Sunday, February 28, 2010

Skink with a death wish

G'day all!

Just a real quick one.

Nutmeg, also known as Her Imperial Overlord, is the scourge of small wriggly things everywhere. Huntman spiders are one of her favourite toys, but even better are skinks. (Tassie link but our skinks look quite similar and umm the last line? *blush* I do my best to stop Nutmeg hunting the poor little beasts.)

So this morning, I get out of bed. As usual my first duty is to Feed the Cats - after all, one of them has been examining me quite close up for some time, wondering if she'll have to eat me. (Nutmeg gets to sleep on the bed at night.)

Luckily this morning, I somehow managed to beat the cats to the food bowl. Luckily? Cos out from under it shoots a skink. Here's me on hands and knees trying to get it into my hands, my nice warm hands, come here little skink before the cats notice. Please little skink! Please, you want to live and I am your best option!

Cheshire twigs something is up and starts scouting for small wriggly things, Nutmeg still hasn't, thank heavens! I manage to tip some kibble into the bowl to distract them a little with one hand clamped over the skink.

The skink decides a nice warm hand is a good thing - it is quite cold, as you would be after spending a night under a cat bowl on a vinyl tiled floor.... So I took it out the front and let it go in a rather wild spot with lots of undergrowth and hopefully bugglies for it to eat and shelter from the Dread Scourge of Lizards.

anon!

Knitting knitting knitting

G'day all!

I am frantically knitting Nathan's discovery socks. Frantic is the word. I have 20 hours to finish two toe-up socks, one of which is not at the heel, one is on the leg but I need to reknit the heel.

Thank you to those scouring Stitches for things for me. You are very sweet :-)

Sluggy weekend - chemo is knocking me around a bit but that is to be expected. As long as it knocks the cancer around more, I am happy! Or at least content enough. Or willing to put up with having very little spare energy and being a bit burpy.

I have pics of Blood Orange but am yet to edit them. Will probably have to wait for another day whilst I finish this pair of socks, well hopefully. It is teensy! Such a little thing, but the lady who knitted it looks like a little thing as well, which may explain why she can get it around her neck more than 1.25 times. Not that I knitted Blood Orange for me. It is not my colours.

We've been moving stuff into the attic. Actually, Nathan has been moving stuff, I've just been going through some bits and bobs to see what is worth keeping. I found my tax stuff from the 80s and 90s. I don't need to keep it but I might make a list of how much I earned each year. It was not a lot! I can remember thinking $15,000 was a good income. Well heck, it was compared to $797 or $200....

To make up for lack of knitting pics, I give you
2402_nutsmile
a pic of a smiling cat instead! Nutmeg very much enjoys being patted, even enough to sit on Nathan's lap for a while.

anon!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Still here, waving!

G'day all!

I'm still here, I survived my second round of chemo! Well so far. Feeling rather sluggish and tired, doesn't help that it is warm. I'm not sure that I should drive up to the PiL's and go to Urban Burger for tea. If I was driven up there, fine, I'm fit for that but I feel sluggy.

Had a lovely day with MM - we chatted and chatted and blathered away happily. Dexamethasone (a steroid and one of my anti-nausea drugs) makes me fairly high and I blather away. I just can't put a sock in it. Now I am home and Nathan is off someplace else, I am blathering away online. Blah blah blah.

I haven't yet got good shots of Blood Orange - it is going to be a beast to photograph cos of the intense colours in it. Digital cameras are quite bad at dealing with intense colours (particularly reds, purples, some blues and turquoises) because their detector arrays are not capable of detecting those colours - the colours fall outside the camera's gamut.

I have a pair of socks for Nathan and some spinning to finish off my Ravelympics tasks. I don't think I'll make either of them but one never knows. If I am truly feeling sluggy, I can get a lot of knitting done (as long as I am not too lethargic!). Plus a bit of spinning breaks up the knitting.

And I got some more material to play with today and a couple of days ago. I am very pleased with it. It is rather girly. It is also only the second and third lot of Moda I've bought. Much of their stuff is too dull for me (I'm a brights girl) but Eden and Clementine appeal to me (as does Spring Fever, also by Me and My Sister). So I bought them from shops in the US. I know I should buy stuff locally but if they don't stock it, I won't, and if it costs double or more what it does if I buy direct from the US (due to all the import duties placed on it, etc), well....

anon!

PS I am waving to everyone at Stitches West - I'm missing you guys and the opportunity to buy yarn at 400-odd stalls! Buy plenty to make up for the lack of me!

Grr!

G'day all!

I have nearly finished my Blood Orange again. This will be the third go at the last 8 rows. Argh, kill me now - it is plain stocking stitch but I've tried to be clever and it hasn't worked....

But assuming I don't run out of yarn, it will be cast off before I go to bed tonight. I have to get a good night's sleep cos tomorrow is my chemo date with MM.

Whoops, forgot to post.

Blood Orange is done! I have about 3m of yarn left. OK, I need to block it yet cos umm it is WEENY! Like it doesn't even make it around my neck once! But it is a cute sorta capelet thing. And the yarn is gorgeous (of course it is, I spun it myself and one of my favourite dyers provided the top).

Pics later when it is light and I have blocked it and have some time to get shots. Of the scarflette. I'll be getting plenty of other shots tomorrow. Yikes!

anon!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

(Rav)Olympics Aeolian gold

G'day all!

Finished my Aeolian yesterday morning and blocked it:

2302_aeolianblock

(discovered my poor old sheet was unable to keep up with Nathan's hogging of said sheet and it has parted company with itself... very sad! Old, soft and comfy it was but ah well. Lots of rags instead!)

Then today we went up to BAAG
2402_baag

Where I got a few modelled shots.

fo_aeolian1

fo_aeolian

fo_aeolianme

Hooray! Aeolian is done! Row 43 of the edging was not so bad cos I did not insist on doing it all in one go. Instead I picked it up and put it down several times during the day. The cast off took a while cos I started doing it with two strands of yarn (I had plenty left over!), then with the dark end of the ball of yarn (looked wrong) then with the lighter end that blended (looked much better).

Taking the shawl with me was very handy because I could drape it over my hat/neck to keep the sun off (I had sunscreen on but the nape of my neck has not seen sunshine in years). My hair is getting pretty darned thin now - it always was fine but plenty of it, now fine and not much of it. Still, many bald people would love to have this much hair.

I was feeling very ripped off about losing my head hair and not losing hair from places where it is less wanted. I am now pleased to say that some of that hair is going as well! Not all of it but some. I plucked at some today and it came right out without any sort of fight. Hooray! Plus the oncologist was very pleased with my progress so far and how well I am doing. I admit, I am doing pretty darned well so far - I'm not as energetic as normal, I'm noticing mucous membrane weirdness but overall I am pretty darned good. Long may it last! Someone keep their fingers crossed for me, touch wood, all those sorts of things. Admittedly this is my "good" week out of the three and I've noticed I am feeling much more like doing things than I was last week.

The upshot of going to BAAG?

2402_car2gooduse

8-) That is a LOT of plants. The big ones are all tropical fruit trees which we have to find good places to put around the yard. Most will deal with a light frost (which is what we can get any time from May to September but not very often) so they have a chance of surviving here in Melbourne. The smaller plants range from a gloxinia through to herbs through to an eremophila. I *love* BAAG. They are one of my two favourite nurseries - the other being Kuranga (which specialises in native plants). The thing I really like about BAAG is their huge range of fruit trees and "useful" plants. But they also have heaps of natives and indigenous plants and whathaveyou. Plus they have chooks. It is a really nice nursery, well worth driving 45 minutes to reach (oddly enough about the same time it takes to get to Kuranga).

Plus this afternoon, DH had a big pile o' **** delivered. It is currently stinking out the back yard. He is going to have some problems with it simply cos I will not be available to help move it this weekend.

anon!

Monday, February 22, 2010

(Rav)Olympics 22 Feb 2010

G'day all!

I have Aeolian beaten into submission.

I hope I do not speak too soon 8-)

But 30 minutes or so ago I finished the Monster Row from Hell.

2202_aeolian

Yes, row 43 of the edging involves beading roughly every third stitch, including a lot of decrease stitches. For every k2tog, you have to slip the first stitch, bead the second, slip the first stitch back again (carefully to make sure it sits correctly on the needle) then k2tog. There's a few k2tog. And just as many SSKs but they are easier to bead cos the stitch to be beaded is right there.

Now I have three rows to go, with the bind off. And um the blocking. That will be a challenge!

Hooray for me!

Today the cats had to go to the vet for their annual service. That was amusing - poor things got shoved into their carriers (after I knocked a redback off the side of one of the carriers and then got paranoid that I'd somehow been bitten), put on the wheely thing (like removalists or delivery people use to carry stuff) and wheeled to the end of the road. Nutmeg howled half the way there but at least it was not as bad as when we put them in the car and the pair of them caterwaul all the way. (I was pleased to see that Nutmeg tries to get away from cars, particularly noisy ones. I think she's had a run in with some street racer at some point.) After enduring various indignities at the vet (palpation, vaccination, worming), they were actually glad to get back into the carriers! The carriers smell right I guess. We wheeled them home where they then didn't want to come out of the carriers. LOL And they didn't ignore us or get cranky for taking them to the vet - they seemed rather pleased to be with us!

Also today we paid out another thousand dollars for our cargo from the US. Before the end of the month, we have to pay out another thousand for the house insurance and various bills that have shown up. $1250 for the car's fixings (worth it, methinks cos whilst he is ancient, he is still a good little car and very honest, you know exactly what he is up to at any time not like these plush boats that glide around the roads these days). Thank heavens for some savings!

Anyway, it means that our Stuff will be arriving soon. It seems to have gotten here quite quickly - the getting it through customs has taken most of this month. We are not displeased though.

anon!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

(Rav)Olympic out of date update

G'day all!

I'm still plugging away at Aeolian and Blood Orange. OMG, they are starting to get tough, simply due to the number of stitches.

2002_citron
Citron/Blood Orange is basically stocking stitch (stockinette). Every few rows, it doubles in stitch count then a few rows later halves the number of stitches on the needles. Lots of good plain knitting for when my brain is fried!

Aeolian. Oh lordie, this one is getting to me now! It is taking an hour to do a row and back. Two rows and I've had enough.

2002_aeolian

I only have 3 major pattern rows to go, but when I took this pic yesterday, I wasn't far into the edging.

2002_aeolianclose

I thought the nupps (said noops, I hope nupp is a transliteration of the Estonian, otherwise I'll go sick at Americans who say doo for due (dew) - no wonder we can't say noop cos we see nup, as in nup, wasn't me!) would drive me insane but they are much more fun than beads! You can see one of my ginormous nupps in the top left of the pic above. I've tried three different sizes (5 loops, 7 loops and 9 loops). I've settled on seven stitch nupps. They are still enormous but the five loop ones are almost invisible. The nine stitch ones are enormous bobbles.

Soon I have to do the row where every second or third stitch is beaded, including various decreases. That row is described as "monstrous" and I expect it to take a good two hours or more to complete.

As a result, I am going to do something else for a while!

Am feeling a little distressed - my hair is starting to fall out. It makes this whole thing more Real. You might think that it was already Real, what with being able to feel the lumps and all, but nope, losing my hair is Real. We'll see how much falls out. I'm saving what I can in a baggie cos some unknown reason. Maybe I'll blend it with some coarser wool and spin it. I've got some clippers to use when the hair loss gets awful (thanks DN!). I'm told my scalp will most likely be horribly sensitive. I've got the (polyester) satin pillowcases at the ready. I bought some pink cotton jersey yesterday to make some little caps with, ones that I hope will be handy to sleep in and wear with my wool caps when the weather gets colder. If they work out, then I'll make some rainbow coloured ones - saw some good stripey material in Scroaties yesterday.

Every morning and every evening I have the joy of scenes like this
2002_cheshiresez
(Are you EVER going to feed me?)

cheshire_itch
and this
(I so cute you have to feed me, even when I scratch myself)

cheshire_more
and an awful lot of this - my bowl is EMPTY! WHERE's the FOOD?

Cheshire gets very insistent about being fed. Nutmeg is somewhat more subtle. She is also camera shy - she hates the red light it flashes to do the metering. But once in a while I get a nice shot of her.

nutmeg_thecatsat

anon!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Giftie!

G'day all!

I got a lovely parcel in the mail yesterday. In it was some Blue Moon Fiber Arts Bambu in Diva (can't link to it, both the yarn and the colourway appear to be discontinued but I may be blind....) and a lovely beret in some Green Mountain Spinnery Cotton Comfort (weathered green - another colourway not listed on the website)

beret_alison

beret_alisonback
(Most accurate colour shot)

Isn't the beret lovely?

beret_alisonfront
(Front shot doesn't show you much, does it?)

It is much too warm for today - its 32C/90F but it will come in handy for my poor presumably-by-then-hairless noggin when the weather starts cooling down :-)

Thank you, Alison! I really appreciate your thoughtfulness :-)

(I need to get pics of my Olympics projects done, eh? I have made some significant progress since the last pics but well I got distracted by stair making and more importantly, spinning some more laceweight yarn for a new project to replace the Aeolian, which was meant to be gifted but umm I am greedy and want it for myself!)

anon!

MIA - no reports!

G'day all!

My (Rav)Olympic reports have disappeared! AKA I forgot to take pictures, two days in a row. Ooops. It's been a choice of cook and eat tea or take pictures. Given I've got an appetite and a half currently, I'm happy to cook and eat.

Well the knitting is continuing apace. I am past the transition chart of Aeolian and into what the 11th or 13th row of the edging. The fun part is will I have enough yarn? Also, I made the classic mistake of putting a lifeline through the stitchmarkers, and I've made these stitchmarkers well enough that I had to break the life line to release them. I just stuck some beading elastic through the hole of the knitpicks interchangeables and knitted across, forgetting to take the stitchmarkers out for that row. 8-D

But I am in good company - Mrspao also has done it and I am sure that pretty much everyone has done it at some point....

I am onto the third section of my Blood Orange (citron) shawlette/scarfy thing.

My hair hasn't fallen out yet - I keep tugging what remains of it to see but nope, it's staying in for the nonce. And my leg hair is growing like the clappers. I had to buy an electric razor cos it is just horrid. It is still warm enough to wear shorts and whilst DH doesn't mind, I do! (Especially if I go out.) I've got very pale skin and well I'm not blonde all over.... My scalp is hurting - it is all knotted up cos it is used to having the hair pull it down and now the hair isn't pulling it and it isn't something you really think about normally. But ow! I might take some paracetamol, see if it settles some.

Helmet is back from the car doctor. He is roadworthy and ready to run. He still has the annoying stutter though. Right in front of a bus, just after I changed lanes. Maybe it is crud in the fuel line. (and yes, I did presume he is Helmet due to the resemblance to a Stormtrooper helmet...)

So tomorrow I need to get pics of the projects in progress. You'll be amazed at the size of the nupps on my Aeolian. I did small ones for the first set, then let rip with 9 stitch nupps for the second set. I am really glad that they are not paired next to each other cos they are really quite quite large and to my sick little mind, rather suggestive. I think the next lots will be 7 stitch nupps, not teensy and not enormous.

Enough rambling, on with another row of Aeolian before bed.

anon!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Now with less hair

G'day all!

I am having real difficulty working out a good title for this post.

Today I cut my hair off. As I set the scissors (the new Good scissors, with the spring action not the usual lever affair) to my hair, I felt a little nervous. I've never had hair shorter than jaw length, well apart from when I was a baldie baby.

But I cut it, cos I'd prefer to have the hair and be able to use it rather than have it clog the shower drain (which it may well do anyway). Then I got DH to tidy it up a bit.

From the front, it looks like I've got my hair pulled back, well similar to that.

1702_frontcut

The cut is not going to win any awards by any stretch of the imagination. I'm surprised by how dark my hair is - the underside away from the sun is quite a dark blonde. Still blonde though - the light catches it as blonde. More a caramel colour not bright straw like I am used to.

1702_backcut

It feels very odd not to have long hair. My scalp feels weird. When I tip my head back, no hair sorta bunches on my shoulders and feeds back to the follicles. No long wet hair dripping everywhere after a shower. No conditioner needed either. Heck soon I'll probably hardly need to wash my hair, no make that HEAD either. The ultimate in easy care hair!

1702_ponytail
Now I have a pony tail to play with, well a lot of piggy tails - about 15 of them. They might be quite useful for me if I get sick of being bald or pretty much hairless but don't want to wear a wig. (Haven't bought a wig yet.)

I am sure I will miss my hair, especially when the rest of it falls out. I'll be well on my way to being a trannie impersonator then. With a little Gothing it up, I look like a bloke impersonating a woman. My features are not small and feminine, which is ok cos I am not dainty in any way either. But I promise to hit anyone who calls me Dumbo, or get someone to thump them for me. My ears are suddenly visible rather than hidden under hair. (must remember to put sunscreen on them!)

Now I am just over halfway through the chemo cycle. My immune system should be regenerating I hope cos I am bored with staying home, not that I have many options if I don't want to walk or drive! I did go out on Sunday morning, tried to avoid people, wiped my hands lots with that alcohol sanitising gel, got the fruit and veg from the farmers' market, went to Scroatfight, went to the supermarket, the pet food store... which reminds me I must hop along to the vet's and book the cats in for their annual injections/check up and see if they have any of the food the cats like/need.

anon!

(Rav)Olympics 16 Feb 2010

G'day all!

It has been a day packed with action here at the Modest Manor. This is your 8pm update published at 10pm. Yep, we are up to date here!

DH has been hammering himself, pretty much literally, trying to get the measurements for the built in cupboards with stairs on them correct. We know what they should be and how big everything should be but our house is not square and working out the corrections is hard! There's been some melt downs along the way too.

Last night, I finished the sock.

1602_pfsockfoot

Yesirree, it doesn't have much of a leg but that is because I didn't want to sacrifice any more yarn to it. The sock is a good fit, very good, as one would expect from a sock custom fitted to my foot, and the shortness isn't a problem either. But the colours? This one may be frogged and the yarn reclaimed for other projects....

On the knitting front, I cast on Citron not just once but twice! I needed a fairly brainless pattern to help offset the brains required for the transition pattern of Aeolian. I was knitting away quite happily on Citron when I realised that I had started with the yarn that should be the rind of my Blood Orange version of Citron. So I ripped it and started over.

1602_citron
Don't ask me what colour that should be. Under CFL, it is luridly orange scarlet but outside it looked a very hot magenta.

Aeolian. Oh I am enjoying this one, well when my brain is not frying. It isn't particularly hard so far, no techniques I've never used before, but I am at one of the stages where no line is repeated so you have to look at the pattern chart all the time, which means being at the computer all the time cos our printer is on a boat on its way from the US. I am a bit sick of sitting at the computer but sitting anywhere else is difficult due to the lack of storage options and the husbandly prowess and my lack of progress in getting stuff stashed away in the bedroom - we don't have many chairs inside and our couch is mostly inaccessible.

1602_aeoltran
(It really has progressed since yesterday, honest!)

At the time I took the picture, I had three more rows (plus purl rows) of the transition pattern to go. I've done another row since then. I would like to knit more of it but my brain has melted into a puddle (not that it is very hot at all, just my brain has gone for the night).

The cats are very funny at the moment. Poor things are on a diet. They are getting enough food, they just don't have food ad libitum any longer - there isn't always food in their bowl. Cheshire makes a lot of pointed remarks about the lack of food. He gallops to the kitchen if I get up. You will feed me now? At least it is still a question and not a demand. Nutmeg just sits next to me, resigned to her fate of starvation. If Cheshire makes enough racket in the kitchen, Nutmeg goes and checks it out. Maybe food has magically appeared in the foodbowl!

Or maybe Nutmeg is just sitting next to me, keeping an eye on my and hoping I'll die - then she can have a really good feed!

anon!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympics - day 3 progress

G'day all!

I am into my (Rav)Olympic projects now.

Here's the World's Ugliest Sock - my personal footprint sock. I've been using scraps to knit it with. I love the emerald green and the heathered burgundy colours but not together! And the heel itself is knitted in some leftover hand-dye that I did ages ago.

1502_pfsockfoot

This is the foot blank. At the time I took the pic, it had no leg hole. See the white lines? They are where I had to pick up the stitches and put them back on the needles, then the pink bit is the centre stitch that was snipped so that I could make a leg hole!

I've practically finished it now - only another round or two before I cast it off. It is a "footie" type sock now cos I can't be bothered finding some more Patonyle scraps to give it an actual cuff. I figure it will either be frogged or will be a lonely little sock always wanting a mate. Maybe I'll use some Lorna's Laces leftovers to make it a mate. Heck, it only took me since yesterday morning to make...

The other thing I am working on at present is the Aeolian in my handspun Brachyscome.

1502_aeol3rep

Oh my. I am feeling the love for this though I wonder if it will be a handkerchief, not a shawlette. I am now halfway through the fourth repeat of the first pattern and if I block it out hard, it is only 16cm high and maybe 50cm wide if I pull it pretty hard. But oh so pretty! Maybe even worth the agony of having to slot on all those beads. There's beads between each pair of yarn overs. (I foolishly threw out my oral b super floss when we left the US and now have to track it down locally - it is available here but this is my low immune week and I should stay away from people. I am using a bit of bent fuse wire instead to places the beads. It works but is a bit of a hassle.)

How on earth will I bear to give it away? Maybe I'll have to give away another Traveling Woman instead, the shawlette I've started but not blogged.

Okey dokey, gotta keep trucking with this sock, get it cast off so I can say one thing done! I'll have to do one for DH too and then make the rest of a pair of socks for him.

anon!

Friday, February 12, 2010

(Rav)Olympics projects

G'day again all!

Having a slow day today. Yesterday was a Big Day Out (and I did most of the driving), and last night, well it seems that I shouldn't eat food that is spicy, nor should I eat chocolate later in the day!

So I am now allowed to cast on for the Winter Olympics. Indeed I could've cast on nearly four hours ago (if I have my timelines correct) but nah. We've got a little time yet and I am busy knitting up squares for an afghan for the family of a friend who is no longer.

What are my plans?

Well I want to make a Citron out of this handspun
rav_citronskein
(only I will run out of yarn before it is finished). I will call it blood orange though Dh thinks it should be called pink grapefruit. I hate grapefruit though.

And a small Aeolian out of this handspun
rav_aeolskein
(again, probably don't have enough yarn but I may just replace the nepps with beads just to get me to the end ok)

rav_persdh
and make a personal footprint sock for DH out of this yarn (and maybe a pair of socks)

rav_persme1 rav_persme2
and make a personal footprint sock out of some of this yarn for me... Personal footprint sock is a Cat Bordhi idea. I bought her new book before I left the US but have only just looked at it on umm Thursday?

rav_bluewool
and spin up this 80g of ?BFL? as fine as I can to make another shawl(ette).

And if I am really cruising, finish off the bedjacket that is currently stalled (it is cotton and heavy to knit) and spin up all 200g+
rav_woolsilk
of this wool silk blend! Note the price of the wool silk blend - I love my local guild! They get good stuff in at cost and pass it on to us :-)

I guess I had better get cracking on all of that! Most of what I want to do is fairly brainless, quite deliberately cos I am having fairly brainless times. That will probably get worse as chemo goes on and grinds me down more. Chemo brain is fairly well known and an accepted side effect.

But when can I knit my current love? The Travelled Woman that I started on Wednesday? I need to do a post for that one too....

anon!

Last test - MRI

G'day all!

Yesterday was the last of the tests I have to have for the study I am in.

It was down in Frankston, aka Franger (a franger is also a condom, and is pronounced frangga, like singer - remember Australians do not say sum-merr, we say summa). Franger is not kindly looked upon by much of Melbourne. For many years it was a place of cheap housing at the end of a looooong train line. The local council is putting a bit of money into it and has banned alcohol in open air places and is looking to ban smoking in open air shopping areas. Next they will be banning the favoured clothes of the native inhabitants (bogans): flannie shirts (often with a singlet or a heavy metal band tshirt underneath), stovepipe jeans, moccasins, (usually for the male of the species) and inappropriately sized midriff tops/tshirts with leggings with thongs (flip flops) or moccas for the "ladies."

Anyway, I digress. We borrowed a friend's car for the day and trundled down there in record time. Half an hour. I had left an hour for just in case and we didn't need it. We found the place easily enough and even managed to find a car park (not easy at the time we arrived - must've been visiting hours at the attached hospital). Then we sat and waited for an hour. Nathan got a quick lesson in what happens during a CAT/CT scan cos we were right next to the room where the CT scan was and could hear it doing its stuff (whir whir whir, Breathe in! Hold your breath! Breathe!). I had to fill out a form asking if I have any metal in me or any chance of having metal in me. They also asked if I have heart valves, which is an extremely stupid question. Of course I have heart valves. My heart wouldn't function if it didn't have valves. But no I have not had artificial valves put in my heart.

Just as I was about to go eat some lunch, a technician appears. Hooray hooray! I had to change into a medical gown, open at the front and remove extraneous jewellery (rings were ok for my scan). Then I was led to the Heart of the Beast. In went a catheter so they could put contrast in halfway through the process and I was all ready to go.

MRI machines are large, body length donuts with a bed that goes into the toroid. Because I was apparently having a boob scan, I had to lie face down with my boobs hanging in these holes. So very elegant! The holes are ENORMOUS but as they said, they are one size fits all. I am rather glad that I am small (14B/36B) cos if I had enormous boobs I fear they may have scraped on the bottom of the donut hole!

It was not a very comfortable position to lie in. The padding for my face slipped within seconds and the scan takes 20-30 minutes. On went some headphones with the world's crappest music (mix 104) - like either give me triple M or ABC classic FM (scroat/bogan music or classical stuff). None of this stupid boppy dance crap.

So into the machine I went, only able to see a small amount of anything (and gosh did I feel a bit of motion sickness as my very limited view didn't change much but my ears told me I had moved!). The technicians were long gone, hidden behind the shielding. The scanners create strong magnetic and radio-frequency fields. I'm not going to go into how it does it (lots of physics! Read about it in this wikipedia article if you dare or have a physics clue or don't mind being confuzzled) but suffice it to say that really powerful magnets make the hydrogen molecules in your body line up (just like iron filings in response to a magnet) and then powerful radio waves make the hydrogen molecules line up in different ways. A radio receiver picks up the energy given off by the moving hydrogen molecules and that signal is turned into a picture.

In reality? What you hear in the machine is a lot of thudding, banging and in my case, sirens. Oh yes, imagine a cross between the bleet bleet bleet of a warning alarm in a building mixed with a metallic sound crossed with nails down a blackboard. Then how about some evacuate siren noises too. Here's me trying to be good and lay very still indeed when my poor monkey brain is saying "FLEE! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!" The music was inaudible for most of the testing (possibly a good thing!) cos most of the machine's noises are realllly loud. Plus my right shoulder had given up on the idea of being still and had started to twitch cos it was uncomfortable. And one of the RF waves caused something in my gut to pulse in time with it.

This was the most traumatic test I did. OK it was one of the least harmful to my body - no nuclear radiation or anything but as far as distress is concerned? I was worried about being claustrophobic. Claustrophobia was the last thing on my mind as the testing went on. I was more worried about trying to suppress the urge to dash out of the machine, out the front door and down the road wearing nothing bar a hospital gown open to the front and my knickers. RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY! RUN FOR THE HILLS!

When they pulled me out of the machine, I was soooo ready to be out of there. I had started counting seconds just to remind myself that time was passing and I would escape sooner or later. So much relief! They got the cannula out of my arm and put a patch over the hole and I was off the table before they had lowered it and galloping back to my clothes. (One of the techs gave me a 10 out of 10 for my dismount - so quick and "elegant".) I didn't even get much chance to look at the machine or the room it is in or the massive shielding (eg the door is a good 3-4cm thick and appears to be solid metal). I did note it said that you needed ear shielding though. Lord knows how loud the thing would've been without the headphones.

The best bit? Didn't have to pay. It is all paid for by the government grant that is funding the study.

To reward myself for being so good when I wanted to just flee, I had a bag of potato chippies (crisps) from the hospital cafe and then we drove off to a native plant nursery. 60 bucks later we had a heap of new plants for our front yard, or a heap of plants to propogate so that we can put more in the yard. We've got a few bare patches y'see. This nursery has some sad plants up the back which we love cos we get about 50% survival with them, no worse than the $10 plants up the front. $30 of good plants, $30 of sad plants and we are happy :-)

It appears that I will have to give DH driving lessons for manual cars in little Helmet. We are "buying" our friends' second car (Helmet) for the cost of fixing his water leak. They are very generous to us. We need a car, an old bomb will do for the nonce (DH would prefer to not have a car at all but fer crying out loud, I'm on chemo! And walking 2km to do shopping and riding my bike much is not going to be possible as we go on unless I am lucky) and Helmet is looking for a new home, preferably not the scrap yard. This will be my first Holden (GM), but he really is a Suzuki Swift, 17 yo* poor little thing. Still drives ok, barring the water leak. Very honest little car - no frills apart from air con that needs regassing, nothing. Just a basic little ole runabout. Safety rating? What is that?

(* I've been told that Australia has a very old car fleet. I often wondered how this could be the case given the things I've seen on the road in the US, not so much in California but elsewhere like college towns in Oregon and Colorado and Wisconsin. Well shall we just say that salted gritty roads are not cars' best friends and in some places in the US, cars rust out within a few years. Or they fall apart from the crappy concrete roads. In Oz, we don't salt roads (not deliberately, some salt themselves from groundwater salinity) and a car is a major investment for quite some part of the population, so you look after it and hope it won't die too quickly. Some people here trade up to current models regularly but most people will hang onto a car for about 10 years or until it starts becoming unreliable.)

I'll be back with details of my Ravelympic projects :-)

anon!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Shortly with pictures

G'day all!

Still trucking along here. So far so good. Currently the chemo side effect is a bit of indigestion, though that could just be me gutsing my food. It is humid (not by tropical standards, I admit) and not very hot but plenty warm enough for me at the moment. It is making it very unpleasant to do stuff around the house. Move a box, sit down and sweat for half an hour. I would say rinse, repeat, but I seem to lose interest in moving stuff or even investigating box contents pretty darned fast!

2801_cheshire
(Cheshire making himself at home on the bed. Normally this is Nutmeg's place. Note the cats are on a diet...)

We had some friends over on Sunday. They helped out around the place. They fixed up the walls in the study and washed them and started on the painting. They did more cleaning up around the kitchen. One of the walls in the loungeroom is now washed and awaiting ideas for colour. Two chaps got into the mess under the lemon tree and sorted it out somewhat, and went all Peter Cundall on the lemon tree itself. (We have a box of lemons for anyone who will, and I do mean a BOX - probably about 200 of the things.) We finished off with a BBQ for those that were still around. Thanks to everyone who came around and lent a hand. Now we only have the bathroom walls, kitchen walls and loungeroom walls to deal with! Hooray!

I have to show off pics of all our new paint jobs and the floors and the progress along the way but umm, well I have to take pics of the finished items!

Today I got down and dirty with the bathroom floor. You would not believe the wonders that an old toothbrush can reveal. Like the floor is not a dirty grey blue but blue blue! (No I didn't wash the whole floor with a toothbrush, just the grotty edges.)

I am way behind on blogging the things I've been knitting and spinning. For some reason spinning goes down very well at the moment - it is hot and it is nice to sit in front of a fan and spin. Nicer than knitting even!

fo_jansocksblurry

Here's last month's socks. A very blurry picture, I am afraid, and I need some better shots displaying the things to a greater advantage. The Regia galaxy yarn was a gift from Dreamcatcher and the pattern is yet another variant on my own sock pattern. The one that I should share some time, but surely everyone has their own favourite variant of someone else's sock pattern by now? The socks are not a proper pair cos I got bored with the little cable cross on them but they are matchy matchy enough for me.

0202_nutkin
(Nutmeg in a brief interlude on Nathan's lap. She is not a lap cat.)

OK, back to a bit of spinning in front of the fan, with a glass of water by my side. I am drinking water like a fish at the moment. I have to drink at least 2L of water a day and that is tedious! OK, I can have it in the form of herbal tea, jelly, juice, soup, anything not caffeinated (and presumably without all the guarana and that sort of stuff) but really? Water is good! Me! Drinking water by choice! But our water is good. It's not coppery or irony or nasty tasting in any way so it is almost a pleasure to drink plain tap water. (Ask me in a couple of chemo cycles time and I might change my mind.)

anon!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Still here!

G'day all!

I'm still here, still alive, survived the first day of chemo. Now it is the day after and what am I noticing?

Not having taken a Zyrtec (hayfever and itching) and a certain dragging feeling. I feel ok but sorta vaguely tired. (I just carried in some shopping and I feel like sitting down for the nonce.) And facial flushing, apparently a side effect of dexamethasone.

I have taken three different anti-nausea drugs this morning and have another in reserve. I'm not feeling too bad that way - I feel a bit off but if I am doing other stuff, it is easily ignored. To date. Whilst I'm on the drugs anyway. My stomach is telling me it is lunchtime (quite likely as it is 1:30pm) so a spot of lunch is in order.

Having to drink at least two litres of fluid a day is a bit of a drag but that is what peppermint tea and juice and water and jelly and soup is for. They say eat a healthy diet but it seems that if you are having nausea issues or sore mouth issues (not there yet, hopefully won't have much trouble that way) then any fluid and sustenance is good. "Whatever you tolerate." Currently I seem to tolerate everything, mainly cos I've just started and came off a reasonably healthy base.

This afternoon we are getting a dishwasher and a microwave. Expensivos dishwasher but highly recommended and if we buy a crap one we'll just have to replace it after being peeved with it.

Tomorrow we expect to have peoples around for a hair cutting party (and cleaning and furniture moving and maybe even painting!). I'll have to save up my energy for that. Hopefully we will have a functional house then - currently we have a bedroom full of stuff, a spare room full of stuff, a couch drying outside after getting soaked by the remain of a tropical cyclone...

Still haven't downloaded pics. Got so many pics to share but we are still setting up our computers and fixing up disk problems and blah blah blah. (This is to say DH is doing these things.) So you'll just have to wait for pics of January's socks and two hats and some lovely sunsets.

anon!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

C-day

G'day all!

I am quivering in my boots. Today is C-day. In about an hour I'll be at the hospital all "ready" to be hooked up to a drip which will deliver my first dose of FEC. (I'm about as ready as a raw fish but then again, I'll never be ready.)

It is wet here today. Wet wet wet. We put the couch outside cos we were sanding and oiling the living room floor. Alas, it is sodden and I have nowhere to sit except the bed, the piano stool or two manky old kitchen chairs, one of which scratches me.

Best be off, brush toothy pegs, etc.

anon!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Return of Radioactive Woman

G'day all!

I am totally zonked. That is Australian for exhausted.

So far this week, it's been Too Friggin' Hot. Sunday night, Nutmeg couldn't settle and kept me awake half the night (wash wash, jingle jingle goes her collar's bell, wash, jingle...argh! Rock rock goes the chair she was sitting on. Rock, jingle wash!). Monday night was hot. Tuesday night was hot. Wednesday night is promising to be hot. On Monday, they started digging up the curb on the other side of the road, work starts at 7am and they moved the equipment into place at 6:45am. They aren't allowed to do any work before 7am but apparently they can move their massive road (and curb) munching machine into place and also the big dump trucks (or lorries as we used to call them) can drive up and down and unload bobcats and stuff. I much prefer the men who just wheel down barrows full of concrete. Anyway, when one gets to sleep at midnight and the cat plays up and then at sunrise the workers start it is very tired-making!

Today was our curb's time. Yep, its number was up. I didn't see this happen cos I had to go off to be Radioactive Woman again. So when they started moving machinery at SIX THIRTY this morning, I was already awake. I had an appointment at 7:30am. Kill me now. I would like to say that I am not normally awake then but given the vagaries of curb munching machines and cats whinging as soon as it starts getting light.... So I hauled my poor sorry hungry butt off to a PET scan.

You have to fast for at least six hours before a PET scan - they told me 8 hours. PET scans use an analogue of glucose tagged with a radioactive marker to locate places with high energy use. Tissues that are metabolically active take up glucose to fuel their activities. PET scans have been used to examine brain function - when people are given various thinking or listening tasks in a PET scanner, the parts of the brain that are used light up (technically showing the blood flow to the various parts being used increases rather than glucose uptake increases).

PET scans are also used in oncology because tumours are very metabolically active - they are actively growing and need plenty of energy to fuel their growth. So radioactive glucose (analogue) is pretty useful in this field.

So this morning I hauled me in poor little Helmet to the hospital AGAIN. (We have to go AGAIN tomorrow and then chemo starts there on Friday.) It took nearly 40 minutes to get there due to peak hour traffic and one particular set of lights. Plus my bad, I went through on a yellow arrow cos I didn't see it had started to change and it went red before I was halfway through the intersection. I found a nice park under a shady tree in a side street (thus avoiding paying another $7.50 for car parking to the good folks at the hospital) and wandered in. Just as well I had my newest chemo cap in progress! 20 minutes later they called me in.

Before you do a PET scan, you must fast but you can drink as much water as you like. I only managed two glasses but that was enough. Thank heavens they have loos there. I was given two small cups of iodine contrast solution after going through the usual list. Are you pregnant or breast feeding? Are you allergic to anything? (You can't have the normal contrast if you are allergic to seafood.) Blah blah blah. They take some of your blood out (they put a cannula thing in for anything that would otherwise involve more than one puncturing of the vein) and run some tests, the most important being blood glucose. If you are diabetic the scan might be invalid as you have impaired glucose uptake. But I'm not diabetic - I had a blood glucose level of 5.4mmol/L, perfectly normal. Into the same cannula goes the radioactive tracer and Radioactive Woman Rides Again!

Then you get to take a nice nap for 50 minutes or so. There's nothing else to do in the room. You have to lay quietly, no reading, no knitting, just lie there. Even I had a bit of a nap - cat naps for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. It was pretty dull. I'm not usually good with naps.

At last I could get up and go to the loo, again, and get changed into a medical gown which I couldn't tie up due to the cannula in my elbow vein. Oh, btw, here's some more contrast medium (this time a bit stronger, yuck, drink it don't taste it!). Then onto the flat bed of the PET scanner (I think it also does CT scanning at the same time - the sphincter at one end looked very like a CT scanner whilst the tube part looked like another scintillation/radiation detector.) The scan head of what I think is a CT scanner started revolving and "vroom" I went into the bowels of the machine. The grey tube felt like it was closing around me. Just as I was starting to get a little claustrophobic I realised that it was an open ended thing and I could see out the other end, hooray! Then another quick pass, then back all the way so most of my body was not inside the scanner at all. Starting at my feet, I slowly moved through the machine. Scan (roughly 210 seconds) move down a bit, more slow scanning, move, scan, move, scan, move, scan until my head was well inside The Beast. Then vroom and I'm up and outta there! Via the loo, of course! The scans at this facility take about half an hour. Oh and again you have to have your hands above your head - thankfully supported this time cos the last CT scan was a PITA and I hurt for a day afterwards.

Wonder what different bits of my body lit up? Kidneys, brain, bladder are certainties, along with the boob tumour and the nasty lymph node (or two or 10). If it is fairly accurate, it might show that I was startled by a noisy nurse loudly discussing the stupidity of giving someone with impaired renal function a PET scan and also several times by the laser printer waking up and doing things then running out of ink or paper.

I just found the results of a precursor to the study I am taking part in. You can read more about the old study here. The same guy, Vinod Ganju, led the previous study. (If you read that study, wish me in the group with high uptake that falls during chemo! I certainly will be 8-)

Anyway, the rest of the day involved being hot and sweaty. My good friend V came around and helped clean stuff and washed yucky kitchenwares like a champion and scrubbed the bath and the shower screen with her Enjo powdered marble cleaner. No it doesn't just clean marbles, it cleans polished surfaces gently using powdered marble. I saw some Method cleaner in the US that was quite similar. I miss my Method cleaners - I don't know that they were particularly great but they smelled good! (Eucalyptus and mint, cucumber, pamplemousse. Mmmm. Fresh food/fruit smells and Australian bush smells, the nice ones at least, are my sorta stinks. Not perfume.) I think I've seen some of the cleaners here but I haven't gone back to look for them. They'll be horridly expensive anyway, being imports, and I should find locally made stuff. I can always add a drop or two of eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil and peppermint oil to a local cleaner.

At least we are nearly ready to redistribute furniture around the house again rather than in two rooms. The floors are ok, the bedroom can be bedroomed instead of storing lots of stuff, oh and in truly exciting news, Nathan tracked down the fault in our lighting circuit with the help of a sparkie mate. Now we have lights that switch on when we hit the light switch! The wonders of modern living! (Much better than having to carry a torch everywhere or move one of the lamps :-)

Only two sleeps to go. Yikes! Then I start better living through chemistry. Or even just trying to live through chemistry. Maybe living despite chemistry. I am terrified of the whole thing but I have to do it. The alternative is worse than the idea of chemo. Tomorrow I see the chemo nurse at 11am, get some bloods done and also a 12 lead ECG. Crap. That has to be at a different facility and I have to do it before chemo starts. We are in such an uproar here that I forgot. Plus I can't find the paperwork (see aforementioned uproar). And I am hot and knackered and there is still so much to do.

And I am totally over not having a future. For 2.5 years in the US I had no future, then we move back home and I've had to diddle around for nearly two months, and now I have no idea of what is going to happen over the next 5 months of chemo. I can't make any plans, I can't look ahead, except possibly to the end of chemo, I have to take things day by day, minute by minute and I am reallly bad at living in the Now, particularly when the Now is crap. Will I be ok, will I spend most of my time in the loo either throwing up or having problems at the other end, will I have vicious mouth sores or bone pain, will I have any energy, will I be ok? Life was so carefree three months ago, now it's turned into some sort of nightmare.

anon!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Griping - A very gross post

G'day all!

I haven't even started chemo yet and already I am b*ggered. We moved into our place on Sunday night.

DH has been madly ripping up more carpet with the help of his father and sanding floors. I've now helped with oiling one of them (orange and tung oils, nowhere near as lethal smelling as tung mixed with petrochemicals). We've been washing walls and ceilings and painting them. The bedroom is mostly done (enough that we are sleeping in it) but we need to do the second coat of paint on one wall and above the pelmet and also rearrange the furniture when we haven't got half the study in the room with us. The place looks like a bombsite but at least two rooms are mostly done.

There's a fault in the lighting wiring that DH has not had time to track down. So far he's found shorts or evidence of arcing in three different lights. (The shorts are not the sort you put on, btw, just to be clear.) He has to get into the roof to see if there is a problem with the wiring. So we don't have any overhead lights and Oz houses use overhead lights a lot. Just as well we have three lamps and a torch!

But the True Horror lurketh in the bathroom and kitchen. The bathroom was not cleaned before the house sitters left. It's ok! It's clean enough!

*shudder*

Half an hour of scrubbing had the bath half clean. The other half needs to be scrubbed. An hour has the accessible parts of the shower cleaned - the others were awaiting an unwanted toothbrush, now obtained. (I use a magic cloth and magic eraser on surfaces - no chemicals, no stinkiness, just plain clean!) The walls are covered in glod (the very opposite of gold). There's emerald green spots everywhere, the colour of some surface sprays and detergents. It appears that someone thought that to clean things, you just spray them with a surface cleaner and then walk away without wiping the stuff off.

*shudder*

The kitchen. Everything is sticky with grease. I know we don't have a fan in the kitchen. That is why you have to wipe surfaces down once in a while with some sort of cleaner. I find a sponge and some detergent works quite well as long as you don't leave it too long. Fridge wipe is my favourite grease cutter - it is just alcohol, water and vanilla ester. Fairly non-toxic and smells nice to boot.

We don't have a dishwasher - it's a 1959 kitchen. We haven't had the money to renovate it at this stage. You need to wash crockery, cutlery and cookware in a small stainless steel sink. I give you exhibit A, the dishrack.

exhibita

I'm not sure what happened to the dishrack (it has some of the green glod on it, and looked almost furry even though it is chrome plated - pic doesn't show the true horror but it took an hour to clean with magic erasers) but when I opened the cupboard to get out a "clean" bowl and plate, I got a fair idea (exhibits b and c).

exhibitb
(Exhibit b)

exhibitc
(Exhibit c - I dare you to look at a larger size!)

EWWWW! Someone put away crockery that was that dirty? *Everything* in the cupboard was greasy. All the glasses were greasy. All the cups. All the pots. All the storageware. It is just totally horrid.

No apologies for embarrassing our house sitters. I cannot believe they left the place in the state it is, especially given I have cancer and am about to start chemo. Instead of being able to settle in, I have to clean the house from end to end. We have absolutely no recourse against them either cos we never asked for bond. OK, we didn't ask for the carpet to be steam cleaned or even vacuumed. But hell's bells, doing things like removing the cobwebs and dusting stuff would have been nice! Being able to use any of the crockery in the cupboard or having a clean glass to drink out of would be grand. Admitted the toilet has been cleaned recently. But finding a pair of women's undies soaking in the a bucket in the laundry trough - I am sure you can guess why they were soaking! - that were stinking cos they had been there so long, and the trough had not been cleaned in yonks either....

To say I am cranky is not stretching the truth, except in the wrong direction. I am pretty much livid. It never occurred to me that they would leave the house like it. Then again I am a goody goody suck suck who doesn't thrash rental cars, gets embarrassed if bend the corner of a borrowed book and cleans places that I've been staying in before I leave. I guess I am abnormal! All I wanted was to be able to move in, deal with the floors, repaint a couple of rooms and have everything nice before I start chemo.

Well it ain't nice, girlfriend. Suck it up and deal!

anon!