Monday, January 12, 2009

In Stitches

Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn't hurt the untroubled spirit, either. ~Elizabeth Zimmerman

Years ago, Al was diagnosed and successfully treated for testicular cancer. He has been cancer-free for almost 12 years, but I remember every minute of sitting in those cold waiting rooms while he went through more scans and while doctors reviewed the results before talking to us. “The Price Is Right” was showing in every room, and to this day I can’t listen to the theme music for that show.

I always had a book with me, but I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read even a page. I tried crossword puzzles, but same problem. So, I mostly just sat there, tapping my foot. Near the end of his treatment, he had to have a long surgery to remove the scar tissue, and I knew that I would have to find something to do with my hands. I could hand-stitch quilt pieces together, but that would take a lot of prep work to cut out the pieces first. I decided to fall back on cross-stitch, an old favorite. During his over-6-hour surgery, I finished an old project and gave it to a friend for Christmas. Cross-stitch was the perfect thing for me at that time because it kept my hands busy and following a simple pattern was about all the concentration I could handle. Besides, the repetition of making those Xs was comforting some how. I haven’t done much cross-stitch since.

Flash forward some 6 years or so. After trying quilting again, honing my cooking/baking skills (gaining 40 pounds in the process), playing with paper and stamps making scrapbooks, and writing bits and pieces of a novel that wasn’t going any where, I took a good friend’s advice and tried knitting. My mother had tried to teach me when I was a teenager, but I didn’t like it, probably because I wasn’t good at it immediately and my pattern was to quit and move on to something else. I believe it was cross-stitch, actually. Anyway, I got the book Stitch and Bitch, some needles, and yarn and got started. Something my mother taught me must have been hiding in my subconscious because it came very easy to me. Not only that, I liked it! I felt I had found the craft for me, the one I could concentrate on and get really good at while still loving what I was doing.

As a bonus, learning to knit came at a time when I really needed something to keep me from cracking up. Yes, I say that flippantly, but for a couple of years there, I don’t know how I kept it all together. Actually I do know how, I knitted. I obsessively focused on learning how to knit, playing with yarn and learning how to follow a pattern. I won’t go so far as to say knitting saved my life, but it came damn close.

When I thought things were getting ready to turn around for me, I had an MRI done, expecting a migraine but finding lesions, the first step in diagnosing MS. Thus, I started spending a lot of time in waiting rooms again. The diagnosis process is a long one for MS, mostly because it is difficult to diagnose. One of these days, I’ll write more about why that is, but the point is that I now had something to do in the waiting rooms and at home while I waited for test results. As long as I followed simple patterns, I could easily sit and knit for as long as it took. Unfortunately, I couldn’t knit while in the MRI machine nor while getting a lumbar puncture.

It’s a testament to how much I love knitting that I haven’t turned away from it after my diagnosis and after things started to turn around for me. Whereas I can’t watch “The Price is Right” nor do I have any desire to cross-stitch, I happily continue to knit. I haven’t ignored the fact that I have a disease that could affect my dexterity, but luckily, my case is pretty mild and it hasn’t interfered too much. Actually, knitting is a pretty good gauge of how I’m doing. Sometimes, even on a bad day I can knit as long as it is a simple pattern not requiring a lot of concentration or the need to follow a chart. Then there are those days when I knit even a simple row over and over again and can’t get it right. We all have bad days, but I know that when I can’t complete a simple knit 2 purl 2 rib, something else might be going on and I should pay attention. But even on a bad day, I can listen to a knitting podcast (yes, there is such a thing) or look at a magazine to plan my next project. Sometimes, it’s just a bad day.

And now, knitting will help Join the Movement by raising money for MS research. At both of The Knitting Guild of America’s (TKGA) 2009 Knit & Crochet Shows in Portland, OR and Buffalo, NY, a silent auction will be held, featuring socks by various designers. Socks are a favorite project and an obsession with many knitters, so this is a wonderful idea. Proceeds will go to The National MS Society (NMSS). In their statement, the NMSS said, “The mission of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is to end the devastating effects of MS. Support from organizations like CGOA (Crochet Guild of America), TKGA and the Knit & Crochet Shows helps us to pursue new treatments so that no one will have to forgo the pleasure of being able to participate in activities that are so rewarding.”

Maybe knitting really is a life saver.

Another little life saver who wants to take a nap with Al.

My latest project--a market bag


Michelle said...

Wow! I am in awe of your patience to learn such a cool skill. Love the look of the market bag too.

And this knit for MS thing seems neat. Socks can have real personality (I always imagine the socks Dobby the house elf knits for Harry Potter with snitches and broomsticks) so it should be interesting to see the results of everyone's work. :) Do you knit socks?

Karen said...

What a cool thing. I took a knitting class my local adult school, but I did have the time or commitment to really take it anywhere. Maybe some day when things settle down and I have more time.

Your bag is wonderful.

Kathy said...

I just finished a couple of novels wherein the main characters met at a yarn store for knitting classes. The author even included knitting patterns for all kinds of things. Knitting, I think, is one of those really therapeutic actions. I have a throw I've been knitting for a couple of years. I put it down and then go back to it when I need to.
I'm very glad your illness is manageable.

steve said...

"Lumbar puncture" sounds like about 31 flavors of Not Good. Yow.

Dianne said...

the market bag is lovely!! my Nana tried to teach me to knit many times - apparently I have all thumbs and a short fuse ;)

and of course any photo of Cosette is a huge bonus

keep on knittin' girl!

Anonymous said...

I learned to crochet as a child, and tried to learn to knit a few years ago-my mom doesn't knit-and attempted to knit several times over the last few years and just can't get it right. I'll probably try again sometime. I also cross-stitched a lot in the past but haven't for a long time.

I like that you can tell something's not right by the quality of your knitting. That's something that you might have overlooked were it not for the knitting. That fund-raiser is a good idea!

any photo of Cosette is a post in itself! :-)