Hi, Mom!
Friday February 13th 2009, 5:42 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Knit,LYS

Mom called; I hadn’t posted yet today and she was concerned that I was doing okay.  (Yeah, Mom, I’m outing you, sorry.)  Message heard! Alive and posting!  Heh.

I wanted to go to Purlescence’s Knit Night last night, to the point that I deliberately kind of backed myself into it by calling them and saying I hoped to, and that if anyone happened to show up sick could they let me know so I could stay away?

When they heard my voice on the phone–actually, I had to identify myself, my voice is still raspy from that NG tube–the whole yarn store sent up a cheer.

That did it. I was going.

But by 7:30 I was also popping a hydrocodone to get me through it, and I avoid those and almost never take them till bedtime.  Oh well. I needed it.  My daughter, who I’ll call here by her nickname of Sam even though I obnoxiously still call her by her real name in person, did the driving.

We were about two blocks from home when she offered to turn around. I considered, and then said, no, let’s just go.  And go we did.

I stumbled in that yarn store door and into the arms and tears of my friends.  There were quite a few tears of mine going, too.  And then–

You remember Mary?  The one who made it so I could take back the shawl in the window and ship it to the woman whose husband had a brain tumor?

She handed me a circular lace shawl, warm enough for a lap robe as needed, absolutely exquisite.  I was blown away.  Later, home again, I laid it out across the top of the couch so it would again make my day this morning when I came out and saw it, and it did.  It’s gorgeous.  It’s Mary. It’s love made tangible.

Mary had lately had a project with a deadline, and she told me this other project–my shawl–nevertheless kept insisting it must go first. She couldn’t make herself get going on the deadline one till this other demanding one was satisfied and done; it just insisted it of her. And I was stunned.  And stunned that she must have gotten it done so fast. Stunned that I’d felt I needed to go that night, whether I was up to it or not, and here the shawl was and here she was and here I was and wow.

Now, Mary, I want to tell you the outcome of that and of seeing and hugging all of you. I went home with a sense of lightness that had been too long missing.  That was the first time in two months I had been in any building or room that was not my home, Stanford Hospital, or my medical clinic (and almost exclusively Urgent Care there).  Now I had been among friends.  I had taken a risk, I had stepped out to see if my body could handle an outing, and I had been treasured and loved and wrapped in comfort.

Last night, for the first time in two months, I was able to roll over in bed. By myself.  All the way from one side to the other.  This sounds silly, but I can’t tell you how huge it was.  I felt like I had crossed some invisible line: invalid, that side.  Starting to not be an invalid, that side.  And I was there.

The silly thing is I can’t find my camera nor can I find the one Kelli gifted me with a few days before I went into the hospital–I feel like Rip Van Winkle here.  They’re there somewhere, right in plain sight somewhere.

But Mom, that’s why I hadn’t posted yet. I have this exquisite shawl I want to show off and no pictures!


Seven unknown heroes
Thursday February 12th 2009, 2:41 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

I can never know who they might be out there. The people who took the time out of their lives to drive to the Red Cross station, perhaps the one down the street from Stanford Hospital, or who maybe gave at a blood drive at the office.  Or wherever.  But there are seven people out there who gave of themselves and their time and let someone stick a needle in them simply to help out some stranger in the world whom they could never know just because it felt like the right thing to do and, while not all are eligible, they were and this was something they could do.

And I am alive writing these words because they donated their blood.  I not only had that surgery, I’d lost half my blood volume to my bleeding colon beforehand.

One relative of mine told me she’d been interested in donating but had always figured that as an AB+, the universal recipient, hers wasn’t really of much value.

While I was in pre-op, part of the preparation for surgery was my being infused with a large bag of plasma.  I rather freaked when I saw the bag typed as AB+; I’m A+, and promptly informed the nurse of that, quite worried.  She reassured me that with plasma products anything I might react to had been removed and that that bag was perfectly fine for me to use.

I know there is controversy over some of the Red Cross rules.  I know not all can donate. But to those who can, and who do, please know I can never tell you how grateful I am except by trying to put more good out into the world the ways that I can, too, as a thank you. I will try my best.

A quick mention
Wednesday February 11th 2009, 6:23 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort"

Knitpicks.com is having a 40% off sale on books, and a certain title I might be fond of, “Wrapped in Comfort,” is $14.97 there through Feb. 13th.

My yarn is the boss of me
Wednesday February 11th 2009, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Knit

To those who cautioned over spending too much energy searching for the cashmere: you were exactly right.  I tried and gave out fast. But what leaped out at me was the exact shade of green baby alpaca that I’d known was in there somewhere that would look perfect on the Thai nurse I had two weeks ago, the very skilled and gentle woman who had a dream of writing a book about her experiences as an oncology nurse.

As I looked at that green in delight, green being her favorite color–Kristine, this is the same vivid shade you ordered from Aurora, and this was even already rolled up into a ball, ready to go–I knew the doctor’s shawl could wait but that if I didn’t get to making something for that nurse quickly, it wouldn’t happen. The chance could too easily fade into oblivion.

I barely had the oomph to walk the ball into the next room, so it’s going to take long enough to do.  But for a whole lot of reasons, I’d really like to give her a lasting reminder of goodwill and encouragement along her way.  I’d told her that if it took twenty years before she got her book written, that was okay; I was looking forward to reading what she had to say.

I don’t know if she’ll get a shawl like I aspire to do or if it’ll be a (more realistically speaking for now) a scarf. But something. Anything.

We’ll see how I do.

Out of that place (again)
Tuesday February 10th 2009, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Knit

Clicked those ruby slippers again; dropping the other shoe and going back a third time is simply not an option.  I’m finally home again.  Thank goodness!

Last night was rough and wiped me out, so I didn’t have the cheery energy today of yesterday, just a strong gratitude at being further along in the healing process and able to safely leave.  In yet another moment of hey, look how that worked out!, my surgeon happened to stop by my room when I was supposed to have gone home–but things never happen on time in a hospital.  So.  I was still there.  Long as she was there, she said forget tomorrow’s appointment; she took out the staples on the spot.  Done.  Yay!

Now my big goal is to actually find my unfindable black cashmere yarn that I got at Purlescence and knit it up into a shawl to thank her with.  It’s a color I know by now she’ll love.  I have looked for that yarn time and again for various intentions, thinking this is ridiculous, I thought I knew right where I put it…

…and now that there’s utterly no question in my mind exactly whom I bought it for, it should show right up. Right?  (I hope she hasn’t found my blog yet.  I’m sure she has no time to read it if she did.)

So that’s my next big project.

Monday February 09th 2009, 8:32 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

Mom  brought more of the same yarn and Richard used the circ needle sizer, remembering what size I needed with it.  Saved by the knitter’s family!

The surgeon came by this morning and made me a deal: she’d turn off the stomach vacuum for four hours.  The obstruction having been cleared yesterday by the surgical resident who’d been there during my surgery, I was doing so much better; so, if after that four hours the stuff coming out of my stomach was clear now, I’d get the NG tube out.  I had to promise to tell if there were any more nausea.

There has been, for the first time in months, none.  None!

Today was a long-awaited day.  And you’re right, that tube was just one more medical experience to be able to relate to someone else in the future by.

Then they had me brought lunch and dinner, real meals. I was starving.  For the first time in two months, I was just starving. Granted, I got halfway through that chicken sandwich at lunch and was suddenly and absolutely done, but the surgical team showed up just then and I can’t tell you how pleased they were to see that tray like that.  Things are working again.

I may go home tomorrow. They may decide this time to make it one more day just in case. Either way, I’ve got yarn, I’m feeling better, and life can soon become very normal again. Very soon.  To life!

Stanford again
Sunday February 08th 2009, 7:44 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

I now appreciate IVs; NG tubes are something I aspire never to do again.

The ER doctor, asked how long it would be in, gave me an answer for me to approve of rather than a reality check; he said it could all be over in thirty seconds. Pull the gas out of the stomach and be done fast, I guess.

Four hours later, when they moved me out of there into a room, I’d noticed that he never could quite make eye contact with me again all the times he went past, going from patient to patient.  I hope he noticed that himself: dude. Tell it like it is.  It does help us both when you do.

The stoma nurses only work Mon-Fri and I needed to replace my seal. I was telling my nurse tonight that I’d only had it demonstrated, that I hadn’t ever done it, and it turned out an older nurse was listening outside the door (your prayers at work again) who was not a stoma nurse but whose husband wore a bag.  She asked if she could come in and help, and help she very much did.

So I’m about to spend the second night with that tube going through my nose to my stomach to vacuum out blood and liquid, but the obstruction finally suddenly started to clear about an hour ago.   I don’t know if that means they’ll let me go home again tomorrow; I can only hope.  The surgeon earlier said it would be a few days, though.

And me with no yarn.  Mom offered to fix that for tomorrow.  Go Mom!  I can try knitting a little again.

She looks like an elephant!
Saturday February 07th 2009, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Non-Knitting

I have a pic, but I am not sure I am supposed to post it.  After I get that cleared up I will add it if I am told to.  We had a set back today, nothing all that unexpected, but she is back in the hospital.  They put a tube in her nose to drain her stomach, and it makes her look like a very cute and small elephant.  She does not however really like this tube as it is very uncomfortable.  Hopefully they will figure out the cause of this set back and get her going forward quickly.  She actually is stronger than she has been, but not being able to eat, and a few other issues have landed her back with the experts.  We spent 9 hours in urgent care, and the ER before they got her settled in her new room.  She got her first ambulance ride, and first visit to the local ER.  (I always took the children in when they got hurt, so I did not realize she had never benn there before.)  I did not think to bring the laptop on what we thought was a 2hr trip to urgent care, so I am posting the status for her.

First night home
Friday February 06th 2009, 4:43 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

I’ve been debating all day whether to blog this. I woke up at 4:45 am a mess, and all I could think of to do was to wake Richard up in tears.  The stupid bleeping bag, empty when I’d gone to bed, had burst. I didn’t even know they could DO that, and I had utterly no idea what to do. I’m new at this stuff. I didn’t even remember at that hour how to put a new seal on, and I didn’t know where the thing was leaking and I’d been given many a warning about not letting that stuff on my skin.  I wanted to wail, I have to live with THIS for the rest of my life?!

He got me into the warm shower, helped me see the seal was fine, got me a new bag–I didn’t even know if I had another one the right size in the various supplies they’d sent me home with–tucked me back into bed with a much-needed pain pill, and told me it was okay, it was his turn to do the midnight changings now.

I can’t tell you how much I love that man.

Ruby slippers time
Thursday February 05th 2009, 6:11 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

There’s no place like home…  Where I promptly fell asleep on the couch.  Where the deep red amaryllis from my friends Marguerite and Russ is blooming beautifully.  Where there was a package waiting in the mailbox from my friend Fickleknitter with a gorgeous pair of perfectly-fitting handknit socks that Mom really likes too.  (My feet are smaller than hers, though, sorry, Mom.  Heh.)  I’m keeping up the pain pills, which helps.

And my surgeon stopped by before I checked out and wondered out loud if she could have a signed copy of my book? I exclaimed, “Well, YEAH!!!!” in capital letters, to her great delight.

Give me a day or two to really get my strength back up so I can get into holding up a large project again. Knitting is better than even dark chocolate.

And I can’t thank all of you enough for supporting me through this.  It’s nice to be finally coming out on the other side.  See you at Stitches West!

(Though maybe not for a whole lot of hours there. We’ll see.)

Day by day
Wednesday February 04th 2009, 8:13 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

Today they fed me noodle soup and white bread; I thought, if it has to be so unbalanced a meal, what, no chocolate?

Tomorrow maybe, maybe they’ll send me home.  I’m both ready and totally not.  They apparently put too much insulin in my TPN last night and have had troubles all day today with my blood sugar tanking, so we shall see.  I’m now off the TPN.

So I didn’t get any knitting done today. I slept a lot this afternoon, and I’m grateful for the astute nurse who, when I woke up, didn’t like the looks of me and tested that blood sugar. It’s up to normal now though.

Overdid it and worth every stitch
Tuesday February 03rd 2009, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Knit

Yesterday’s nurse was back again this morning, looking tired, whereas yesterday she had been totally chipper and brightened my day.  I had a two-skein scarf going for whoever it was going to turn out to be for, and it was quickly clearly for her. So that’s what I did today.

No pureed foods after all, meantime. I admitted to the surgical team that the clear liquids had hurt, so they had me stick with them for now (oh joy). Broth and this super-sweet lemon fizz stuff you could use for a glucose tolerance test, and sorry, Nancy, but I despise Jello.  I actually do eat a ritual half square’s worth when they bring it, trying to see if it’s any better this time.  It is not.

So having that yarn to retreat to helped.

But my abdomen was hurting and I kept knitting anyway–I wanted it finished by shift change.

And I managed it. I’ve been resting since I gave it to her, and I’m doing better.

The important thing is, she was thrilled. She was totally blown away. “Now I own a scarf!” as she wrapped it around her. I explained that if she rinsed it and laid it out flat it would come out about a third longer and flatter, but she was perfectly happy.   Thrilled.  “You didn’t have to do that!” (A little medical tape to wrap the yarn label in a circle around the scarf–I thought that was a nice touch.)

I have two more balls of that same yarn left.  Two days to knit a scarf out of it at hospital pace. We’ll see how I do.

The 25 staples come out ten days post-surgery.  I look very Frankensteined down there.

Knitting again!
Monday February 02nd 2009, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

I had some yarn that I knew right where it was at home and I knew what size needle would go with it, and I asked Mom and Richard to bring them to see if I could at least try to knit again. Richard’s so funny; he didn’t know/remember about the circular needle sizer, so he simply scooped up my entire collection of circs in the pottery canister and brought them, figuring I’d know what’s what.

Paca de Seda baby alpaca/silk 91 yards/50 g (Purlescence has it); it’s pretty bulky for my usual.  But I wouldn’t have to wind any balls and it amazed me that I could do it, I actually have the strength now to hold that up and knit it. What a difference.  Yay!

The funny part, though, is that I have an oxygen meter glued to my left index finger, so I’ve had to type skipping that finger and knit keeping it and its wire out of the way; it makes for very slow going. But a second ball of yarn’s worth and I’ll have a simple lace scarf ready to give.

One of Dr. R’s GI colleagues came by today whom I hadn’t met before, and as he examined me he asked me what I do.  I told him I’m an author and a knitter, and he asked if I could show him my book. (Ya think?!) Then I told him to please read the very last paragraph on the very last page, that it referenced the previous huge Crohn’s flare I’d had–and that I’d gotten Dr. R’s permission to put his name in there.

The younger doctor was very pleased. It was a strong reminder as to why he went into medicine in the first place and I knew it.  Doctors need to be told every now and then how much the patients are glad that they do what they do.

My surgeon’s also a Dr. R.  I like that.

Tomorrow I get to eat pureed food; one step closer to going home.  it did hurt to drink today, but not much and so worth it. Forward march!

I have the perfect shade of green baby alpaca at home waiting to be knit up into a shawl for a particular nurse, where a scarf just won’t do. She needs a shawl from me.  She loved my book and she needs a permanent reminder from me that she can write her own book that she wants to about nursing cancer patients, even if it’ll take her a lot of time to do.  (She exclaimed over the amount of time I said it took me to knit a shawl, whereas I didn’t think it was much at all.)  She is the very kindest nurse you could ever ask for and I told her I very much wanted to read what she has to say.

A permanent wrap of encouragement, especially from someone who got her first book so far actually published, to say it can be done, I have faith in her–yeah.  Size 9s, here I come.  Soon.

To explain a moment, before my surgery I was in the oncology ward simply because that’s where there had been a bed available; I had been on a waiting list to get in at all at the time, Stanford being closed to new admissions. They were swamped.

Anyway.  You can see why that nurse needs me to knit that.  It will happen.

The OR
Sunday February 01st 2009, 3:03 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

Friday in the OR, after the five or six people in the room finished their preparations, the anesthesiologist told me, if you want to say that prayer, now’s the time.  And so, with prior approval of his, the surgeon’s, and the OR nurse, I said a prayer right before they put me out: with my arms taped out to the sides, not my usual posture for such, I thanked God out loud for the expertise gathered on my behalf.  For their caring.  And I asked a blessing on their work and on all their loved ones.

And with that they began.

The surgeon has come by every day both before and after to check on me. She’s a peach.  She hopes to start me on liquids and maybe even food in the next day or two; right now it’s tube-only.

And maybe I already mentioned this (there’s a fair amount of brain fog going on around here) but the funny thing is, I who don’t even own a TV and haven’t watched it in 30 years–I’ve been watching the Food Network for days.  Just in awe.  And in happy anticipation of what I have to look forward to.  At last.