Iris nevus, Lollapalooza, and the Big Bang.

Sometimes when I go on a trip, images, words, or things seem to repeat themselves. A theme develops.

Last week my husband and I traveled to Santiago with our youngest for my yearly eye check and Lollapalooza, (our oldest joined us on the weekend with her boyfriend). Santiago was in the middle of a heat wave, and it was a big change for us coming from cloudy La Serena.

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I had my iris nevus scanned and we took the results to my doctor the next day. Everything is stable, and she eased my worries by explaining the type of changes to look out for. Melanoma usually grows quickly, showing changes in colour or size over months, (I was never sure what time frame). I was also able to ask her about options for treatment available in Chile if it did change. Luckily there are a couple of choices, however she still believes that it is unlikely to become iris melanoma. I was very relieved. I tell myself that I am prepared for the worst, but each time I visit and she tells me everything is okay, I feel a huge weight lift.
So the rest of the week was spent visiting museums and watching a theme grow, let’s call it the Big Bang Theme. My youngest and I were watching reruns of the “Big Bang Theory” before we left, and so when one of the hotel elevators broke and we had to use the stairs, we laughed and joked copying scenes from the program.
Then in every museum we visited the displays started with the same words – Big Bang Theory! Galaxies, suns, and planets spiraling around us.
The new shoes my youngest chose, she jumped on them yelling Galaxy!
The new knitting looms I bought because I was curious and wanted to try something new.
The wooden disk I picked up in Kidzapalooza which looked perfect for a small drop spindle, (actually part of a recycled skateboard for a key ring).
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And a mug from the airport, just because.
Circles and spirals. Spinning out and coming home.
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All this and a funny hat

I have been thinking a lot about cancer lately.

Probably doesn’t help that I am slowly reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee, (very good book), and I quickly read The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green, (my daughter wants me to see the movie but I wanted to read the book first).

Or that yesterday I went with my mother-in-law for her check up with her oncologist before she starts her 6th chemo tomorrow. She is doing well, happy that the chemotherapy has not been too difficult.

And, (the main reason), is because we have made appointments for my next scan and visit with my ocular oncologist. I know I was calm and not too worried about my iris nevus, but I seem to have gotten back into the mental “is it/isn’t” it loop.

The uncertainty of not knowing.

However, with all this reading I realized that even if the doctor does tell me it is ocular melanoma, (which can only be confirmed by removing it and performing a biopsy) I will still be living with uncertainty, just different questions; will it come back or has it spread? I talked to my husband about my fears, and he pointed out that many people live with uncertainty. My situation my be rare, but my feelings are not.

I found this comforting. We are social creatures, and feeling alone makes everything worse, but I am not alone. So, I will take a deep breath and focus on the other things in my life…

and there are many!

After taking her entrance exams and applying to several universities, my oldest daughter got into Universidad Católica del Norte to study Law. Some of her friends are going to the same university, which might make the early morning commute on the bus a bit easier. (And I know I am being completely selfish, but I am happy that she is staying close. So is her little sister, who still has 8 years before she goes to university).

I have been very busy at Casa Creatif. Not so much teaching, but administrating and organizing. We have different classes for kids from 10am till 1pm most days of the week.

Drawing class

 

Sewing class

My youngest goes with me every day, taking as many classes as she can, and even my Dad and my oldest are taking pottery classes. (He actually taught when I was a baby, but this is my oldest’s first time!)

Pottery class

Pottery class

I have been spinning and knitting, testing projects that use small amounts of hand spun.

Me

A little large for me, but fun, and who doesn’t need a funny woolly hat in the middle of summer!

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting room knitting

Sometimes I spin or knit with a specific project in mind. Sometimes it is just to pass the time. Recently I have been doing a lot of that while sitting in waiting rooms.

Several months ago I wrote that my mother-in-law was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. She went for radiation therapy in April, which, unfortunately didn’t work. The tumor grew, which was a complete shock; the doctors did not warn us that this could happen.

In May she had the operation to remove the tumor and because of the location, a permanent colostomy was also done. Five days later she was home, and considering the heart problems she had after surgery I believe this was too soon. (But who am I to argue with doctors, oh, and they also failed to show her how to change her colostomy bag).

The surgery she had was major. She had one incision up her stomach, the colostomy, and the incision were they removed her anus. And all of this needed post operative care. For this you either go to the nearest clinic or pay for a nurse to visit you in your house. We paid for a nurse, and my mother-in-law had weekly visits at the hospital with her surgeon to exam her progress. This was a slow and painful process, and an infection in the perineum incision meant she had to go back into hospital.

During this time we also received her biopsy result, not from the doctor but from the report. The cancer was in her lymph nodes, stage III. I understood this, but I am not sure my mother-in-law did, and our visit with her surgeon to discuss the results was rather vague, (…of course the doctor had a very bad cold and we had been waiting 6 hours to see her, so no one really wanted to talk about anything).

That was in July, and now she is feeling better. The incision still hasn’t healed, (it has to heal slowly from the inside out) and for the past two months we have been seeing the oncology doctor to start chemotherapy. This has been frustrating because the oncologist would like to begin treatment, but can’t until the incision has healed and other hospital procedures are completed, and everything inside the hospital takes time…even with URGENT written on it.

My part in this has been my mother-in-law’s advocate and nurse. I learned quickly, crash course style, how to change a colostomy bag, how to change a dressing, how to talk to doctors, how to go from one department to another inside the hospital looking for results and answers, and how to have a lot of patience. Knitting helps with that.

So far our worst “waiting” day was arriving at 10am and being seen at 2pm, then being told we had to see her surgeon who was working in emergency. So off to emergency where we waited till 9pm to be seen. That was a long day. I learned that being nice helps getting the nurses on your side.

I also joined an on-line ocular melanoma group which has really helped me understand more about my nevus. It is a hard group to belong to, sad, and sometimes I feel like there is cancer every where I go. But I also think this has made it easier for me to help my mother-in-law.

I think her cancer has been very hard for her and her family because no one has seen the effects of her caner. Her cancer never made her sick…the operation made her sick and in pain, but not the cancer. Everyone is scared of cancer, but without physical symptoms this cancer is hard to blame.

I know this is supposed to be a fibre blog, and I am sorry for going off track, but helping my mother-in-law is a large part of my life at the moment. Luckily, I have my mom visiting and she has helped support me through all of this. She has been here since June, and it is very nice having her here for this long stay.

Scarf

And just because this is a fibre blog, here is some waiting room knitting, and soon exciting news from Créatif!

Learning to fly

March. The month, not the action.

This week my girls went back to school, and for the first time in years they are both at the same school. However it will only be for a year; this is the last year of school for my oldest. Her last year, and turning 18 in a few months, has made me slow down and focus on her. She is flapping and fluffing her wings with the thought of university, and the possibility of studying away. I would love to keep her close, but I know I have to teach her how to fly.

My youngest is adjusting to her new teacher and classmates, while taking over my studio creating in the evenings and weekends. With the confidence I gained last year in the craft fairs, and with a lot of help and encouragement from my youngest, I finally converted one of the rooms in the old cheese building into a sales room.

The room is the closest to our house and for years we have used it to store our excess “stuff”. The room really needed a clean, and this was partly my reason for converting it into a store. I took “before” pictures, but it is very embarrassing how bad it had gotten! I am a hoarder!

before corner

Before

after corner

After

before window

Before

after window

After

For now it is not open as a store but it is available to show my, (and my youngest’s) work. And we are full of dreams of opening on the weekends!

little store

I have also been busy dyeing wool in my solar oven and making neck warmers with chunky hand spun and recycled silk. I am lucky that my Dad likes silk shirts and that they don’t last him forever!

neckwarmer

neckwarmer2

With March here it is also time for a visit to Santiago and my eye doctor. I will have another scan and check up, to see if my nevus has grown.  The first year with my nevus/melanoma was difficult and scary. However, when I learned it was stable, for some reason I felt better prepared; stronger and braver for the day when I do have to fight it (if I do). I learned how to talk about Cancer. I think that was the hardest part, being able to talk to people and not have them react with dread, fear, pity, when all I wanted was to talk.

But why did this happen to me? I believe things happen for a reason, and when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with bowel cancer late last year, I was the “cold one” she could talk to. I was the one who could say Cancer, and let her say Cancer without everything crumbling around her. I love her dearly, and I know she is scared, but I hope I am helping with my “practical” ways.

Her doctor is very positive, the tumour was found and identified early, (no thanks to the first doctor she saw, who sent her home with a cream saying it was just an old person’s complaint, luckily she didn’t agree and went for a second opinion). She wanted to tell her family in her own time, and that is why I didn’t post earlier.

Two weeks ago she travelled to Valparaiso to start her radiation and chemotherapy. She will be there for about six weeks. My husband and oldest are going to visit her this weekend, with her daughters visiting the weekends after. My husband phones her every afternoon, and she says she is doing okay, and I know (like so many women I know here) she is strong. But even with her strength, and wanting to protect her children, I hope she will let them take care of her for a while.

Lets just call this my 100th post

I wanted to write something great and moving for my 100th post, but the more I think about what I should write, the further away I find the post. This happens a lot with me. Constantly thinking, my mind going over every thing so that I get nothing done. However, today I will share.

This morning I looked out of my window, through the mist, and watched the new lambs as they jumped and played, and it made me think of all the beauty around me.

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Like yesterday for instance. My family and I went up the Elqui Valley to Vicuña where we had a terrible lunch, (not new for us), but a nice walk around. We visited Emporio Oveja Negra, which sells products from some of the Creatif participants as well as the owner’s beautiful wool creations. We then visited Galeria Elqui, part of Elqui Total. This is a pretty gallery set in a horse ranch, with textile, ceramic, sculptures and painted art.

I came home feeling inspired and belonging to the artistic/artesian community, – and it feels great!

I have been preparing for the next Observatorio Cultural, but in a relaxed way, enjoying the process. I have more ideas, (have to start thinking of spring) and using more of my handspun.

At the moment I am working on a diagonal weave on my large nail loom.

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I am not sure if it is slower than traditional looms, but there is no warp loss, which is good when I am using my handspun.Image

The handspun is a mix of wool from the south, alpaca, and wool from my sheep.

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I have also been sewing with my youngest daughter and knitting a scarf for my oldest.

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I bought some grey fleece fabric for school clothes, and we made this octopus with some of the leftover.

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This is really simple and great for kids! Here is the link on how to make this no-sew octopus.

There have also been some changes on the farm. Sadly, last weekend we sold the last of our cows. As long as I have lived on my Dad’s farm we have always had cows. But my Dad wants to focus on smaller animals that don’t need as much physical strength to control, (when things go wrong it helps). I am sure this has been harder for my Dad, but he is looking forward to a simpler farm.

And I am looking forward to my next 100 posts!

 

A good start to the New Year

Really, this is supposed to be a blog about fibres and soft squishy handmade objects, but we haven’t seen many of them here for a while. I have been knitting and creating things, and to prove it, here are some completed projects to start this post.

The scarf and hat I knit for my husband for Christmas.

Scarf hat

And this is a scarf I started in December of 2010, (gulp) and only just finished this week. I had not forgotten the scarf; I would pick it up, knit a little then tuck it away. For two years.

Seaweed Scarf

And a felted doll, just playing.

Doll

But, I must admit that after visiting the ocular oncologist last month about the freckle on my iris, I have spent a lot of my time learning about Ocular Melanoma, or OM.

This week I went to Santiago to have an ultrasound biomicroscopy scan done of my eye.  The doctor did this by numbing my eye then putting a small tube over it which she filled with water. Into this she put a probe to scan my eye. The results will be ready next week, (however, we will probably collect them when we see the oncologist in a few months), but she said the nevus, or freckle, looked fine. Flat, this is a good sign.

Of course, she also said that this will not show if the nevus is benign or malignant. That takes time and observation.

I am finding everything a bit confusing. What I have learned from reading on the internet, and cyber chatting with people on Ravelry, is that Ocular Melanoma is a rare form of cancer, around 2500 cases in the USA a year. OM in the iris is the least common, but with better survival rates. This may be because it is visible and it can be treated earlier. Also, because OM of the iris normally grows slowly, it is sometimes never detected as cancer, and just appears to be nevi. I think that is what the doctor meant when she said I have to wait. There may be malignant cells in the nevus but until they do something different, like grow fast or change colour, nothing needs to be done.

So even though I have been given a green light, and during the day I can accept that I don’t have cancer, in the night it is not so easy. I have been waking up scared and I am trying to turn these feelings around to make changes in my life to stop the cancer from ever coming.

Three months ago I had never heard of Ocular Melanoma, and what a “sneaky” cancer it is. Most people know what to look for with skin cancer, when to have a mole looked at, or the risks they take when smoking. Women know to get regular Pap smears and mammograms. Men know to get their prostates checked. But then there are cancers that sneak up on you; childhood cancers, or cancers that are rare and receive little news coverage.

Ocular Melanoma is rare, but like many cancers, survival rates seem to be improved when the tumours are detected early. A person may have no symptoms and because most tumours are inside the eye only a doctor can see them. Regular eye checks are important.

I know I do not have Ocular Melanoma, (for now my freckle is only a freckle) and so have no right to warn people or give out information, but this is the internet, and if I can help someone searching, and find more information, then I will. (However, remember this is the internet and does not replace talking with a doctor). Here are some links I found useful, although it is all very confusing, and what gave me the most comfort was cyber chatting with people who have OM.

A Cure In Sight – a new charity to help people pay for their treatment. This site has a good list of links for more information.

[Love X Infinity]2 – The Not-Quite-Fairytale of a Cancer Princess, good links and personal perspective.

Interview with Oliver Sacks on Vision, His Next Book, and Surviving Cancer.

Wooly Christmas knits…in the sun

Our summer has finally started, great for drying laundry, not so great for people who burn easily, like me.  With the summer comes the end of the school year.  One of my daughters finishes this Friday, the other finishes next Friday.

The kids celebrate the end of the year with field trips, parties, and maybe even a camping weekend.  The mothers also get to celebrate by cleaning and painting the classroom, and sanding and varnishing the children’s tables, so everything is ready for next year.  (Not all mothers in Chile do this, just the small rural schools).

As well as many school activities, I finally made an appointment with an optician and bought some new prescription glasses.  It is great having new glasses, but there is something in my left eye that needs a trip to Santiago to see a specialist.  I will write more in my next post after seeing the specialist, but it has meant I have been a bit distracted.

I wanted to make Christmas gifts again this year, but it is not going to happen.  The one present I am working on is for my husband. I can never keep anything from him,(he can read me like a book, and I wouldn’t have it any other way), so it is not really a problem if he sees his partial present.

knits

The wool was spun locally and is not very soft, but the natural dye is lovely, walnut leaves.  Because it is one ply, I think when the wool has been washed it will open and soften.

Darwin

While I was taking the picture Darwin came to have a look.  With those eyes he doesn’t miss a thing!

And if you are reading this in December and it is snowing on my blog, which it definitely isn’t doing here, sorry, but I wanted some snow this Christmas!