I am a survivor

Well I am still not feeling the blog. I don’t know what’s going on but I am really finding it hard to come up with stuff to write about. I am spending 7 days waiting for inspiration to strike and it just isn’t happening. By Tuesday each week I am in a bit of a panic, I like to try and write on a Tuesday if Jay goes out running errands. If not I will wait until Wednesday morning but I don’t like leaving it until Wednesday as I always panic if I have a migraine or something and no blog post is produced.

At the moment the days are just merging into one. I haven’t seen any of my friends for over a month although I keep in regular contact with some of them. I have come to realise over the last 8 months that some of the people that I thought for there for me, disappeared when Frankie and Mollie passed away.  I understand that everyone has their own lives and families, with their own shit to deal with but it has been a very isolating experience. Some people have made a supreme effort to be present and other well not so much. It’s ok as I have a long memory and will be sure to return the favour when the shit hits the fan in their lives. I didn’t expect to be visited constantly but the occasional text message would have been nice, especially when they know my situation of living alone and Jay working.

Thankfully though I am pretty self sufficient, whilst dealing with my grief, I was juggling a new puppy and attempting to find time to sew / embroider. It hasn’t been easy but Dembe and I have found a new routine that works for us. He is pretty good at entertaining himself whilst I am busy sewing. He always positions himself in a location where he can keep an eye on me and ensure he knows if I have moved. He likes one of three places, the bed by the washing machine, the sofa that looks into the kitchen or out under the gazebo on the bench surrounded by all the cushions. I can’t believe my luck that he doesn’t get bored and then start destroying things. When I have finished sewing he knows that is our time and I will ensure I spend the time playing with him, doing training or just cuddles depending on his energy levels. I have been blessed with a pup that is so very well behaved and so very loving. His favourite spot for sleeping is right beside me on the sofa. This is him right now as I am writing this post.

My life has totally changed this year, I have re-assessed a lot of relationships. I have made the decision that I won’t swim an ocean for people who wouldn’t jump a puddle for me. I have decided that instead of worrying about what everyone is thinking or saying about me behind my back and believe me you’d be surprised the shit I hear being spoken about me by people who should know better, that I shall just carry on living my life and enjoying myself. The best revenge on those sad twats is to enjoy yourself and plaster it all over social media. It totally then fucks up all the fairy tales that they have been telling people for years.

I am also getting out of the house a lot more, this does have to be limited and planned for. I haven’t suddenly magically got better, it is just with one dog things are a lot easier. Especially as Dembe is such a friendly dog and on the whole pretty well behaved, although we have now hit the teenage years and recall seems to be a take it or leave it thing! Fatigue still grinds me down. I like using my energy for things for things that make me happy. So using my mobility scooter on Woodbury Common and getting out with Jay and Dembe has been unbelievably healing and grounding. 

It has been the one thing I have missed most since I got sick. The wheelchair trike although brilliant is an absolute ballache to transport. The wheelchair is fixed framed so that would take up the whole boot and then I would have to juggle the trike attachment with me in the front of the car. Not exactly safe. Then I piled on a load of weight when I developed my CSF leak and was virtually bed bound for a year, then in 2017 and 2018 we suffered a number of bereavements and I tend to self medicate with gin, chocolate and junk food / takeaways. I was 5 stone over the optimum user weight for the trike. So anytime I did try to use it the battery drained in minutes. I’ve been too embarrassed to say that because I allowed myself to get fat as fuck, I haven’t been able to use it. Hopefully now I am back losing weight ( it’s taken me until the last month to feel like I can actually do it) and I am back to 3 stone down, ideally at least another 3 to go so I will be massively under the optimum user weight. The trike will be used in the future as it is more suited to the rough and rugged environment of the common.

I do love my mobility scooter though and it has given me back my independence. It is easily taken apart to it can fit in the back of the car. It makes life so much easier if I need to go to the doctors or the hospital for appointments.

Over the 2 months I have got back into sewing and actually enjoyed it rather than feel I am going through the motions. From January until June I made a bloody good show of pretending I was ok, ensuring I used my embroidery machine every week and appeared to be enjoying myself. At points I felt like I was dying inside. I felt like a shell of the person I was. I didn’t feel I could voice the pain I was in. I know others struggle with grief especially when it is over an animal and not a human being.  Like I said earlier it has been one of the most isolating experiences of my life. There just felt like there was no one there. I do wonder if there had been someone their if I would have still felt so isolated.

I do have a tendency when things are tough to disappear into myself and attempt to shut out the world. I still kept on posting on social media, I still kept the creative things going but in all honesty I was going through the motions. It is only now that I can watch anything remotely sentimental without breaking down immediately. I only now feel like me. I feel like I have been on some weird journey where at points I lost myself. It is true what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger because in January / February this year I honestly thought the pain would kill me or I wished it would.

So I skillfully went off on a tangent there, I am enjoying sewing again and being creative rather than having to force myself to do it in the hope at some point the joy would come back. I am still working on my scrap busting quilt sew along. I found out yesterday that it is between a double (bed) and king size (bed) size, so it definitely is the largest one I have ever worked on. I made the back panel for it yesterday.

And in case you have forgotten what the front looks like

This morning I sorted out the wadding ( what you call batting in the USA ) which needed sewn together. I also made some plastic templates  to draw around as I have decided to tray something totally different with the quilting. It has taken me a few days of mulling it over to come to my plans. I have drawn it out so I have something to refer to. I now just need to have Jay clear the floor space in the lounge so that I can put my quilt sandwich together quilt back + wadding / batting + quilt top. I use temporary basting spray to hold it together but as it is so large I will also be pinning it. This ensures that the fabric stays nice and flat so it doesn’t shift and give you puckers. I also managed to sort out the binding yesterday. So it is all ready to be quilted shortly. I will be quite glad when it is finished now as I hate half done projects hanging around. I am really ready to now get myself into new projects and stretch my skills.

Anyway I started with no clue where this post was going and have managed to ramble on forever!

Dembe has changed locations

He likes it so he knows exactly where I am in the house at all times.

I think this year I have learnt, a lot and we are only in August. My heart has hurt more than I ever thought possible without keeling over and dying. I have learnt in the depths of grief you are still able to love unconditionally and you must never feel guilty for that. I have also learnt that the majority of people run away from grief and think that is acceptable behaviour. Despite all this I have come back stronger, love another dog more than I ever thought possible but when you have this gorgeous mutt in your life how could you not?

And yes he is holding my thumb in his mouth!

This is the year that nearly broke me, the year that changed everything and has just proved to me I am a survivor.

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Adulting

Well it seems that the universe isn’t done with fraying my nerves. 24 hours after last week’s blog pots was published we found out that our car was in need of some expensive repairs. The repairs were going to cost more than the car was worth – just the cambelt change we had been advised would cost us £400 with the best case scenario. On top of that we needed to get the mid section of the exhaust repaired as Jay had gone over a stick or stone and that had removed the exhaust from its mountings. It is at times like this I really can’t abide this adulting shit. I wish sometimes that someone else would swoop in and fix it all but then that would mean I wasn’t an adult at all. At 45 I need to realise the days of someone swooping in have long gone.

Being nervous about my tooth extraction went out the window. Instead Jay and I had come to the realisation that as much as we loved the car we have that this was probably a slide into it becoming a money pit. With one of the hospital consultants I see an hours drive away we need a reliable car. Other than trips to the hospital we do very little mileage. But I can’t be sat at the side of the road waiting for the breakdown service. 

I did a quick search online – this has been how I have found the last two cars. I thought I had found something ideal a silver Peugeot 207 Estate. It looked in good nick, nothing on there was screaming out to me. So rang the garage and this is where its gets bizarre. This garage was advertising on several well known sites yet when the phone was answered it was answered with just a “hello” not a “Hello XXX garage”. Initially I thought I had dialled the wrong number, so I asked if I had rung the garage, to which there was a bit of a pause and the guy at the end of the phone said yes. I then proceeded to ask him if the car was still for sale and if it had a recent cambelt change, full service history. The answer I got was yes the car was still for sale but he didn’t know about the cambelt or where the paperwork for the car was. The bloke sounded strange but I put it down to maybe he just wasn’t the full shilling. I should have taken a breath and realised how dodgy this all sounded. I mean a garage who answer the phone without telling you the name of the business, a car for sale ( and they only had 4 advertised on all the sites) and he didn’t know where the paperwork was. However I was stressed, I wasn’t thinking straight and we needed a car. Jay was dispatched by Taxi to the garage.

Whilst Jay was on route something was nagging at me about the car – my brain had finally engaged. So I did a background check on the cars history. Its cost me 50p and I could look up 5 different cars should I want to. What I found out concerned me, the car had not been on the road since 2017 ( which would mean an 8 year old car in 2017 hadn’t been able to be sold). It had failed its 2017 MOT and the list of fails and advisories were shocking. Ok I admit I had to google what half of them meant but even I knew a sub-frame failure wasn’t good. I messaged Jay and told him to come back. He messaged me back saying they hadn’t been able to find the garage – another bizarre thing, as the guy on the phone had told me the full address was on the website. However Google Maps had never heard of this garage. Thirty quid lighter and very stressed Jay got home with a migraine. He had to sit outside in the cold for a while, whilst I got him some pain killers and anti-sickness medication. He really did look rough.

So back to the computer I went, our options were being dictated by what was nearby and what boot size the car was as I have a mobility scooter and a wheelchair that I need to be able to put in the back. Most cars other than estates and people carriers just don’t have that kind of space. Just when I was about to cry with frustration I discovered a small garage 12 miles away that had a Renault Grande Scenic for sale, this was the next model up from what we currently drive so we knew the boot space was going to be ideal. I showed Jay the photos and I then rang the garage. This time I was told the name of the place I was ringing, which was a good sign! I then had a chat about the car and asked if the cambelt had been changed. The guy said no but it would be changed before we bought it. 

I did another background check it was 22 days without an MOT and probably about the same for car tax. I looked through its MOT history it had passed it’s last MOT with no advisories ( for those of you in the USA etc who are unfamiliar with the UK system cars have to be checked every year by a garage after they are 3 years old. This is to check it is safe and its emissions are compliant with the law. Advisories are things the garage notes that tells you although it didn’t fail the MOT on those points they will need repairs before your next MOT.) It had failed MOT’s in the past but all the work needed to ensure it passed and all the advisories had also been addressed. 

The problem was we had been advised that our Cambelt could go at any moment and we were only using the car now for essential travel. Where we needed to go was out in farming country and was down tiny single track roads. Should the Cambelt go out there we would effectively be up a certain creek without a certain paddle. Thankfully my parents had text me to let me know that they were up at their caravan ( about 3 miles away from us) so I rang them and explained the problem. They came to the rescue with my dad taking us over to the garage to have a look at the car. We took Dembe with us and he was such a good boy, as he isn’t brilliant in the car as he can whine a bit but he barely made a sound.

As we pulled up the the garage I could see that the owner had pulled the car out onto the tiny forecourt for us. Believe me I have travelled an hour to see a car at a garage in the past and found it at the back of the lot hemmed in by other cars despite them knowing we wanted a test drive! So that was another tick in the box. We had a look at the car, it was perfect for us. The boot was enormous and technically it is a 7 seater as there are two folded down seats ( completely flat ) in the boot. The car is big enough to take Dembe’s crate and my mobility scooter un-assembled. My mobility scooter comes apart so it can fit in the boot of a car. 

As we were happy with the car the deposit was paid and now we play the waiting game. The car needs an MOT and whatever work needs done for it to pass, if it needs any. It will be having a full service, the cambelt changed and the rear drivers side passenger window fixed. It’s an electric window which isn’t working, not that we open the rear windows with Dembe in the back. 

I am now going stir crazy as although Jay is still using our current car to take Dembe up to the common for his walks, I am not going with him as if the car breaks down I can’t walk home. I don’t have the ability or strength to walk should that happen. So I am currently going stir crazy as I haven’t left the house since Friday afternoon. Normally I go out of the house in the car about 5 times a week. That drive out onto the common, even though I just sit in the car, keeps me sane. It gives me something different to look at. I am at the point now where I just can’t wait to get outside. Of course this week I had a load of appointments my hospital appointment was booked for tomorrow so that has been cancelled. I was supposed to be at physio today but again its been cancelled due to not wanting to drive the car that far. The only appointment that is still going ahead as planned is my dentist appointment Friday for my tooth extraction. If we don’t have our new ( 2nd hand car) here by then I will take a taxi. 

Whilst sorting out the replacement car I ignored the fact that I had a UTI brewing, which caused me loads of pain over the weekend and I am only just feeling back to normal now. Thankfully I already had antibiotics in the house so as soon as I realised it wasn’t just an irritated bladder I started taking them. So Saturday afternoon I ended up having to go to bed as I felt so ill.

So we are on the countdown now to getting the car, I just can’t wait to get outside and see something other than my home and the garden!

what’s a cambelt?

Mum

I look back at the time when I used to write two blog posts a week and for the life of me can’t understand how I did it. I know at the time it would take all week to write those two pieces. I hadn’t discovered sewing then and was desperate for something to fill up the long hours of being alone whilst Mr Myasthenia Kid was at work. These days I can struggle to come up with one post a week as I don’t want to be forever moaning about my health but due to the fact I don’t go out socialising and can spend many days where the only person I see is Jay. It can be incredibly hard to find that spark that inspires the next blog post.

 
At the moment I am struggling to sleep or even when I do sleep that it is good quality sleep. I am constantly feeling like I am semi conscious. In the mornings it is taking a few hours for me to become properly awake. I hate it when I am like this as it just feels I have wasted a few hours before I can do anything at all purely because in my semi conscious state I am so clumsy and not fully alert to attempt to do anything at all risks injury. When I am like this I quite often go off into a world of my own, minutes can pass before I realise I have been sat staring into space thinking of nothing in particular, I have just zoned out. Every part of me feels like it is on a go slow whilst I wait for my morning medications to take effect. It also means my pain levels are higher than normal.
 
 
Some of you who follow me on social media will know that life has been extremely stressful of late. I havent gone into massive details on my blog but now I feel is the time to let you know what’s been going on. Back in July my mum went to her doctor’s surgery as she had been experiencing some pain. During the course of an examination the gp discovered a mass on my mums ovary, not a little one a huge mass. Mum was referred to hospital pretty much straight away under the two-week rule ( for those of you unaware of the two-week rule, is that if cancer is suspected you will have tests and see a specialist within 2 weeks. I have been referred twice in the past under the two-week rule when I have discovered lumps in my breasts. Thankfully both times it has been fine.)
 
Before the operation my mum was in a lot of pain, the mass was increasing in size and was now becoming visible externally. Every time mum was examined she ended up in agony. It was a very worrying time for all of us. 
 
On August 13th Mum had a massive surgery, she had decided that although the surgeon had told her that they weren’t 100% sure if the mass was cancerous there was an area that was causing them concern. They would possibly be able to tell her after the surgery if it was cancerous or they may have to wait until the mass had been examined by the pathology lab, that she would have everything that they could remove, removed to give her the best chance. So rather than it being a hysterectomy, she also had her ovaries removed, appendix removed, lymph nodes removed, cervix removed and all abdominal fat removed. This meant that should it be cancer there was nowhere it could hide and grow in. 
 
There were complications during surgery which meant another surgeon had to be called in to assist as mum had bowel adhesions – despite never having an open surgery in the past or even a laparoscopic surgery. She was one of the unlucky 10% of the population that develop adhesions without surgery. It possibly explains why I have developed such bad adhesions, if mum can have them without surgery and I have had around 5 abdominal surgeries.  For those of you who don’t know you can get adhesions anywhere and they are bands of thick fibrous tissue, scar tissue that sticks organs / intestines together. They had to be removed during mum’s surgery so that the cyst / mass could be removed.
 
A standard hysterectomy takes 12 weeks to recover from, due to the extensive nature of mum’s surgery she is looking at a 12 month recovery time. It’s extremely frustrating as a few people have assumed that now that she has had the operation she should be back to full health. Peoples ignorance is really astounding. Mum was cut from just under her sternum to the middle of her pubic bone due to the size of the mass and the need to remove everything possible. 
 
It wasn’t until the middle of September that we found out that Mum had cancer ( now technically the cancer has been removed but medically she will not be classed as cancer free until she hits the 5 year mark.) The cancer she had was very small but also very rare stage 1a grade 2 Endometrioid Ovarian Cancer. The mass removed was a cyst that had wrapped itself around the ovary and the cancer. It was 25cm in length so nearly the size of a rugby ball. Thankfully the cancer was contained and hadn’t spread but mum will be monitored very closely for the next 5 years. Due to the nature of the cancer she can’t have HRT to help with the loss of her ovaries, hormones could help it come back.
 
Obviously for us as a family this rapid turn of events was very shocking. My body gave out on me due to the stress and I ended up in bed quite a bit over the summer. Well that combined with the ridiculous heat. My mum was the very last person who I would have guessed would get cancer. She has been vegetarian since 1973 and went Vegan two years ago. She is a perfect weight for her frame and despite having Coeliacs Atxia was reasonably active. Out of everyone I know she wouldn’t be the one I’d have said was likely to suffer with cancer. I was more likely – overweight, ex smoker not a brilliant diet. My mum really struggled with getting her head around being sick. 
 
She has told me herself ( and I checked before sharing here) that she felt embarrassed at the fact she had cancer, mortified at the fact she was ill. She didn’t want to be seen as weak and vulnerable. She had been extolling the virtues of a vegan diet to anyone who would listen for the last two years, a diet that will reduce your risk of getting cancer and here she was two years in with cancer. It was made very clear to me that this diagnosis was not to be discussed, so other than a few of my closest friends no one knew what was going on. If anyone asked I would just say I was stressed due to life stuff. 
 
It’s only in the last week that she has posted on her own Facebook page that she has had a cancerous mass removed. So after discussing it with her this morning to check it was ok I can finally tell you all what has been going on.
 
It’s why I have been having trouble sleeping, pain issues, more migraines, vertigo etc. It made me feel utterly useless. I wanted to be able to support my mum but I feel like my body betrayed me. However it’s been really lovely that I have spent quite a bit of time with her one on one. As many of you know I live an hour away from my parents and a lot of the time I am not well enough to travel. My parents have a caravan around 10 minutes drive away from where I live, so whilst my dad walks his dog on the beach mum comes to my house and we have a catch up for about 90 minutes. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending the time with her.
 
And some of you may have put two and two together and worked out why I made my mum the very special lap quilt for her birthday this year.
 
 
 
 
 
She is doing really well. Every time I see her she looks so much better than she did the last time. She is doing really well. Fingers crossed that we sail through the next 5 years with no issues.

Solitary confinement

I’m used to my own company, I am in fact quite a solitary character. I don’t need to be surrounded by other people, as I can entertain myself. However sometimes the loneliness of chronic illness really gets to me. I am having a wobble.

 

Mr Myasthenia Kid had two weeks off work (as annual holiday) in August, it’s the longest he’s taken as holiday in years. Normally he takes a week here and there throughout the year. Always holding some back in reserve in case he needs to take time off to look after me or take me to medical appointments. Usually by the end of his weeks holiday I am happy to send him back to work, as I have my own routine and ways I like to get stuff done. This time however I am finding hard to adjust to not having him home with me. We had a lovely two weeks together, laughing, talking and generally just being together and now the house just seems so empty and quiet. It’s been quite hard to g back to it just being me for long stretches at a time.

 

It is really hard to explain how empty the house seems, it’s not like he takes up lots of room or that he makes loads of noise. It’s just I got very used to his presence and having someone to talk to. When you are chronically sick and virtually housebound your world gets very small. You only see the people who can be bothered to make the time to see you. Being below retirement age all of my friends are working and have families of their own, so I am very grateful for the time I do get to spend with them . With the pace of life these days, it’s very easy to be forgotten about, out of sight out of mind. I found that back in 2008 when I left work, that all these people who I had known for 12 years who I believed were my friends, just disappeared. They think a quick comment on your Facebook page is a get out of jail free card, it doesn’t replace seeing someone in the flesh and having a conversation.

 

Most of my friendships are now online and I have made some truly wonderful friends. Particularly on Instagram amongst the crafting / sewing / creative community. I am lucky to have got sick in an age where to talk to someone I just have to open up my computer but it doesn’t replace the physical presence of another human being. I am grateful for the online friends I have but I would imagine they would agree that proper physical contact with other human beings trumps any other contact with the outside world.

 

I have always been quite a solitary character, my own company isn’t something that has ever daunted me. In fact there are days where I cherish the time I spend alone. I like being able to step back from the outside world but I also like to spend time in it or as close as I can. I like a balance of both but due to my health being so utterly rotten this year, I have barely seen anyone since the end of June. I have literally gone weeks and the only person I have spoken to is Jamie. Can any of you who aren’t chronically sick imagine what that is like, that the only contact you have with the outside world is with one person? It’s no ones fault, this isn’t a dig at any of my friends as it has been me doing the cancelling due to not being well enough. Is it any wonder now that after having two weeks of company I am finding going back to being alone so very difficult? I am grateful that we have the dogs but their conversational skills are very limited.

 

It’s hard to explain but my heart hurts with the loneliness and the missing Jay. I know he’s only 7 minutes up the road but the house is so quiet it  is deafening.

 

Every year around Christmas time there is always a campaign about loneliness and the elderly. Every year I want to scream at the TV it’s not just the elderly who are lonely in this country. There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of people whose lives are blighted by illness who see no one for weeks on end other than their caregivers or partners. It is assumed that if you are aged between 18-67 that you are in work but there are many of us who can’t work, who are housebound who are crying out for some company yet we are the forgotten ones. I don’t know if it is because people don’t understand chronic illness and can’t get their heads around the fact that there are working age people, who through no fault of their own do not have the social outlet of work and are just forgotten. It’s like we don’t exist.

 

I am extremely lucky I have friends who do come and visit me. I really appreciate those visits and I hate it when I have to cancel due to my health deciding to have a hissy fit. It takes a lot for me to cancel because I don’t know when they will be able to visit again. There are lots of people in my position who never see anyone. I know I am lucky, I am just sad this week as I am finding it so hard to adjust to Jamie being back at work.

 

I know given a few more days I will have got myself back into a routine and I will be used to being on my own again. I thank my lucky stars for my cyber friends who are so supportive and caring. Even though I am shit at messaging people because I am always in my own little bubble. I have an issue where I think of someone, say to myself “oh I must message them” and two weeks later I realise I haven’t. I’m currently struggling with what day of the week it is. Not because there has been a bank holiday it’s purely that I have no clue. To give you an example of how bad it is at the moment, I had no clue today was Thursday and was quite surprised when I started to get notifications on my blogs Facebook page. It was only when I looked I realised that my blog post for this week had been published. I tend to write them in advance and schedule them in to be published automatically. This morning I had no idea that it was Thursday. I do however know who the prime minister is and what year I was born! Just in case anyone is concerned about my mental status. It’s just the days are currently blurring into one.

I also know that the way I am feeling now is probably a reaction to all the stress I have been under lately. My mum has had some pretty major surgery that was needed out of the blue. Adrenaline has carried me through for weeks. Now things are starting to calm down, I have the time to spend analysing my feelings because during that time period it was just getting through that day that mattered. It was a frightening / stressful time. In a year of horribly stressful and sad events. I know I just need to get back into a routine and allow myself the period of adjustment instead of being so hard on myself that I am struggling to adapt.

 

This probably  seems quite a depressing read, I’m sorry. I have just really been surprised at the depth of feeling that Jays return to work has caused me. I don’t think in the nearly 22 years we have been together that I have ever missed him so much. Silly really as every night he is home, every morning he is here. Just at the moment being in the house alone seems a little like solitary confinement.

 

P.s Its over a week later and I am back into my old routine. I am enjoying the time I have to myself and have been really productive on the sewing front.  I have also had a visit from some friends which was really nice. Obviously I still miss Jay during the day but it’s not like the deep ache in my heart I had before. I  am much happier now that I have re-adjusted to the time spent alone.

 

My first gifted quilt

Many of you who follow me on various social media platforms will know that my mum has been quite poorly. It’s actually a massive understatement for what she has been through. She’s had a major operation that will take months to recover from. The stress of being so far away from my mum and too sick to travel impacted my health a lot over the summer. So as soon as I could take a breath and think straight I decided I was going to make her a very special gift for her birthday in September.

 

I was very lucky that a friend on Instagram gifted me a pattern for a quilt, which I had seen her make and loved. It was 4 pussy cats, spread over 4 separate panels, making it a lap quilt. The cats were made by using applique and then sewing over the raw edges. Initially when I decided to make the quilt I was going to use fabric from my stash but whilst I was mulling over the quilt in my mind I decided I wanted to buy some material for the cats. I knew I wanted muted colours rather than bright colours. I had also had the last of one of my subscription boxes, I was unimpressed with the project contained within so I decided I would use the floral fabric charm pack ( 5 inch squares ) in conjunction with the polka dot fabric I purchased. The white background fabric was bought earlier on in the year during the sales. I had no plans for it and decided this would be superb for what I wanted to do. The pattern was discreet enough that it wouldn’t fight with the fabric I wanted to use for the cats which I wanted to be centre stage.

 

I’ve not done much applique before so I was a bit stressed about it. To be honest everything was stressing me out when I started this quilt. My brain was just fixating on anything it could to worry about. I made the first two cats and immediately fell in love with them.

 

 

 

Both cats had been fiddly to do and although I loved them both, I decided to do what I always do which is make it up as I go along. When I had last seen my mum she had been in awe of the free motion embroidery I had done on a cushion.

 

 

I decided instead of having 4 cats on the lap quilt, I would have two cats and two mice, as I knew how much my mum had loved the mouse on the cushion. This also meant that the lap quilt would be completely unique with it being a mash-up of two different designs.

 

 

The above photo shows the 4 panels that have the applique designs on them. These were created using bondaweb, which is a fusible webbing. It’s very fine material that is a glue. On one side you have paper and on the other side is a rough surface which has glue on it. To begin you trace out your design onto the paper side of the bondaweb. Then using a dry iron you stick your traced shapes to the wrong side of your fabric. You then cut your fabric shapes out, then remove the paper ( I use a pin to score it as it makes it easier to remove). You then position the shapes how you want them to appear on your background fabric. Using a damp cloth and a steam iron you apply heat to the fabric to bond it to the background fabric. This is raw edge applique, as you haven’t turned the edges over, so the raw edges are exposed. To prevent fraying you then sew over the edges.

 

 

 

 

For the mice I used a different technique, which is called free motion embroidery. This is where you drop the feed dogs ( these are the things that pull the material under the presser foot as you sew), I also have a special bobbin case for my Janome Atelier 5 ( blue dot bobbin case) which has a lower tension on it. It makes the world of difference when doing free motion quilting or embroidery. I also attach the darning / embroidery foot which is a closed toe. I haven’t done much free motion quilting, I really need to make up some quilt sandwiches and just have a play but I’ve done a couple of pieces of free motion embroidery. The free motion embroidery gives the applique an outline and it also makes it look like you have drawn the edges on. I love the way it looks and the fact that it doesn’t have to be brilliantly accurate as its supposed to look a bit messy!

 

 

After I had completed the 4 panels, I made my patchwork backing for the quilt. I wanted the quilt to be as beautiful on the back as it was on the front and in effect be reversible. I used my charm squares for this and added in some squares of the background fabric so it tied it to the front of the quilt. Using precut fabrics speeds things up, as you can literally just sit and sew. Things come together very quickly. I was extremely lucky with the finished size of the back panel as it was a complete guess. As at the time of putting this together I hadn’t decided how big my borders were going to be that would join the 4 panels together.

 

 

I decided to use the backing fabric from the panels as part of the sashing joining the panels together. I also used some of the fabric that I had made the cats and mice out of to tie all the fabrics together. I settled on 1 ½ inch strips of fabric, sewn together with a ¼ inch seam allowance. Thankfully earlier on this year I bought a creative grids stripology ruler, which means cutting strips is an absolute doddle. Cutting that would normally have taken me hours and lots of ruined fabric – because I can’t cut straight or measure accurately for toffee, now takes a matter of minutes. I can’t tell you how much I love these rulers, they’ve made my life so much easier! I used a 3.5 strip to make the outside border.

 

 

I then freaked out for a few days over how I was going to quilt this. I couldn’t decide if I was going to leave the applique panels unquilted and only quilt the borders. Or if I was going to quilt the applique panels how would I do it without distracting from the applique. I won’t lie it gave me a sleepless night or two. This was an important present, that had significant meaning for me. It was important that I got this right because once I started there would be no going back. Thanks to Instagram and all the quilters I follow my deliberations over the applique patterns were brought to an end when I saw how someone else had quilted their work with just straight lines about an inch apart but not going through the applique. It would be tricky as each time I started a new section would mean bringing the bobbin thread up, something I hadn’t had to do for ages as my new machine means I don’t have to do this. By bringing the bobbin thread up it meant I would avoid a nesting of threads on the back of the quilt, when a locking stitch was used. Although it’s not perfect I used a few small stitches forward and back to secure my threads. I am not advanced enough at the moment for burying threads and due to when my mums birthday was I didn’t have lots of time to master a completely new technique.

 

Quilting took a few hours and a lot of back, arm and shoulder pain from terribly bad posture.

 

 

 

 

To finish off the quilt the raw edges of the material needed to be bound, if you didn’t do this the material would fray and the wadding / batting would be lost from the quilt. I made the binding using a fat quarter from the polka dot material I bought. I used my stripology ruler and cut 2.5 inch strips and then joined them together.

 

The raw edges of the binding and the raw edges of the quilt are lined up and then I used the sewing machine to sew the binding onto the front of the quilt. I had an absolute nightmare with the binding. After sewing it on I had to unpick it as I had sewn too far over and not left myself enough binding  to pull over to the reverse of the quilt. It took me over an hour to unpick. I was also having a disastrous time with mitred corners. So I have done the best I can. Once I was “happy” with how the binding was sewn onto the front I then settled down for a few hours of slow sewing whilst I ladder stitched the binding onto the back.

 

This process took ages as the polka dot material was quite thick. I have ended up with blister’s on my thumb, forefinger and middle finger. There is also a bit of my DNA in the quilt as I lost count how many times I stabbed myself! Finally the quilt was finished.

The very last job left to do was to sew the label onto the quilt. This was a personal message to my mum, so I won’t be sharing. However it also covers who it was quilted by, on what date and what the design is called. I have named it Cat & Mouse.

It’s quite exhilarating finishing a quilt but it can also leave you feeling a little flat. You are overjoyed at what you have accomplished but for me I have lost that drive of what I have to achieve for the day. I really hope my mum likes it.

update:

It was gifted to her on 1st September and she was thrilled to bits with it.

 

 

2015 was not last year

We are now six months into 2017 but my brain is still failing to catch up after last year. I am still catching myself thinking that 2015 was last year or writing the date as 2016. It’s almost as if 2016 didn’t happen at all and throughout all the years of chronic illness this has never happened to me before.

 

Last year holds very few memories for me, much of it is a vague blur. When you look at what occurred last year it’s hardly a surprise. From the start of the year I started to experience what I believed to be migraines several times a week. Over the course of three months they became daily and at the end of March 2016 I collapsed in the shower due to the pain. It was immediately diagnosed (correctly) by my gp during a home visit to be a low pressure headache caused by a CSF leak. My gp spoke to my PoTs / EDS consultant who advised increasing my salt tablets (salt can increase CSF production). I spent much of April in bed, three weeks after I collapsed I was referred to a neurologist who specialised in CSF Leaks. First hurdle jumped through or so I thought.

 

Despite my referral being marked as urgent, my referral was refused. This is not uncommon these days as many hospitals now employ admin staff (not medically trained staff) to sift through referral requests to see which ones they can deny and which ones they will approve. At the hospital the consultant was based, insider knowledge from an anonymous source informed me 60% of referrals to neurology were being denied for spurious reasons. When I still hadn’t heard anything back from the hospital by mid May (and now in daily agony) my referral was submitted again. By the end of the week I had an appointment for 22nd June, the day before the EU referendum vote hence why I can never forget date, as it was discussed in my appointment. Now cynical me would say what a devious  strategy for hospitals to keep their waiting lists down by refusing to accept 60% of referrals. But with the UK at the polls today for the General Election you’ve probably been all politicked out, I know I won’t be sleeping tonight whilst I wait for the results to come in.

 

A week after my hospital appointment in June I was admitted to hospital for various tests and the hope that I would get an epidural blood patch done. Those of you who regularly follow my blog will know that I didn’t get an EBP done but instead started monthly caffeine infusions and occipital nerve block injections. With the introduction of the infusions and injections things did improve a little but I was still pretty much incapacitated every day to varying degrees.

 

On the worst days I would be in bed for 20-24 hours, unable to lift my head up off the pillow whilst violently throwing up. My bedside bin (lined) became an impromptu sick bucket and I became an expert at throwing up whilst lying on my side. My world really began to shrink, much of the time I couldn’t watch TV or use a computer / phone as the light emitted was too bright even with sunglasses on. I ended up listening to audiobooks or the radio to pass the time. The back of my head and neck were permanently red from lying on hot water bottles. Days, weeks and months merged into one, something I am not surprised about as this is the worst medical condition I have had to deal with.

 

I look back now and I am surprised that I got through this at all. I was lucky as I had the support of my husband, parents and friends. Someone without that support network would have really struggled. When I was able I could also get support from a Facebook group for those who have a CSF Leak, they helped me in so many ways. I now realise that I have probably been leaking on and off since I had a lumbar puncture in 2009. Although it’s not completely gone away, I still have days where by 2-3pm I have a headache start that will only go away if I lie down, I have quality of life back. Lying in a darkened room, completely alone for much of the time is no way to live. I have to be honest I don’t know how I would have coped if the pain hadn’t suddenly dramatically reduced just before Christmas last year. You don’t realise how much you have even when chronically sick before, until it’s gone. It really shocked me how quickly life as I had known it had been taken away.

 

Even though I know 2016 happened and have snapshot memories of things that happened, it does feel like life completely passed me by. It is a really bizarre situation. Obviously it’s quite normal at the start of the year to think the wrong year was last year, for example in January 2017 you were still probably thinking 2015 was last year (or maybe that’s just me?) However it’s June now and I am still struggling to accept that 2016 has been and gone, that 2015 wasn’t last year its two years ago now. It a really hard thing to describe unless you’ve been through a similar situation.

 

I realised just how caught up I was in still thinking that 2015 was last year when I had to correct myself when speaking to my hairdresser this week – again something I rarely had done last year was my hair! I explained that I was caught up in this brain trap due to losing much of last year to being so ill and she totally got it. Some people I have spoken to about it don’t or can’t understand how you can lose a year but realistically it must happen to many people for a variety of reasons. 2017 just seems so alien to me it takes a conscious effort to remind myself it is this year. One mantra I am repeating constantly is 2015 was not last year. I have six months left to recognise this year is 2017, let’s hope it’s sorted by 2018!

My MRI

Today’s blog post will just be a quick one as it is Wednesday (tomorrow is publishing day) and for the last week I have been hammered by migraine after migraine.

They seem to have shifted now and I know that they have been caused by the stress of the situation I find myself in. Whilst the medical profession play hunt the possible tumour (benign) I find myself living in limbo, putting on a brave face for everyone around me when really I am shitting myself. I have a million “what if?” questions going around in my head and no one is able to give me any answers. 

My husband is also putting on a brave face but I know he is worried about me, he is losing his temper at the slightest provocation. He isn’t my normal hubby but someone who is struggling with his emotions. I hate the way my health problems screw him up. I feel dreadfully guilty and despite my reassurances that I am about 80% certain they will not find a tumour and the raised prolactin with be idiopathic (without a known cause) because that is the way my medical history plays, he can not help but worry. I understand that he is struggling and so am I. We struggle on together, supported by those that we love.

Last night I had my MRI scan, mine was the last one of the day at 19:10pm. I was unable to sleep the night before and ended up getting up at 1am. I did manage to have an hours nap late in the afternoon and actually felt a great deal calmer when we got to the hospital.

Everything went smoothly, the cannula for the contrast dye went in first time (practically unheard of but I know of a decent vein on the back of my right hand), I got the technician to give me a surgical glove filled with warm water to help the vein come up. The MRI itself was the longest one I have ever undergone and the platform that I was lying on was shaking with the sound of the machine as it took the images that they need. Halfway through I was injected with the contrast dye. For the next series of scans they checked I was ok and not having an allergic reaction to it. They did say that reactions to it were pretty rare but they had happened and that they were equipped to deal with it. The two staff dealing with me were exceptionally nice and made me feel relaxed which is always a bonus.

I really loath head MRI scans due to the fact your head is wedged with blocks to keep it still and then you have a plastic cage thing placed over the top which contains a mirror so that you can see the technicians doing the scan. Rarely during the MRI’s do I open my eyes, I can cope better when I have them closed. I get quite panicky when I open them. I don’t think it is claustrophobia, its more an issue with masks and things on my face. I had a major operation as a small child and I think a mask was placed on my face before they sent me off to sleep. I have had a weird reaction to certain hospital smells and stuff on my face ever since. I can’t even snorkel because having the mask over my eyes and the tube in my mouth makes me start to panic. I have no control over it, I feel like I can’t breathe (despite logically knowing I can) and I need to rip the stuff off my face and just move away from where it is taking place. Having my head strapped down, with the cage over my face provokes the same feelings.

I managed to focus myself on the music I was having played during the MRI. I went old skool with U2’s The Joshua Tree, this was the first CD I ever owned. I tried to keep control of my breathing all whilst clutching the emergency button as if my life depended on it. Over all I am pretty proud of how well I did, I was in the scanner for around 35- 45 minutes, which at the time seemed a lot longer.

The only drama we had last night was that the cannula site wouldn’t stop bleeding. We had made it from the X-ray department to the main hospital corridor when I felt something dripping down my fingers. A quick check proved my suspicions right and it was blood. It wasn’t a big deal but the gauze that I was using to apply pressure was now about as much use as a wet tissue. We headed back to the department, it was deserted as everyone was packing up to head home. We stumbled across another technician who was very helpful, giving me a great big pile of gauze and taping it onto my hand. I knew it would stop bleeding eventually and it was just more inconvenient that frightening. All that was needed was more pressure and to keep my hand up on my chest to help stop the bleeding.

We eventually got home after 9pm and I crawled into bed shortly after that. I am exhausted today and can see other than writing this post very little else happening. My results should be with my consultant in 5 days and with my gp within 20 days. Hopefully somewhere in between I shall find out if I have a tumour or not.

On a lighter note I would like to wish my mum a very happy 60th birthday. She has always been my blogs biggest supporter and I want to thank her for that. I hope you have a lovely day and I am looking forward to seeing you at the weekend. Love you xxx