Life is Uncertain, Knit Fast!!

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.

Lab Tests
Good grief! This is how much blood was drawn to do my rheumatology testing!

“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.

Pills in case
Look at the great pill case that my sister sent me to help me keep track of all these meds!

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…

This is just part of the yarn stash...
This is just part of the yarn stash…

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.

Enjoy your gluten. 🙂

Winter is Coming: Knit Mitts!

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.

Scarf
I made this scarf using Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere. I had about three quarters of a skein left over. What better excure do I need for mitt knitting?

I made myself a sweet little scarf out of a cashmere blend sock yarn last winter. I had some yarn left over so I made a pair of lace mitts from it using the Sweet Pea Mitts pattern (by Lisa Swanson) in the book Lace One-Skein Wonders (edited by Judith Durant).

Lace Mitts
Mitts to match my scarf. Take that cold weather!

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…?

Mitts
Look at what I’ve been making from leftover sock yarn, 🙂

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.

 

Knitting in the Key of LIfe

“Now, let us all take a deep breath and forge on into the future; knitting at the ready.” – Elizabeth Zimmerman, The Opinionated Knitter

The last four weeks have been terribly hectic for me. I’ve been fighting a chronic condition for some time now, and in May it decided to get ugly. My wonderful doctor ordered a huge battery of tests, and wouldn’t you know it, I tested positive for an autoimmune condition. “Good to be diagnosed, but also a shame,” my doctor tells me. Things have been busy for me as I’ve completed batteries of additional tests, visited new doctors, driven to new clinics, and started new medications. Huh. It’s like I’m starting a whole new life.

How best to respond to a body blow like this? Obviously the thing to do is to stay calm and knit! I have knitted though all the crisis of my life. I knitted a new sweater the week that my mom died, made a pair of socks while sitting in the ICU with an ill son, and created an afghan while recovering from surgery. Stranded in an airport for two days? No problem, I have knitting! Knitting can sooth and center me in a way few other things can. I feel calm, hopeful and pleased to be creating something of beauty and purpose during the process. Cheapest therapy around!

So, I made a pair of socks for my sister’s birthday present the week I was diagnosed.  I then started a big project for one of my friends (a cushy vest that she can wear to Colorado Avalanche hockey games),  and bought the yarn to make little purple mitts with owls on them for my grand-niece who just had hand surgery to repair a badly mangled finger. Still, I needed more. I needed to make… a cat!!

My cousin loves all things cat. We saw this meme that has been making it’s way around Facebook that shows a box of kittens with the  “Crazy Cat Lady Starter Kit” stenciled on the side.  Of course she asked for a starter kit of her own. Of course I started looking for a cute pattern to knit a cat. This pattern by Kath Delmeny fit the bill.

Knitted Kitten
First kitten in the “Starter Kit” crate. We’ll have to get a larger crate as I add kittens!

Here it is. Cutest cat ever! I finished it today (on her birthday) and I couldn’t help posing it all over the yard.  I’m so pleased with how spunky it is, and can’t help but imagine that it will be a little rascal that gets up to no good once it’s at her house.

Kitten in Flower Pot
Doesn’t this look like a kitten that will break house rules?

Why do I knit? Because it makes me feel wonderful!

That’s the best medicine ever.

“Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.” — Elizabeth Zimmerman