As in knitting, so in life. Sometimes you need to take out a bit you'd sewn together and redo to make the whole thing turn out better.
Last week is fuzzy in my memory, so I will attempt to recreate. Monday started out with a power outage in the middle of a job, resulting in me heading toward my folks' space because they have a generator and running water. I lose water in power outages due to being on a well. That went on to Tuesday. Tuesday morning, I woke with shaking chills and muscle cramps, went back to sleep thinking I'd just been overheated with the power returning in the middle of the night. Returning home, I cranked through a few hours of work while my own space reheated itself, and I proceeded to experience 3 hours of shaking chills, only ceasing when under heavy blankets. I took my temperature. No fever. Hmmm, I thought, could this be Covid?
I looked into getting a Covid test anywhere that did not involve me driving two hours roundtrip, and found one available Saturday. I slept most of Wednesday and Thursday with intermittent shaking chills despite somehow working a few hours in there. No recall at this point what I worked on.
By Thursday night my temperature rose over 100.4, the cutoff to call medical office. I was not seeing any visible signs of change to my surgical sites, so the after hours doc told me to take Tylenol to break the fever and let them know if I worsened overnight. By Friday morning, fever rose and an obvious raging red skin infection was going on. I drove myself to local rural ER with Tylenol keeping fever down, and spent all of Friday in ER getting IV antibiotics, Covid test (negative, whew!), and reopening a bit of one incision from 5 weeks ago to drain infection. Relief!
Now home on antibiotics with every couple hours doing dressing changes on a draining wound...and medical tape to hold on dressings making equally reddened skin as infection. Hypoallergenic cloth tape is on mail order.
Upshot is this delay means adding on 3 weeks to my 6-week surgical recovery until back to "normal activity" (read: I can stop walking like a zombie at a snail's pace) and my radiation has now been scheduled for December 20th. The first day is simulation, so my actual first day of 6-1/2 weeks of radiation will be Winter Solstice, December 21st. Since I prefer to celebrate Solstice over other winter holidays, I'm not sure what to make of a metaphor of creating fire on skin to reduce risk of death as we return to the light from cosmic darkness, but it is what it is.
Hence, I have reaffirmed for myself that knitting is my lifeline and gives me joy of creating to look forward to each and every day through all of the 8 months total of cancer-related crappola.
Works in Progress
Joji Locatelli's Frank Shawl. (What looks like rust color in photo is actually red). Perfect piece to work on when one is on two medications with the side effect "May cause confusion and/or unusual fatigue." A stunning piece that will look amazing when washed and blocked. I intend to make another in earth tones.
And green and copper piece is another The Shift cowl after completing my first in other images, Andrea Mowry's pattern. Plans to make three others out of different stash yarns as gifts.
This shawl was the most fun I've ever had knitting. To learn new techniques (brioche for me) and watch the colors play with one another was brilliant. The design is like a shape shifter depending on the five colors chosen, as you can view in other samples in #shawlographyMKAL2021. My hand-dyed yarns from five different sources have a bit of variegation creating some streaks across the brioche section, and being a mystery knit-a-long, I likely would have chosen a different color palate to work with if I had known what I know now. I ran out of orange near the end, so substituted a yarn that had orange tones in it, and made one ridge per stripe for the border. The yarn chicken gods were with me, because I had exactly one yard remaining at the end.
Unlike anything I've ever made, it miraculously mirrors the colors and design elements of the quilt hanging above my "knitting nest" couch, which was donated during my daughter's cancer journey. I love the transformation theme of that quilt, from caterpillars to butterflies, and how this shawl saw me through a transformation of my own before and recovering from breast cancer surgery. I completed the shawl just as my constant pain is easing.
The music is me on harpsichord in a college practice room at age 18, composer Frescobaldi in the 1600s from the era which reminds me of design elements in the shawl. Elizabethan era ruff collars were all the rage, and the collars were so labor-intensive to make and keep that people had special carrying cases for them. I think this shawl deserves a special carrying case.
I am thrilled to have found out yesterday that I do not need to endure chemo!! I have watched so many people go through it and knew what I was potentially facing in the weeks awaiting results of a test on my tumor. Thanks to scientists who developed a lab gene test to separate out those with Stage 2A breast cancer whose survival can benefit from chemo on top of hormonal blocker and radiation and those for whom chemo actually increases chance of recurrence, I find I fall happily into the latter category. All I have left is 6-1/2 weeks of daily radiation (and 7 years of hormone blockers to starve cancer cells).
I admire herbalists and those who study and practice healing with and from nature. I appreciate integrative medicine centers that are increasing in visibility. But when it comes to skilled surgeons and examples of those who spend careers in labs creating tools to limit harm when the most blunt tool has formerly been the only option, I am thrilled with scientific advances. Reflecting on how things were in the 1970s in a time when all axillary lymph nodes would be removed and only option was mastectomy no matter the type of cancer, a time when one of the first public figures used her status to discuss the "woman's disease" openly, Betty Ford, and seeing now how treatments have become more harm-sparing is inspiring.
That said, our ability to keep these small cancers from spreading still feels brutally blunt. As I viewed images of countless women's surgical scars and was experiencing the worst pain of my life in one of my pre-surgery procedures, I thought to myself we don't live in Medieval times, but that time period sure echoes into our present humanity in more ways than we progress-minded folks might like to believe.
I have been working part-time and knitting part-time since surgery. My small couch has become a knitting nest with future completed items to share. Having this pause in my 6-day-a-week work schedule has been the closest thing to a vacation I've experienced in years, albeit in a bit more pain than I'd like to think an ideal vacation would entail.
This mortality-facing pause allowed me to crystallize things I'd like to live into and experience in my remaining time here. I've lived a rich life, and feel blessed in countless ways. Nonetheless, in all honesty, cancer appeared in my life at a moment where I was having difficulty seeing a future for myself. Cloudy confusion about where we're headed is collective as well, so I know I'm not alone. But I was personally feeling I'd reached an ending point, a wall beyond which I could not see. Now I have greater clarity.
My Field of Dreams
PDF of my practices with nature
Staying close to the wealth of nature and making with my hands bring me greatest joy and comfort. You can find me on Instagram as @waterwomanknits, and on Ravelry as Waterwoman-Knits.