, I’ve been surrounded by people who were either cheery or not talking.  Yesterday, I heard sadness, bitterness, anger, frustration, resignation…a pastor who was there for treatment was writing a sermon, which he titled based on some of the sad things people were expressing.  He talked briefly about hope and prayer, sitting there with his own IV, probably not ten years older than me.  One patient who passed through told another that he wasn’t returning to work, that his doctor had given him six months.  Someone said “When someone finds out I have cancer, the first thing they ask is ‘When are you going to die?’.”  A nurse passed through, commenting on the vigorous conversation in our group, and a neighbor said “Yes, look how we’re all smiling as these chemicals kill every cell in our bodies.” 

 

Now I’m not saying that everything was gloomy.  It was just a realistic, vocal bunch of people who are pissed off at what disease is doing to them.  After 16 years of lupus, you know I sympathize!  We still commented on each other’s activities (one with a computer, another selecting Christmas gifts from an NFL catalog, two of us with knitting, the pastor consulting his handbook and scribbling notes) and shared our water, candy, knits, and even a few phone numbers.  My nurse was older and experienced, the best ever, popping my IV into my requested vein and checking on me regularly, with interesting conversation.  The coffee was freshly made.

 

Inside I had some tears for the fresh pain some were exhibiting.  I had some more tears when I found that my medication grant (my treatment isn’t covered by Medicare) wasn’t going to cover these December treatments.  That $2,000 translates directly into more college loans for my daughter next semester.  I am more than fortunate to have some resources to draw from in these crazy economitis days.  I try not to let the economitis eclipse my decisions about treatment. 

 

This morning I called my parents early.  They told me they were still getting dressed, but they stopped to talk.  We had some big laughs over some of my mom’s boudoir lessons in my childhood.  They were happy and cheerful and expressed great anticipation for their day, relishing the pancakes for breakfast, morning newspaper, soap opera time together…at 89 and 90, they enjoy everything.  What a boost for me!

 

I’ve got LOTS to do today.  I can’t let chemo fatigue oveertake me.  I’m delivering two donated knitted pieces for a church silent auction.  The proceeds will go to a recreation/education center in a depressed neighborhood.  Then I’ll make a huge post office run, sending back some mail order items that won’t work, and posting a couple of packages to customers.  Yikes!  I had forgotten.  I got another order last night.  I have to find the product and pack it.  What am I doing playing on my computer?!

Peace!!

Trying to Post, Cook and Knit a Hat

Today, with all the newborn caps mailed to afghans for Afghans, I still couldn’t get out of service mode.  I completed a purple chemocap that I started back before the newborn pieces. 

 

You see that little snippet of a paragraph up there?  Two sentences?  That is the first 32 words of more than 700 that I had written when I realized that my program wasn’t responding and hadn’t saved anything in 45 minutes.  This is why people hate computers.  But am I going to let that keep me from talking tonight?  Of course not!  This woman needs to talk!

 

As I was saying, I finished a chemocap today.  I was so pleased with it, because it is totally different from the piles of crocheted caps I used to turn out.  My experimentation with knitted cap design is finally paying off in more original, more interesting hats.  I started a second chemocap after I finished the purple.  It’s made from Knitpicks Crayon, a cotton boucle, very soft stuff.  I once knitted my stepgranddaughter a sweater from this yarn.  While she was staying with us, one of the boys threw it in a hot wash and hotter dryer and turned it into doll clothes.  The yellow chemocap is designed to fit kind of like a triangle scarf, the way it covers your head when you tuck the loose tail in at the back.  Hope this works. 

 

In my mind, I am letting go of some projects.  While I want to complete my design for Think Outside the Sox, I’m not feeling as determined to enter it in competition.  I’ll let the end-of-the-year events decide that for me.  Now that I know how I’m going to make it, and I’ve tried out the materials to some extent, I will start it over and knit it more neatly with an eye to producing a really nice prototype pair.  Meanwhile, I want to finish my niece’s cotton blanket (yeah, I know, that’s sooo last year), prepare enough items to feel comfortable with my trunk show in the fall, and stock up my baby stuff. 

 

Holy cow, how did it get to be 11:03 p.m.?  This evening I made a mixed berry cobbler.  My friend who brought me canned tomatoes also brought frozen berries, and I’ve mixed the last of them with some strawberries for this cobbler.  Somehow I’ve let the evening pass by without even tasting the cobbler!  Now that’s a miracle.  Would never happen if my prednisone dose was up.

 

I cooked alone today, but yesterday my daughter was in the kitchen with me, taking her first cooking lesson of the summer.  She turned out a decent sauteed chicken breast and wild rice dinner.  Since she will live in an apartment when she returns for her fall semester, I want her to feel comfortable producing food on a daily basis.  Up to now she has helped in the kitchen enough to know the terminology and equipment, but she needs to be able to take charge of the meal.  I’m sure we’ll have some adventures with this!

 

When I first wrote this post, I went on about my aunt, my mom’s sister, the one who taught me to crochet.  I think she’s going to have to wait for another day.  My typing fingers (I guess that’s all my fingers) are tired.  As my mom used to say all the time, tomorrow is another day.

 

Peace.  No, wait!  Tomorrow isn’t just another day.  It’s the Preakness, at Pimlico.  My dad grew up in Kentucky, where horse racing was a religion.  He gave me a special mission this week.  I had to (shhhhh!) purchase betting tickets on his favorite.  Wish us luck!

 

Now, get your peace.

Fiber Fest

I have been way past disconnected from this blog.  I miss my writing, and I’m anxious to get back on schedule and make daily time for being here.  In the past week, the only thing I’ve done with regularity is knit.  I’ve stuck with the plan to turn out newborn hats for the afghans for Afghans group.  My stack of hats would grow faster if I didn’t succumb to the desire to use these as a testing ground for new patterns.  So far, I’ve got various styles of caps, some with fancy stitchwork and some plain, and a bonnet style made with mistake rib, and I’m working on one with a vertically-worked band topped by narrow stripes.  I’ve also been slowed by the compulsion to use some of the new yarns that I purchased on my trip. 

 

And that, my dears, is the lead-in to my yarn store visit.  Not 15 minutes from the college town is a beautiful yarn store.  It is in a small town that doesn’t seem to be the hub of anything, but it’s one of the better-stocked stores I’ve visited.  Main Street Yarns and Fibers (www.mainstreetyarns.com)  has a great website, and I checked out their stock before my visit to the physical store.  They sell their yarns on line, too, so now that I’ve identified some new favorites there, I can continue to order them.  It’s been almost six months since I visited a yarn store and some new yarns have come out that I wanted to see and touch, so I made a list before I went to the store. 

 

Main Street Yarns is no longer on Main Street.  Instead, it sits on a small street after a turn off another street, neither of which seems to be going anywhere big.  The store is a converted barn, painted a deep red, with a spacious interior that includes a ring of comfortable chairs that are made for sitting and knitting and conversing.  I visited the store in the last hour before closing, and I was surprised at the number of customers who came in and made purchases.  There were two staff people present, and they were friendly and knowledgeable, including being aware of the yarn store situation in Chattanooga. 

 

On the website I had noticed a yarn that was completely unfamiliar to me.  It’s price tag (less than $4 per skein) attracted my attention first, as it was on sale, but the color variety and the pretty twist made me look it up when we arrived at the store.  Ullteppegarn is 100% wool, made in Norway, and comes in a number of saturated, vibrant colors.  I chose orange, cherry red, lime green and turquoise, and I’ve already made one infant bonnet from it.  Almost the opposite of this was Soft Chunky from Twinkle Handknits.  It is very thick, unplied, and in delicate, subtle colors.  Wonderfully soft, this one.  I chose pale gray, a very light pink, cream, and light blue.  Another softy is Manos Silk Blend, from Manos del Uruguay.  It is a DK weight, 70% extrafine merino/30% silk, kettle dyed, mine in pale sage and beige and cream.  I picked up a ball of Sublime Organic Cotton dk, one of the softer cottons I’ve handled.  My last purchase was Mountain Colors Mountain Goat, 55% mohair/45% wool, hand dyed in beautiful deep blues and purples. 

 

We’ve had dreadfully wet and windy weather for the past two days, and I haven’t had a good opportunity to photograph my treasures, but I think the day will be brighter tomorrow.  I can show both my stack of baby hats and the new yarns.  I’m excited to share them. 

 

Oh yeah, the foot.  It’s almost two weeks since I woke with an inexplicably severe pain in my lateral right foot.  I’ve done what I could, babying it and rubbing it and soaking it…even took it to urgent care yesterday.  Xrays didn’t reveal anything diagnostic, and I’m limping around with a cane and my foot in a cast shoe, planning to call my rheumatologist about it tomorrow.  I’m hoping that being home and treating it with more rest will be the ticket.  It actually caused me to miss knitting group, and that is inexcusable.  Any more of that and I will have to consider a foot transplant.  Who can afford to be without a working, pain-free driving foot? 

 

Omigosh!  It is 2 a.m.  I’ve been having a movie fest with my daughter.  Bedtime!

 

Peace.

Charity Knitting for Newborns

After I tick along for a while, doing my daily thing, I get a strong feeling that it’s time to put a bit of energy into something for someone else.  I’ve done a number of charity knitting projects, including church angel tree items for children, premie blankets for the Ronald McDonald House, and various pieces for afghans for Afghans (www.afghansforafghans.com).  The latter charity always asks for specific items, and they have instructions on their website as to allowable dimensions and materials.  Currently there is a Mother’s Day drive requesting items for newborns- blankets, hats and socks.  I had ignored the email requests for help as long as I could, and today I put down my sister’s sock and started knitting newborn hats.  As per usual, I was making it up as I went along.  All three hats below are knit flat and then seamed up the back.  They could all be made with yarn leftovers.  None of them took more than a good hour of knitting, and they are so adorable, if I must say so myself.  Yes, I’m hinting.  Take a look at the website and see if you’re feelin’ it.  You might find yourself knitting newborn caps, too.

First cap:
Peruvian Cuzco from elann.com; 100% alpaca.  The hat took a total of about 1 skein, but I used portions of two different colors, striped together.   This yarn is a personal favorite.  It has a lovely, soft, fuzzy halo around a sturdier core, and feels like it still has lanolin, softening your skin as you handle it.  It is reminiscent of Karabella’s Brushed Alpaca, but Karabella’s runs over $14 per skein and is only a bit fluffier for the price. 

Gauge is about 2 stitches per inch, and produces a 16-inch circumference cap. 

Cast on 42 stitches (multiple of 7).  I prefer the stretchiness of a long-tail cast on for hats, so that the bottom/brim edge is not tight. 

Row 1 and all odd rows:  (Knit 2, purl 1, knit 3, purl 1) repeat across row.

Row 2 and all even rows:  (Knit 1, purl 3, knit 1, purl 2) repeat across row.

After 5 inches (approximately 18 rows), start decreases:

First decrease row:  (Knit 2 together, purl 1, knit 3, purl 1) repeat across row.  36 stitches.

2:  (Knit 1, purl 3, knit 1, purl 1) repeat across row.

3:  (Knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, knit 2 together, purl 1) repeat across row.  30 stitches.

4:  (Knit 1, purl 2, knit 1, purl 1) repeat across row.

5:  (Knit 1, purl 1, knit 2, purl 1) repeat across row.

6:  (Knit 1, purl 2, knit 1, purl 1) repeat across row.

7:  (Knit 1, purl 1, knit 2 together, purl 1) repeat across row.  24 stitches.

8:  (Knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1) repeat across row.

9:  (Knit 2 together, purl 2 together) repeat across row.  12 stitches.

10-14:  (Knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1) repeat across row.

Cut yarn at about 20 inches.  Thread on yarn needle, then thread through each of the remaining 12 stitches.  Pull tight, and sew the seam at the back of the hat.  Weave in all loose ends. 

Please excuse the last minute, poorly lit photography.  I know I should be reported to the blog police.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second cap:
Repeated above pattern with 28 stitches, produces 12-inch circumference cap. 

The third cap is made with an unplied, worsted weight wool yarn.  I used size 5 needles.  The gauge was 4.5-5 stitches per inch, creating a 12-inch circumference cap. 
Cast on 60 stitches loosely with long-tail cast on.  Knit 2, purl 2 ribbing (2 x 2 ribbing) for 5 rows.  Then on right side, begin (knit 8, purl 2) wide ribbing, across the entire row.  On wrong side rows, (knit 2, purl 8) and repeat across.  Continue for 4 rows.  Next, drop the purls on the right side rows and just knit across, continuing the wrong side (knit 2, purl 8).  When cap is 3 inches long, begin stockinette stitch, knitting the right side and purling the wrong side.  When cap is 4 and 1/4 to 4 and 1/2 inches long, begin decreases.
Decrease rows:
1:  (knit 6, knit 2 together, knit 2 together) repeat across; 48 stitches remain
2 and all wrong side rows: purl across
3:  (knit 4, knit 2 together, knit 2 together) repeat across; 36 stitches remain
5:  (knit 2, knit 2 together, knit 2 together) repeat across; 24 stitches remain
7:  (knit 2 together, knit 2 together) repeat across
8:  purl across the remaining 12 stitches.
Finishing:  Cut yarn at about 16 inches, thread through remaining stitches twice, pull tight.  Use remaining tail to sew up back seam.  Weave in all seams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other thing I did today was make a quick blueberry cobbler.  The high school gardener who prepared my tomato pots and the friend who will keep my animal this week deserved a treat.  That wasn’t all generosity.  I had a serving, too. 

 

Peace.