Early in December 2022 I learned I had a low grade tumour in my sigmoid colon. It had been probably settling in there for a little while as it had started to spread to 3 lymph nodes. Things moved pretty fast and I had surgery in early January where they were confident the tumour was removed with good clear margins and I was “cancer free”. However the cancer was sufficently advanced that it was recommended I do eight cycles of a three week chemotherapy protocol with an IV infusion on the first day, two weeks of oral medication and a week long break before starting again. The vast majority of the benefits were gained in the first four cycles and the risk of permanent side effects began to outweigh the decreased risk of recurrence. So I ended up doing five cycles with an infusion and the remaining three were oral meds only. Nevertheless (possibly due to some stubborness on my part of pushing through to completion) I have reasonable significant peripheral nueropathy – in layperson’s terms the soles of my feet and fingertips have an uncomfortable degree of numbness/tingling. After finish almost two weeks ago it is beginning to improve (my fingerprints have begun to come back!) but it has had me reflecting a bit on my crafting future.

I was fortunate to be able to work with very flexible hours and a caring employer for the duration but between work and survival I struggled to find the creative energy to do much of any kind of craft. To be honest my fingers often hurt for the first few minutes as well, although I know keeping them moving was also useful to addressing the numbness. During the last cycle I was in Brisbane packing our apartment up to move to our New Zealand house and my stash (fabric as much as yarn) had me thinking about the famous SABLE (Stash Available Beyond Life Expectancy). When you are aware that even with all the treatment my five year survival rate is sitting around 82% the pessimist in me is questioning my “retirement stash” planning – the thinking that it will be good to have plenty to do when I retire in three or four years.

Many of my knitting friends know I frequently do a bit of a Marie Kondo and purge my stash of what no longer gives me joy. But with all the moving I have done that several times in the last few years with my yarn and fabric (did I mention the massive haul of quilting fabric from South Korea?) At the rate I am knitting I have a good ten years worth in most yarn weights. Before this crossed my mind I did buy some lovely yarn as a treat when I was feeling really blah and I have continued to indulge in seeking out and trying new needle brands and styles. But in some weird way this musing about stash has become the thing my mind flicks to as I try to come to terms with the impact a cancer diagnosis has on my life. I guess it’s as symbol of I have planned for my life than I might have.

I have been pretty open about my cancer experience – to me it hasn’t been a fight, it has been a journey of one step at a time. I am not particularly afraid of death – my life has been good. I think surviving knowing there is always a possibility of recurrence or a new cancer is the challenge I am coming to terms with now. The unknowns of how long the side effects will impact on my life – it could be a few more weeks, a few more months or forever. Yesterday and today I crocheted a dishcloth out of scraps – smiling to myself that this was a slightly odd way of reducing my stash, I have a sock for on the train and several WIPs that need finishing. For me dishcloths are one way to kick off my knitting mojo and I am feeling pleased with the accomplishment of finishing something after multiple extended weekends of not much.

There is a lot of support from people for when you are going through treatment – but it is also acknowledged there is not so much when you come out the other end. If you have been through this journey what helped you make sense of things? And did you stop buying yarn?

4 thoughts on “What is SABLE when you have cancer?”

  1. I’m not sure how I discovered you, but love your writing.
    Never stop buying yarn!
    I had a friend (fellow motorcyclist) who pondered whether to still buy a new motorcycle, after finding she had a brain tumour.
    Chrissy bought the motorcycle, and boy, did that spur her on. It have her hope!

    Keep doing what you love, and as Marie Kondo says “brings you joy”.

    That’s my few cents worth anyway.

    Praying for you,

    1. Hi Suzze – nice to “meet” you. After I was officially discharged from chemo yesterday I felt so much lighter and do think I will reward myself with the new yarn that started the thought process! What’s a couple of skiens of beautiful sock yarns between knitters!

  2. Oh gosh. This is a lot to think about. I know that moving showed me how much yarn (and material) I had, and I did off-load some, but a lot of it is stuff I really like, and fully intend on using. But If I had some sort of deadline, that might change what I wanted to keep.
    Knitting is a real point of joy for me, giving me something to look forward to at the end of the day. I dread the point when arthritis might steal that, so it’s good to hear that keeping your fingers moving was a good thing, despite initial pain.
    I really struggle to knit colours which I don’t like. I can make myself get through it, if it’s a gift for someone, but it’s always much slower. I know I have a few yarns in my stash for presents for family members, and I’m afraid that if I had a time-limit, I might give those ones away. On the other hand, I’m just as likely to get around to knitting them, if I knew I had get on with it.
    Keep doing what brings you joy!

    1. Thanks Kerryn! Yesterday was my official discharge from the chemo part of this journey and I found my knitting mojo is gradually creeping back. Got so much more of a sock done on the train today than I have for sometime. It was one I cast on with Addi rockets which where my favorite before I tried the latest Addi addition before Christmas and it was interesting to compare how they felt in my hands. It’s not quite the same as arthritis as the focus is more in my finger tips now but while they were fine I feel my others were more comfortable (back to my needle reviews)

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