Whirlwind

I posted earlier last week about my sister’s diagnosis, and so much has happened since then. I won’t post all the details here, but I will say that the last four days have been the most difficult days that I have ever faced in my life.

My sister had an appointment on Thursday with an oncologist, which we thought would be a consultation and turned into a full diagnosis of an aggressive, fast-moving form of lymphoma. Her condition was worse than we expected and the initial shock devastated us. Heather proceeded that night to cut/donate fourteen inches of her hair in order to prepare for going into the hospital that night, the only preparation we had time to make for her hospital stay. After the initial shock of cutting her hair, she has settled into her cute new hair style and found it to be necessary for her hospitalization.

On Friday she started the day with a bone marrow biopsy, which proved to be painful and traumatic for her since it was not done under sedation. She went on to have a catscan and extensive blood work after the placement of a permanent PICC line. The doctor’s initial inclination was that the cancer was quite advanced and required an aggressive treatment. That evening at 6:30 she began her first dose of chemo. Her emotions were high from the trauma of the testing and the fear of the chemo. Luckily the advancement of technology has provided drugs that help prevent nausea from the chemo (she’s not constantly throwing up like in the movies).

Saturday proved to be a much better day. She was more prepared emotionally for her next two doses of chemo. We also received a full classification of her cancer: Non-Hodgkin’s T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma with underlying Leukemia. Translation: All 600 lymph nodes in her body are affected with cancer in them, but the good news is she only has three lymph nodes that are massive; the rest are less affected. The bone marrow has traces of cancer in it, but is not completely consumed with cancer (this is where the leukemia classification comes in).

With most lymphomas, patients usually develop a tumor mass behind their chestbone–the catscan revealed that Heather does NOT have a tumor mass at all. In fact, none of the organs in her body are affected with cancer, which is absolutely amazing! The other amazing thing that the doctor can’t explain is the fact that her bone marrow is still producing; most patients who have this type of cancer stop producing bone marrow. A spinal tap on Saturday also proved that she does not have cancer in her spinal fluid and nervous system, which is excellent news. She still has to receive eight doses of chemo in her spine separately from the chemo she receives through her blood to help prevent the cancer from spreading to her central nervous system.

Over the next six months Heather will be hospitalized every three weeks for intense chemo treatments. During the in-between times she will receive outpatient chemo from the clinic. She has a treatable and curable cancer and the goal is to put her body into remission–remission meaning that the cancer is eliminated from her body.

In order to keep her spirits up I have been planning special projects; I was actually at the yarn store for an hour on Thursday picking out yarn before I received the news about Heather. I mentioned the Hallowig that I was going to make her, and it is in progress using Plymouth DK baby soft yarn in bright fushia pink. She also requested a crocheted granny cloche like the one Reese Witherspoon wears in Legally Blonde, which I almost finished this afternoon. I’m sure I will be making many more hats: luckily she wants to wear lots of fun wigs, hats, and scarves in bright, cheery colors. (She especially wants a wig in the red shade of “Ginger” from “Gilligan’s Island”)

The color for her cancer is lime green, so I am making her a pair of socks out of Cascade Fixation cotton yarn in the color “celtic green.” She will be wearing lots of socks to keep her feet warm, so I’m sure I will be making more comfy pairs. She usually hates to wear socks, so I’m hoping that the ones I make will be good motivation; plus they will be prettier.

I have so many other projects planned for her that will be on the needles and the hook as she continues her battle. I will try not to post so much “technical” stuff on my blog and focus more on the fun things I will make her and the pictures of her wearing all the stuff. My role as big sister is to 1) be the mommy at home since my mom has to devote her whole attention to my sister, and 2) to do whatever I can to keep my sister’s spirits up and keep her fighting.

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3 thoughts on “Whirlwind

  1. I’m really sorry to hear this, cancer is such an awful thing. But I think you’re doing exactly the right thing and she will appreciate it all your work for her. you all seem to be holding up really well and I hope it stays like that. I’ll keep your sister in my prayers.

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  2. I am so sorry to hear about your sister’s diagnosis. I know all too well the emotions that you have as I went through this with my Mom (breast cancer though). I don’t know if this is even an option or if there is one near you, but she got amazing aggressive and comprehensive care from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. They were phenomenal. Just something to keep in mind. Have you checked out Knitty.com? There was a special breast cancer issue with lots of free patterns like the Shedir hat and Comfy socks that your sister might like. They should be pretty comfortable on her head and feet, the extremities get seriously affected by some chemos. Best wishes for you and your family.

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  3. I’m very sorry to hear about your sister. What a terrible thing go through, especially being so young. The project you’re planning all sound so nice.

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