I half-staggered downstairs to my sewing room, grumpy from uneasy sleep the night before, and the knowledge that I had to fast that morning in advance of my abdominal ultrasound. The fast included abstinence from sanity-giving coffee, as well as food.
I had decided that morning that the best way to occupy myself before the ultrasound would be to cast on a new project. My three new hanks of Mountain Colors Mountain Goat were perched on my sewing room table, too new, even, to have been parked with the older stash housed in the cabinets. I picked one hank up and examined it. The colors were calming — shades of turqoise, a deep cobalt blue, quiet violet, and just a bit of fuschia. The colors made me think of a plumeria lei tossed in the waves of a Maui beach. The fiber itself was also interesting — a juxtaposition of gloss with a soft halo.
Colorway: Swift Current
Shortly after I’d brought this yarn home, I decided it should eventually become a Multnomah Shawl. Multnomah is mostly simple garter stitch with a feather and fan border. Easy, and the effect is greater than the sum of those two straightforward parts. A simple shawl in soothing colors. Just what I needed to help me through my latest medical issues. I set the yarn on my swift and stretched it to the ballwinder, and started winding.
With the yarn wound, I settled into my recliner to knit. The menfolk hustled and bustled to get off to work and school. I avoided the kitchen, where the smells of breakfast and coffee reminded me of my fast. I watched as the number of stitches grew, and the water colors change as the yarn slipped through my fingers. While I knit, I thought about how it had all come to this.
For several months, my doctor had been monitoring my liver enzymes. A routine blood test had turned up slightly elevated numbers. Nothing to worry about, she said, but something to keep tabs on. I went back again and again to have my enzymes checked. The levels stayed the same — slightly elevated, but unchanging, despite the fact that I’d stopped taking about every medication I’d been on.
I’d come to dread the follow-up phone call from the medical assistant. She always had the same news: levels still elevated, and could I come in yet again for another test in a few weeks? I felt fine. Perfectly fine. I was getting exasperated with my doctor. Why wouldn’t she let me be? If my enzymes were slightly elevated, what on Earth was the big deal that required so much poking and prodding?
Another part of me was indeed worried:
Your enzymes have never been elevated before, even when you’ve taken some pretty high-powered medications.
After so many iterations of blood tests, my doctor ordered up an abdominal ultrasound. Ultrasound? Gee, now things had gotten serious. Or silly. An ultrasound seemed like an unnecessary expense of time and money for slightly elevated enzymes. My doctor was a worry-wort. That had to be the answer.
Elevated enzymes mean something’s not right. And it’s not getting any better.
I fretted over the ultrasound ever since it was scheduled. What would they see? What would they find? Some bizarre liver ailment? Cancer? Nothing?
By the time I went to the radiology center, I’d gotten a decent start on the Multnomah and had worked myself into a right good fit about the ultrasound. The center was so organized that I didn’t have time to even finish a row before my name was called.
I watched anxiously as the technician moved the wand over my jelly-coated abdomen. If there were anything there that was abnormal, it wasn’t so crazy abnormal that I could tell. The tech (natch) was circumspect and wouldn’t tell me anything. “You’ll have the results in a day or two,” she chirped.
I went out for a late breakfast. Problems are best handled on a full stomach and with caffeine, I thought. I knitted on Multnomah at the coffee shop, while I waited for my breakfast order. Well, there was nothing more to do but wait. And knit.
Two days — and lots more nervous knitting — later, I had my results. Not cancer, not a mysterious nothing. No, it was a gallstone. A huge thing more than an inch in diameter. A gallstone? The relief of the diagnosis washed over me. I could totally deal with that. Compared with all the awful possible diagnoses that my imagination had birthed over the past few weeks, a gallstone was a gift.
I kept knitting on the Multnomah in the days that followed, but now, at least, I didn’t have the need to be distracted from a potentially devastating diagnosis. Now, I’d follow up with my doctor.
Yes, my doctor, for whom I was now incredibly grateful. Rather than being a worry-wort, she had been on top of things from the beginning – diligently following up on an oddball bit of bloodwork results. We discussed my history. I hadn’t had symptoms of a classic gallbladder attack, mostly because the gallstone was too large to be lodged in a bile duct. Rather, I tended to have pain in the center of my abdomen after eating. I’d chalked this up to reflux until I learned of the gallstone. Over several years, the pain had gradually worsened. Could most of my abdominal issues be due to this gallstone?
By the time I met with the surgeon to discuss a path forward, I was knitting the feather and fan border on the Multnomah. My range of emotions had gone from being worried sick to happy to have a rather benign diagnosis, to problem-solving and figuring out whether gallbladder removal was the best option.
Considering all the pain I’d been through, the surgeon and I decided on surgery. I thought it was fitting that I finished the Multnomah just as I came to the end of this medical odyssey and decided on surgery. A surgery project would be different, but the Multnomah saw me through the worst of it.
I wear the Multnomah a lot — it’s probably my most-worn shawl, due to its practical butterfly shape and colors that go with many things in my wardrobe. While others will see just a nice shawl, I see more. This shawl was my companion as I figured out a painful medical problem, and how to solve it. I feel that way about a lot of my projects: There was the cheerful rainbow scarf that saw me through a rough patch at work. The wrap I knit to ward off boredom on various business trips. Each project is knit up not only of yarn, but also of whatever challenges and [good things] that I encountered during the knitting. And that’s what makes all of my projects special to me.