The Day The Music Died

I was saddened to learn that David Crosby passed away Thursday. He, along with cohorts Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, as the band Crosby, Stills, and Nash, made some of my favoritest music ever on one of my favoritest albums ever. Their first two albums have been a major part of the sound track of my life for over half a century (!). They constructed their harmony like the Incas constructed stonework — they fitted it together so tightly you couldn’t get even a knife blade between the voices. In 1968, Crosby and Stills were working on what would become “You Don’t Have to Cry.” They were asked to play it for Graham Nash. He asked them to play it again. When they played it for him a third time, he chimed in with another harmony line, and magic happened. CSN’s second live gig was at Woodstock. (My other most favoritest CSN song is this one.)

(The ïyêdëshîäm of Lîdâ have asked me to say that they also mourn David Crosby’s passing, but will forever cherish the music he gave them for their dance.)

I’m not at all sure why humans make music or what it is about our brains that gives us the urge to do so, but it is the one thing that all human cultures have in common — vocal music. I have a strong belief, though, that if you took away that urge, that need, we wouldn’t be human anymore.

In the knitting news, I’ve taken the second option on my pattern for Braided Cable Hat with Rolled Brim, and instead of alternating the braided cables with a panel of stockinette, I ‘m alternating them with a twisted cable. This is “Meadow” — one of the more subdued colorways of the Red Heart Unforgettable yarn, which doesn’t compete all that much with the stitch work. I may call it David’s Hat, because context.

A Brief But Enlightening Sojourn

At about 10 o’clock Sunday morning, my phone rang. It was the nurse on mom’s unit at Carillon House. Mom was having nausea, vomiting and stomach pain and they’d called an ambulance. She was en route to University Medical Center (UMC) emergency room. So, I suited up and, since I am BTDT* status when it comes to hospital emergency rooms, I found and packed a small carry bag with a bottle of water, knitting and an extra purse pack of tissues, and scrambled the fighters.

As the grackle flies, UMC is only a hoot and a holler to the east of us. However, in order to go east, I had to first go south because streets. Evidently, they had called me right when the EMS folks got to her room because I beat her there by about 20 minutes (that’s counting the 10-minute hike from where I had to park, which was, thankfully, just east of the county line). I had about a 15 minute wait in the ER waiting room before they would let me back.

I have all the papers — the POA, the POA for health care, her insurance cards, and the sheet with her medical history and medication list. and I have no trouble hearing and understanding English Second Language speakers and women (who have higher pitched voices and “mumble”). (Her most profound hearing loss is in the higher frequencies, oddly enough.)

IMPORTANT ASIDE: I cannot stress too much how important it is to make a list of your medications and dosages, a list of all the operations you’ve had and (approximately) when you had them, and a list of all your medical conditions, keep it up to date and carry it ***PRINTED OUT ON A SHEET OF PAPER*** in your purse or wallet, ***NOT ON YOUR PHONE***!! If it’s in your phone, the doctors have no way to get it out where they can put it on your chart for all your treating medical professionals to have access to. If you have it on a sheet of paper, they can copy it and put it in your chart. Doing this could save your life. If you come to the emergency room, your treating medical people have no idea what medications you’re taking or what your medical conditions might be. They’re essentially flying blind. If you are unresponsive or badly hurt, obtaining a coherent medical history could be difficult to impossible. But if you have this sheet and your family member/spouse/friend know you carry it in your purse or wallet, they could save your life by letting this sheet speak for you when you can’t.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, which is already in progress. It was sneaking up on 11 o’clock before I made it back to where they had her. I got out all the cards and papers, and one of the admissions people, who was really on the ball, noticed that on my POA for health care, mom is DNR/DNI – she wants no cardiopulmonary resuscitation of any kind and she does not want to be intubated. Carillon House had her status as “full code,” meaning using any and all heroic measures to keep her alive at all costs, which is not what she wants. We also discussed the fact that my durable POA for health care does not cover “out of hospital” codes. It also does not cover if she codes while the EMS personnel are in the process of transferring her from her room at Carillon to the hospital. (I’ve also got to get with the Carillon House people and get her code status sorted out with them, too.) This helpful person got us the proper form, which I now have in my purse with the other papers, which has that covered. I will also put up a copy of it up on the wall in her room so EMS people can note it and honor it. So, that was one good thing that came out of this episode.

Naturally, we waited and waited for lab results, x-ray results, doctors — It’s why they’re called “patients.” Mom is a class M patient. (Think about it; it’ll come to you.) Her kidney function tests were out of whack (what a surprise NOT!), and her bilirubin (a liver enzyme) was 4 times what it should have been. They were most unhappy with her liver enzymes (and weren’t thrilled with her kidney functions either). She was very dehydrated, so they gave her two bags of fluids. They took her for an ultrasound of the liver, pancreas and gallbladder. Her white blood cell count indicated she had some kind of mild infection, so they hit her with the good stuff — Flagyl and Rocephin.

The upshot of it all was that the ultrasound showed mom had a gallbladder full of gallstones. There was concern that one was lodged in the duct that goes from the gallbladder to the intestine, which would explain her symptoms. This could be serious in a patient of any age, but especially at her age. (My 78-year-old paternal grandmother died because she had a lodged stone they didn’t know about and her gallbladder ruptured. The 98-year-old lady who used to live up the hall from me also required emergency gallbladder surgery and didn’t survive it.) There is an endoscopic procedure where they can use an endoscope to go down the throat, through the stomach, into the intestine and grab the stone from that end, but it obviously requires sedation, which is risky in a patient her age and with her lung function.

Ultimately, about 1 p.m., they decided to admit her for observation. She didn’t get up to a room until nearly 6 o’clock. The ER is on the west end of the hospital. The room she went to was on the east end of the hospital.

One of the ER nurses pushed her bed up there because transportation was too busy. She was going at a pretty fast clip, considering she was pushing this hospital bed with my mom in it. I tried to keep up with her but she left me in the dust! Fortunately, I knew where she was going.

However, her liver enzymes gradually trended back to normal and her kidney functions normalized once they got her rehydrated. She may actually have passed a gallstone, which would explain her symptoms, especially her belly pain. It would also explain her periodic bouts of nausea and vomiting if she’s got a gallbladder full of gravel. (The liver makes digestive enzymes — bile — which is stored in the gallbladder. When you eat foods that contain fats, proteins and carbohydrates, bile is squeezed out of the gallbladder into the small intestines as part of the digestive process. If the liver can’t put bile in the gallbladder, it backs up into your blood and causes jaundice — you look “yellow.”)

The GI doctor decided that since her liver enzymes were coming back down to normal, no intervention was warranted, and she went back home to Carillon House Tuesday afternoon. The same song, third verse, is that she does not drink enough water. Period. Certainly not enough to keep her kidneys flushed out. As a result, her bowels are going to recover all the water they possibly can from her food to keep the kidneys functioning, which is why she’s frequently constipated. Drink water, folks. It’s your kidneys’ job to keep garbage flushed out of your blood. You can’t flush a toilet if there’s no water in the toilet tank.

In the knitting news, I realized that all the projects I’m working on right now are shawls, and big. Also in knitting group last week, one of the ladies mentioned knitting chemo hats. Chemo hats are small and almost as portable as socks. I’ve got a big bag of suitable (acrylic -because it’s hypoallergenic and machine washable) yarn to make chemo hats left over from my last attack.

I’m contemplating creating a Scots bonnet and there were some techniques I wanted to try out. The first one was using Judy’s Magic Cast-on instead of a provision cast on for a rolled hat brim. Worked like a charm, I’m happy to say. The secret is to use two circular needles, a 16-inch and a 24-inch, for the cast on. When you use this method, you don’t have to go back and pick up your provisional stitches. They’re already on the needle. Just make sure your 16-inch needle is the needle you start knitting with as that’s what you’ll use for the hat. Then, when you roll the brim (working stitches in back, provisional stitches in front), you can take the provisional stitch off knitwise, put it on the 16-inch needle and knit two together through the back loop (k2tog tbl) to secure the brim without having to go back and sew it. Then you just keep knitting on your hat.

If you orient the stitches right when you take them off the “keeper needle,” the join is “invisible.” I like to rib the inside part of the rolled brim to make it more elastic.

I started this hat Sunday night, and I’m on the decreases at the top now. I’ve got two more balls of yarn earmarked to try some other versions. I didn’t get a lot of sleep Sunday and Monday nights for one reason and another. I slept all Tuesday night and most of Wednesday though. I was just exhausted. I spent Wednesday evening watching YouTube with my feet up, taking it easy. I think YouTube does not consider you to be a a legitimate homesteading channel unless the guy has a beard and/or the lady has long hair . . . .

*BTDT — Been There, Done That

Closer To The Brink

I spent hours last night going round and round with the new computer. I connected some Bluetooth earbuds to it and tried to listen to SomaFM’s Drone Zone, a perennial favorite, and the sound volume fluxuated up and down, up and down. I jumped through hoop after hoop to no avail. In the process, I accidentally turned Bluetooth off on the new computer, which precipitated a bit of a crisis since both its keyboard and mouse were Bluetooth and I suddenly had no way to control the computer. So I had to resurrect the old intellimouse (which dongles) and get out the new Logitech keyboard which has a “war”* and plugs into a USB port so I could get into the computer and turn the Bluetooth back on. Lo, and behold, unpairing and uninstalling that rinky-dink mouse and keyboard fixed the sound issue. Expletives were not deleted.

On the crest of that wave of anger and frustration, I (finally!) plugged in the 7.5 TB Western Digital external drive that’s been sitting on the counter since October and started copying files to it. The music file on the 1 TB Seagate took over an hour to copy. It was a big file. I’ve copied graphics and photos, and am in the process of copying games which may or may not play on the new machine. The new hard drive is not big enough for all my stuff, so I’ll transfer it to one that is big enough and plug it in as an external drive. So there.

I’m glad I got the new keyboard out. The backspace on the old one is wonky. Crumbs are no doubt involved. I will replace it with the new one when I finally accomplish the changeover to the new computer that’s been nearly a year in the making. Anyway, I had to clear off mom’s rolly table and bring it round as there wasn’t room on the desk for two big keyboards. (One came with her room and she didn’t need this one anymore.) I was using her table as a staging area — a place to park my purse and put the things like mail I needed to take to her — she still gets some magazines that I collect and take to her.

The lady that helps mom bathe suggested that she get a certain kind of cream for a fundamental skin irritation and itchiness she’s been unable to get rid of. I’ve ordered her some. I’ll be interested to see what she says when I bring it to her. (It’ll also be interesting to see if I can resist the straight line . . .) Anyway, I hope it works for her. A skin irritation that itches is no fun, no matter where it is.

In the knitting news, I’ve swatched but I ain’t felted yet. I measure the swatch, shrink it, measure it again, then calculate the percentage of shrinkage. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. I hate doing percentages. If the swatch shrinks, say, 10%, then I make the hat 10% larger than it needs to be. It is essential that I know the percentage of shrinkage before I start as I’m going to try knitting one from the bottom up so I can use this band turning trick I know, but that means I have to know how many stitches to cast on. I’ll do the other one the “right” way, which is top down. The band turning trick involves a provisional cast on. It’s the same trick I use here. Mostly, though, I’ve been working on these two versions of Savannah Squares:

*”war” – Texan, wire.

Because Prednisone

I periodically like to point out odd quirks in the evolution of our native tongue, Ameriglish. Back when people studied English grammar instead of “Language Arts” in school, they were taught that there is this grammar thing called “a state of being.” It is an either/or concept. You are either in that state of being or not; when a thing changes from being to not being (or vice versa), you “become.” “Extinction” is a case in point. A new example of this I have run across is “pregnancy.”

Gratuitous picture of a faun on a unicorn from The Day of the Unicorn ©2022 by Manuel Arenas

I mention this because sometime between when I attended school during the previous century (The 1960’s. Yeah. That was last century.) and the current time, “extinction” mysteriously transmogrified from a state of being to a destination. Nowadays things go extinct. T. rex has left the building. And lately, I’ve noticed that pregnancy has undergone a similar and mystifying change to I’m not sure what. Nowadays women don’t become pregnant, they fall pregnant — Is that like if a woman doesn’t fall off the bed while having sex, she won’t become pregnant!? (Or, what is much worse, is pregnancy now like falling from a higher state to a lower state, like a fall from grace?!?!)

And prepositions. Prepositions are being quietly murdered and replaced by imposters! Things used to happen “by” accident. But “by” was disappeared and quietly replaced by “on” and now we are supposed to just accept that now things happen “on” accident. No. Just, no.

These few examples are just the tip of the iceberg, folks (another of those pesky non-gendered collective nouns!) A great iceberg of a conspiracy between the American public education system and those Millennials to corrupt our mother tongue.

I mean, Millennials are always being problematic. They even chose a problematic name. First off, it’s a booger to spell. (Aren’t two “L’s” and two “N’s” a bit too, Snowflake?) (And even when you spell it right, it looks wrong.)

Gratuitous picture of a faun on a unicorn from The Day of the Unicorn ©2022 by Manuel Arenas

To be fair, though, one notable contribution to the language the Twitter-pated have made is the “because (noun)” construction. It’s a kind of linguistic shorthand for condensing a long convoluted explanation or long list of reasons or justifications into a very brief synopsis (a Tweet is limited to 140 characters), to save space, time, and/or character count, and not occasionally to level up the irony or sarcasm. Whence the title of this post. This is my brain on a whacking great dose (100 mg) of prednisone. Going 90 mph(145 kph) in second gear. For, literally, days.

(Left turn into a brick wall at race-track speeds segue) So today my 5 tabs of prednisone was the chaser to a bag of rrrrRuffles Cheese and Sour Cream potato chips (rrrrRuffles have rrrrridges!). Cushioning my tum with food first seemed like a good idea at the time — right up until it got to the part about available food choices. (Knocking back a handful of prednisone on an empty stomach is like that first part of the roller coaster ride where the chain is ratcheting you up that really high, really steep hill, and you know you’re not getting off until the ride’s over.)

(No segue at all) In previous posts, I have mentioned the eclectic assortment of gratuitous sound effects my apartment is subjected to at inopportune moments, like the morning jog of the garbage cans to the dumpsters and back. Since I live near the Marsha Sharp raceway, on weekends, we typically have scattered motorcycle attempts at land speed records, particularly in the early morning hours, with a chance of low-flying helicopters. (I live within four miles of three tertiary care hospitals and a level I trauma center, three of which have helipads.) But this Saturday, at about 7:00 a.m., we had a rude awakening. The cover spontaneously fell off the (not so) mini-split in the front room beside my desk.

It made a noise like a giant hubcap being tossed like a Frisbee onto concrete. I was sound asleep at the time, but I am proud to say I calmly peeled myself off the ceiling, rolled over and went back to sleep.

Unflappableness. I haz it.

Somewhat later, at a more seemly hour (11:00 o’clock), I got on the phone to the front desk and called in a maintenance strike, and today while I was having fun with needles and plastic tubing at JACC, Care Bud the Maintenance Man put humpty-bumpty back together again. I am curious to know what the lady in the apartment below thought had caused that noise. It was so loud that I’m a little surprised that Security didn’t shortly thereafter come knocking on my door to politely inquire if my mobility issues were experiencing technical difficulties. (Or if I’d lost the stone out of my diamond ring or something . . .)

Was texting with my BFF Sunday, and humorously remarked about my problems with knitting with a long circular needle while watching YouTube videos on my tablet while in bed, and having video interrupted because the needle cable hit the tablet and started some random video playing. She texted back that the transmission on her car had self-destructed in the middle of the drive home from work, she had to have it towed, and now she is damned if she does have to spend big buck$ to get the tran$mi$$ion replaced and damned if she doesn’t have a ride to work. She only just recently found out (a) she’d had a heart attack at some point, probably last January when she blacked out and did a standing face plant in a parking lot, and (b) that she has foot drop because of nerve damage from the ankle she broke years ago, and has tripped and fallen badly several times since then because of it (She is a self-deprecator because issues, so she just assumed she was clumsy and was tripping over her own feet.) (Speaking of heroes preemptively beating the crap out of themselves . . .) Giving emotional support over the phone is about as easy as giving technical support over the phone and, unfortunately, just about as effective. Remote hugs are rubbish. She lives northwest of Houston, and there’s like 600 miles of TX between us. My arms aren’t that long. Sigh.

Oh. And because I am bouncing off the walls at the moment, this non sequitur is for the orthographically challenged: If the spell check/auto-correct function highlights as misspelled a word that is a simple plural or has a suffix or prefix, the root word may not actually be misspelled. Insert a space between the word and the simple plural (simple plurals add -s or -es to form the plural) or between the suffix (-ly, -ment, -ness, -able, etc.) or prefix (un-, dis-, re-, in-, non-, etc.) and the root word. If the word is still highlighted as misspelled, then it probably is. Spell checker/auto-correct glossaries take up RAM. Therefore many such glossaries only include the most commonly used prefixed and/or suffixed forms of the most commonly used words, and the variant prefix/suffix/plural forms (the exceptions to the basic spelling rules), and do not include the simple plurals. (duh!) E.g., In the paragraphs above, spell check recognized “millennial” as spelled correctly, but not “millennials” and recognized “flappable” and “unflappable” as spelled correctly, but not “unflappableness.”

Stopping now. Must correct misspelled name in the previous post.

Feetnotes: 
* Taking a "bolus dose" of medication is like chugging multiple shots of alcohol all at once.  Only with alcohol, the articulated lorry hits you head-on at 90 mph(145 kph); with prednisone, the eighteen-wheeler only grazes you close enough to snag your suspenders(braces**) on the wing mirror.  At 90 mph(145 kph). 
**this is a British English inclusive and metric-inclusive blog. Bite me. 

What We Have Here Is A Failure to Communicate . . .

This is a first: The first time I’ve posted from the little reconditioned HP laptop I got. Frustrating. I’m used to a large gamer keyboard and this jicky little keyboard is a PITA. If I situate it in my lap, where I can reach the keyboard, I can barely read the screen. I already knew from using my BFF’s laptop that I hate touch pads, so I got an “el cheapo” wireless mouse and a mousepad, but there’s hardly any room for it on the little lap desk. Yeah. I know. First world problems.

Anyway, the failure to communicate mentioned above reared its ugly head yesterday after I’d gotten my labs drawn and my port accessed and was in my oncologist’s office. Turns out this is my fourth session of Rituxan (he counted) and not my fifth (I miscounted; chemo brain strikes again), which means I still have two chemo sessions to go, which means I’ll be having my last chemo session in September right around the time of mom’s 98th birthday (the 23rd). The degree of bummer-tude of this development will depend upon how far into September that last session falls, as my white blood cell count needs at least a week to recover from the preceding chemo session before I’ll even risk removing my mask, never mind be among a group of people of unknown COVID status. My sessions are three weeks apart. My penultimate session is 29 August and three weeks from that is 19 September. I can ask my oncologist if I can have an extra week between the last two sessions so I will be four weeks out from my last chemo instead of four days. He’s done it before. I bet I can sweet talk him into doing it again.

The best development out of this very mixed bag is that I have a chin again. The lymphomas in my neck had gotten so large you could barely tell where the bottom of my jaw was. But they have all shrunk drastically and those lymph nodes are back to normal size, which means I’m showing a good response to the chemo regimen. It will take a CT scan to check the response of the rest of the lymphomas in my chest and abdomen which he will probably order when I’ve completed all six of my treatments in September.

My chemo infusion went OK and I got the Udenyca shot this afternoon to boost white blood cell production and get my white count back up to normal. I gained seven pounds between Sunday night and Monday night, all of it from the chemo regimen. I get the decadron and anti-nausea medication in 0.25 liter of IV fluid, followed by the Rituxan diluted in a full liter of IV fluid, followed by 0.25 liter of IV fluid to flush the line, followed by the cyclophosphamide diluted in a full liter of fluid, followed by 0.25 liter of line flushing, which is 2.75 liters of fluid over the course of about four hours, plus the 32-ounce stainless steel bottle full of Crystal Light I sucked down between yesterday and today. A liter bottle of soda weighs 2.2 pounds, so imagine having three of them strapped to you. I lost 2 pounds between last night and tonight, but my poor little kidneys are having a hard time keeping up. I don’t have to go anywhere tomorrow so tomorrow morning, I’m going to take a Lasix (“water pill”) and see if I can’t get my legs emptied out. (I should have spent yesterday evening and the rest of this afternoon and evening in bed with my feet elevated instead of sitting at my desk puttering on the computer.

I saw my cardiologist this morning and he said my oncologist was concerned about me, so the cardiologist wants to do a stress test — not the treadmill thing, but what they call a chemical stress test. His office is used to dealing with the VA, and they will set it all up and let me know when. I’ll have to get a ride because I can’t drive myself home after it, but Carillon provides rides to and from doctor’s appointments at no charge. I just have to give them 24 hours notice.

Saturday, I spent the afternoon downloading the requisite drivers (software) for my little Epson printer from Epson’s website onto the new computer so it could talk to my printer and I could scan financial and bank statements to the computer that has working email and email them to Mom to keep her up to speed. (Gmail won’t run right on my old computer since Google stopped supporting Windows 7 — Google is the “G” in “Gmail — which is why I got the new computer in the first place. The setting up of the software was a fairly straightforward process, but getting the computer and printer to talk to each other was tricky and expletives (and more than a few pejoratives) were not deleted!.

Among the groceries I got Monday was one of Market Street’s fruit bowls — the one I got had chunks of cantaloupe and honey dew melons, chunks of pineapple, a handful of raspberries, a couple blackberries, a handful of blueberries and a couple grapes. It’s a big enough bowl that you can get two servings out of it. I supplemented that with some cherry tomatoes cut in half and some whole black olives. I had the second serving tonight likewise supplemented, and as a side to a brisket sandwich on a big ciabatta roll which I’d already inhaled half of before I could get the camera app on my iPhone limbered up. Copious nums.

I had been using a gamer chair with a foot rest, a birthday present in 2020, as my computer chair. The desk I was using at the time was on casters, so it didn’t matter that the gamer chair wasn’t. I could just sit down and pull the desk up as close as it needed to be.

After I moved to Carillon, I had to get a longer desk so I would have a place to put my printer. I was putting it on my filing cabinet, but when I moved to the smaller apartment, there was no way I could get the filing cabinet close enough to a plug to continue doing that. This new longer desk doesn’t have castors and it was very difficult to get in or out of the gamer chair if it was too close to the desk. Unfortunately, “too close” was not close enough. So I got a desk chair with casters. It is also higher than the gamer chair, which puts my shoulders and forearms at a more comfortable angle when I’m keyboarding and mousing.

I’d gotten in the habit of just swiveling the chair around to the side to get in or out of it. I’m having to learn to roll the new one back back from the desk before trying to get out of it. I’m going to list the old chair on Craig’s List and see if I can’t sell it to offset the cost of the new chair (which wasn’t all that much, really).

In the knitting news, my dive into my button stash proved bootless, so I swung by a local fabric store on the way home from JACC and picked up what I needed. I’ve finished the little baby top. I just need to weave in ends and sew on buttons and it’s done. I’m at the heel increases on the second matching bootie and the crown decreases on the little sun hat. I’d like to get this stuff in the mail by the end of the week and get it out of my hair. I’ve got until Thanksgiving to finish the little red dress(es). I’m thinking I’ll have enough yarn for a little matching red headband with two crocheted holly leaves in the green yarn, and some red shanked buttons for berries to decorate the headband. or else I could just do the holly leaves and button berries as a kind of removable corsage that could be safety pinned to the front of the dress for Christmas, and removed later.

However, in the several matters mentioned above, the plan is that bridges will be crossed when come to.

The first season of Neil Gaiman’s dramatization of his “Sandman” graphic novels dropped on 5 August on Netflix (early reviews are that it sticks very close to the novels, has a brilliant cast and is visually fabulous) and I still haven’t watched season 2 of The Witcher (Henry Cavill!). I may be crossing The Bridge over the River BingeWatch after a certain package gets posted. Not to mention the Bridge of TV Knitting . . .

Dive! Dive!

It’s 5:00 a.m. Wednesday and I haven’t slept since 9 o’clock yesterday morning. Yesterday, I saw my oncologist at 11:00 a.m. Since my hepatitis panel was negative and all my other labs were good, we’re going for the Rituxan. I went to the infusion area and got an IV rig put in the port on my chest and got a dose of decadron, a steroid, and gulped down 100 mg of prednisone (the “P” in COP) at one go, which is a whopping dose, BTW, and I have been strung out since it kicked in at about 2 o’clock, like my brain is doing 100 mph and my body is barreling along at 2 mph. (One of my little spelling quirks, like leaving the “W” out of “sword,” is consistently trying to spell “barreling” with one “R” and two “L’s,” which is why God, in Her infinite wisdom and mercy, gave us spellcheckers.) I also received cytophosphamide, the “C” in COP, followed by Oncovin (the “O” in COP). As she was setting up the IV, the nurse remarked that she had to be extra careful administering it because, and I quote: Oncovin . . . is a vesicant. Even when carefully and correctly administered by trained personnel, this drug may cause a feeling of burning and pain. There is a risk that this medication may leak out of the vein at the injection site, resulting in tissue damage that can be severe. (Vesicants are also called “blister agents.” They cause blisters on contact with the skin. The mustard gas used in WWI was a vesicant.) Yep. That is why they surgically implanted a catheter and port into my upper chest which feeds into the largest vein (superior vena cava) in the upper body, so that stuff hits the catheter first, before it can be diluted with blood.

One other thing prednisone does is boost the appetite. I had two roast beef sandwiches, a serving of rice with cheese and broccoli and about a cup of fried okra, a small bowl of the nut mix (almonds, cashews and pecans with coconut shavings, honey and yogurt covered raisins mixed in.) when I got home from JACC at 4:30. I’ve also had two 8 oz glasses of Tazo chai that I brewed a pitcher of Monday and put in the refrigerator after it had cooled and after I had dumped 8 oz of vanilla almond milk in.

I’m glad I pigged out yesterday afternoon. I’m afraid that the major epithelial sluff I had during chemo in 2018 (all my skin peeled, including the lining of my eye sockets, the inside of my ears, and my entire digestive system from the inside of my mouth to the opening at the other end) was caused, not by the bendamustine (that was probably what caused the two different kinds of rashes I also got) but by the dose of Rituxan I got at the same time. Here in a while, I have to go take my shower because I have to be back at JACC at 9:00 o’clock to get Rituxan (the infusion will take about 3 hours) and my shot of Udenyca. Needless to say, I’m not looking forward to it.

At 8 o’clock yesterday evening, my phone pinged and it was a severe sand storm warning predicting high winds and near zero visibility — a haboob, as it were. At 10 o’clock, it was raining cats, dogs, mice and bunglebees, with lightening and window-rattling thunder. Of course, in my youth, I didn’t have to walk five miles to and from school in the snow uphill both ways. We don’t have hills here. I had to walk home in haboobs, into a 30 mph head wind. Both ways. But in the late 1960’s, the farmers learned to “sand fight,” using techinques to combat wind erosion, and the dust content of our sand storms lessened significantly. But we haven’t had a lot of rain this spring, and the dirt content has picked up.

Yesterday, while I was at JACC getting my infusions, the front desk at Carillon called to ask me if I would trade covered parking spaces with the lady in space E-5. There are 8 covered parking spaces under that cover, and I’m in space E-8, which is the furthest parking space from the door. This lady had just gotten a handicapped (wheelchair) van and needed the space next to her to be empty so the van ramp could go down. I was very OK with that. (It puts me 3 spaces closer to the door!) When I came back from JACC, I saw she had backed into the parking space, so evidently, her van ramp comes out on the driver’s side. (Bet her nice new silver van has a backup camera too. The Greyola doesn’t.) Every parking space has to deal with a pair of the poles that hold up the cover. I’ve gone from having to miss the cover pole on the driver’s side to missing it on the passenger side. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Well, gotta go get my shower and get dressed. Wish me luck, girlfriend.

Temporary Reprieve?

I’m supposed to call my oncologist’s nurse and report symptoms. This morning I called in to report that I had the cracking of the skin of the fingertips last week, which has progressed to peeling of the palms of my hands. As in shedding my skin like a lizard in big flakes and sheets. I’m peeling everywhere else, as well, but in tiny flakes.

So while I was out getting my hair trimmed and getting a manicure (I have a really hard time clipping my right nails with my left hand), and filling my car up with gas, and picking up some WD40 for my squeaky bathroom doors, my oncologist’s nurse called and he wants to postpone my next cycle of chemotherapy until after I’ve seen this dermatologist he’s referred me to and is trying to get me in with him ASAP.

I know why he wants me to see a dermatologist. There are several skin side effects of bendamustine that are rather nasty, like Stevens-Johnson syndrome. But my research has revealed that some of the listed “less common” side effects of the drug are “hives, itching or rash, and redness of the skin.” and “incidence not known” side effects of “blistering, flaking or peeling of the skin.” Considering what the more common side effects are, I’m getting off light. Also, the redness, itching, and peeling are the same side effects I had when I had my first course of chemo with bendamustine in 2018.

My late friend who passed from breast cancer as well as my friend KC, who has also undergone chemo for breast cancer also had the cracking of the skin of the fingertips from chemo. I was able to get over it within a couple of days by debriding the thickened skin of my fingertips with my Amopé tool, slathering on the Sween cream, and then putting a pair of disposable latex gloves on for a couple of hours until it fully soaked in.

I got mom’s stuff to the tax guy Tuesday. Where I live is off 17th street, and his new offices are on 122nd street, which is way the heck on the other side of town in deepest, darkest Yuppieville. When I called him on the phone to tell him I was bringing her stuff for him, I asked him if I could sign her tax return as POA, and he said, “Yes.” When I go back, I’ll be able to pay what she owes and sign, and he’ll file it electronically, and hunky-dory-ness will ensue.

They’ve started the knitting group at the public library up again, and the same lady is running it as before. It’s at 1 pm on Tuesday afternoons now instead of at night. KC and I went Tuesday afternoon. I’d like to be able to start going back.

It was on sale. Half price, and so pretty. So, I treated myself. After what I’ve been through with the chemo side effects this month, I thought I deserved a little treat. The website I got it from is WEBS and they have a sale section, as well as a very wide selection of yarns. They had a half-price sale on their Cascade Yarns’ Merino Dream “Hand Painted,” Super fine:1, 100% merino, 3.5 oz/100g, 437 yds/400 m. This colorway is 112: “Dusk.” Pounce!

I also follow the Needles At The Ready podcast that Kevin and Ray do, and Kevin has been dyeing yarn. He has some really nice colors. I was able to snap up the last three skeins of this colorway called “Chestnut Mare” off their Etsy site. I love the color. It’s on an 80% superwash Merino/20% nylon sock base, 400 yds, 100 g. You really have to pay attention to when he restocks. He dyes in small quantities, and when he restocks, they bounce once and are gone.

This evening, I took the WD40 to the hinges on my bathroom doors — instead of one regular door that would take up a lot of room to swing open, it has two small doors that open like French doors. They are now completely de-squeaked and I are so happy.

I finally assorted and deranged all my tchotchkes on the shelves. I have a collection of Celtic and Norse goddess statues that I had in my office as well as a Quan Yin on a dragon, plus a cloisonne collection of mine and mother’s pieces, some tea cups, whatnots and etc. And the top shelf is reserved for my kitty babies. That leaves me the two boxes from the move (contents of the china cabinet) and hanging my suncatchers and I’ll be pretty much all moved in.

The plan is to go for the boxes tomorrow, but somebody is supposed to call me and tell me when I go see the dermatologist, so I’ll have to play it by ear. I need to put in a work order to get the maintenance guy to put this plastic storage bin up on the top shelf of my closet to get it up off the floor so I can put that under bed bin of yarn in its place. Saturday, I’ve got to do probably two loads of laundry, but the plan is to spend this Sunday like I spent last Sunday: Snuggled in bed reading and eating cracker sandwiches. And knitting.

Tradeoffs

Tradeoffs. Choices. I’ve been through chemotherapy once before. So this is not, as we say in these parts, my first rodeo. This is a chronic disease I’m battling. I might get remission, but the odds are it will be more like a temporary reprieve. But I go through chemo with the hope that it will keep me alive long enough for medical science to come up with a cure — or at least a more humane treatment.

This is a common side effect of the drug I’m taking. The skin of the fingers becomes tough and thick, and splits. You can imagine how snaggy skin like this is in dealing with yarn. I have one of those Amopé callus reducers, which helps. I’ve got creams that help. You put this stuff on, and then you put on plastic gloves because it takes hours for the cream to be absorbed.

I’ve been guzzling this stuff like water. I paid for my energy of Saturday by sleeping most of Sunday and Monday — twelve and fourteen hours at a stretch. Not to put too fine a point on my weekend, tonight at supper, I lost a crown off one of my upper molars. So, bright and early tomorrow morning, I’ve got to call the office that used to be my late dentist’s (who tragically succumbed to COVID) and see if I can get the dentist who bought his practice to put my crown back on. It was Valentine’s day, and I wasn’t even eating candy when it happened!

My left hand is not as badly cracked as my right. I’m a continental knitter. If it gets too bad, I can always put on some plastic gloves. I’m continuing to work on the hexagonal baby blanket. I haven’t decided whether I’ll restrict it to these three colors, or whether I’ll add in more. One of those I have to be there.

Getting On The Stick

It has been brought to my attention that I have not blogged in a while and that I had better get on the stick. Ç’est la.

Part of the reason for the radio silence has been my mom. She’s got a major hitch in her “get-along.” She already has pronounced age-related kyphosis, which indicates some collapse of the vertebral arch, and now she seems to have developed some leftward scoliosis in her lower back just above her hip — or at least, that’s what I get from what the PA at her doctor’s office was saying. I haven’t seen the x-ray. She also has some arthritis of the left hip, which is not surprising in a 96-year-old woman who has been active until about two weeks ago when all this hit.

It’s similar to an episode she had in 2016, with the same symptoms, but at that time, a methylprednisolone dosepack sorted it out and relieved her pain. This time, her pain was so severe, I took her to one of these emergency care places where they did the (AP and lateral) x-rays of her lower back and said she had the scoliosis, and that was what was causing her pain. They gave her acetaminophen/codeine (Tylenol No. 3) and a steroid shot, neither of which fazed her pain. She went back to her doc, who sent her for hip x-rays, and gave her hydrocodone, which helps with the pain, but which sends her to LaLa land. She also had another methylprednisolone dosepack over the weekend, but this time to no avail. She’s been using the walker I used after my knee surgery that I got a folding tray for, which she likes, but it’s not suitable for use outside the house because it’s only got wheels on the front. I’ve ordered her one with four wheels and a seat that has a bag underneath it where she can put her purse. It folds up so it will fit in the back seat of the car. It’s supposed to arrive tomorrow. Her doctor is also referring her to an orthopedist who specializes in backs and hips. I think her pain is either from from osteoarthritis of her hip, or she’s having sciatica, or a combination of both.

Needless to say, this is a very concerning turn of events. The longer Mom can stay up and active, the better off she is. Nothing wears you down like chronic pain and the depression it brings with it. We have been so lucky that her health has been good and that she has been able to be active as long as she has been. Unfortunately, the prolonged COVID quarantine cut her activity level way down and has not done her any good. I suspect that this prolonged period of inactivity (sitting in a chair that is basically one giant pillow) is a significant contributing factor. Although she did get outside and walk up and down the block (weather permitting) and/or walked about in the house, she was unable to attend any of the social functions that are such a large and very important part of her life, and the social isolation has also been a significant contributing factor. (She’s such a social butterfly!) Bless her heart — she outlived all the friends she’s had for years and years, made a new, younger set of friends, and now has already started outliving them, too!

To change topics sans segue, in July of 2018, my hair (what there was left of it after chemotherapy) was about 2 inches long all over my head.

My BFF (who now lives NW of Houston) wanted to know what my hair looks like now, almost three years later, which is why I took this. There’s still some blonde left but I’m afraid that over the years, I’ve become Hiyo, Sliver, away! I’ve still got a good little bit of natural curl, but my hair is so fine that the weight of it is enough to pull most of the curl out.

This being fan season (although it’s 80 F/26.6 C in the hall by the thermostat, it’s 82 F/27.7 C according to the thermometer on the wall by my desk), the fan I have blowing on my computer desk tends to pick out the new “replacement” hairs up around my face that haven’t grown long enough to be caught by my barrette and blow-tickles them against my forehead in a very irritating way. This provoked a dive into stash which produced some Paton Grace (1.75 oz/50 g, 3:Light) mercerized cotton yarn. I modified the 9-bladed pinwheel shawl pattern to make a top-down beanie on US 3 (3.25 mm) needles.

I’ll write the hat pattern up and put it in my knitting patterns blog. I’m about half an inch from starting the hatband. The nine “blades” are formed with a yarn over at the edge which increases the diameter by 9 stitches every other row. Once the blade gets to 16 stitches wide, I “froze” the increases by adding a knit-two-together (k2tog) after the yarn over. That gives a diameter of 24 inches which the 1 x 1 rib cinches in nicely. (I have a 22-inch head.)

I dived deeper into stash and found some odd balls of Classic Elite Yarns “Gigi” (85% cotton, 10% silk, 5% stretch polyester, 142 yds/50 g) which I’m using the same pattern, but on US1 (2.25 mm) needles. I’ve got three balls in three different colors: A lavender purple, a medium grey and a silver/white which I’ve started it with.

Since it’s a top-down beanie, you have to start it on double pointed needles (DPNs), but once it gets to where it’s nearly too big for the DPNs, you can switch it over to 16-inch circulars. In other knitting news,

Progress on the “Waves on a Wine Dark Sea” shawl — the inside curve edge and the outside edge.

I’m liking how the “stripes” are turning out — sorry the picture is so dark.

Because I am of the female ilk, I’m allowed to change my mind without notice. About a week and a half ago, I decided the Huyri shawl (at left), while interesting, was not sparking joy so I frogged that sucker and wrote another triangular shawl pattern that had a bit more pizazz to it.

The new shawl pattern, while keeping the garter stitch “wings” and open-work edging of the Huyri shawl, has a lattice lace insert down the middle which sparks much joy.

This is the new shawl pattern I’m calling “Latticia” because of the lattice lace panel in the center. It’s a bit more complicated and consequently more interesting. The increases are knit front and back stitches (kfb) just at the edge of the garter stitch “wings.” I was watching a video of a lady blocking a shawl with a lace edging on it and instead of pinning out the edges of the shawl with humpty gazillion T-pins, she had these metal rods which she looped through the edge of the lace. Yep. Got some. They’ll come in handy for this shawl — which requires more attention than I’d realized.

Forgot I was doing garter stitch and purled part of a row on one “wing”and didn’t catch it until about 8 rows later! — Oops! But I only frogged the stitches I messed up back to where I messed them up, got a DPN and reworked them. All fixed!

I also tried one of these little gizmos. They have a spindle on a little turn-table affair which spins on ball bearings and is supposed to allow your cake to unwind smoothly, but the yarn kept slipping up off the side of the cake and hanging up around the spindle, and I kept having to lean over and give the spindle a turn to “un-hang” it. I found it happened too frequently and it became too annoying, so I sent it back.

I’ve tried center-pulling from cakes, but ran into the same problem as I have with those tools-of-the-devil pull skeins — skein implosion resulting in yarn barf. I’ve decided putting a cake in a bowl and pulling from outside-in is as good as it gets with cakes, and that has become the preferred method. The bowl allows the cake to spin if it needs to and keeps it from rolling away.

I got a bigger bowl just to see if bigger is better. It is for the bigger cakes. Let’s face it. I like my pretty bowls, and I have enough variety of sizes that I have something for every project.

I’ve been listening to Soma FM’s “Illinois Street Lounge” channel while I blog. They just played “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan, as sung by Mel Tormé which has given me a cramp in my frontal lobe, and I’m just about cha-cha-cha‘d (and blogged) out. A judicious application of Venice Classical Radio ought to do the trick. So, as the Liadens say, until soon!

Turkey and Other Cold Cuts

(Did I mention I hate the new WordPress block(head) editor? If it’s supposed to make using WordPress easier, it’s a spectacular failure. It’s harder to do everything than it used to be.)

It has been a rough week. Tuesday morning I was watching YouTube and knitting, and about 11 o’clock, my internet went down. The thing is, when my internet goes down, so does my VOIP land line, and my cable TV. After multiple calls to Suddenlink on my cellphone, I was told there was an outage in my area, and that it should be back up by morning. Come morning, no internet. We tried this and we rebooted that and we poked things with paperclips, and no joy. A technician was scheduled. He would be out Thursday morning. In the meantime, my only connection with the outside world was my cell phone, I had been without internet for going on 24 hours. I could not stream music, watch TV or connect to any of the usual suspects on the internet. If I had not already dowloaded a book to my Kindle, I couldn’t get to it to read it.

The Suddenlink technician was scheduled to come between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., which meant I had to get up at 7:30 to give me time to shower and otherwise accoutre myself like a respectable human bean. He called at 10:45 to say he was on his way. (From Midland, as it happens, which is 120 miles south of us.)(He’s trying to find an apartment in town. I don’t blame him. Heck of a commute.) We went through the spiel. He connected his little gizmo, and the line was deader than the proverbial door nail. There had, in truth, been an outage in my area, but it was fixed now so something else was going on. He went out to the alley to check the “war” and, lo, and behold, the “war” had been pulled completely loose from the pole. Some tall truck had evidently driven down the alley and snagged it. He not only reconnected it but replaced the “tap” which had been gnawed by squirrels, and was probably to blame for the intermittent loss of connection that has been driving me crazy for months. He also moved the tap higher up the pole which took up some of the slack in the line to the house.

Just like you don’t realize how much you depend on electricity, you don’t realize how much you depend on internet until you don’t have it. I’d think, well, I could do this — but no I couldn’t. No internet access. I’m telling you. I was about to the point of hunting out that CD player I’ve stuck up in the closet somewhere and playing one of the CD’s I have stockpiled. Unfortunately, I cannot afford a cell phone plan with unlimited data, or I could have streamed music over my phone. (I wonder if I ought to look into getting one of those solar phone charger gizmos?)