Happy 10th Birthday Pseudoboob

Ah. Here I am. It’s not that I ever doubted I’d make it to 10 years. Just the odd moment of fear, panic, unease. But none of those moments came true and I’m here. Here.  Here and I get up every day and go about my life as if the breast cancer never happened. Well, not really, but mostly. It happened. Ten years ago. 

I thought I’d have a lot to say today. But while I have feelings going mad in my head I’m not able to articulate them. So. 

I’m lucky. Unbelievably lucky. I’ve made it to *the* milestone for people who have had cancer. 

I’ll celebrate. When Bill gets home Japan and when I can gather my friends around me. 

Ten years. I’m here. Life is awesome.  

International Women’s Day 2017

There was a lot going on today.

Many women in the western world were participating in “A Day Without a Woman” actions. I suppose I could say I *chose* not to take part, but in truth, I didn’t even think twice. My co-parent has been working away for a week and wasn’t due back until this evening. So the effort it would have taken for my young men to get themselves up, fed, provisioned, and to school on time was more than I was willing to ask of them.  For families like mine, if one wants one’s children to be able to continue to function, one needs a male partner to pick up the slack of a day without a woman. I didn’t think that my young men should lose a large part of a day’s education to allow me to express my feminism by removing myself from the workforce. 

But that’s only part of it. I also didn’t *want* to step away from my work today. For my paid work, I needed to meet with one of my partners, have a confab with the other by phone, and continue to look for a new teaching space.  

My unpaid work is such an intrinsic part of my life that it is much of my identity. For me stepping away from my identity for a day doesn’t fit with my personal feminism. My tagline for  my twitter and this website is “Mother, maker” and that sums me up, although in some spaces I have added “teacher” even though it destroys the alliteration. 
And I was able to clear a small space in my home studio to enable me to make something. Using one of the crochet hooks that I inherited from my grandmother, I made a simple chain from thread and stone. Physical, metaphorical, and historical connections. 

And as it turns out, one of the men in my family did pick up some of the slack resulting from me being in the Centro for a meeting. As I was on the metro and then driving home thru crawling traffic, I was dictating cooking instructions into my phone for Thomas, and arrived home to pork with green chillies and rice for dinner. Win. 

International Women’s Day felt right to me today. 

97% of your friends are the worst humans who ever walked the earth. 

I’m one of those who “even had cancer” which is obviously bottom of the totem pile from those who currently have it or who have died from it. Copying and pasting stuff to your Facebook status is not helpful. Find a reliable charity. Take your credit card to your computer. Then do that thing. That thing that involves giving forward. And please don’t try and shame me for not sharing your status. I had breast cancer. I had fantastic care. If I’m one of the 97% who don’t copy and paste, please think about why that is. Cancer, and MS, and Parkinson’s research all need your money. Just pick a charity and give over the money. But if you’re going to post one of those “97% of my fellow humans don’t care”, statuses, please make that extra effort which saves me from having to read it. Block me. 

Community

I need to make something beautiful today. So I turn to fabric.

This is a Dresden plate, the pattern of the quilt my great grandmother, Twila Armstrong Beers,  made for me sometime in the 1970s. That quilt is worn, and faded, and has been repaired more than once.

That’s kinda how my heart feels today. But there is still potential in me, potential to be part of the change, to help build the only thing that can make that change: community.

So of course I turn to quilting. I imagine Twila did too, in times of sorrow, pain, and disbelief. Because community is part and parcel of quilting. And very few of us quilt in isolation, it’s a craft that has its roots in community, working together toward a common end. Community, conversation and a common effort makes something both beautiful and useful.

I think Twila would have put community building high on her list of priorities, but in her day, it just was, you didn’t have to prioritise it, so maybe she wouldn’t see it that way.

I will stitch my faith in humanity and in the power of community into this fabric, and invite you all to join me in making something beautiful and lasting and good out of what we are feeling right now.

My community encompasses all of us. All you need to bring is goodwill.

I just made something amazing happen

I had a pretty shitty day, part of which was spent in tears. Not really worth it but a couple of things tipped the simmering pity party over the edge. 

But then:
I was in the local waitrose just now (it’s actually Unimarc but they sell waitrose products, and serve a similar demographic).  Often we’re asked to take a product, pay for it and then drop it in a box on our way out. Today it was for “trabajo de invierno” where senior school pupils do volunteer work over the winter holidays. 

I looked at what the two young women were holding, and told them I wouldn’t pay for anything made by nestle. They looked at what they had and handed me a kilo of own brand sugar. Then they asked me why. So I told them (in Spanglish) about nestle giving free samples of infant formula in hospitals, thereby often sabotaging the breastfeeding relationship before it ever gets a chance to start. I told them how this can endanger the lives of babies in places where clean water isn’t easily available, and how it contributes to poverty because unlike breast milk, formula is expensive. 

And do you know what these two young women did? They put the nestle products they were holding BACK ON THE SHELF!

Nestle has a stranglehold on food production here. It’s much harder to stick to the boycott here in chile than it is at home in Scotland. 

I think right now I feel better than I ever have in Chile. 

A ratty old cardigan

I had a sudden panic when I realised it is the 1st of May and I’m supposed to be doing Me Made May 2016.

Then I looked down and saw that I’m wearing this ratty old cardigan I made before we left Edinburgh. The main part of it is machine knit with the button bands and hem crocheted. It’s seen the de-pilling machine a few times, but it now also has holes at the neck and the sleeve.

It’s done me proud over the years though, so here I am, comfy as anything.

Me Made May ’16

I, Alison Tonï @thereyougothen & www.fabricaciones.net, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavour to wear something I have made each day for the duration of May 2016
Ok, this year I’m going to try and do this. I do wear me made stuff most days, even if it’s just a piece of jewellery. I just have to remember each day!

Happy 8th Birthday PseudoBoob

Octobers seem to fly past at light speed these days.  I turned 50 two days ago.  Two days after my 42nd birthday (Hello, Life, the Universe and Everything), I had a Mastectomy and Tram Flap Breast Reconstruction.  I had been diagnosed in September with Paget’s Disease of the Nipple and Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS). Now, DCIS is considered a pre-cancerous condition, but because it can be widespread in breast tissue (it’s in the milk ducts, which are kinda like ALL OVER the place) the usual treatment is a mastectomy.  DCIS is usually symptomless, it will show up as microcalcifications on a mammogram, which is why getting those screening mammograms is a good idea, people!  The symptom that took me to the doctor though was a lesion on my nipple.  I thought it was an old breastfeeding injury, having had a baby with a minor tongue tie, we’d had a rocky start to feeding and I’d had pretty serious blisters and cracks.  The lesion appeared about 6 months after youngest had weaned, but then went away again for a few months. Then it came back, but also went away again.  This went on for a YEAR. Yes, I thought I knew what it was so I just lived with it for a year. I should also tell you that I was a trained breastfeeding supporter and halfway through my breastfeeding counsellor training. So, you know, I know breasts. Duh. I also was probably one of the few people who had heard of Paget’s Disease, and who knew what the symptoms were, given that it only accounts for about 1% of all breast cancers.

Anyway, moving on, because my diagnosis included DCIS, ie a pre-cancerous condition, there was no real rush. I continued going to my brand new part time job in a primary school, life carried on as normal, with just periodic freakouts about the 10 hour surgery I was facing. But I didn’t have CANCER after all.

So my parents arrived in Edinburgh on my birthday, and the next day I checked into the hospital in Livingston, where the plastic surgery unit was for the Lothians. Woke up on the 11th and was taken into theatre where I think the surgery took almost 12 hours.  But whatever, I didn’t notice.  It was just the family who had to suffer through that part.

The surgery was a success (you can read about TRAM flap breast reconstruction here) and after a few days of hourly ultrasound of the reconstruction, we were down to every few hours, and finally by my last couple of days in the hospital, only twice a day.  This is so nervewracking at first, the surgery involves creating a new breast shape out of belly fat (hello, free tummy tuck on the NHS!) and a new blood supply. The ultrasound is making sure that the blood vessels are surviving, so that the transferred tissue doesn’t die.

Fast forward 3 weeks to my follow up with the breast cancer consultant.  I walked in expecting to be discharged, and walked out with a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer and a prescription for chemotherapy.  Of course the pathologists had gone through the removed tissue with a fine-toothed comb, and it turned out that I had had a tumour of 11mm.  Now, this is where the luck comes in, believe it or not. If we had known that I had an invasive cancer, I would have just had the mastectomy and the reconstruction would have waited for after all the other treatment had finished. However, hopefully now, my case and probably others like mine will have shown that recovery is just as good when the reconstruction is done immediately.  The only thing is that I couldn’t have radiation without destroying tissue, but my oncologist assured me that I didn’t need it.  My cancer was an oestrogen receptor and Her2 positive, which meant it was very treatable by the newish drug Herceptin. There being no research evidence of how well Herceptin worked on its own, though, I had to have the standard chemotherapy for an oestrogen receptor cancer first.  Ah well.  I wasn’t exactly rocking the hairless look, I can tell you.

I hadn’t planned to tell the whole story when I sat down here today. I actually came down to sew in my studio, and was just going to do my annual “It’s October, check your breasts, and Think Before You Pink” facebook post.  But the whole story obvioulsly wants to come out. Maybe it’s something to do with turning 50.  Which is a more average age to be diagnosed with breast cancer after all.

Anyway, after 8 trips over 6 months to the Western General for Chemo (which believe it or not I almost looked forward to sometimes because there was always a good laugh at some point.  Black humour is rampant on the Chemo ward) I was ready to start taking daily tamoxifen and getting infusions of Herceptin every 3 weeks.  So my hair was growing back, but my fingernails were now becoming a disaster area.  You win some you lose some.

Six months into the year of Herceptin, we moved to Chile.  And here we still are.  And on Tuesday I have my annual checkup.  With a new doctor.  The fabulous oncologist who looked after me for 6 years has moved to Germany. How dare he?!

So it’s October.

Please, check your breasts.  Finding a breast cancer isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.  Not finding one that is there could be though.  And if you need someone to tallk to, please contact me. I am relentlessly positive, had a fantastic experience and prognosis, and will hold your hand through whatever you need.  OK?

And one more thing – I really do mean it: Think Before You Pink. If you want to help put money in the pockets of breast cancer researchers, do that directly, by donating to charities like Breast Cancer Care. Buying a pink vacuum cleaner, laundry detergent, or pair of trainers might just make more money for corporate bottom lines than for research labs,

Two months is a long time in Quilting. 

I last worked on the Nido Quilters Block of the Month the night before my hip surgery.

I decided to finish the block I had been working on this afternoon.

So I grabbed the printout of the instructions and the ziploc with the pieces.

And thought I had sewn earlier parts wrong, so I unpicked. And I sewed a 4 patch for the centre and just couldn’t see how it was going to go together.

Then something told me to look up block number 7. Yeah.

I should be doing the one on the left.

FO! And make number 4 for 2015

Although of course most of the work on these socks was done last year, I’m counting them!

IMG_8050 IMG_8048 IMG_8042 IMG_8044

According to Ravelry, I cast these socks on June 2014, if i recall it was on the way home for home leave.  And I finished them in January 2015.  Although I feel as though I knitted at least 3 socks to get this pair, and they still don’t match very well!