life with a chronic disease and a really big yarn stash
Author: Midnight Knitter
I weave, knit and read in Aurora, Colorado where my garden lives. I have 2 sons, a knitting daughter-in-law, a grandson and an exceptionally spoiled kitten. In 2014 I was diagnosed with a serious rare autoimmune disease called systemic sclerosis along with Sjogren's Disease and fibromyalgia.
Last month I gathered with the other members of my family to attend the memorial services for a beloved aunt, the last of her generation in our family. The celebration of her life focused on her service to the nation (she was a WAC in WWII), her commitment to her family, church, and community, and her many beautiful quilts. Several of these quilts were displayed in the church at her service, and I think that many of us in attendance had been given a quilt that she had made. Exquisite creations with names like “Texas Star” and “Storm at Sea”, they are her legacy to so many of us.
Well, it’s not like my little knitted pieces can compete with that, but I’ve been sending knitted items out for birthdays and Christmas for several years now. I was amazed to see two of my cousins and my sister all wearing shawls that I had given them. In fact, all the women in the family had something from me except… my cousin Jean.
Oops! Kind of a big fail. Time to get cracking on a custom ordered shawl. Jean likes jewel tones, so I dug in the stash to see if I had something that would work for a shawl.
I found a nice sport weight yarn that I bought a few years ago at the Estes Park Wool Market. It was an impulse buy that was hibernating in the stash waiting for its moment to come. Hello jewel tones.
I decided to use a simple pattern with mostly garter stitch since I learned that it displays handpainted yarns well. This pattern, 3S Shawl by Amy Meade, was perfect. Fast easy simple! I finished it in a week of knitting and mailed it off this morning.
How fun is this? A little piece of me went to New York with the shawl, and with a little luck it will have a long, productive life. LIve long and prosper little guy. 🙂
Yesterday was Thanksgiving. A time to be thankful for the good things in life. I have always thankful for good health in the past. This year, for the first time, that wasn’t true.
There can be no doubt about it. Things hadn’t been quite right for a long time. My joints hurt. I had a rash on my face. I sometimes had trouble swallowing, and acid reflux was occurring on a regular basis. My hands were swollen and I had trouble moving my fingers. Fatigue was my constant companion. If my hands got cold my fingers turned white or purple, a condition called Reynaud’s. Sometimes it hurt to breathe. I kept thinking that if things got worse I would go to the doctor, but I never became so sick that I could justifying taking off work. As many people with chronic conditions do, I just made adjustments and kept going.
Then, without any warning, my digestive system rebelled in a big way over the course of one weekend in early May. Colitis? You have got to be kidding me! Feeling pretty uncomfortable I kept close to home and worked on landscaping projects outside, read books, and worried. After two weeks I contacted my doctor.
Tests were ordered. Everything was negative: there was no obvious infection. Relieved, I decided to just give things a little more time. There was one test result that did nag at me, however. My renal function was a little low.
Two weeks later, lying on the couch with aching legs and abdominal discomfort, it finally hit me. I have a rash on my face. My knees hurt. I have Reynaud’s disease. I have a low renal function test result. When tested in the past I had a positive ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) test. This sounded like one of those cases presented at the weekly seminars when I worked in a rheumatology research lab…
Alarms went off in my head. Lupus! I called the doctor’s office and scheduled an appointment for an exam to be evaluated for lupus.
“How is it possible that you haven’t already been diagnosed?” my doctor asked me. How indeed? Oh yeah. That adjusting and just keep going thing. She ordered a huge battery of tests for a comprehensive rheumatology screening, and told me no more gluten in case it was celiac disease. I was horrified. Celiac disease! I wasn’t prepared for that! “Celiac disease would be good,” she said. “We can treat that.” Believe it or not, at that moment celiac disease seemed like the end of the world. I left her office in a sad condition and counted the number of tests ordered while heading down the stairs to the lab. Twenty-two lab tests. Yikes!
Over the next week the test results slowly trickled into the patient portal where I could see them. Everything was coming back negative. Because of the rheumatology research lab job, I had some idea about which antibody test results were linked to lupus. The big lupus markers were all coming back negative. I began to convince myself that I was a big over-reacting baby. Then suddenly a note came from my doctor telling me that she was sending me to rheumatology for a consultation and three tests I hadn’t seen before appeared in my inbox on the patient portal. Positive results for auto-antibodies associated with scleroderma and Sjogren’s Syndrome.
At the end of August, 2014 I was diagnosed with both of these disorders and my new rheumatologist started me on medications meant to slow down the progress of the disease and to treat the symptoms that I already have. Eight prescriptions and three over the counter medications!! I have the type of scleroderma that is referred to as limited systemic sclerosis (CREST). This is not good news. I already have significant skin tightening on my neck, face and hands, and my digestive system has been impacted, but my heart and lungs are doing OK. In a strange way, however, I feel lucky. Very, very lucky and thankful. This Thanksgiving I continue to be thankful for what I have. I have been diagnosed, I’m on medication, I am retired and have time to knit…
Well, isn’t that a bitch! Here I am in possession of a world-class yarn stash, and I have a rare medical condition that may leave me unable to knit. The skin is getting especially tight across my right hand…
Luckily I am a master of adaptation. That whole adjust and keep going thing has prepared me for an event just like this.
Time to knit fast. Knit very fast! Just cast on and don’t look back.
As all readers of Harry Potter know, Quidditch is the quintessential sport of the Wizarding World. The game features a lot of technical details that I won’t attempt to go into here, but I would just like to share that it features serious technical flying, bludgeoning, and the movement of several flying balls. The most difficult ball to field, and therefore the most desirable for the typical Quidditch player, is the Golden Snitch.
My grandnephew Michael, the brother of Elly who received some purple owl mitts after her broken finger landed her in the hospital, is a great fan of all things Potter. His birthday is coming up and will be Harry Potter themed, so his mom requested a Golden Snitch.
She had already located the pattern that she wanted, which was one of several to be found on Ravelry. This one, by Melissa Mall, was a crochet pattern. Not my comfort zone, but I was game. Off to the yarn stash I went.
What do you know? I do have some gold sparkly yarn (this is a stash to be proud of, let me tell you!). It was a little thin, so I doubled it to make the ball. I found some DK weight Knit Picks Bare to use for the wings, and I was in business. In spite of my reservations I found the pattern to be simple, easy to understand and it produced a snitch lickity split.
One Golden Snitch launched from Colorado on its way to California this afternoon. Happy Birthday, Michael!
It started for me one blustery winter day about 5 years ago. I made a quick trip in the car without wearing gloves and arrived at my destination with one finger dead white and numb. How bizarre, I thought. I went into the building, rubbed my finger until the circulation returned, and idly thought that I should mention it to my doctor the next time I saw her. I knew that it was Reynaud’s disease.
Over the years the Reynaud’s progressed to all of the fingers of my hands, and last year my toes joined the party. Instead of white my fingers now turn purple within seconds when exposed to cold. Pain is involved. As it turned out, Reynaud’s was the harbinger of things to come; three months ago I was diagnosed with scleroderma (systemic sclerosis), but that is another story. Today’s story is one of blue fingers, cold weather, and the world’s cutest mitt pattern.
Yep, just as cute as the scarf. Since hand circulation is a problem for me I started the thumb lower on the mitt (starting at my wrist) so it wouldn’t pull across my hand. This mitt is nice because the I-cord bind-off keeps the stitches at the top of the mitt firmly in place across my knuckles. Because they are light in weight I can wear them indoors while reading, knitting, and working in the house. Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have some more of these…?
It was stunningly cold this November in Colorado. I went crazy with the mitt knitting. I now have three more pairs to match other shawls and tops in my wardrobe, and I am even sleeping in them. I wore them inside my mittens while shoveling snow, and they protect me from the cold steering wheel in the car. I can even wear them on top of light gloves. Take that Reynaud’s!!
Oh yeah. Maybe some Christmas presents were also produced.
I am a child of the 50’s. I had a happy childhood, loved school, and really, really liked science. My standout memories of my elementary years are these: we made a paper machè cow in 2nd grade, the sunset is red because that color light is bent by the Earth’s atmosphere more than the others, Russia launched Sputnik, John Glenn orbited the Earth, chocolate comes from cocoa beans, and the Golden Age of Greece was only 50 years. What a hodgepodge of memories! As a child I knew absolutely that America was the best nation on Earth, and that I was living in a new Golden Age. In my mind, always, the Golden Age was linked to spaceflight. I also knew that the Golden Age of America would probably end within my lifetime.
I have lived through amazing times. I watched the moon landing, abandoned my slide rule in favor of calculators, learned to write programs and use computers, watched the arrival of the Internet, and now own a cell phone that is actually a powerful computer beyond anything I dreamed of as a child. The world of biology has transformed in an equally powerful way as understandings about DNA and cells created an explosion of biotechnology that affects our food supply, medical options, and quality of life. Energy use and production has changed, human population has exploded, and diseases that I never heard of before have emerged. Polio is almost gone, Ebola is here. Climate change is upon us, and the geopolitical climate is transforming at the same time.
The Golden Age of Greece was only 50 years. What we have today will not continue forever.
This is one of the central premises of the book Coming Home by Jack McDevitt. In the book the society that we live in now eventually crashed, entered a Dark Time, and much was lost; the time when man first began to enter space is known in the future as the Golden Age. Thousands of years have gone by, humanity is spread over many distant planets, and the bits and pieces from our time are now worth money. Because of the intervening Dark Time, books, art and other artifacts from our era are rare. Just imagine: a drone, a copy of Pride and Prejudice, the lamp on President Obama’s desk, and James Watson’s Nobel Prize medal all for sale! The antiquities trade developed in the future is very lucrative for the right dealer, and objects from the time when people first left Earth and entered space are especially marketable. You know, a laptop that went to the moon, parts of the lunar orbiter, mission patches from the original astronauts, slices of moon rock, a coffee cup from the first mission beyond the asteroids. These things are now worth a bundle.
The story focuses on Alex Benedict, a successful antiquities dealer who is part detective, part celebrity, and his associate Chase Kolpath, interstellar pilot and Girl Friday. When a client brings them an ancient electronic device found in a closet during a clean out, they quickly realize that they have found an important artifact from the Golden Age of Earth. The previous owner, the deceased Garnett Baylee, devoted his life to finding a mythical cache of rescued materials from ancient space museums. Did he succeed? Why the secrecy? Where are the rest of the materials? The hunt is on!
Alex and Chase backtrack Baylee’s movements and contact his old associates in an effort to solve the mystery, locate the cache, and recovery these important historical relics. At the same time they are involved in a race against the clock to devise a rescue plan that will save the 2,600 passengers (including Alex’s Uncle Gabe) of an interstellar transport, the Capella, trapped in a space/time warp when they return briefly to sidereal time in the near future. In both efforts there is a race against the clock, conflicting opinions about the best course of action, elements of personal danger, and complications that can cause a devastating outcome. Action, suspense, family, danger, enormous profit! Read on, me hearties!
I really liked Coming Home. It is a great balance of suspense, action, science and historical/social commentary all rolled into one reading extravaganza. This book is actually the latest in a series of seven books that follow the adventures of Alex and Chase, and concludes so well I’m wondering if this is the end of their story. I hope not. The dynamics between the two are great; kind of a little like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson with some rogue planets, lost space expeditions, and artificial intelligences thrown into the mix. I mean, how can you have more fun than that, science geeks? This series invites meaningful speculation about some big questions: What does it mean to be human? Why do we seek extra-terrestrial life with the assumption that what we find will be a reflection of ourselves? Who does the past really belong to? If it was possible to create a digital interactive avatar of yourself, would you do that? How many flyers can one woman crash? Do rogue planets really exist? At what point do you conclude that your ship AI is “alive”?
Final question: If this is the Golden Age, what, if anything, should be changed about how we think about the future?
I think I should just declare October the month of the cowl. I made a fun cowl early in the month that reminded me of autumn leaves, and then dug into the stash to make another cowl of the same pattern with a difficult yarn that had been placed into time out after behaving badly. While digging out the ill behaved Watercolor yarn I found another forgotten yarn that I had been saving for the right project. Hey, Christmas is coming. Cowls are fun and fast to knit. I already have a long cable needle put together: time to make another cowl!
I cast on 180 stitches (size 8 needle) using the Moebius cast-on posted by Cat Bordhi (which meant that I actually had 360 stitches on the needle. Moebius knitting can mess with your head…), which I knew from my previous knitting efforts would give me a nice length. The yarn that I pulled out of the stash for this project was Malabrigo Silky Merino in the colorway Piedras. The yarn had a lot of plum mixed with golds, pinks and greens. When I bought this yarn years ago I had a plum colored coat that I loved to wear on winter days that weren’t too cold. I thought that I would make a scarf to match the coat, but never saw a pattern that appealed to me. The coat is long gone, but the yarn’s time had come.
I had learned from the previous Moebius cowls that garter stitch is a good way to present hand painted yarns, so that is how I started the scarf. After 6 rows I switched to the stitch that my mom called “popcorn stitch”, but I think also goes by Trinity stitch or raspberry stitch. (Since this scarf has plum colors in it, I choose to think of the little berries as blackberries) I continued on in this stitch until the scarf was getting close to the width I wanted, switched back to garter stitch, and ended up with a picot cast off (CO 2, BO 4).
Here’s the fun thing about Moebius knitting: you start knitting in the middle of the scarf, and your knitting takes you around both edges of the scarf until you get back to the beginning. What I kind of knew but didn’t understand was the knitting is reversed on the two halves of the scarf. One side of the scarf has the blackberries facing up, and the other side is looking at the bottom of the berries. Hey, that means the scarf is totally reversible. I’m on board with that.
Ta-daa. Finished the cowl yesterday. It drapes really nicely and is long enough to double around my neck comfortably. I’m happy with the lacy look of the berries.
The weather forecast is for snow on Monday. Bring it on, I am ready!
I bought this fabulous yarn one day while shopping at a yarn store that I love in Denver. It was in colorway called Watercolor, and it does have that look that comes with the watercolor prints that I like to hang on my walls.
I wasn’t sure what I would do with it, but the colors sure looked like ones that would go with a lot of the things in my wardrobe, so I bought it to add to my stash. I don’t quite know why I do these things, they just happen. The yarn stash gets hungry, and I feed it. 🙂
So here’s the yarn once I opened up those skeins.
Hmmm… this could be something of a problem for me. This yarn is one that has been hand painted in discrete areas. I like the pink and the purple, but the other colors will occur twice for each time I reach one of my favorites. I really have been disappointed by yarn painted like this pooling in the past, so I decided to try the yarn out in some crazy dragon scale mitts that I wanted to make for fun. (I bought this pattern at Mew Mew’s Yarn Shop while doing Yarn Along the Rockies last year) The magenta in the yarn matched my dragon scaes, so how could I go wrong? The ribbing pattern will break up the colors so that they don’t pool. That’s cool, isn’t it?
Well, that was something of a disaster. I wanted to break up the colors, but this is a mish-mash of all the colors at once! I bought this yarn for the magenta and purple colors, and what I notice most while wearing it is the gold and tan. I hunted around to find another pattern.
These mitts are knitted sideways in garter stitch, and I like how the colors are displayed better. With this yarn I do want some pooling after all. The garter stitch makes it a little broken up, but in a good way. I still had a couple of skeins of the yarn left, but without a good pattern for them they hibernated in my yarn stash all this year.
Last weekend I knitted a cowl in a fall colorway (my post Weekend in October Cowl if you would like to check that out), and as I finished it I kept thinking that it would be a good project for the Watercolor yarn. There is a lot of garter stitch going in the cowl, and the areas of wrapped and crossed stitches highlight colors well. Since the purple and magenta areas of the yarn are longer, they will display more in the openwork sections of the knit. I put on a picot bind-off again to add a little more color pop to the work.
Happy, happy, happy. Can’t wait for the weather to get colder so I can wear this cowl and the one I made last weekend. Yesterday we set a new heat record, but this is Colorado, so maybe by next week…
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted Multi (18: Watercolor)
It is Indian Summer right now in Colorado; the days are warm and balmy and the trees are getting ready to drop their leaves. I just love the colors this time of year! Within a couple of days last week the leaves on my trees changed to amazing shades of gold, orange and flaming red. Wow! Fall arrived almost overnight.
For the rest of the week I drove around town and through the countryside admiring the colors and smiling with happiness. Friday afternoon I took out some yarn that looked like fall and cast on a the Cruzado Cowl designed by Laura Nelkin for Dream in Color. I had bought it a couple of weeks ago at my favorite local yarn store, and its colors were now calling to me.
I cast on the cowl using a Moebius cast-on with help from a video online. Yikes! Even following the extremely clear directions by Cat Bordhi in the video I gave it a 50/50 chance that I had done it correctly. After a couple of rows, however, it became clear that I was OK. Yeah for our team!
All weekend I worked on the cowl off and on between trips out running errands amid fall colors. The cowl was fun as it had wrapped and crossed stitches that made it have a lot of interest. It was a fast knit too because the yarn was worsted weight on size 8 needles.
Today I finished the cowl and took it out to the maple tree in my back yard for its final picture. Indian Summer at its finest!
I originally bought this yarn as I thought my sister in San Diego would like the colors. Sorry Sis! This cowl is staying in Colorado. 🙂
My son has been playing a game lately on his PS4 called Destiny. It has a minimal storyline; mostly the game seems to involve building weapons, armor, working in teams to complete missions, and blasting everything in sight. My favorite thing that I see him blasting is a tank that looks like a giant spider. See, there is biology even in space-themed shoot-em-ups. I do idly wonder about the storyline of this game. The premise is that a “Traveler” came to Earth with new technology that boosted the human condition. Following this event other aliens followed the Traveler to Earth, there were horrific battles, almost all the inhabitants of the Earth and its colonies on the other planets in the solar system were lost, and humans are now engaged in an endless war. Or maybe this is all wrong; the game scenario involves activating a long-dead person to participate as a “Guardian” in service to the “Traveler”. The player only knows what he/she is told. What is the truth? Where is the Destiny? Why is the game called that, anyway?
All this has to do with a book that I read recently that continues to haunt me. In the book “The Forever Watch” by David Ramirez we meet Hana Dempsey and her fellow travelers on the spaceship Noah traveling to a distant planet called Canaan. The Earth has been lost; all that remains of mankind is the population of this ship. The journey is a long one; centuries have already passed and there are more to come before the journey is completed and mankind arrives at its new home.
We quickly discover that life on the Noah is very different from the one that we know, and that things aren’t quite right. The Noah is enormous. There are entire cities and biomes contained within its hulls. Everything and everyone on the ship is subject to highly regulated conditions that are designed to maintain the ship, preserve the genetic diversity and survival of the crew, and ensure the success of the mission. Everyone has been tested, enhanced with cybernetic implants, and slotted into jobs that fit their physical, psychometric and mental abilities. There is extreme control of information and society is structured into a type of caste system.
It is in this environment that Hana serves her mandatory Breeder Duty and awakens to find her child gone forever. Say, what? Children aren’t raised by their parents; that duty is assumed by specialists who raise the children of the ship. Hana struggles as she returns to her job as a city planner and reconnects with her friends after the lost months of her pregnancy. She enters into a relationship with Leon and joins him in an effort to solve the mysterious death of his friend and mentor. Here’s the problem of life on the ship: the crew only know what they are told. What is the truth? What should they believe? What actually did happen to the Earth? Are we really on a ship? Where did all of this technology come from? And what is up with all these mysterious and violent deaths?
A lot of questions. I asked all of these and more while reading the book. This is an extremely intelligent book, and it took many twists and turns as the story unfolds and we discover the true history of the ship, the nature of the inhabitants, and the mission that they serve their lives fulfilling. Finally, at the end of the book, the title takes on meaning. Hana, suffering the loss of a child, gains much more at the end of her life.
This is a good book, but it is also not a book for everyone. There are some serious challenges for the reader and flaws in the book. It is assumed that everyone understands homeostasis. Since I have failed to fully explain this concept to neighbors who have invested thousands of dollars into pH machines that are supposed to cure all illnesses, I suspect that it is a more elusive concept than we biology teachers want to believe. I know from personal experience that the alternation of generations in plants is beyond EVERYONE. At one point the author used the conjugative propagation of plasmids through bacterial populations as an analogy of something to do with computers. Seriously. Not everyone has a degree in microbial genetics. It would help readers of this book, however, if they do have a degree in computers. And what is it with all of the colors? I had to look up some of the colors in descriptive phrases just to figure out what they were. It was kind of fun, but only because I was reading on a NOOK.
OK, enough with the venting. I feel much better. It is mostly because of these negative factors that I put off writing about this book for so long. Truthfully, this book was so good that it continued to nag at me for a long time after I finished reading it. Forget the technical problems; the plot was well conceived, the basic scenario convincing, and the twists and turns took me down paths and through doors that I didn’t expect. I look forward with longing for the next book by this author.
Back to the game. I think that it is time for another mission.
A couple of weeks ago I started a pair of socks, decided that they were a disaster, ripped them out, and then started over in another pattern that I thought would keep the colors from pooling so badly. (The chronicle of that effort is my post “Sock Reboot” in case you want to see what I’m talking about.) Well, I finished the socks last night, and here’s what I got.
Wow. I couldn’t be happier with how the colors worked out on the socks. The legs are kind of striped, the colors pooled on the foot in a way that I kind of like, and then the toe ended up with an interesting stripe effect. I think that they are really cute and am glad that I ripped out the first effort with this yarn. The fabric of the upper part of the sock is very stretchy, and it fits my fat little Swedish leg well. The twisted rib on the foot was a little fussy to do, but it brought out the best in the yarn and makes it fit my foot snugly.
The pattern on the sock is kind of cool. The criss-cross stitch forms lace columns down the sock that continue along the edge of the heel flap. It is pretty hard to see in the painted yarn, so I cast on another pair of socks last night in a solid red merino sock yarn. The adventure continues…