So, yeah…

hmmmm, where to begin after so long? I’ve not talked much about the whole cancer thing in a while so this will be a round up of what’s gone on and where I am. Just for the record I had been referring to my cancer as bowel cancer, I actually had rectal cancer which is just a matter of a few inches lower, but I thought I’d set that straight. Also, something I hadn’t picked up from the letters due to chemo fog was that I was classified as Stage 3. I’m glad I didn’t pick that up as it would have freaked me out before I had a clear enough brain to logically think it through. Stage 3 basically means that the cancer has begun to spread. My tumour was very small, I only had a few inches of lower bowel/rectum removed to ensure clear margins and within what they removed there were 13 lymph nodes, which really isn’t a lot. One of those lymph nodes, the one closest to the tumour, had cancerous cells in it, it was doing its job! So, even though it was Stage 3 it was a very very early 3, the classification of stages doesn’t allow for how far into each stage you are. There is another classification system that says how large the tumour was, it’s stage (i.e. how far it’s grown) and whether the cancerous cells have spread at all but I don’t know my numbers for that one and it’s not used as regularly outside a clinical setting as the stages. So, onwards.

I had a CT scan done in October, I think. It was my 1 year on from diagnosis scan, so actually a little early but it needed to be done before having the stoma reversal. The scan came back clear. I have to admit that it didn’t really hit me what that meant, when I had it done last time it was to see if the cancer had spread so my brain just understood this one to mean the same thing. What it actually meant was that the cancer is gone (for now, it’s all one step at a time forever with this), and it wasn’t until my surgeon called me with the results because she didn’t want me to wait for them that I realised that it was kind of an important test!

I’d been hoping to have the stoma reversal done at the end of October, but my surgeon is really busy and sadly had a lot of new cancer patients to see, so it was delayed until November 8th (I think, can’t remember the date now!). I could have had a different surgeon do it, but I figured if she took it apart she could put it back together. Of course the stoma gave me one last run for its money and had a leaky phase right at the end when I was playing chicken with a box of stoma bags not wanting to order more that would just go to waste! I was glad to learn there is a charity I can donate all the boxes of unused bags etc to and I will be doing that as soon as I can.

So, the day came and I arrived at the hospital at the 11.30 time that the letter said. My sister went with me but when it became apparent that I wasn’t gong to go in before she needed to leave to be home in time for my sons she went and I cast on a new shawl and knit a few rows whist I was waiting figuring that although the pattern was simple counting to 129 after the operation wouldn’t be easy!

I went into surgery at about 4.30pm and it was really quick, about half an hour I’m told. I was in a lot of pain when I came out though and went through every single painkiller they were allowed to give me in the recovery room. I spent the night waiting for the next round of painkillers to arrive in the hopes they would work and between passing out for an hour or so I kept checking the US election results which really didn’t help my mood and sadly turned out not to be an illusion caused by the drugs I was taking.

I had a lot of cramping the first day, which is usual I’m told, although they really don’t give you a lot of information about what to expect. I understand that they don’t want to scare you with what might maybe happen, but I have felt, with this operation in particular, that I wanted to know more and I’ve been worried and confused ever since having it done. It all seems to rely on my asking the questions or looking things up online which really doesn’t feel like the most reliable way to do things. Anyway, I was given some medicine to help with the cramping which totally knocked me out for a few hours and then, combined with the anaesthetic leaving my system and said election results had me basically spending the rest of the day in tears.

Also, don’t get me started on NHS provisions for vegans in Northumberland. I had a stoma reversal, offering me curry for lunch and dinner was not appreciated, nor was the plain salad, too much roughage. I had taken snacks in with me luckily and I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway, but it is a really bad selection (if you can even call it a selection) and it really needs sorting out.

I was in hospital until the Saturday, it’s quite amusing after a while to have people ask you if you’ve been farting and pooing and to be happy when you say yes to both! The pain never really faded and I felt a bit out of it, but I figured I was just not in as good condition as I was for the first operation and it would fade. At home I really didn’t leave bed much, wasn’t very hungry and even liquid morphine wasn’t taking away the pain I was feeling, I also tried tramadol which gave me horrible side effects, but again didn’t touch the pain and also didn’t have the morphine side effect of knocking me out so it wasn’t much good.

At 10 days post-op the District Nurse came out to take out the stitches. She was really pleased with the way the wound had healed, didn’t seem too concerned about the pain (after all the muscles had been moved for 11 months, they probably weren’t too happy to be moved back again) and signed me off their books, although she did note that I was very swollen. I got up and did a few things in the afternoon, trying to push myself on thinking that if I was healed surely I was well enough to not need to be in bed the whole time. I was sitting at my sewing table doing something or other and when I leant forward to reach for something I felt a pop where the wound was. When I checked the bandage you could tell that something was coming out as it was bulging, at which point I began to freak out. I remember during the freak out, which was so severe that my sister thought she may need to slap me, thinking that it was really odd that I was reacting that way and how that showed how rarely I really truly panic about things! This was a full on proper panic though as I thought that the join in my bowel had given way which might have resulted in not only my getting very ill from it leaking internally, but also that I might have to return to a stoma bag and I couldn’t face that at all.

My sister found out where to take me, all the way to A&E which is a 45 minute drive from here and then all of a sudden I basically exploded. It seems I had a huge abscess in the wound, and I mean huge, and all of a sudden it gave way. On the way to the hospital I soaked a full size bath towel and the nurse who saw me there said she wouldn’t put me back out  in the waiting area which was probably because I stank to high heaven and was covered in gore. It was literally the most disgusting thing that has ever happened to me. I did stop freaking out once I saw what colour the liquid was that was coming out and realised that it wasn’t poo, so that was a tiny relief anyway!

I very quickly was moved up to the surgical ward, A&E is at the hospital where I had the operation so they bumped me back up to the service that might be responsible for anything that had gone wrong and we didn’t have to wait a huge amount of time to see a consultant. The wound had come open again, something I didn’t know until then and was glad I hadn’t known as it would have freaked me out more. They had a look and ascertained that nothing else was wrong besides having had that huge localised infection. So they cleaned me out, packed the wound and sent me home, didn’t even need any antibiotics.

There are two ways to finish the stoma reversal operation. The first, which my surgeon did, is to close the wound as you would most other wounds. The second way is to leave the wound un-stitched but packed with gauze that is changed regularly. it can be a very dirty wound for obvious reasons. Over time the wound closes layer by layer from the bottom up and you need less and less gauze. I have now tried both ways and I much preferred the first way. You can’t fault an NHS that has a nurse come daily to my house to clean and pack the wound though. I have now just moved to every other day and will eventually go longer and longer until it’s done healing. It feels like I kind of wasted those first 10 days healing and then had to start again, but there you go.

On the way home from A&E I realised I was starving, which was the first time I’d been hungry since the operation. I also felt immediately much better, although I’m still very tired and sleeping about 11 hours a night. I think, having pondered for a while, that I might have had an infection before the operation and it was just closed over, we’ll never know why it happened though and no one seems overly concerned about it!

Sleeping though, I hadn’t slept more than 4 hours at a stretch since the operation last December due to waking up to check the bag, empty the bag, tidy up what the bag had decided it wanted to leak everywhere etc. The one time I did sleep for 5 hours I woke up to the most horrible mess of all. The first time I slept the entire night after the reversal, 10 hours in one stretch, was blissful. However I still can’t sleep for too long on my side, and my right side where the wound is I can’t really sleep on at all so my back is getting a little sore. I also still need 3 pillows, 2 more than I would normally use, as my stomach muscles and the wound object to my laying flat.  It will be a wonderful day when I can sleep on my right side again as that’s my favoured side and I so miss being able to sleep that way!

Skip this bit if you don’t want to read about bowel habits, but I want to put it up here should someone be looking for experiences of having a stoma reversed. My bowel is still rather confused by everything. The new piece that has been pulled down and is being asked to basically do the job of rectal muscles rather than its old bowel job gets really excited about pushing and won’t stop. It needs to learn that it has to relax to let stuff through that it then pushes out, but I get phases, less and less as time goes on, where I feel like I have to go to the toilet the whole time and that I’m having a prolapse as it just will not relax. Then, of course, when it does relax I do have to go again. It’s called fragmented something or other and can go on for hours, back and forth to the toilet, it’s incredibly frustrating. I’m also very very windy, which is apparently a normal side effect, but as I’ve not used the toilet properly in 11 months I’ve lost the ability to distinguish between wind and poo, which means more running back and forth. Also things haven’t been stretched in a while, so it feels like I’ve done the hugest poo of my life when really I’ve done a little tiny thing, it can be very disconcerting! I’ve had an upset stomach a few times and have had to take an immodium to slow things down,which can stop it for the entire next day which again is worrying, no end of worry here. Going a tiny bit at at time for hours results not just in the usual pain you get when you’ve had an upset stomach, but also in incredibly irritated skin that has become unaccustomed to toilet paper.

Anyway, I’m assured that things will settle down with time, although it could take quite a lot of time. I don’t tend to go out all that much anyway (I’ve left the house three times since the operation and one of those was to go to A&E) so I should be ok. At the end of the day I’d rather go back and forth to the toilet than have the bag. I appreciate fully that it probably saved my life, the tumour was very low down and therefore was quite a delicate join which needed time to heal. It was also helpful during chemo where rather than having to sit on the toilet for hours in the night (which would have really not helped my already fragile state of mind) I could get up and empty the bag and then go back to sleep whilst the drugs did their worst. I did find the multi-tasking aspect of the bag rather amusing too, you could do anything and be pooing at the same time, and emptying it was much quicker than using the toilet in the regular fashion. However, as much as I tried to ignore it, and as much as I coped with it in my usual stoic ‘there’s nothing I can do about it except get on with it’ way it totally horrified me and I am so glad to be rid of it. For the first few days I did my usual checking it hadn’t leaked whenever I woke up, followed by a ‘oh my god the bag’s fallen off’ moment before I remembered that it wasn’t supposed to be there. After that I’ve not thought about it at all and hopefully I never will have to again.

So, from here I am monitored regularly by various scans and blood tests. I asked my surgeon about the odds of recurrence and basically the average person has a 1 in 15 chance of getting colorectal cancer, my chances have fallen to between 1 in 10 and 1 in 12, so not a huge jump. Also, it’s one of the slowest growing cancers there is. The tumour I had had probably been growing for a few years as that’s how long it takes for them to show symptoms like I had, so they should be able to catch it quickly should it come back and it won’t require major surgery again. Also my chances of getting any other kind of cancer have not risen, I’m no more liable than anyone else just because I’ve had one type.

All I can do now is try to get my life back again and to try not to panic constantly forever. I start back at University after Christmas (I have no idea what I was doing and haven’t looked at my research at all in a year so that will be fun!) and at some point I will be able to exercise again. I had been doing yoga and running again, god I miss the running and it was lovely to get out on my favourite routes, before having this operation, but I will have to start that all over again when the wound has healed enough to allow it. Patience not being a virtue I was born with I will be impatiently waiting.

And that’s that really, regular scans and blood tests and fingers crossed. Maybe I just got this out of the way early being 20 years younger than most people who have this type of cancer, who knows. I keep thinking about an Ani DiFranco line from Lost Woman Song, which is about abortion and not cancer but you use what you can. Although this has been horrible, scary, frustrating, confusing and generally not much fun (gallows humour should never be underrated), as Ani says …”mine was a relatively easy tragedy”. May my luck continue and this be the end of it, if not at least I know now that I can get through it.

Thanks for reading and for your support through all of this. Hopefully there will be less talk of poo and pus in the future and a lot more sewing and knitting!

 

Keeping On Keeping On

Didn’t realise it had been a month since that last post, opps. I am finally starting to feel better and the side effects of chemo are wearing off. My brain is coming back on-line too which is nice and I am down to having only a half hour nap each day (I was at 2-3 hrs at the worst points), I need the nap but I wake up after half an hour feeling much better. I have been having problems with the stoma, well not the stoma itself but keeping a stoma bag on without it leaking for any decent length of time has been hard for about two months now. I finally got a stoma nurse to come and see me and we figured out what was happening and now I just have to try different suggestions until something works at stopping that happening. It’s pretty depressing and annoying, but luckily to date it’s not happened away from the house (probably as I don’t go out much!!). If it stays like it is now where I get about 12 hrs (I used to get 3 days between changes) then I will just have to live with that until the reversal but I’m hopeful that I will be able to figure something out to make it a bit better.

I’ve also been working on what I eat, but that’s a whole post on its own which I will write at some point when I’ve figured out more clearly what I’m trying to do.

I think the most exciting thing is that I started running again this week! With the stoma issues I stopped the yoga for  bit but wanted to do some exercise so I decided to walk on the treadmill. I live in a really hilly area halfway up a very steep hill and using the treadmill means I can step off at any time I need to and I won’t get stuck half a mile from home too tired to get back (of course I bought the treadmill a few months before I was diagnosed and it’s sat there for 8 months unused, sigh)! My first time on I decided to walk a mile and see how I felt. Well, I felt well enough to run a few bits of it, not a lot, but it was running! I decided that it was a good sign that I was in better shape than I thought I yesterday I started the Zombies Run Couch to 5k programme and managed the 1st workout well. I covered 2 miles even in 33.20. It’s a walk/run programme and at my slowest running outside on the big hills I’ve sometimes run an entire 2 miles in that time so I was happy with what I did. In the final part of the session they leave you to decide if you walk or run or a combination for the final 10 minutes. I figured I’d run a few short bits but then a song came on from my first C25K programme. I always put this song on my running playlist because it reminds me of how far I’ve come from when I couldn’t run for 30 seconds and my rule is that when it’s on, no matter how tired I am or how bit the hill I’m on is, I run for the entire song, and so I did! I’m excited to get back and do some more next week and also to try to get back to some more yoga as I’m enjoying the programme I’ve been doing.

Anyway, you’re probably here for the makes, so here are a few more!

Sway DressSway Dress

This is the Sway Dress which too an age for me to get around to hemming as it was the most uneven thing I’ve ever made. I know it’s bias cut but it was ridiculously longer at the sides than front and back. I love this fabric, from The Textile Centre or maybe Abakhan, but should have lengthened it quite a bit as it’s not a great length on me even with leggings under it. I don’t know yet whether I’m going to chop it into a tunic or somehow add a band to the bottom of it in the same fabric to make it longer, we’ll see. The armholes are a little low on the sides as well so if I ever make this again I will adjust that. It’s a nice pattern, just probably not the best for someone quite as short and round as I am!

Next up is a massive cuddly shawl using Drops Paris Aran in Mustard and the Always Amsterdam pattern. This is a really easy addictive knit and I adore the colour of it, it’s going to get a lot of use I’m sure.

Always AmsterdamAlways AmsterdamAlways AmsterdamAlways Amsterdam I’ve just cast on for another shawl by the designer Isabell Kraemer and bought yarn for a third so you could say I’m a fan now!

Some socks! This colour caught my eye in my stash and I wanted to knit some easy socks to get back into the habit of making them so I cast on for the Primavera Socks using Yarntopia Treasures bamboo sock in Orange Marmalade. These were indeed easy and quick and took under a month start to finish which was nice after sock projects taking me literally years of late!

Primavera Socks

I’d like to say the momentum continued but my most recent pair of socks only have half a cuff in the month they’ve been on the needles…

We had quite a miserable dull summer weather wise (and in general as I wasn’t well enough to do much so it was the dullest one we’ve had in a long time…) and it seems to have made me want to make huge shawls. I had this bright pink Jaeger Aqua in my stash from basically when I picked up knitting again 13 years or so ago. I think I got it from Ebay thinking that it was a good amount to make something from, but turns out I could never match it to any patterns. So it is nice to see it knit up into Groovy and to finally be something I will wear.

Groovy ShawlGroovy ShawlGroovy Shawl

This is another stupidly easy shawl to knit and I did a lot of it whilst watching Orange is the New Black from start to finish.

I made a list of projects I wanted to finish (or make progress on as with this one) whilst I had the time to do these things and before I get back to studying and feeling guilty for making rather than working! A long while back I finished a sock yarn blanket and I cast on for another one just afterwards. This one has been in progress for 2 years now and basically all yarn (of shawl and sock weight) that I have leftovers from after completing a project gets added to the blanket in the order I complete the projects. I had quite a bit to get through this time:
Crochet Blanket Progress

All of that is now worked into the blanket and it is almost single bed size so, depending how many shawls and socks I finish, it shouldn’t be a WIP for long then I will need to find a new pattern that works for random amounts of yarn. The first one was stripes and this one is a huge granny rectangle! It was nice to crochet again for a bit and to know that I’m up to date with this project again.

Not a great photo, but I made a second Roberts Jumpsuit.
Roberts Jumpsuit

This one was a size smaller than the last which is much better and I used a lovely linen from stash, no idea where it came from but I’ve had it for years and it’s a really great mix of grey and blue. I’ve worn this a few times and it’s really comfortable. It’s a real bitch to iron though!

And that is everything I have pictures of! I finished a cardigan during the Olympics and finally blocked it today so there will be pictures soon. I have also finished a shawl that needs a block too. There’s the quilt too which needs pictures taking and I’m almost done with a dressing gown. The quilt really stole my sewing mojo as I didn’t work on anything until it was done once I reached the quilting stage and my enthusiasm wasn’t huge for it at that point. I love it now and will try to get some pictures if it dries up enough to take it outside as the backing fabric is light coloured!

I’ve also got the finishitis/startitis combination again, desperately trying to get things off the needles whilst casting on randomly for new things! It’s balancing out one off one on right now but that’s mainly because I needed the needles from one thing to use for the next. I have so many things I want to work on which is lovely but having too many things on the go means they take ages to finish. It’s always been like this for me with knitting though so maybe one day I will learn to not stress about it!

Back with more to show hopefully in less than a month (no promises though!).

Waiting It Out

So, I’m done with chemo. I made it through the seventh cycle right to the end but it took its toll on me and I only made it through 9 days of the final cycle before the side effects (in particular my hands which were in a lots of pain and basically unusable for a few days) got so bad that I had to stop. A week later and I’m still cycling through random side effects; upset stomach, sore eyes, extreme tiredness, insomnia, lack of appetite, skin falling off my hands, all joyful things.All I can do it wait for it to leave my body and then get through the stoma reversal operation. After that I can really start to try and put myself and my life back together again. I met with the surgeon and she is hoping that I will be recovered enough by October to have the operation and, as it has a shorter recovery period, that I should be able to go back to University in December. So it’ll be an entire year that I had to take out of my life for cancer, hopefully that will be the end of it but who knows, one day a time I guess with fingers crossed.

What is hard at this point is that basically now that treatment is over I’ve been left on my own. I don’t have any more appointments until I see the surgeon again next month. There’s no real advice at all beyond ‘do the usual things to stay healthy’ about how to avoid the cancer coming back. I wish there was more preventative research and knowledge about cancer, so many people are getting it now and so many of us outside the ‘normal’ range for the type we have. Basically I’m on my own trying to figure out what I can do to make myself as healthy as possible, I have made a start buying a juicer, thinking about how to finally get the weight off (the only risk factor for cancer I had, beyond having smoked, was being overweight) and how to get fit. I can’t see a nutritionalist on the NHS as there aren’t enough of them to get an appointment and they don’t generally understand a vegan diet anyway. So I’m basically trying to figure this out on my own, what I should eat what I shouldn’t eat, how to get fit again from being more unfit than I was last time around. I’m reading (sticking to sources like Kris Carr and real Drs rather than random Google junk), thinking, planning and trying, hopefully it will all be enough.

Anyway, less of the depressing, annoying stuff and more of the making! I haven’t sewn much recently as I haven’t had the energy and my knitting has slowed down, but I do have a good number of makes to share.

First up Messaline by Bristol Ivy. This is a nice boxy jumper with 3/4 sleeves and cables down the front. I’m trying to make garments that will be useful in my wardrobe rather than lots of bright colourful things that don’t go with anything else, thus I decided to make this is black cotton, using up some of my Rowan 4ply Cotton collection that I guard since it was discontinued. For some reason there is a stripe across the back of this jumper even though I used all the same dyelot. I don’t care enough to rip it out and do it again so I will trust that no one will really notice, especially after a few washes.

MessalineMessalineMessaline

These aren’t hard cables, but in black cotton with counting involved and a big chart it became too much for my brain to deal with during chemo and over the winter so I stalled halfway up the front. When I eventually got into it it was done quite fast and I’m really happy with it. It’s a great pattern, well thought out with lots of nice details, I may make another in the future if I can find a thicker yarn that gets gauge.

Demi Pants These are my second pair of Tessuti Demi Pants. I was sure the whole time I was making these that they were black, turns out that when you get them in good daylight they’re actually dark grey! It’s some sort of synthetic I have had in the stash for ages from Abakhan that sort of looks like linen. I made the largest size this time and did the crotch seam at quarter of an inch to give them a tiny bit more pulling up room. Once the stoma is gone and I can work on reduing the belly they will fit really well. I love these trousers. They’re so comfortable and sort of fun to wear if that doesn’t sound too odd. I do wish they weren’t so distinctive so I could make loads more pairs, I will make more of these in the future I’m sure but I think 2 pairs is enough for now!

Next up was a Plum blouse using the version with no shoulder seams and some fabric from Boyes which I thought was cotton lawn but now think has some synthetic in it. I cut the neck at a smaller size as I’m getting really tired of huge wide necklines (I won’t bore you with that rant again) but I think I’ll go down another size or two next time as it’s still a bit too wide.
Plum Blouse It’s got nice floaty sleeves which were a bit of a pain to hem, think fabric, hot iron, foggy brain, I had to rip the first one out and try again.PlumPlum So, another simple blouse pattern for floaty fabrics.

To go with it another baseball skirt using some thickish olive cotton from Abakhan.
Baseball Skirt

I have a final version of this skirt cut out from the remainder of the grey fabric I used for the Demi Pants which I must sew up soon. They’re really comfortable and go with all my bright shirts so having a range of colours will be nice, although the weather hasn’t been warm enough for skirts and I’ve been mainly living in pyjamas and sweatpants…

I finally make the Akita blouse from Seamwork magazine. I don’t know if it’s me or the larger sizes of their patterns but I’ve not had a lot of luck with Seamwork patterns. I actually have about 8 credits with them for patterns but they’ve not released anything that I’m interested in making.

Akita

Anyway, this didn’t fit well, the neckline was huge huge huge and I really didn’t like it so I gave it to my sister who says it’s comfortable.
Akita

I’ve got a few more Seamwork patterns yet to try so I can only hope that they’ll be better than the 2 I’ve not liked at all.

I finally finished my Heaven and Space shawl by Martina Behm.
Heaven and Space

Again, this wasn’t a hard knit, it just required counting which was hard at times and it become a little tedious and repetitive, but I pushed through and am very happy with it.Heaven and SpaceHeaven and Space

The yarn is bamboo from Yarntopia Treasures in the November colourway, so very soft, it’ll be great when the weather cools.

I’m tired and not providing very interesting commentary of my makes so I will carry on with the rest of them at a later time…

Starting and Finishing

The other week I got startitis and began madly swatching, buying patterns and re-assigning stash yarn to different patterns where I’d fallen out of love with what I’d originally planned. It all began with the casual thought 2 Sunday’s ago of ‘I’ll just clean up my Ravely queue while I’m having breakfast’. Now, that sounds like a smallish job, but I use my Ravely queue to dump every pattern I like in, that way when I am looking for something to go with a yarn I can search the queue rather than searching all of Ravelry which is a big dark hole that can take days to emerge from. When I began clearing it up I had 25 pages and when I was done I was down to 20. It appears that I am over round yoke cardigans, and I have so many free sock patterns in my queue that I don’t need to pay for any for a good long while.

This clearing up also uncovered several patterns that went with the Drops yarns that I have recently discovered via an Ebay seller called Knitted Home. Paris is a lovely soft aran weight cotton (hard to find) and there is a 4 ply cotton called Safran. I’d originally bought some Drops Belle from this seller which you’ll see knit up below and looked at what else she had when I went back to buy more of the Belle (a linen, cotton, viscose mix). The Paris and Safran are really good value for money and while I was sorting the queue I found 8 patterns I could use them for, so it was a rather expensive morning, although most of the things are shawls, hats or fingerless gloves so not as expensive as it could have been! You can tell what kind of summer we’re having so far by the fact that I want to knit those things and also bought yarn for a blanket…

Anyway, after casting on for a few new things I got that feeling that there were too many things on the needles. So along came the finishitis and I’ve been going back and forth between older projects and newer ones ever since trying to get things done whilst still enjoying the new knits. I put two projects on hiatus, one because I’m bored with it and don’t know if I actually like it or will wear it, and the other because it’s a cable/moss stitch pattern that isn’t charted and my brain can’t keep track of the instructions at the moment.

So, for the finishing up, this is my second Easy by Martina Behm using some naturally black bamboo with beads that I got from Etsy a while back (the yarn came beaded, I didn’t buy the components individually). It’s a bit darker than the photo and the beads are a nice turquoisy blue.

Easy EasyThis pattern really does live up to its name, it’s just back and forth garter stitch and even the second half where you change the direction of the knitting isn’t hard work and is easy to pick up and put down. Can always use a black shawl for the winter and it’ll be nice to have a smaller one that the pashmina I usually grab.

Next up is the jumper I made with the Drops Belle. The colourway is Diesel and the pattern is Church Mouse Yarns Simple Tee, and again it lives up to the name.
Churchmouse Yarns Simple Tee Churchmouse Yarns Simple Tee

Churchmouse Yarns Simple TeeYou basically just go back and forth with a few lifted increases for the sleeves and slipped stitched edging on the sleeves and bottom slits. This is pretty huge but it hangs really nicely and I’m pleased with how it came out. So much so that I’m about to cast on for the shorter version with sleeves using the same yarn but in Navy Blue. I’m going to go down a size for the shorter one as it doesn’t have the length to stop it being sacklike, it’s a nice well written pattern though and I made this whilst binge watching the tv show Fringe from start to finish. I did need an extra ball of yarn on top of what the pattern called for but luckily the seller still had the colourway so all was fine!

Next up were socks that have been on the needles since October, which is stupid as they’re plain round and round socks so not hard at all. I had been making these on the train to University and whilst working in the library there so they kind of got lost when I stopped going. Anyway, a few days work and the final (half) season of Haven and they’re all done.
Plain Striped Socks

On a telly note, has anyone watched The Americans? I have been trying with it and it was interesting to begin with but around episode 11 of the first series I got really bored with it. I think it was the fact that large portions of the plot appeared to just be people having sex, which would explain why the Cold War went on so long I guess. Does it get better? Should I carry on? Was anyone else confused by a Welshman as a Russian pretending to be an American? Is it odd to want the Russians to succeed as the FBI are horrid (although it’s fun to see John-Boy again, my family loved The Waltons way back when)? I’ve seen lots of people raving about it so I’m wondering if it’s just me, like with Orphan Black which I made it 2 and a half episodes into and then abandoned whilst everyone else seemed to love it. Anyway, I’m watching a lot of tv right now trying to stay off my feet, any suggestions that aren’t period dramas and don’t revolve around people being horrible to each other? I’m waiting for this series of Vikings to finish being broadcast so I can binge watch it start to finish and my sister and I are limping through Sons of Anarchy which began brilliantly but has gone downhill since they killed my favourite character in series 4 and everyone became backstabbing liars…

In the real world, Piggle turns 9 tomorrow and I’ve bought him a 7″ Kindle Fire as his present. I decided to make him a case as he’s not getting much else with the price of that. I got him to pick out fabric and for some reason he thought I was making him pyjamas from 2 fat quarters, I guess that’s what I usually ask him to pick fabric for! Anyway, he has a great eye for colour and print as I’d have not put these together at all but they look great. Plus I found a zig zag button in my button box for it. Piggle is a big fan of all things pink so it wasn’t any surprise that he went for that colour stack of fabrics.
Kindle Case Kindle CaseThe pattern is an e-reader sleeve one I got from Etsy a long time ago and luckily the 7″ Kindle is the same size as one of the older Kindles so I didn’t have to do any math and cut my own pattern. Jim will want his own Kindle too for Christmas now so I’ve already pulled out the fabric to do him a case while I’ve got the pattern out.

So, in my knitting basket now I have Messaline by Bristol Ivy, I have 29 rows left of this and I’ve blocked the sleeves and back so it should be done soon as long as I make myself sew it together and pick up the neck rather than abandoning it! I’m making 2 large shawls, both in cotton but in totally different colours, one is shocking pink and the other is mustard, Plus one is stocking stitch and the other lace and garter stitch so it’s good variety. I’m enjoying the knitting on both of those. I’m still working on the Heaven and Earth shawl here and there, some days counting to variations of 10 is too much for me but it’s getting on. I’ve got a linen cardigan on the go too, Brise by Hannah Fettig. It’s going to be really light weight and see through and it’s an incredibly bright neon yellow that I love. I’m also going to cast on for that Simple Tee I mentioned earlier soon, and try not to go too mad with casting on more and more, although the fact that I find swatching really dull does hold me back a bit luckily! All my projects are on Ravelry and my username there is Anna, not feeling into hunting down links for everything today, sorry!

In chemo news. I made it through the 60% dose to the end of the two weeks but the skin fell off the bottom of my feet and they wouldn’t let me start the next course until they had recovered as they worry about infection. I had 3 weeks off between courses (of course I was just starting to feel human again when I began with the 6th course!). I was all ready to go and pick up my pills when I got a call from the Oncology Nurse saying that they couldn’t give them to me as my platelets were too low and I’d have to go and see the Professor to see what to do. So that added another half week on the end of the break. The Professor looked at my platelet counts on a graph and surmised that the anomaly was the fact that they’ve been so high for a while, usually they hover right around what they are now, 77, rather than in the 90s and low 100s which is where they have been. He over rode the system to allow me the medicine and off I went again. I’m actually doing ok on this one so far and don’t feel as bad as I have on past courses, whether that will last I don’t know and as the skin is starting to go on my feet again I’m not sure how long it’ll be before I get to start course 7. It’s frustrating to have to wait and wait to start something you don’t really want to do. It kind of feels like I’m going to be doing chemo for the rest of my life, apparently it will end some day though I’m told. I have an appointment with my surgeon on Wednesday to talk about reversing the stoma, although that will have to wait until after my body recovers from the chemo so it won’t be for a few months at least.

Anyway, I’m plodding along, making and doing, listing things in the Etsy shop (although no one is buying yet, maybe soon) and trying to finish off things that have been sitting around for too long. I have 2 quilts, some cross stitch, some knitting and getting up to date on my crochet sock yarn blanket on my list so we’ll see what happens with those. I’m trying to make the most of the time I have to do these things as once the chemo does end and the operation is over I will have to get back to the PhD and build back up to fully living my life again (I miss yoga and running a lot) and digging my house out of the dirty dark hole it’s sunk into while I’ve been too tired to deal with more than making sure we have clean clothes, clean dishes, food to eat and hoovering occasionally… Seems silly to let this opportunity to make stuff all the time pass really.

I’ve got another recently made pair of Tessuti clown pants which are impossible to photograph unless you’re wearing them to show you and I’m working on a shirt plus there might be more done knitting soon so I’ll be back with that soonish!

Can’t Think of a Title At All

So, I’ve been doing sewing and knitting but not much to actually show for it. My main sewing for a few weeks has been on a quilt so there’s a lot of this

Quilt Bitsbut not much else to show you. I’m halfway through it now and have been taking a break to work on some of the things I had cut out that were making me feel guilty. Of course as soon as I started making summer clothes the weather went horrible again, sorry about that…

There was a sale on the Lou Box Top pattern and Baseball Skirt patterns together so I decided to see what the fuss was about and picked them up. I don’t really need any more shirt patterns like this, I have plenty in my collection, so I’ll be looking for different styles from now on. This one isn’t bad, quick and easy and a nice plain shirt. I did add length as I like tops to hit me at the hip bone, it could have done with a little more length but I was using up a piece of fabric I’ve had in my stash for years now (bought from Ditto if I recall) just to check the fit. If I make the shirt again I’ll make a larger size. I didn’t want it too baggy so I went down a size and it fits me fine but isn’t the style that is intended. Annoyingly I must have been confident that I was making the perfect size as I cut the pattern so I’ll have to print it and stick it together again…
Lou Box Top and Baseball SkirtLou Box Top and Baseball Skirt

Whereas I’m a bit blah about the top, I really like the skirt and it’s become this summer’s skirt obsession. If you’ve been reading my blog a while you’ll remember that I tend to get obsessed with a skirt pattern every few years and make a ton of them. I still have a good collection of printed cotton skirts from prior binges but what I need is some plain skirts to go with my printed shirts and I’ve found the pattern for that.
Baseball SkirtThis fabric is some kind of textured synthetic from Abakhan I’d assume, I wanted to try the pattern out for fit etc. so just grabbed something that I thought would work and I really really like it so that’s a bonus! I lengthened the front of the skirt so it’s the same as the back, I’ve lived through the high/low thing twice now and haven’t been a fan either time. You know a pattern is a keeper when you finish sewing it and it goes right back onto the cutting out pile with another piece of fabric! I have two of these cut out waiting to go, one in a sort of army green and the other in black, comfortable and useful, can’t beat that really. I left off the waist tie. My middle is my widest part, especially as I’ve not been able to exercise and with the stoma, so the last thing I need is anything adding to that.

As planned I whipped up another Fen shirt with the second piece of double gauze I had in my stash. I think with the shirts I have cut out (and one planned) I have enough for this summer now so I will stop with the simple shirts for a bit. I love this fabric and am happy I’ll get to wear it. I added about 2″ to the length and did the V neck version using bias binding turned inside rather than the technique called for in the pattern, it worked well for a bodge job!
Fen

I’ve been knitting quite a bit, I’ve swapped to simple stocking or garter stitch projects as I just can’t seem to count or concentrate on anything harder. This has left a mass of projects abandoned, but I’ll get to them one day! I’ve also ended up buying yarn, even though I tried to find patterns to use up stash yarn. I’ve been making a simple top using Drops Belle and it’s really nice, so nice that I ordered yarn for the other version that the pattern has. I’ve also bought some nice linen from Etsy, in fact I’ve become a little linen obsessed and have 3 orders on the go, opps! However, it’s cheap and a lot of it is organic and comes from Europe so I don’t feel too bad about it! I should have two projects to show you soon, I’m saving the last few episodes of Fringe, which I’ve been binge watching whilst making the Belle jumper, to finish it off so it should be done soon. I also have another Easy shawl almost done, I’m motivated to get that off the needles as I have yarn for a big aran cotton shawl arriving soon that I want to cast on for! It’s nice to be knitting again, I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t picking it up and then realised that I was asking too much of my brain with the patterns I usually make and now I’ve figured it out I’m off again!

I managed to get through the whole round 6 of chemo, but then the skin fell off the bottom of my feet (for the second time) and I wasn’t allowed to continue until it cut it out. That took 2 weeks (the usual break between cycles is 1 week). I was ready to go on Friday to pick up the pills when they rang to say that my platelets were too low and I couldn’t start until I’d seen the Professor again. I went yesterday to see him and he showed me my platelets on a graph (they have a new computer system and he’s very proud when he figures things out on it!). I think I’ve mentioned before that I have ITP which means that I always have low platelets as my spleen thinks they’re evil and cleans them up for me, the Professor pointed out that the fact they had been so high was the anomaly, and they’ve now gone back down to my usual levels (you are supposed to have them above 100 to have treatment, mine were 77 last blood test). So, he over rode the computer system to say I could continue treatment and I had to drive to the other hospital to go to the Oncology unit and get the pills. I started round 6 (of 8) this morning and we’ll see how it goes. I’m fed up with it and with the extended breaks between cycles it feels like it’s going to go on forever and ever. I was just starting to feel a little bit better after 2.5 weeks off and now I’m going to go back into the fog. I noticed the other day that I could actually write a bit better, I knew I was finding it hard to remember words and my writing was worse than it’s normal terrible state so it was nice to be able to use a pen properly again. Saying that I had to fill out a form yesterday evening and Jim pointed out to me that I’d gotten our post code very wrong on it, lord knows where those numbers came from!

So, I intend to finish off a few more garments and then it’s back to the quilt. I was looking through what I had stashed away quilt wise and discovered that I have about 11 quilt tops planned with fabric bought for them (and half of those I have backing/binding for too) so I should probably get to work on them, especially as I have quite a few clothes now. The ones that are waiting either cut or uncut will be the end of my ‘summer’ sewing I think so I can concentrate on the quilts, at least the simpler ones, the paper piecing one will have to wait until after chemo as my brain finds that hard without the fog. Hopefully I’ll have knitting to show you while I’m quilting so I won’t disappear for as long again!

Pyjama Time Again

So, the boys grew and the previous summer pjs I made them were either too small or worn out. Jim has a terrible habit of cutting holes in things which is a little frustrating when you’ve made said garment, partly my fault for not keeping track of my scissors too as I know he does it. Anyway, what all that meant was that it was time to pull out Kwik Sew 1557, measure the boys and get going on another round of summer pjs. Luckily I managed to fill the pyjama fabric hole in my stash at Fabric Land in Brighton last summer. They always seem to have a good selection of kids prints in stock, I must remember to check their eye searing website to see if I can buy a few more prints for Jim next summer, I have enough leftovers for trousers for Piggle and will just make him t-shirts to go with them.

So, this years offerings. Piggle’s first:

Kwik Sew 1557Kwik Sew 1557 I found the perfect buttons for this pair in my button box, they’re a little small but I couldn’t not use them!Pyjama Buttons

And the final pair are from the last piece of one of my favourite PRR prints. I had to add a cuff to the trousers as I didn’t have enough fabric, it’s not even a double cuff as there wasn’t enough for that but it works. I couldn’t resist the applique, so quick but effective and cute! The t-shirt is Kwik Sew Sewing for Children which I had already traced in the right size which was handy.KSSFC and KS1557

And Jim’s pyajamas, it’s hard to find prints for older boys but these were approved by him and he loves them all so phew!Kwik Sew 1557 After this first pair I added an inch to all lengths to give him a bit more growing room.Kwik Sew 1557 As I’ve said, Jim has Aspergers Syndrome so he often isn’t great at making jokes that are actually funny. The first morning he was wearing these I walked in the kitchen and was blinded. When I told him they were incredibly bright pyjamas he replied ‘yeah, I’m on fire this morning’!!
KS 1557

I adore this fox print and almost didn’t give it to Jim, I wanted to make something for myself from it. But, in the end I decided that he needed pjs more than I do and sewed these up.

So, that’s that job out of the way for this summer at least, they will need new winter pjs too so I’ll be having a dig through the stash to use up what I have. Anyone seen any neon piping on sale anywhere? I have some plain flannel that would look cool with really bright piping, if I can figure out how to use it as I never have before.

An update on the chemo. I had to stop the fourth round after 10 days. I woke up on day 11 (Jim’s 13th Birthday so not a great day for it) to find that I could hardly walk as my feet hurt so much. The Professor (my Oncologist) is baffled as to why I can’t deal with chemo, it’s both amusing and worrying to see him literally scratch his head as he tries to figure out what to do with me. Out of 4 rounds I have only completely finished one of them, the other 3 the side effects became too much and I had to stop early, between day 11 and 13. He has further reduced the dose, I’m now down to 60% of what I should have for my square meterage, and he won’t be able to reduce it any further as at 50% they are just causing side effects with no actual treatment being offered. If I can’t manage this level I will have to stop. He wonders if I’m missing part of an enzyme that helps the body process the chemicals in the treatment. I’m not totally missing it or I would have died 2-3 day into treatment, but my body just doesn’t seem to be able to deal with what I’m trying to do with it. Chemo is never wonderful and always has side effects but I seem to have drawn a large amount of them, the newest of which is hay fever which I’ve never had before… He said there is no point changing me to the IV protocol as it wouldn’t get rid of the tiredness and upset stomach which are my main issues. They gave me codeine to help with the upset stomach (it can cause constipation). There was no warning about side effects etc and, in my dopey state, I just took one each morning and then spent 4 days wondering why all of a sudden I was spending most of the day in bed and couldn’t put together a sentence, I’d forgotten about my low tolerance to pain killers! I took it later each day until I got to the point I’m at now where I take it at 10pm and sleep through the worst of the side effects. Fun and games but not particularly safe considering I was doing the school run (a 4 mile drive each way on B roads) totally spaced out!

So, it’s a bit up in the air really, he pointed out that only 8-10% of people who have chemo actually get any benefit from it, which seems rather flawed as they rely on it so much for ‘treatment’, as my cancer was found early and not very advanced hopefully what I’ve had will have done enough to mop up any remaining cancer cells. But really, it’s a waiting game, we just carry on and see if it comes back. I’ve read, and can understand, that the most stressful period of cancer is when the treatment is over. You’re no longer actively fighting it, there’s not the frequent appointments where people are looking at you and keeping track of things, you just wait and wonder. I’m not looking forward to that part at all…

Anyway, I’m on day 3 of the 5th cycle (supposed to do 8) and the skin is falling off my feet and hands again, my eyes are goopy, my stomach isn’t happy, I’m having to nap every afternoon and the hay fever is very annoying. I shall keep plodding onwards, there’s really nothing else I can do.

Plenty more makes to show you, I’ve been quite busy. This weekend whilst I was feeling together mentally and not too tired I cut out a load of things so that I can just sew when I’m foggy and tired. Making decisions about fabric and where to add length, size or alter things is hard when your brain isn’t working so I did it whilst it was!

I’m the Tortoise, Life is the Hare

Tired, that’s the single word that defines how I feel. It’s not a well earned tiredness either, it’s just an endless worn out, worn down, impossible to push through weariness that just won’t seem to stop. I’m currently on my fourth round of chemo, but I’ve only managed to actually complete taking all the pills in one round so far, my body just will not cope with it and throws up all kinds of wonderful side effects which reach a level where the Oncology team aren’t happy for me to carry on so I stop, try to recover, and then start again and wait to see what happens this time. I have gone from having only over the counter painkillers in my medicine cabinet to having a range of different things I take to combat the side effects, it’s wearing and annoying and my inner 3 year old is tantruming more than she should, it’s hard to keep the lid on her sometimes but I do try.

So I plod along, picking out the things that absolutely have to be done and trying to do them on time and letting the rest go. Unfortunately that brings it’s stresses as I’m having to let things go that I want to do and live with a house that is never as tidy or clean as I want it to be (and trust me, my levels of expectation and comfort aren’t majorly high in those areas). My sister is still staying with me, helping me out, and it is reassuring to have someone else around, something I’ve never felt I needed the whole time I have been a single parent pre-cancer. I resent that I need help, I don’t want to need it or want it, I want to go back to being the independent do it all myself get out of my way woman I was before all this. I aim to get back to being her, but at the moment it’s hard to imagine staying awake all day let alone kicking any asses…

So, I have been sewing and knitting when I can, I manage a few hours a couple of times a week and I’m getting through my list, but of course for everything I sew I add three more wants to the list. I also almost caught up to having sewn as much fabric as I’ve bought this year, my goal is always to try and sew a bit more than I’ve bought but I can live with breaking even in a year. As soon as I got within 5 metres of evening out I went and bought more, The Textile Centre on Ebay is my weakness, I have things in my basket there at the moment and only the fact that it’s Jim’s 13th Birthday next week is stopping me from pressing the buy button!

Speaking of Jim, two weeks before the Easter holiday he got appendicitis, it took 3 days to get a proper diagnosis and we spent 12 hours in the A&E waiting for test results etc before being admitted. He was operated on during the Jr Drs strike so it was interesting to watch two Consultants with very different approaches discuss how to deal with a young patient with Aspergers Syndrome. They did a great job and he’s fine and back at school finally after going right from 2 weeks off post-op to 2 weeks Easter holidays! Sitting in uncomfortable chairs and sleeping on a horrible chair bed thing for 5 days and nights did me no good at all really but there you go, that’s parenthood for you, it doesn’t stop for your stuff, you just have to work that around it!

Right, so, I finished a cardigan but I need to block it a bit before taking pictures of it. Still have plenty of projects on the needles, I seem to cast on 2 for every one I cast off…

Sewing wise I’ve been sticking to easy things, I made a Blueprints for Sewing Cabin Dress with some £2.40 a metre thin denim from The Textile Centre to try out the pattern before using the fabric I really want to.Cabin DressCabin DressCabin DressI added 3″ to the length of this dress and I think I’ll add another inch next time as it’s still a bit shorter than I like. There are some great details on this that I love; the pockets are great, I messed up the first one but figured out the directions when I did the second one, it looks fine from the outside but the inside is a total mess! The seams are finished with bias binding which I made from self fabric, turns out that wasn’t such a good idea….

Cabin Dress FrayingFirst wash and they have frayed on every single edge, I’m going to have to flip them up again and stitch it down with some liberal fray check being applied along the way. To be honest, although I think it’s a nice design element, I can’t see myself doing the bias binding thing on anything but the neckline in the future, I’ll just flip a small double hem and call it done.

I’m still not ready to use the chosen fabric for this as I want to lower the bust dart. It looks fine even though it’s about 4″ too high, but I want to see if I can get it to hit just right. I really like this pattern and want to keep it as part of my pattern ‘stable’ so a little bit of work on it will be worth it. I have fabric chosen for the next try and instructions on dropping a dart down, I just need the energy to put it all together. I’m not doing a FBA because the dress fits how I want it to fit me, I don’t like the way a FBA adds more fabric and width to the rest of the garment, I don’t need it there and I am trying to stop making baggy sacks, I only need the dart to point in the right place. Hopefully I can get it right and make a few summer dresses from this pattern before we actually get to summer…

I loved the denim so much (it was sold so cheaply as they had found flaws in some of it, but I managed to buy 8m in total with no flaws…) that I made another Roberts Collection dress from it. I went with a size 6 and shortened it a few inches and it’s just right, plus a nice weight for summer too.
Roberts Collection Dress

I used the last two denim buttons on it too, I love the ease of hammering these on, I can see more of them in my future!

Roberts Dress Button

Whilst in the hospital with Jim I finished off my Meringue Cowl. The yarn is Yarntopia Tresures Bamboo in Moonlight, I used 3mm needles to get a gauge I was happy with and did as many repeats as I could to use up the yarn so it’s between a shoulder covering thing and a cowl, but so soft and pretty.

Meringue CowlMeringue Cowl

A perfect soothing easy project for a tired body and brain.

I have lots more to show you but I want to get something done today before lunch and then falling back into bed for a few hours. I will endeavour not to leave it so long between posts, but I’m finallywakingup on Twitter and Instagram should you want to keep tabs on me between posts and the brevity of those places is much easier on my brain than writing long posts!