Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Story of Ted the Tumor

If you are regular reader of the Brownie Knits blog, you know I primarily post about knitting, crocheting, crafting, and a few bits about everyday life. For the last few years (and somewhat earlier), I have avoided sharing on the blog the struggles that I have been experiencing. It was, quite frankly, enough to live it every day and I didn't want to write about it, too. I wanted to share my passion on here and let that be the focus. But today, I write a post that has nothing to do with needlearts. However, it might be the most important blog entry I ever post. Especially if it reaches even one person and leads them to question what they have been told about their health. So, here goes...I know it is a long one, but as I said, it is important.

About 3 or 4 years ago I started experiencing sudden onset abdominal and stomach pains. They would come out of the blue and would bring me to my knees. My back would feel like it was breaking. I went to the doctor despite my severe fear of all things medical. They did a series of tests and found nothing. "Try changing your diet and reduce your life stress." So I tried and it didn't get better. It got worse. Then, things that I would eat and be fine with one day would bring severe pain the next day. Nothing made sense so we went to the doctor again. This time she said that she already had it recorded that I had IBS. (Note that she NEVER said this to my face.) She wrote a prescription for some pills to take when I had an attack. They worked about 25% of the time and the pains became more frequent.

During all of this time, my life was being slowly taken away. I couldn't commit to activities without fear of getting sick and having to leave or ruining the night for all. I would try to gently explain the situation to friends and family and most of them were fabulous about it, but there were some who I caught rolling their eyes when they thought I wasn't looking. I was humiliated and ashamed. I felt unreliable and like a bad friend and family member. When I mentioned IBS people would say, "Oh, I have that, too. It is sometimes inconvenient." "Sometimes?," I thought? I can't even stand up. How do they work outside of the home or raise children? I must be so weak compared to normal people. I must be somehow inferior. It was depressing, to say the least.

Cut to February 2013 and I couldn't leave the bedroom. I couldn't eat. I got attacks every day and night. I went back to the doctor and she met with me for 4 minutes during which she didn't look at me. When I asked her to look at me and not the computer, she said she couldn't do two things at once and she needed to work on the computer record. My mouth hit the floor. After her nurses butchered my arm, I left with another order for a CT scan. The next day at the CT center the tech saw my arm bruised from below my shoulder to above my wrist and saw how terrified and sick I was. I told her what my doctor did and she said to leave her immediately and gave me a recommendation. I changed doctors. I met with my new doctor who had the results from the center saying it was all clear. So, we tried a different drug combo. It made me sicker. I couldn't keep any food in my system and I developed restless leg syndrome from the meds. I took myself off the new meds and went back to the old ones. I ate potatoes because they were all I could tolerate. By May I had pulled myself out a bit and we went on a vacation...trying desperately not to let it rob more of my life. But, of course, it did and there were things I had to skip during the trip.

In mid-October I had family visiting and that Sunday morning I woke up and things felt drastically bad again. From then until this past Sunday, I've left the house maybe 5 times. I got sick every single day and night. The night before Thanksgiving I was horribly ill and had to cancel on my family. My dad had driven in from PA and I didn't get to even see him. I hit a new low. The pain was increasing and SO bad that I started asking God to take me if it was my time.

On December 15th I told Patrick to take me to the ER. In the interest of honestly sharing to potentially help someone reading this, I seriously thought I was going to die that day and I didn't want my dear husband to be at home alone with me and scared. I wanted him to have someone there to help him. I didn't go to the ER for me. When we arrived I knew they would do the normal round of blood work and CT. The pain meds they gave me kept wearing out faster than they expected while we waited for results. A new doctor walked in and introduced himself as the general surgeon on staff. That should have been a red flag to me, but I didn't register the surgeon part. He said that he had good news that they could get rid of my pain, but the bad news was that I had a carcinoid tumor and that it had spread to the lymph nodes of my small intestines already. He explained that although it sounds like it screams cancer, it often is not but it can be and shares the same characteristics of slowly growing. I was stunned. Patrick was stunned. He said it had to have been growing for years given the size and spreading and that mine was causing a major blockage. I said I had just had a CT in the spring and he looked very surprised. How did this get missed for so long and on ultrasounds, 3 CTs, and an MRI?!? I was shocked, scared, angry... I asked when he would operate and he said in an hour. An. Hour! They needed to take out a portion of the intestine to remove the blockage. Before he left he told me that I should live through my 40s and 50s. What?!? 20 years. Asking if I had any other questions, I told him I wished I hadn't watched so much Grey's Anatomy because it never ends well. To which he rightly replied that nobody would watch if it did.

He walked out and I cried for a few minutes before I started insisting to Patrick to call immediate family and my friend Carol. I wanted someone to be with him. I still was 100% convinced that I was going to die that day. I was sooo sick and now I was out of hope. He wanted to wait and I forced the issue realizing that he was in a bit of shock and not processing the time constraints. Those were difficult calls. Then, I held my husband's face and told him I loved him over and over and over.

They took me up to pre-op and drugged me up. Apparently, I liked this a great deal and started talking to Bruno Mars and singing his songs. I also gave some funny answers to the nurse about my height and cracked some jokes. I remember seeing the blue mask and then seeing my friend Christina's face. Patrick, Carol, Christina, and Tonya were there waiting for me and I guess I was a lot of entertainment asking why I was in a warehouse and being witty with the nurses (between bursts of tears). I will always remember Tonya feeding me ice chips. It is like a snapshot in my mind.

This started the recovery portion and the waiting for results. I did pretty well the first day and night. The second day was TERRIBLE. On the third day we got the great news that Ted the Tumor was NOT cancer. Thank the good Lord! Ted was about an inch and a half. I had fantastic nurses who cared for me so well. Patrick and/or Carol was with me at all times. I had a team of at least 7 doctors who were great. My regular doctor came down after her business day and held my hand for 30 minutes and talked about what we could have done differently. I do not fault her one bit for missing this. The doctor I fired sat that path up long ago.

I'm now at home and trying desperately to get better to not ruin Christmas but I'm not sure it will happen this year. There are real lows to recovery, but I'm already able to eat again. When I said, "Patrick, I'm eating real food." We both almost sat and cried. It has been such a battle. So, I do not have IBS or Celiac. According to the Carcinoid Organization, 90% of midgut carcinoid patients are misdiagnosed with IBS or Crohn's and it takes 5 years to get the right diagnosis. There are only 115,000 of us in the US. After reading that stat, I was so glad that Dr. Selzer was in the ER that day and knew what he was seeing. I have a long road ahead of me, but I have hope again. I will see an oncologist for monitoring because it can, and most likely will, grow another one. But, I am hoping that we see those early before they cause pain. I'm praying that research figures out how to improve the lives of carcinoid patients so that something doesn't take us out before my 60s, 70s, and 80s.

It is an emotional experience to actually know what your thoughts are when you think you are going to die. I can say, other than wanting to NOT die and to live long with Patrick and travel and have fun together, I simply wanted to make sure that he knew how much I loved him. I needed nothing more than my mark on the world to be that I loved him and he loved me.

So, thank you to all the doctors, nurses, friends, and family. I needed you and still do. I don't intend to turn the Brownie Knits blog into one about my health, but instead will focus on writing about my passion for knitting and crochet. So, Patrick set up a CaringBridge where significant updates are being shared to keep friends and family spread all around the world updated. Here is the site, should you be interested:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peace Tree and Sheep

The Peace Tree cross stitch is now living in a red rustic frame on the Christmas decorated mantle. 

Last year at my holiday party I received a packet of watercolor cards from a friend. Her mom is the artist and they featured cute sheep. I kept the cards for myself and planned to frame them. Two of the four are frame up and put out this year. So adorable! If you are interested, here is the link to the Etsy shop: Watercolor Tales.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Spectral KAL

Back in the summer/early fall two knitter friends and I decided we would knit the same sweater in October. After life got in the way for all three of us and realizing that the said sweater was going to be a huge commitment, we settled on knitting a Spectral Cowl instead. Because I had already knit one in black/gray colors, I went searching my yarn stash for something in a brownish colorway. Finding five sock weight yarns in my stash that would coordinate was much more difficult than I anticipated, but I think I found what I needed.

My thought was that this would either look pretty and like a painting or will come out super ugly....we shall see. Zauberball, Lorna's Laces, MadTosh, and some leftover Socks That Rock...

The first two colors are coming out nice. Now that all of my gift knitting and designing is done for the year, I can sit and work on this without any time pressure. feels so nice to just knit for fun. I can't wait to see the other knitter's cowls. One is using brown and creams and the other is using teal gradients. I'm sure we will all love wearing them when they are done. In the meantime, I love that we can send each other updates as we go along and get to share in our knitting bond.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wreaths on the Packages and Outside Decor

Remember those wreaths that I made to put on the tree and some packages? We finally got around to wrapping a few gifts so I thought you might like to see a picture.

One of our fall/winter fun agenda items was to put together a new outside holiday decoration plan. The old wreaths were in such terrible shape after so many years that we had to toss them. (I'm a little ashamed that I didn't see how bad they looked last year...sorry neighbors!) Armed with 50% off coupons, I set out to figure out what to get. My DH walked up and down the aisles with me, pulled things down and then put them back when I changed my mined. He is ever so patient. We settled on a red/white/silver theme.

My cream loop wreath is on the front door and we have white lights on the gutter and in both swags on the porch railings. I almost went with a red/white/teal theme, but I couldn't talk myself into something that wouldn't remain "in style" for the next 15 years. I have to get my money out of these suckers!

Love the pretty ornaments...

Big bows...and for a "cheap trick" buy the $10.00 50-feet of garland at Target and then fold it in half twice. That saved us lots of money on the garland. The fuller single wrapped garland was much more expensive.

I only purchased one of these large wreaths for the top center window, but I think it balances out nicely. All in all, it is very simple and sparse but I love it. As much as I hate snow, it sets everything off. Our cozy little home...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Boot Toppers

We've been experiencing an early drop in temperatures and regular snow and ice. In Indiana we usually don't get this type of weather until January. Being cold so soon led me to looking for a boot topper pattern. I found the Boot Cuffs Boho Style Boot Toppers by Sol Maldonado and grabbed some yarn and needles to whip up a pair. I wear two different black boots throughout most of the winter, so a deep heather gray seemed the wise choice.

Yarn: 1 skein of Berroco Vintage
Needle: US 7
Notions: Cable needle, Scissors, Tapestry needle

Mods: I added one extra set of rounds for an additional cable twist. This added about an inch around to fit my chubby legs. I also used mattress stitch to seam the toppers closed. I wore them out the very next night to go teach. I was all toasty in my toppers, fuzzy boots, and a knit sweater. Given that I have a two pairs of brown boots, I might have to knit up another set in a different color. It looks like I'll have plenty of days to wear them!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Crocheted Baking Set

This past weekend I wasn't feeling up to going out. It was cold, cold, cold and I'm continuing this Celiac battle. (Good lord gluten hides in everything!) But, this gave me a good reason to tackle my out-of-control knitting/crocheting bag. First up was a baking set for my niece for Christmas. I bought a super cute apron on Etsy that will go with it. Plus, I love a good theme for gifts. Although her mommy will see this post before the holidays, E is too young to be browsing Aunt Gina's blog so I thought I would share in case any of you are looking for a girl gift to make.

I used two different patterns to make all the pieces: Cookie Baking by Sally Byrne and Littlest Cookie Baking Set by CGWJoanitaTheron. Both are available in Ravelry and you can click on the links here to get to the correct Ravelry pages.

I used a mixture of yarns for this project (Berroco Vintage, Knit Picks Brava Worsted, and I Love This Yarn). As I have been all year, one of the goals was to use up stash yarn, so anything I had bits of that coordinated was used. All pieces were worked with a US F hook.

While I worked, Kiki napped...on my project bag and yarn...

 and this was my view.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Share Sunday: Christmas Decorating 2013

This week for us was all about putting up the Christmas decorations, getting our cards out, and sort of spiffing up the house a bit. It feels all cozy and colorful and there is nothing I like more about the holidays than sitting with the white lights on while I knit. 

The front room becomes the Christmas room...

I turned one of our holiday cards into an ornament. Of course, we added a few more ornaments this year...

The cross stitch sampler makes me smile when I walk by it and my Christmas cactus is close to blooming! (Note that this is a NEW plant as I promptly killed mine last year. After venturing to our local nursery and getting strict instructions on care for it, I think this one will survive.)

This wrapping color scheme this year is red, white, and silver.

How many knitting related ornaments can you spot in this picture?

Stockings for the nephews and niece and the dining room ready for some family get togethers.

All ready for Santa to fill with goodies!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Tatting

Earlier this fall we went over to walk around a local arts and craft fair. Overall I was sort of disappointed, to be honest. There were lots of not handcrafted items and loads of cringe-worthy fashion. But, there was one little booth where a lady was sitting and patiently tatting. I couldn't resist getting a few ornaments to add to our tree. While I've never done tatting I can't imagine that she charged nearly enough for the amount of time it took to make these!!! After seeing all of these, I added a tatting class on Craftsy to my Santa list.

This is my favorite is 3D and all sparkly.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Quick Tip Tuesday: Wreath Ornaments

Don't you enjoy being crafty just a little more during the holidays? It's like a time built for those of us who like to knit, crochet, sew, cook, and what have you. Every year I find myself thinking about how I can toss a little creativity onto our holiday decor and packages. This year, I settled on making some small wreaths that could be used as bows on packages and then hung on the tree as an ornament. Originally, I thought I would just use the wreath pattern from Churchmouse yarns. But I changed my mind one wreath in and did my own thing. So, I thought I'd provide you with an outline of what I did in case you want to make up some of your own!

Materials you will need for the white/cream part of the wreath:
Wire wreath (I got mine from Hobby Lobby for 50% off making them $1!)
Worsted weight yarn in white or cream (or bulky weight)
Size US 15 needles
Muslin or some other fabric to sort of match your yarn
Tapestry needle

Cut your muslin or fabric in striped and wrap them around the wire wreath. This layer will just give your knitting a little support on the wire. (If you don't have muslin or fabric on hand, what about an old white t-shirt or maybe even paper towel.)

Holding your yarn doubled (if using worsted) or single (if using bulky), cast on 13 stitches using the long-tail cast on. Purl back across.

Right side: Knit all stitches.
Wrong side: Purl all stitches.
Repeat these two rows until your work will wrap around the wreath circumference. 

With a long piece of yarn that matches your knitting, stitch the backside closed. (I used a mattress stitch, but you can also whip stitch). Use your cast on and bind off tails to whip stitch the ends together. 

I then looked through my patterns and pattern books to find a flower that I liked and made that up. I settled on this cute crocheted flower from Crochetmylove Designs (in her Fancy Flower Diaper Cover pattern). The yarn and hook/needle you will need to make your flower depends on the pattern you select. For this one, I happened to have a skein of a sparkly silver yarn I got free at a conference. I held it double and crocheted it on a US F hook. I then stitched it onto the wreath covering the area where I seamed the two ends together.

I am really happy with how they turned out! A couple will stay on our tree and the other three will be sent off to homes of family and friends who love a good handmade item. Of course, now I want to create a snow-inspired bigger wreath!!! Here is a photo of the one I used the Churchmouse pattern to make. It is so fluffy and fun and makes a great addition to our tree!