Showing posts with label VIPs of the Fiber World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label VIPs of the Fiber World. Show all posts

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Not Knitting ... due to Pickle's Cancer Diagnosis

Those of you who stop by to read this blog regularly will most probably be familiar with Pickle, my 8.5 year-old Tuxedo Cat, who frequently features on the blog in her capacity as knitting cupboard inspector, model and product tester extraordinaire.

In the pictures below, she can be seen 
The Knitted Cat Tunnel

  • modelling the Cat Leg Warmer (or a swatch of cartridge rib in the round)
Cat Leg Warmer or Cartridge Rib Stitch in the Round

Tidying up the Knitting Cupboard with Pickle

At the end of November 2017, I discovered blood in Pickle's stool. This prompted a visit to the vet's. During her initial examination she was found to require dental treatment (including extractions) and we were advised to change her diet to chicken in broth with rice. Despite the nutritional changes, her diarrhoea continued and every third to fourth bowel movement contained blood. At a subsequent consultation with her vet, she was deemed fit to undergo dental surgery despite her digestive issues. In fact, both the vet and us were guessing that her digestive issues might potentially be connected to the state of her teeth; and that by removing this inflammatory culprit, the issues around her digestion would resolve as a result. She was booked in for surgery just before the end of the year. 

In addition to her pre-op blood tests, I decided to take full advantage of her time under anaesthetic to obtain abdominal x-rays and to carry out histological tests on a small polyp, which I discovered on her rectum shortly before her dietary issues emerged. Even though I didn't like the look of the polyp, neither of the vets, who examined her, seemed particularly concerned about this small growth on her behind. Both advised that colorectal polyps were generally more common in uncastrated dogs and that polyps in this location were not commonly encountered amongst feline patients.

Neither her blood test, including complete blood count, nor her abdominal x-rays, which would have shown any obstructions or palpable internal tumours, gave us any cause for concern. Her vet appeared confident that, all being well with the histological tests, Pickle was either passing blood due to the ongoing issues with her teeth and / or she was exhibiting the classic signs of feline Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). 

Following her operation, Pickle returned home in the early evening the same day. Within a matter of days she was back to her usual self. Probably as a result of her dental extractions, she even appeared more active than before. The bland diet, which we kept up, decreased the frequency of her bowel movements drastically. Despite this, she continued to harbour a healthy appetite. Sadly, she also continued to produce bloody stools, albeit at a reduced rate.

In the evening of 4th January, whilst I was in the middle of a chaotic commute home from London, I received the results of the histological tests from her vet over the phone. It was bad news. That was the night Cancer moved into my life and took hold of it. If you and a beloved pet are or have been affected by Cancer, my heart goes out to you.

Pickle (in one of her favourite places - in the midst of freshly laundered bed linen) on 19th January 2018, roughly two weeks after her cancer diagnosis.  

The mass examined was found to be malignant (Adenocarcinoma), most likely a colorectal Adenocarcinoma. Her vet admitted that he would not have expected this result when he relayed her 'very guarded prognosis'. Based on the medical statistics available for this type of cancer, which is relatively rare in cats, he indicated that her life expectancy could range from 8 weeks to 18 months.

In the midst of a packed train, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip, asked all the questions that appeared to be of immediate concern (Is she likely to be in pain? - No. Is there anything we need to do right now? - No.) and arranged another consultation to discuss Pickle's prognosis in more detail. I arrived home that night and couldn't even cry. Instead, I was in shock and at a complete loss, not knowing how to start tackling the problem. Even though I was fearful of the polyp being cancerous, I had never really contemplated this being a possible outcome. I had no Plan B.

The follow-up consultation with her vet was not until around 7 days later and I had to somehow bridge that gap. Whilst it's easy to get carried away emotionally when you are confronting this Goliath-type adversary, I somehow knew that I had to contain my emotions in order to concentrate all my waking energy on thinking clearly, gaining knowledge and making smart decisions on Pickle's behalf. And FAST. 

I soon found out that the presence of Cancer and a work life do not mix well, especially if you attempt to keep on functioning in the latter. I completely stopped eating and, as a result of sleepless nights and countless hours researching the web, I physically caved in halfway through the following week. By the time the vet appointment was upon us, I was on antibiotics for tonsillitis, full of cold and my GP was particularly concerned about my anxiety. I was not able to switch off and my brain was working at full capacity any time, all the time. Feeling physically shit was ok though. As long as I was able to do something constructive and, above all, spend time with Pickle, my anxiety was bearable. With a notebook full of questions, mainly concerning the histological report, cancer staging and treatment options, we returned to the vet's. 

During the consultation, her vet explained Pickle's further treatment options in more detail. Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that has the ability to move fast, affecting other organs as it spreads. In order to establish the stage of her cancer, we would either have to resort to invasive surgery or get her booked in for MRI scanning. Both procedures would require another anaesthetic, a lengthy journey to a clinic with appropriate facilities and, if opting for invasive surgery, an overnight stay at the vet's. 

Pickle on 19th January 2018, sporting a post-op shave on the right side of her neck

Ignoring the financial aspects (I would remortgage the house if I had to) considering the stress and impact on Pickle's emotional and physical health, neither of these options seemed appropriate. From a medical point of view, given the absence of a palpable tumour, the chances of successfully removing cancerous tissue during surgery are slim, especially as we don't know where and whether it has spread. Chemo - and radiotherapy are equally unsuitable. Unlike certain types of Lymphoma, Adenocarcinoma is not particularly responsive to either treatment options and both might do more harm than good, especially if, assuming best case scenario, we have nipped Pickle's cancer in the proverbial 'butt' with the removal of the polyp from her rectum.

This leaves us with the final option: shifting the focus from the cancer found in the tissue sample to concentrating our efforts on improving the symptoms of her IBD, whilst simultaneously boosting her immune system. Conventionally, severe cases of IBD are often treated with the help of corticosteroids, which - when managed carefully in conjunction with dietary intervention - can produce good results. Having lived with a Terrier, who spent the best part of his life on corticosteroids and made it to 13 years, I am not necessarily averse to their use. Yet, corticosteroids negatively affect other organs when used over a prolonged period and, by implication, will shorten the life expectancy of the patient. 

Considering Pickle's overall condition - she is not lethargic, shows no signs of pain, has not lost any weight and continues to display a healthy appetite even for the bland food we have served up over the past month - I had made my decision that 'Pickle on 'Roids'' wasn't an option, at least not until all other routes had been exhausted.

In the various consultations with Pickle's conventional vet, he must have sensed my reservations in respect of conventional treatments. From my comments on immunisation to microchipping and the application of parasite treatments such as Bayer's Advocate, he was probably expecting my next turn already. Thankfully, he appeared to back my approach: the holistic route. 

Having read many accounts of owner's grappling with their cat's cancer in recent weeks, I am aware that in many cases conventionally trained vets are often not supportive of this route. This comes as no surprise, and the recent spat between the  RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) and the BAHVS (the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons) serves as a timely reminder of the frictions between both 'camps'. (More here.)

Every case is, of course, unique and there may be valid reasons why a conventional approach should be favoured over holistic treatments. Yet, in Pickle's case, he backed the idea of getting a holistic vet on board, if only to delay the use of corticosteroids by exploring raw feeding, dietary supplementation and other holistic remedies.

And this is where we are right now. After more research and days spent discussing Pickle's case with various holistic vets across the country, 'Team Pickle' was joined by another member at the onset of last week. Meanwhile, the patient herself appears content. Her last two bowel movements contained no visible blood, she maintains a healthy appetite, has recovered from the upheaval of the vet visits and seems to enjoy life as before, maybe even more, bearing in mind that she is now rid of her painful teeth. By simply looking at her right now, no one would assume that she was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma. Further updates will follow.

Pickle on 19th January 2018, 2 weeks after her cancer diagnosis

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Winter Stole Update: Test Knit Completed ✔

Back in January I released my pattern notes for the Winter Stole, a lace stole knitted with a chunky alpaca / wool blend on 6mm needles. More background on the rationale behind the design and my choice of yarn is available here; and the pattern is available here.

The Winter Stole pattern was developed to encourage knitters (and myself) to diversify the choice of materials when knitting lace. Depending, of course, on the complexity of the lace stitch sequence and the overall design, I was aiming to showcase that it is possible to produce knitted lace with chunkier yarns. 

Winter Stole (yarn: Wendy Zena, pattern available here.

Winter Stole (yarn: Wendy Zena, pattern available here.

Thanks to Tara (tara53aus on Ravelry) I am now pleased to announce that the pattern has undergone its first 'independent' test knit and Tara's completed stole is pictured below:

Tara's Completed Winter Stole 

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am always thankful for the feedback I receive from the knitters of my designs, especially from those, who put their trust in a pattern that has so far only been completed by the pattern's very own designer. This was the case with the Winter Stole pattern. 

This time round and following the feedback I received from Tara, I am particularly pleased to announce that my original Winter Stole pattern is free of mistakes, slips and no modifications are necessary.

Tara's Stole Blocking

I was also delighted to see that Tara not only used a natural, undyed alpaca yarn to complete her stole, she also chose a very special handspun yarn from an independent producer in Western Australia. 

Sadly, I was not able to retrieve more information on the producer over the web, but the ball band details can be seen in the picture below. So, if you are located in Western Australia, I suggest you get your hands on a delightful skein (or two) of Greg's and Wendy's handspun.

A remark on the pattern from my side: I have decided to update the pattern notes of the Winter Stole slightly with optional variations, to take those knitters into consideration, who are opting to use handspun yarn (Alpaca or otherwise) and may thus only have a finite amount of yarn to complete the project. The stole was designed to be rather wide and fewer cast-on stitches (resulting in fewer lace motif repeats in the body of the piece) will ensure that the piece will turn out long enough to be classed a 'stole'. These notes on modifications of the original pattern will be published shortly. In the meantime, the original Winter Stole pattern is available here.

Finally and once again, a very big 'THANK YOU!' to Tara for her feedback, for being the first to test the pattern and for choosing a delicious, independently produced, handspun yarn to complete her project. 

For any interested knitters, wishing to complete a Winter Stole and requiring pattern support, please feel free to contact me via Ravelry (ClariceAsquith), Twitter (@Slipstitched), leave a comment below or by e-mail:

For a link collection to all original designs on the blog, please visit this link.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Cast-on loosely and don't knit tight - knitting lace with fingering weight mohair yarn

Wisp: Pattern by Cheryl Niamath (published in Knitty, Summer 2007), Yarn: Patons UK Misty

The Wisp Shawl pattern by Cheryl Niamath has somewhat turned into a classic lace knitting pattern and due to its simplicity it tends to attract many beginner lace knitters, who may never have used cobweb or fingering weight yarn in any of their projects before.

Though not my first lace project, I, too, opted for the pattern as I wanted to gain experience knitting lace with fingering weight yarn, whilst completing a relatively simple pattern. Niamath's Wisp fulfils these requirements and due to its straightforward stitch sequence, it allows you to concentrate on your manual ability and, above all, to get a feel for working with extremely fine yarn. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

A Tribute to Elizabeth Zimmermann's Pi

In an earlier post on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac, I outlined why I believe that Zimmermann's no-frills paperback should be considered a very special publication indeed, despite its somewhat bland appearance and apparent lack of project photography. 

First up, a few words on the low-cost nature of the paperback edition: The Almanac features instructions to over 15 patterns (including 4 sweaters) on approximately 150 pages, making this a densely packed publication. With the exception of the book cover, the project photography is in black and white throughout, thus lacking the visual appeal and photographic detail of contemporary knitwear publications. 

In short, the project photography (though decent and undertaken with great care) is by modern standards outdated. As a result, those of us, who derive inspiration from ogling an appealing finished object before casting on, will undoubtedly be disappointed.  To really get in the mood for knitting a Zimmermann pattern from the Almanac, it might be best to start off by trawling the web for pictures of finished Zimmermann projects and adaptations of her original designs. At this point, her true genius will be revealed. The Pi Shawl pattern provides a perfect case in point.  

Zimmermann's Pi Shawl design and instructions have inspired countless knitters to produce a multitude of design variations based upon Zimmermann's original design. The Pi Shawls featured below are merely a small selection of the many outstanding projects on show across the  web. 

Special thanks go to MadKnits, Terhi, Aisling Doonan and Glenna C aka crazyknittinglady  for allowing me to showcase their most amazing, finished Pis here on the blog. Thank you so much! 

For even more Pi inspiration, please visit my Pi Shawl board on Pinterest.

Terhi's Pi, Yarn: Wetterhoff Sivilla and Fiberphile Merino 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

From one opinionated knitter to another: Revisiting Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac

Almost three years ago, I had Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac on loan from my local library. Had I written my review of the book at the time, it would probably have sounded very different from my assessment today. Frau Zimmermann - at least as far her Almanac is concerned - is certainly not aiming her designs at beginner knitters; and I would have described myself as one at the time. Consequently, when I first laid hands on Zimmermann's Almanac, I didn't find it too appealing. The patterns appeared somewhat tired and outdated; and her occasional digressions into anecdotes, though intriguing, distracted from the instructions. When it was time to return my borrowed copy to the library, I did so without attempting to retain any of the instructions for future projects. It seemed as if the Almanac had nothing on offer for me. 

Elizabeth Zimmermann

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Another Brain Cleanser - Baktus in Cartridge Rib

Almost one year ago, I was busy knitting my first baktus (a triangular scarf in garter stitch throughout). The pattern for the original baktus can be found here. I highly recommend it as a brain cleanser project. For those occasions when you wish to knit, but lack the desire for a serious challenge. For those occasions, it's an ideal base project. 

Due to its simplicity, the pattern inspires to play around. If you feel like trying new techniques (knitting with multiple colours, cabling, basic lace and so on), then the baktus should be on your list of 'go-to-patterns'.

Garter Stitch Baktus

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A Gallery of Ammonites

In a recent post on a new design, I briefly reflected on why I enjoy creating my own knitting patterns. It turns out that I secretly take pleasure in the hardship of the creative process: choosing yarns, counting stitches, knitting swatches, discarding those swatches and so on, until I arrive at combinations that can be turned into a viable design. 

Ammonite in Moonlight Sonata (James C Brett Yarns) 

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