When I was told I would need chemo, one of my first thoughts, of course, was of losing my hair. Fast forward four, five months and, seriously: What. Eh. Vuh. Losing your hair in one swell foop hurts like a mofo but the other side-effects have been so much more debilitating that the most my reflection in the bathroom mirror gets now is a shrug. Followed by, “You look like a baby orangutan.” See?!
But the loss of hair did put me in a place I never thought I’d be--on the receiving end of an anonymously donated chemo cap. Here is one of the first things you see at the infusion center:
When I noticed it, my feelings were...jumbled and complicated. First, a rush of recognition: Hey, that’s a basket of chemo caps! I know what chemo caps are for!
Followed by a sense of camaraderie: Those hats were donated by knitters! I’m a knitter! Holla, knitters!
Followed by deep gratitude to the contributors because I know the time, cost and effort it takes to churn out one of those puppies.
Followed, lastly, by a feeling of stunned, nauseating disbelief as I realized the hats were there for...me. A uniquely bad moment among a lot of bad moments.
Ironically, I ended up with a hat made of fleece fabric. Linda plucked it out of the basket, handed it to me and said, “Here. This one.” And she was right. It’s like pajamas for your head.
Which is a long-winded way of saying, if you’ve ever knitted a chemo cap and contributed it to a hospital, thank you. You probably just send it out to the Universe and never know how, or if, it finds a home or helps someone but I’m here to tell you the hats do get taken and worn. Boy, do they. By my second chemo, the basket was empty except for some mass-produced scarves—pretty in their own right but apparently they run a distant second to hand-knit hats. Plus they don’t do much to protect your orangutan head against the cold and wet of the Seattle winter.
(I still think I should've grabbed the cap made of bright—and I mean bright—red elastic eyelash yarn. Would’ve been a look.)
Next entry, the chemo caps knit by friends. Love. So. Much.
An e-friend who has been hoping for years to adopt a baby, and has been dutifully slogging through all the necessary hoops, recently was able to foster-to-adopt (like lease-to-buy, only different) a 10-day-old preemie. Having trouble finding preemie clothes, she put out a call for help to her knitting peeps.
Now, anyone who has read this blog for any amount of time knows I don’t do babies. Never had ‘em; never wanted ‘em; never regretted not having ‘em; not that keen on other people’s; and now can’t pop one out, being too old, and having had my uterine pocket picked a few years ago. (Oddly, I interact very well with children, which makes no sense. Many years ago, I went on a camping trip with my ex- and her extended family which included four or five children. Somehow I ended up with all of the children in my tent, giggling and playing. Go figure.) Still, something about this particular story touched me and I soon found myself casting on for a preemie sweater. (The fact that the sweater was tiny and wouldn’t take much time might have factored into my thinking. In the end, it took two days, maybe six hours, total. Plus, it seemed like something I could do, even under the influence of chemo-brain, which is not easy. Suffice it to say, I couldn’t find the “y” key on my keyboard a few days ago. And yesterday, in order to microwave a frozen meal, I took it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge.)
Imagine knitting socks with no idea what human feet are shaped like. That’s what this project was like. The pattern had no specific information about how long to make the sweater, and I have no idea what size a newborn baby is, much less a preemie, so occasionally I pretended I was holding a tiny baby to my chest, head on my shoulder, butt in my hand, perhaps hefting and bouncing the baby around a bit. And sometimes I would put my hands up in a small circle because e-friend said her preemie’s head was smaller than an orange and I had to figure out the size of the head to figure out the size of the neck. Then I would either keep knitting or I would frog, depending on what my highly unscientific calculations had told me. But, in the end, I turned out something respectably sweater-like. I suspect the armholes are too small and the body is too wide and long but, if nothing else, she can drape it over the baby’s shoulders and make her look all 1950’s sophisticated.
The sock yarn I used, Plymouth Yarn Stiletto (wool/nylon/lurex), color 600, was a new buy and was wonderful. Soft (especially after a soak and wash in shampoo and a rinse in conditioner), not splitty, perfectly drapey on size 3 needles, and, all the little specks in the picture? Sparkles!! Imagine it a little brighter than the picture: fuschia pink, lime green, light purple, teal.
The sweater will soon be on its way to California but, first, I had to make amends to Ivy for…you know.
When I go to breast-cancer surgeries, appointments or chemo treatments, I take my teddy bear Ivy, so named because she was given to me in a hospital many years ago and I named her after, well, an I.V. Ivy, who is, granted, a little worse for the wear from being slept on too often, usually looks like this.
Before my second chemo, there was some discussion of not continuing treatment—long story with some medical reasoning behind the thinking—and letting the cancer have its way, and Big Sister flew up to be by my side and help make the decision. (Literally. Late Saturday night I was on the phone to her in San Diego; Sunday afternoon she was on my couch, by my side. Makes me weepy even just thinking about it.)
The next day we schlepped off to the infusion center and, at one point, the doctor made the mistake of leaving us alone in her office for a considerable time. I confess that I got the ball rolling. First one face mask got pressed into service...
...then another and a sort of halter-top thing happened:
Then Big Sister got in on the action, grabbed a paper towel and, being an experienced mother, fashioned this:
...aaaaand the rest is all on her.
A purple glove with, for some reason, the three middle bits braided:
Another paper towel:
Lastly, the wrapping from a gift:
Then a nurse came in and we slapped on our most innocent faces. She wasn't fooled for a minute.
* Truth is, these photos were taken long after the fact, at home, backwards, undoing the accoutrements one by one. Still, what happened, how it happened, how Ivy looked and, most importantly, who's to blame (cough)—all faithfully represented.