Sunday, December 24, 2006

Keeping People Warm for Christmas

Every time there's a new Knitty, I love the patterns and love just about the whole issue. But there are so many patterns and ideas, that I tend to kind of set the whole thing aside in my mind to consider later. And then, being the very organised person I am, I forget about the whole thing.

Last week, Maryse wrote that she knitted up Knitty's Calorimetry, which prompted me to take another look. It is a great pattern. I printed out the pattern at work, so that I wouldn't forget again. My friend Jen noticed it, and I explained what it was. She's a non-knitter, and is very patient and polite when I go on about yarn and patterns. But she seemed quite taken with the notion. I mentioned that I planned to knit one for a friend for Christmas if I could finish it in time.

Jen's Christmas gift was the cabled scarf that I started knitting back in October. I presented it to her on Thursday, and then I gave her a Calorimetry on Friday. She was ecstatic.

It was knit following the pattern in Knitty, using Noro Kureyon. I love how it turned out - the colours make it look like some kind of terrain map, like you might find in National Geographic. Jen admitted that she really liked the scarf, but was secretly hoping for one of these as well

Happy to oblige.
Unfortunately, it's also rather too large. I thought so when I tried it on at home, and it was verified when Jen put it on the next morning. I offered to take it back and reknit at a better size, but Jen protested that then she wouldn't be able to wear it, and, while it might be 'a bit' too big, it would still keep her head warm.

I'm hoping that I can steal it back sometime in January.

I've since knitted a second one in the same yarn, but decreasing the starting number of stitches from 120 to 90. The size is better, but might be a little too small now. I'll have to wait to see how well it fits on the gift-ee. And then maybe make another. This is a really fun, fast pattern.

One that isn't fast? My dad's blanket, that I finally finished. It was fairly fun, to start with, I have to admit.

It was knit using one of the Log Cabin variations from Mason Dixon Knitting, and I just used acrylics. But I'm fairly happy with how it turned out. And I found that it does its job very well - it holds a lot of heat, and it's just the right size for lounging on the couch, without being so big that it's bulky or hard to handle.
So, Christmas knitting is officially done.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

End of the Year List

I'm hopping on yet another bandwagon/meme. I present the first line from each month of 2006.

January: Sitting at my desk and looking out the balcony doors, all I can see is a little patch of sky and other apartment buildings.

February: I love that I can bring my laptop home on the weekends.

March: To fight all of the frustrations and sadnesses and all the bad in my little world today, I have my very own gold medal to show my triumph over yarn, compliments of Franklin, via Steph.

April: It's finished!

May: Finally.

June: I don't like going to the movies on my own.

July: But it can!

August: This will not surprise many people who know my cat.

September: Sometimes there’s too much going on to blog about.

October: It's completely normal to say 'be right back' and then not show your face for a couple of weeks. Right?

November: Ever feel like you're setting yourself up for failure?

December: We finally have an answer for the question of why my mother has been so without energy for the past months.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Chemo Caps

One of the very few upsides of chemo? Excuse to knit hats! I have discovered in the past week that I really like knitting hats. They're very rewarding in terms of output. A hat a day is definitely do-able.

So far, I've finished three chemo caps. I also learned a little bit about what is important in a chemo cap.
1. Soft.
2. Nothing at all scratchy.
3. Non-allergenic materials if donating to unknown recipient(s).
4. Longer than some hats, since it must cover all the way to the bottom of the head, where it meets the neck.
5. Not ugly. (I'm trying)

First up is a white, lacy hat.
Yarn: Knit in Brown Sheep Company's Cotton Fleece in 'Cotton Ball' colour.
Pattern: The Lace-Edged Women's Hat from Head Huggers.
I don't think I had any variations on this one. Knit lace edge, make it five and a half inches long, start decreasing in the regular way. Try hat on. Try hat on squirmy cat. Done.

Next up was a pretty standard 'hat' hat. Knit using the Standard hat recipe, learned from Crazy Aunt Purl.

Yarn: Patons Bhemian in Artistic Taupes.
Cast on 44 stitches to begin, knitted five and a half stitches on US 10 needles (Denise), then began the decreases. Very soft and cushy. I like this one.

The usual cat model rules were also followed.

And finally, the Blanche hat, pattern found here.
Knit in Zara merino DK weight, can't find the ball band to tell you the colour. Blue of some sort. Even being wool, this yarn is nice and soft, almost silky.
Next up, I may try out the Clapotis cap, to go along with the clapotis I knit for Mum for Christmas.
The cat modelling was bypassed for this hat, as I was in danger of losing my hand at the wrist. And I need that wrist to knit more hats.
For now, though, I'm going to go wrap up some more fudge.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Return of the Fudge

Since high school, every year I used to make fudge. It was my Christmas thing. But every year, I ended up stuck with more and more leftover fudge - pounds of it. So, last year, I decided not to make the fudge, figuring that there are enough sweets around at Christmas that no one would notice or care. So, I was surprised when I mentioned to a friend that I didn't make it last year, and got a very flat, "I noticed" in response.

So, this year, I got all the chocolate and sugar together, and the fudge lives again.

It was also a way to use up some of that 10 lbs of chocolate, that I won in a raffle at work.

Any ideas how to use up the remaining nine and a half pounds?

Thursday, December 14, 2006


My mum’s first chemo treatment was on Tuesday. It’s really pretty impressive that she got the diagnosis on Thursday, and had the second opinion/confirmation and was in chemo by Tuesday of the next week. No complaints there. As a matter of fact, a lot of things are looking up now that we have the confirmed diagnosis. But I’ll get to that.

When I spoke to Mum on Monday, she was very nervous about the next day. She’d been told what to expect in general terms, and she’d met all the people who would be involved, but it’s still a new environment, and experience, and she didn’t know how she would take things once she was there, in terms of both her body’s reaction, and her own, emotionally and spiritually.

Once she arrived, she had a brief doctor’s appointment, to speak with her oncologist, and to get the confirmation and information about what was to happen next. She also found out that she was to have a home help nurse who would be visiting her twice a week for as long as she needs to. (It is a sign of my mother’s acceptance of her condition finally that she didn’t protest this.) He (it turned out to be a male nurse – "murse"?) will be coming to check on her condition – temperature, blood pressure, general well being, and to make sure that her PICC line is clear and situated properly. (More House and ER knowledge coming into play - a PICC line is is one type of what they call a "central line". Thank goodness for medical dramas.)

The chemo went well, and mum was amazed by the colour and variety of the vials of chemicals that were going into her. The one she most noticed was bright red.

Mum also learned about the store in the cancer centre, where there are hats and wigs available, and free to those who can’t afford to pay.

I spoke to Mum in the afternoon, after her treatment. The change was remarkable. For probably the first time in seven months, she didn’t feel sick. Whether this was due to the first round of chemo, or to the expensive and effective anti-nauseants (my mum calls them her "$20 pills"), we don’t know, but we talked on the phone for over an hour. Or, more correctly, my mum chittered and gabbed and I made appropriate responsive noises. It was wonderful to hear her feeling better, even if it was drug-induced.

So the first treatment is done, and her next is the day after Boxing Day, which is while I’m down for Christmas, so I will be able to go with her, which makes me happy.

In the meantime, I am furiously knitting. I did one chemo cap yesterday, and I’ll likely finish another today. Pictures will come.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Service

On Friday, my friend Jen and I headed downtown for "a service". That's the way the somewhat husky, slightly accented voice on the confirming voicemail described our appointment. As if we had signed up for something best not discussed in polite company, and the woman on the phone was being deliberately and carefully discreet.

We were bound for the Aveda institute on King Street. For the experience, to help further the careers and educations of the students, and, most of all, for a cheap haircut. The monetary cost of "the service" is just $14. The real payment, however, is the time. We were there for almost three hours. But it was still better than being at work - any reason is a good reason to play hooky on a Friday afternoon.

We arrived about 15 minutes early, as requested by the husky-voiced woman on the phone. We walked in, and confirmed our appointment. We were impressed and reassured by the gleaming expanses of floor and the perfectly coiffed, beautiful people gliding in and out of the shining mirrored surfaces. We were asked to head up to the second floor.

Once there, we signed waivers confirming that we would not sue the company if a student chopped off an ear. The second floor was still very nice, if not as spacious. The hairstylists seemed younger and not quite as 'perfect' than those on the first floor. We were slightly alarmed by the man who seemed to be in charge, as he chose to sashay about the floor in a giant, fuzzy, Russian style hat, making us wonder not only at his unusual fashion choices, but also at the the possible reasons for a hairstylist to be hiding his own hair. After waiting for a little while on the second floor benches, we were led - to the third floor.

This floor was almost crowded with hairstyling stations. Still clean and well-kept, but not nearly as fancy as the lower levels. More alarmingly, the stylists seemed to be very young. While we waited on yet more benches, we warily watched the stylists moving around. Jen noticed one girl who seemed more nervous and uncomfortable than most, as if she weren't sure why she was there, and now that she was, didn't know quite what to do with herself. Jen remarked jokingly that she hoped that she wouldn't get this girl as her stylist, and we were both somewhat relieved when she appeared to be engaged in cleaning and tidying, rather than styling people's hair. I saw Jen's face drop somewhat when this girl came toward us a few minutes later. She introduced herself to me and invited me to her chair. I tried not to look at Jen.

She turned out to be much more able than suspected, however. We consulted with the teacher, a perfectly put-together blonde woman, and we all agreed on something 'a bit different', but 'fairly easy to take care of'.

When Jen and finally left much, much later, trying to straighten out the kinks in our backs caused by the torturous, metal styling chairs, we looked at one another and agreed that we both were leaving with pretty much the same styles we'd gone in with. Mind you, they were much straighter, thanks to the somewhat overzealous application of straight irons.

In any case, it was a nice way to spend a Friday afternoon, with a quick trip through the market for juice on the way back to the car.

Thanks to everyone who's written to wish me and my family well. It's really appreciated. I will continue to update here on my mum's progress. She begins chemo on Tuesday. Fortunately, there's a cancer centre in Windsor, meaning that she doesn't have to travel for treatment. The chemo will be pretty aggressive, with treatments every two weeks. She's having a tough time right now, unable to eat , unable to sleep for more than an hour or so at a time, but without the energy or strength to do anything other than lie on the couch. We're hoping that her first appointment will give her a chance to get some good advice, and maybe get her some medications that can make things a bit better.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Diagnosis.

We finally have an answer for the question of why my mother has been so without energy for the past months. For why she has been unable to eat. For why she has lost over 70 pounds. For why she has night sweats and swollen lymph nodes.

It's not a good answer. But it is an answer.

Yesterday, my mother was finally and somewhat unsurprisingly diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Yesterday was a bad day.

So far, I have been entirely unimpressed with the quality of her care in this hospital. The nurses have been fine - have been good, in fact. But the doctors have been horrid. Her current doctor, who was the one who got the last (and most important) biopsy done, didn't even visit my mother himself to deliver the news, instead sending one of his students. My mum was told she had cancer, and that someone would call the cancer centre, and that was it. No "next steps", no reassurances. Made me say some very bad words.

Yesterday, my mother was scared and sad, and feeling very unsupported by my father, who can be very uncommunicative and astoundingly unemotional. They ended up having a fight, and my mum ordered him out of the room. I called and yelled at my father, realising later that this was not helpful at all, and I only did it because I couldn't yell at the doctor. Or the cancer. So then I felt bad. And I did apologise at the time, but I'm sure it didn't sound all that sincere.

"You need to be there for Mum, and talk to her when she needs you to, and you need to listen to her and be supportive! I'm sorry I'm yelling! How are you doing?!" (still yelling.)

But things seem a lot brighter today. It is a good thing to finally have a diagnosis. To finally know what we can do, and there is a treatment. My mum visited the cancer centre today, and met the staff who will give her her primary care for her next six months of outpatient chemo. She said everyone seems very nice, and they were helpful and knowledgeable, and sympathetic, and straightforward. The doctor spoke to both my mother and my father at length, and my dad was much better about expressing support and being there for my mum, even going so far as to ask questions and seek out ways he can help. All of which is making my mum feel much better.

Ever since she checked into the hospital, I've been calling her two and three times a day. I don't want her to feel out of touch or forgotten, and it helps me to hear her voice and know how she's feeling and what she's thinking, so that I can try to find ways that I can help. Yesterday, I heard sadness and despair and fear, and while these are terrifying things to hear in your mother's voice, at the same time I was glad to know that she could share these things with me, and know that she's not alone, and she won't be alone.

My mum has been the strong one in the family for a very long time. Doing the things that are hard to do, saying the things that must be said. And now she needs a break. I only hope that I'm strong enough and have enough wisdom to be the strong one for a while.

I do know that I have a lot of friends who are there for me, thinking and praying for me and my family. I know that when I falter, I won't be alone. I know that now, and hope that I can keep remembering that when it's another horrid day.

In the meantime, I'm going to find a good pattern for a chemo cap, and hunt for the softest, warmest yarn in southwestern Ontario. And learn to cook a turkey dinner.