The Saturday Update: Weeks 44 and 45

Late again, late again. I feel like a character from Alice in Wonderland. This time my excuse is the horrific anxiety associated with 2020 in general, and the presidential election in specific. I’ve been struggling with my scleroderma all week: blue-lipped and short of breath, struggling to walk, fatigued and in pain. Not a good week at all! I stayed in bed this weekend with Hannah and my knitting and I am finally coming out of it tonight. It hasn’t been helping me that the Covid numbers in my state are just skyrocketing to new heights and near by municipalities are clamping down with curfews and other restrictions. Sigh. Thank heavens there is a state-wide mask mandate that applies to stores or I wouldn’t be able to go out at all. I’m now in my 8th month of stay-at-home, and the end is nowhere in sight.

Is it safe to go out now? Nope. Not yet, Hannah!

In other 2020 news I now have email arriving in my inbox in Italian. I don’t read Italian… Who had this on their 2020 Bingo card?

It is snowing like crazy in the mountains this evening and we are finally coming to the end of our wildfires. Yay!!

Knitting

So, while resting up and avoiding the never-ending, anxiety-inducing election results I did get a lot of knitting done. Hannah was an exceptional help as I steadily worked on my shawl for most of a week, and then supervised the blocking for me as I worked with pins and blocking wires. Let me present to you my finished Far Away Dreams shawl (Joji Locatelli).

I am so pleased with how this turned out. Soft and very squishy from the garter stitch, it is perfect to wear on a cold evening or while reading in bed. I am coming to appreciate rectangular shawls as they are shorter in the back so they stay free when you are sitting down and are fairly easy to bunch up around your neck as a scarf under a coat. I ran out of the blue yarn so after some stash diving I decided to use the black MCN yarn for the outer trim, which totally worked as the lace yarn had black and blue flecks in it. So happy with the final result!

Once the shawl was blocking I dived back into my bag of unfinished projects and pulled out a hibernating sweater and those socks that I cast on with Hue Loco yarn a couple of weeks ago. I’ve focused on the sweater this week and the sock is seeing a little action too. Check it out!!

This is Misurina by Caitlin Hunter, a short sleeved cropped sweater knit with fingering yarn on rather large gauge of 20 stitches per inch. I am knitting this on size 6 needles to make this yarn work, and I am so happy with the fabric coming off the needles. I just separated the sleeves from the body of the sweater so things are going to go much faster now. I’m kind of wondering about knitting another one using DK yarn from the stash; I have enough yarn to make one with long sleeves. Hmmm…

I’m also working a little on the socks being knit with Hue Loco yarn (remember… I sort of lost control and went on a spending spree a few weeks ago and got yarn in every color in the new Fall palette. I regret nothing! It is important to have fun and some reckless moments while times are just crazy all around you…). Anyway, this sock is being knit with the Elixir colorway.

Elixir is the colorway next to the Uschitita on the left side of the picture. I’m working more steadily on the socks now as I can’t wait to cast on another color from the buying spree… I’m already dreaming about casting on the blue Uschitita or the purple Hue Loco…

Garden

It has gotten a little chancy for plants that live outside now that the ovenight temperatures dip below freezing so I ordered some shelves online and brought in my favorite miniature roses from outside and set them up in the living room to create an indoor garden. So happy to knit in my garden again in the afternoon sunshine in that room. The perfect spot to read. The favored cat nap spot…

Right now the leaves are falling off the roses as they adjust to the new conditions, but in my experience new leaves will arrive in the coming weeks that are adapted to the living room’s light levels. Yay!!

Reading

I am really in a mystery mood right now. I finished one last week and am working on a historical mystery/suspense book now that I’m enjoying.

Careless Whiskers is a cozy mystery and a fast read. The main character, Charlie, works part time in the college library and solves murders on the side. It’s a fun gig if you can get it. 🙂 He lives in the 3 story house that he inherited from his deceased aunt that is too perfect for words: the house comes with a housekeeper who takes care of everything including the laundry and cooks fabulous southern meals on the side. She even takes care of the cats! To make this even more envy-inducing Charlie has boarders who help out with cat-sitting and provide the meals when Azalea is off on the weekends. There is a giant Maine coon cat and a kitten in the book; both of these animals are perfectly behaved and never chase squirrels or climb the curtains… did I say that this is a cozy mystery? Anyway, there is a theatrical production, players with enormous egos, a death, and a cast of suspects that includes Charlie’s daughter. Charlie eliminates suspects between naps and meals that feature more biscuits then I eat in a year while taking the perfectly-behaved cat almost everywhere he goes. See, a perfect book to read during a difficult week.

I’m about halfway through Conspiracy and greatly enjoying the characters and the story. Okay, Giordano Bruno is one of my favorite characters ever!! A philosopher at odds with the Catholic church and an intrepid solver of murders, he is neck deep in intrigue in Paris this time. The battle for control between religious factions in Paris is pretty intense as Huguenots conspire to place their candidate on the throne which is currently occupied by a Catholic king. Bruno is caught in the middle of all of this as he is forced to work for King Henri, the English ambassador, and several other players on the board. Whew. Things are tough for Bruno who is trying to handle some personal issues of his own (like, maybe he can be restored to a state of grace with the Catholic church and perhaps run down a women he kind of likes…) while getting ambushed by different agents of the factions battling for control, and… he keeps losing his knife! The knife that Sir Francis Drake gave him in the last book! Surely, the knife will be recovered soon… Bruno needs his knife! This is an engaging book to be sure and I can’t wait to get to the end of it because I have another Bruno book waiting for me on the kindle. Yay! Good reading times.

Well, that’s it.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

Rocked by the Week

Wow, the week just sort of rushed by without me getting much of anything done. Mostly I have been going to doctor’s appointments and getting tests done; lots of energy being drained away without a single knitted object to show for it. What is up with that?!! This week I didn’t do any rocking; it was more like getting rocked by the week this time.

Still, there have been accomplishments. Check out the finally finished slippers that I made from the Dream in Color kit I bought a few weeks ago:

Slippers
The color is a little dark as it was really cloudy when I took the shot. These are the Pleasant Pheasant Slippers (by Laura Neel) made with Classy with Cashmere in the February 2016 colorway. So nice and comfy!!

Slippers
Here a shot I took of the slippers the sunny day I started them. Aren’t the colors fabulous? They are very warm and cushy, and did I mention the cashmere?

Shawl
I am still working (and working and working) on my Waiting for Rain shawl. It is getting there. Really, it is…

But mostly I spent the week in doctors offices or in bed reading my latest series of compulsive reads: the Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda James. They are fast cozy mystery reads that feature a murder-mystery solving librarian with a giant Maine Coon cat sidekick. I enjoy the books, but it kind of bothers me that the cat on the front cover, who is excessively handsome, is not really looking all that much like a Maine Coon to me. I kind of know about this because Yellow Boy is a Maine Coon mix.

Cat
He has a huge ruff, lots of hair in his ears, and those paws! They are giant, furry Ugg-boot paws with fur between all of his toe pads. Yellow Boy isn’t a giant cat, but if he was he would look like this guy who has been traveling the internet…

Diesel, the cat in the book is 35 pounds. Kind of like this guy I think. Maine Coons have lots of fur, and then there is the tail!

book cover
Here’s a cover from one of the books. Handsome cat, but where is the ruff and huge fluffy tail? 

Still, a small detail. Perhaps the artist had a particularly well groomed cat for the model. The mysteries are fun and I am chomping right through them. There is a housekeeper named Azalea in the books who takes care of the house cleaning, shopping and leaves yummy food in the fridge for people to eat when she isn’t cooking up killer breakfasts for them. She even does the laundry. I need Azalea. Seriously, maybe one of the doctors can write a prescription for Azalea for me. 🙂

I hoarded up energy so I could go to the Interweave Yarn Fest on Friday. What a trip! What a great day! But that, my friends, is another blog post.

 

 

Trail of Crumbs

I have been struggling for weeks and weeks now. I had the flu not long after Christmas and it just never completely went away. I have a pain in my chest, a cough, fatigue, and I just run out of air more easily than I should. Seriously. I have trouble talking and breathing at the same time if I come up the stairs at home. This isn’t reasonable. I was having trouble climbing stairs before I got sick, but now things are ridiculous!

This is the joy of life with a serious chronic illness. There are so many little symptoms and problems it is hard to know what’s important and what is just another day of systemic sclerosis. I tend to wait out symptoms for a couple of weeks before I contact a doctor; then I’m at the mercy of waiting for lab results and a call back. Ugh! Things drag on for days and weeks as I process through my medical team asking them to find out what is wrong with me.

Cat
Mom stays in bed all day reading mystery books that feature a librarian and a giant Maine coon cat. What is up with that?

For two months I have been bouncing back and forth between my rheumatologist and my internist. My rheumatologist has been concerned that my heart is misbehaving (and sends me on to the internist), and the internist suspects that my lungs are to blame (and refers me back to the rheumatologist). It’s like following a trail of crumbs hunting for answers to an ill-formed question. No test result provided a clear diagnosis.

Except I can’t breathe, and it seems to be getting worse.

Two weeks ago on my way home from my weekly knitting group I was hit with a surge of assertive self-determination. Time to stop acting like a victim, I told myself. Instead of going home I drove for another hour north and requested a full copy of all my medical reports from the hospital where my pulmonary function and echocardiogram tests were done. I knitted on my shawl in the lobby while waiting for the reports, and then took them home with me in my knitting bag.

Shawl
Look at this shawl! I’m through the first section of short row lace. This is the Waiting for Rain shawl by Sylvia Bo Bilvia.

I am a lucky, lucky woman. I have a molecular biology degree and I once worked in a rheumatology research lab. I taught advanced placement biology for years and I know a lot more anatomy and physiology then the average patient with my condition. I should be able to follow the trail of crumbs within the stack of medical records, I reasoned. I laid out the lab reports in sequence, looked for patterns of change in my lung and heart test results, and took to the internet to understand what strange acronyms meant. I found a presentation that explained pulmonary function tests. Well, dang. Even though the summary notes from the physicians who interpreted my lab test used words like mild, early, and upper range of normal, it was clear to me that my lungs were getting worse over time. Maybe a lot worse.

I emailed my rheumatologist a note telling him that I had picked up up my tests and saw that my results suggested early interstitial lung disease (the summary of the latest test). I reminded him of my symptoms and asked about next steps for me in addressing/diagnosing my ongoing problems. Here’s the deal: an email is part of my official medical record. More than a phone call, it should provoke a response.

Oh, it did! I received a call within an hour from his office. In the next week I had two phone conferences, another echocardiogram, and a referral to a pulmonologist. I was able to refer to specific data in all of my conversations with my doctors. I got a prescription for a badly needed rescue inhaler. Finally! Forward progress!!

Yesterday I saw the pulmonologist. It was a beautiful warm day and a perfect drive through the countryside to get there. What a wonderful, wonderful doctor! She made it clear that I am not over-reacting, I do need better coordination of my health care, and she will be a warrior for me. I wanted to hug her. Here’s what happened during the visit:

I do have interstitial lung disease, and it is serious; almost 20% of my lung volume is already gone. This is bad news because it happened while I was receiving drugs to treat the systemic sclerosis. I will be completing more tests over the next week to nail down the diagnosis, but there is already so much damage that she will coordinate immediately with my rheumatologist about treatment options; she sent him the message while I was still in the office. I think that I will be seeing more/different meds in the near future. I may be going on oxygen overnight. I hope that I don’t have to do IV infusions. I have been referred to palliative care and will be receiving a case manager to help me locate resources and to coordinate my ongoing care with the medical team. I plan to ask the case manager if I should be referred to a scleroderma specialist at the University of Colorado, but I totally want to keep this pulmonologist!!

After so much time trying to get some answers/help the response was actually overwhelming. I came home and for the first time since I was diagnosed I cried.

Welcome Bear
The front yard “welcome bear” could still be seen between snow drifts when I went out to shovel. Cute, huh!

Today I woke up to a full-blown blizzard; howling wind and almost 2 feet of snow! I didn’t get any calls about medical appointments and I certainly didn’t make any. I knitted, shoveled snow (slowly!) and enjoyed the break from the immediate crisis. I started the next book in my mystery series. I worked some more on my shawl; it is going to be beautiful.  My roses are safely enveloped in an insulating three foot drift of snow.  I was able to successfully advocate for myself and secure medical treatment. Tomorrow the sun will be back out and I will start scheduling appointments.

This is not the journey that I would have chosen for myself, but I will travel it as well as I can, knitting, reading and tending my roses all the way.

Life is good.