Yellow Boy Speaks: Happy Halloween!

Hi. I’m Yellow Boy.

Cat
Don’t you think I’m a handsome boy?

That’s right. I’m exceedingly handsome. Not very brave, but handsome.

Vampire Kitty
Except on Halloween. Then I am VAMPIRE KITTY!!!

I should be getting lots and lots of Halloween cookies tonight. I just love this time of year.

Bwahaha!!!

Happy Halloween everyone!!

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The Scleroderma Chronicles: Year 3.0

My, how the time flies. Not that I’m having a good time here, but it is hard to believe that it has already been three years since my diagnosis of limited systemic sclerosis (AKA scleroderma). I’ve been reflecting on the last year while planning this post, and decided that I should start out with a little info about my disease, share the highlights of my three years, and then give unpack this year a little.

Butterfly
But first, a butterfly picture! Butterflies have hard skin, and they are doing OK. Be like a butterfly, I tell myself. This little lady was part of a massive migration of butterflies that came through our state in the fall. Seriously, there were so many of them that they showed up on the weather radar and the NWS put out a bulletin asking the public to identify the bird species: not birds, but butterflies.

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that is chronic (no cure), progressive, disabling and possibly fatal. It is rare, which is why you probably never heard of it. The name itself means “hard skin”, and that is one of the most distinctive features of the condition. The widespread scarring and buildup of collagen protein that causes the hardening of skin also occurs in internal organs in patients with the “systemic” form of the disease like me. Most of the damage is hitting my intestinal tract, but my lungs, kidneys and heart are also sustaining damage. In the background, hard to see, but never to be ignored, is damage occurring in blood vessels that can cause blood pressure to soar and places me at risk for blood clots.

I have collected several doctors over the last three years as damage continues to slowly accrue in my lungs, kidneys and intestinal tract.

Here are the highlights of my first three years:

  1. My first year was one of shock and horror. I was so worried about tightening skin and the use of my hands that I didn’t ever think about the bigger picture. I was started on drugs, stabilized, and felt much better by the end of the year.
  2. The bottom fell out my second year. I was using my hands okay, but I developed breathing problems, had to be placed on oxygen, and my heart started to misbehave. Adjustments were made to my medications to compensate for my lowering lung volume and to slow the rate of lung damage. At the lowest point I was sent to palliative care and told to make final decisions.
  3. This year, the third, has been one of highs and lows. The new medications kicked in, I came off oxygen and my chest pain stopped. I was discharged from palliative care. I developed gastroparesis and had to move to a very stomach-friendly diet. I stabilized and sailed through the first rounds of appointments in the spring only to develop kidney problems in the summer along with higher pressure in the artery that goes from my heart to my lungs. This blood pressure, which is called pulmonary arterial hypertension, is extremely damaging to the heart and will need to be addressed if it gets any higher. Fabulous. Another doctor.

My summer this year was really hard. I got very dizzy, developed joint pain and sore muscles, and eventually got so brain fogged that I was afraid to drive. My knees were swollen and developed sharp, shooting pains; I will need to buy a new car if this keeps up as I can’t manage the clutch much longer. I struggled on the stairs and my face turned blue on a regular basis. My neighbors stepped in and took over the yard work for me, and my knitting buddies began to drive me to all fiber related adventures as I wasn’t sure I should be trusted on the road. See, highs and lows. My illness is kicking my butt, and the people around me are stepping in to make sure I’m OK.

Early this month I met with my new internist to see if there wasn’t something that I could take to beat some of these symptoms back. OK, I’m going to be honest here. I cried. We agreed that I would start the tart cherry extract again, but at a much lower dose than I took previously in the spring. (Tart cherry has anti-inflammatory properties and is easier on my stomach than NSAIDs. Unfortunately, my kidneys were damaged the first time I tried to take it.) I’m going to have my kidney function checked every month, but I’m already so much better (brain fog, goodbye!) that I’m really hoping that I can tolerate it OK. In the meantime I’m getting lots of chores done in this golden period while I feel so much better. I’ve moved furniture, completed some projects, and have driven to many, many stores that were ignored last summer.

Wizard Hat
And I made a crocheted had for my niece to wear this Halloween. Really, I’ve been a bundle of energy the last couple of weeks.

So, this is the end of the third year. I feel pretty good, I’m getting things done and making plans, and I am making hay while the (tart cherry) sun shines. Next week I get my blood drawn for the kidney function test and after that I see the rheumatologist.

I’ve been thinking about butterflies again. The day after I took that picture of the butterfly it snowed. A lot.  It took a couple of days for it to melt as the temperatures climbed back up into the 60’s and 70’s. I wondered if the butterflies would make it. As I walked out of the office building after seeing my internist (and still recovering from my crying fit in her office…) I found butterflies swarming around one of the shrubs by the parking lot.

Those butterflies. You can kick them, but they come back. Be like a butterfly, I tell myself.

And the fourth year begins.

Rare Disease Day

Today was Rare Disease Day. Rather than write a new post I decided to repost this one from last year. Please read on if you would like to know more about this day created to raise awareness about rare diseases and what it is like to live with them.

2/28/16: I woke up with notes in my email box reminding me that this was the big day. Oh, yeah. I guess I should say something about it on the blog, but what? I mean, I do have a…

Source: Rare Disease Day

Update from Hell: Still Knitting

A couple of weeks ago the bottom fell out from under the Midnight Knitter family: health emergencies, rushes to the emergency room, surgery, a life altering diagnosis of colon cancer for my older son, and the death of a beloved dog. A terrible 10 days.

A week after returning home from the hospital my older son developed complications and once again ended up in the emergency room. Blood clots! Holy smokes, this is not something that I would wish on anyone! Once again we took turns at the hospital and knitted through the wee hours of the morning. It was days before he could go home again.

Buttons on sweater
I finished knitting the drijfhout sweater before I got sick. What do you think of these buttons? I still haven’t attached them or done the finishing work. Soon. Very soon. Then there will be a picture for sure. Project notes are here.

Then the next shoe dropped: even before my older son was out of the hospital again I came down with the plague. Seriously, it had to be plague. It couldn’t have been flu, since I had that shot earlier this year. <snark> Whatever, I got sick. Really sick. Too sick to knit. Ugh. It was bound to happen since I was burning the candle at both ends for days on end and taking chances walking into hospitals with a seriously drugged up immune system, but still … I think that we are due a break here!! After a week in bed I dragged myself up to my younger son’s place and have been recovering with him since then. Now it’s a whole week later and I’m still struggling to get around with a dizzy head and shaky legs, but I am definitely starting to feel more like myself, and I am back to knitting every evening.

Shawl
I’m knitting like crazy on my Find Your Fade shawl. Look!! I’m four colors in and have three to go. I’m still obsessing about making some color changes…. My project notes on Ravelry are here

Tomorrow I will head on home again. Poor MacKenzie! He and Yellow Boy were pretty much abandoned this whole week with only a couple of checks to make sure they had food and water. I know I will be getting an earful from them once I’m back.

Annoyed cat
MacKenzie: What? An earful you say? Just because you ABANDONED us for an ENTIRE week?

Tomorrow my oldest son starts chemo.

I think of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s quote from Knitting Without Tears a lot in times like these. “Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crisis.”

Knit on indeed.

MacKenzie Speaks: drijfhout Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat with knitting.
I’ve been helping the Mother of Cats every evening with the knitting. 

The Mother of Cats and I have been knitting up a beautiful new sweater for her to wear when she goes out into the snow. It really is nice and light weight knitting; perfect for me to snuggle under while she works.  Look at this yarn that she bought.

Yarn
This yarn goes perfectly with my coat; I especially like the red color. If she would make me a little cat sweater I could go outside with her on the snowy days. Does the Mother of Cats ever think of things like this? No, not so much. Humans can be so self-absorbed…
Sweater design.
She especially liked the red color and wanted to use it to highlight parts of the sweater. She is such a silly human she had to print pages of the cover picture to color with different ideas until she made her decisions. She should have just asked me! This is what she finally decided to knit. It’s OK, but I would have opted for more red on the upper parts of the sleeves.
Sweater
and this is what the sweater looks like with the first red stripe in it. Nice, huh.
Knitting detail.
Look at how great these yarns are knitted together. The envy of every cat, let me tell you.
Cat on sweater
Now we’re working on the sleeves. Hey, this sweater is exactly the right size to make me a cat bed… That would be even better than a cat sweater!!

We have been knitting this sweater for over two weeks. It’s a little boring if I have to be honest. As soon as she get going nicely she has to switch colors which means twisting the balls around each other.  I try to yarn chomp help her with the color changes, but she seems determined to thwart my every need. Still, we are making good progress and it should be done in plenty of time for the next big snow storm.

When she isn’t wearing it I’m pretty sure that I can sneak in some cat naps on it.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

This pattern is drijfhout by Isabelle Kraemer. The proect notes of gukineru were especially inspiring and my sweater is basically based on hers. The yarn that I am using is Brooklyn Tweed Loft, which is a woolen spun yarn that creates an exceptionally warm but lightweight fabric, which probably explains why I can’t keep the cats away from it while I’m knitting. As soon as MacKenzie leaves the other cat moves in.

My Ravelry project notes are here.

Out of Love and Back Again: Say Hello to my Little Jujuy!

At the end of August I cast on my Jujuy shawl (by Joji Locatelli) with excitement and anticipation for a beautiful final object. I couldn’t wait! Cooler weather was on the way and I was positive that I would be needing this fabulous light wrap before the leaves started changing. September! Falling leaves and the first frosty morning had to be on the way.

Yarn
Look at these colors! The grey is fingering, and the pink and blue yarns are single ply lace weight yarn that I decided to knit double. I loved these colors!

Right. We had a couple of days in the 60’s, but the month was loaded with days in the 80’s. It was darn right toasty here almost all of September. The trees began to flash a little red and yellow, but all things considered it felt a lot more like summer than fall. The shawl languished.

Shawl Detail
Okay, I got stuck in the sections with the grey and pink. The shawl kept getting bigger and bigger and was getting bunched up on the needles. There was all this light grey, and the pink looked pretty darn washed out. Even when I got to the mesh section that was all pink it looked too much like an item for a “Pretty Princess Dress-up” party. Ugh. Did I mention that I turned 65 in September? It seemed like the shawl was mocking me.

I became discouraged and put the shawl aside. I knitted several other projects that had been moping around the knitting chair and freed up some knitting needles. October arrived and I had only this shawl and a winter sweater left in the UFO pile. I ignored the sweater (nothing personal little guy. It’s still pretty hot outside even though it is now October…) and slugged my way through the awful, washed out pink mesh section of the pattern. I was so unhappy with the look. The mesh was the worst, and the look of the doubled lace weight pink yarn made me want to ball the whole thing up and stuff it into the back of the stash. This is serious. Anything stuffed into the back of my stash could easily never be seen again. I gritted my teeth, got another cold drink and kept going. Finally, finally I made my way down to the edging with the third darker color.

Shawl Detail
Bam!! I am in love! The blue has pulled all the colors together in the best way ever. The pink now looks like it has enough variation and the pink hue picked up the vibrancy that I expected when I first started the shawl. As soon as the final shawl was wet blocked the doubled plies settled down and clung to each other; now the doubled yarns matched the single-ply fingering in appearance and performance.
Wing of shawl
I especially like the wing of the shawl where to the pink and blue are joined.
Shawl
and here is the finished shawl. Love, love, love!
Shawl
Because the shawl is asymmetrical the two sides look different when you wear it. What’s not to love?

This week the weather turned cold, I had to drag in potted plants from outside so they wouldn’t be killed in our first frost of the season, and the leaves of the tree out back turned a blazing red. Fall has finally arrived here in Colorado.

As it turns out, I had planned the knitting exactly right after all.

You can find my Ravelry notes here.

Have a good weekend everyone!