Saturday, May 10, 2008

Another Prayer Shawl

Today I called my cousin, the one who has colon cancer. He's about a quarter of the way through his chemo regime, which I believe ends in September, and which leaves him feeling wretched and basically unable to eat for six days out of every fourteen. He's lost twenty pounds. On the bad days, his wife tries to coax him with cheesecake, and on the good days, he eats as much as he can to store up energy.

I caught him on one of the good days at the end of the cycle; next week, he'll go in for another treatment, and the whole thing will start over again. Today he and his wife went out and had a nice lunch, and he did some yardwork. He goes to work when he can, and says that his employer has been very sympathetic and helpful.

He seems to have a great attitude. His type and stage of cancer has a 65% five-year survival rate, but he said that most of the time, he doesn't think about the odds. He just gets on with living when he feels strong enough. I said that all of us are living with an unknown five-year survival rate, and that cancer patients are just a lot more aware of it than the rest of us, and he laughed and agreed with me. He repeated a joke he'd heard on Prairie Home Companion, about the truck driver who looks in his rearview mirror and sees, right above the lettering that says, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear," the face of the Grim Reaper. And then he talked about how paying attention to the rearview mirror has made him examine his priorities. He's a very talented painter -- he inherited that from our grandfather -- and he'll be able to retire with a good pension in a year or two. He'd like to retire and spend more time on his painting and other creative projects.

I told both him and his wife that I wished I could do something, and that while I've been making a lot of prayer shawls lately, that seemed a bit silly in this case, since they lives in a very hot section of the Southwest. But evidently the chemo treatments leave him feeling chilly, and the manufacturer even provides "chemo kits" that include blankets, so I'm going to make a shawl for him after all. I'm making it from washable acrylic in a loose, airy basketweave, and because scents can be overpowering to people undergoing chemo, I won't include my usual lavendar sachet.

He and his wife aren't at all religious. I told him that he could think of it as a comfort shawl if that made more sense to him, and it did.

So tonight I interrupted my birthday-and-Christmas knitting to start his shawl. I really hope that for the rest of the year, I'll be able to concentrate on knitting for happier occasions.


  1. Prayers for your cousin.

    I have a prayer shawl question for you: I'm in the midst of making my second one, and the problem I'm experiencing is that I'm a really slow knitter, so it takes me forever. I'd really like to be able to give someone a prayer shawl in the midst of a crisis rather than 2 months later. So it's occurred to me that, as soon as I finish the current prayer shawl I'm working on for a friend who was in the hospital TWO MONTHS ago(!), I could start on the next prayer shawl without knowing to whom it would go, and then I might have one at the ready. But at the same time as I knit I like thinking about and praying for the specific person who will be the recipient. So I'm in a quandary. (I guess I could just get faster at knitting, but I'd rather not count on that particular contingency.)

    Any advice or thoughts?

  2. Cancer sucks! Wish your cousin didn't have it, Susan. I'll put in prayers for energy and successful treatment for him. Thanks for the prognosis. Sixty-five percent sounds positive. I'll also ask God to give you some rest from heartache.


  3. Thanks, Lee!

    What Now: I'm a slow knitter too, and I have the same problem. The best answer I can offer at the moment is, when making each shawl, to offer general prayers for comfort, peace and healing, and then to offer more specific prayers when you know who the recipient will be. You could attach a card with a specific prayer written out, or maybe wait to add quick finishing touches -- fringe, beads, weaving in loose ends of yarn -- when you know where the shawl will be going, and have the prayers attached to those parts of the shawl be individual.

    I hope that helps!


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