Sunday, September 21, 2014

A new adventure begins

Chemotherapy finished, and feeling pretty pleased with myself. Unfortunately 2 weeks post chemo I started getting quite bad peripheral neuropathy, to the point that my fine motor skills are seriously compromised and my feet feel like I'm walking on very gritty beach sand all the time. Doctors aren't sure it will improve completely, but as of this week I have slight improvement. I'm teaching Absolute Beginners Dressmaking and Intermediate Dressmaking classes at the Parramatta College 2 evenings a week in 8 week blocks and managing to demonstrate to the students, as long as they do the pinning that is LOL ! Hand sewing is slow and very frustrating although not really painful. My regular costuming clients have had to find other seamstresses, but I have signed up to make Angel Gown garments with a great new organisation in Australia. NICU Helping Hands Angel Gown Program Australia is a fully volunteer group who receive donated wedding wear and upcycle them into memorial/burial gowns for babies who "grow their wings too soon" as we say. With over 2000 still born babies in Australia a year, neo-natal deaths (first 8 weeks) and late miscarriages happening more and more there is unfortunately an ongoing need for our services. I've been helping (slowly) to refine our patterns for the gowns in my capacity as award winning patternmaker (dating from 1996 State medal winner for Custom Clothing at TAFE) and many years practical experience with sewing wedding fabrics. We have some fabulous work coming through from all over Australia, Our remote seamstresses in country areas are "topping the list" at the moment although we don't see it as a competition of course. The families who are offered our garments when that sad time comes at the hospitals are very grateful for the beautiful garments made with love and compassion by our passionate ladies who are supported by their partners and families with logistical help too. We are getting ready to fundraise to ensure ongoing supply of our special white presentation boxes and cards which go with every gown placed in a hospital or funeral home. If you've read this far you'll see that I'm very passionate about the cause, LOL, and see this as a way to repay my good fortune to be looking forward to many more years with my husband and family thanks to the doctors and nurses who looked after me in the past 11 months. My diagnosis anniversary is next weekend, does this call for a celebration ?
See more about Angel Gown Program here

Monday, May 05, 2014

2014 catchup

My world has certainly changed since my last posting ! I was just settling in to providing Nanny day care for grandson Seth when I started getting some nasty twinges in my abdomen which needed checking out. To cut a long story short, I was sent to a gastroenterologist as a precaution and she recommended a colonoscopy as I was coming up to 60 years old. Unfortunately she discovered a colon cancer which we hoped was early stage. 2 weeks later the surgeon had removed the cancer which tested as stage 3B, not so early. He recommended 6 months of fortnightly chemotherapy so we decided to "go with the flow" and began chemo 4 weeks later. As you can see quite a whirlwind of testing, results and treatment ! My surgeon recommended I use a private oncology service rather than the public hospital which although very good is quite clinical and not the best option for someone with anxiety problems ! So glad I could afford to take his advice. I formed a lovely relationship with my chemo nurse and the director of the Western Sydney Private Oncology Centre at Westmead over the 6 months. I had a PIC inserted in my chest wall so that I could have regular infusions and also so that I could go home for the second phase of each treatment which required 4 hours in the clinic once a fortnight then going home with a small bottle of chemo drugs attached through the port. I quickly got into the routine of fortnightly blood tests on the Friday before treatment, then Monday for treatment and Wednesday for de-access of the line. The port will stay in for another 6 months in case I need plasma or a transfusion at some stage. Have a follow up CT scan of chest, abdomen and pelvis in a fortnight, then hopefully just regular flushing of the port and an occasional blood test. Fingers crossed we have stopped it in its tracks, the doctors were all calling me the "model Patient" as I had very few side effects and tolerated the chemo fairly well. I have very thin hair and short nails at the moment, and a bit of peripheral neuropathy (tingling and numbness) in my hands and feet which is typical and usually temporary. The fatigue levels are very debilitating so my stitching and sewing has been minimal this past 6 months, and I've had to pass my dressmaking clients to other people. On the whole though I feel very blessed and extremely lucky that I insisted on following up my pains and that the doctors reacted swiftly to the results. It certainly pays to listen to your own body, know when there's something not right and insist on tests until you are satisfied that you've done all you can. Best wishes to anyone else going through similar at the moment, I believe in Karma so I'm sure all will be well if it's meant to be. XX

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Autumn update

Further to my last post, our Intermediate Historical and Contemporary Embroidery coursework was displayed for the month of February at the Embroiderers' Guild NSW and was very well received. I was awarded a Distinction for my efforts, and all participants gained a Credit award or better. I received so many comments about my work, how interesting and emotive it was to the visitors etc. that my head got quite swelled LOL No sooner was that work taken down than I had another paid job to begin, 10 costumes for NSW convicts to wear while commemorating the bicentennial of the first "white" crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813. So I've been helping plan my youngest daughter's wedding for May, while sourcing suitable fabric, cutting out and sewing up 10 colonial style shirts and 5 punishment trousers with side buttons and 5 regular drawstring trousers. With limited measurements supplied from the actors I have all my fingers crossed that my approximations are going to fit. I also commissioned some hand knitted natural hand spun woollen caps from the Kurrajong Spinners and Weavers so only had to make one myself. Now to distress the clothes a little and stamp them with the "broad arrow" in a few places. Photos to follow. All of this was completed this year after successful Carpal Tunnel surgery on my right hand on January 15th. I've been taking it fairly slowly and not straining the wrist, so far so good. Left hand next, but not so urgent. And my granny daycare commitments continue, at the moment twice a week while the other grandmother is overseas. It's been quite interesting entertaining a four year old (going on 14) girl and a nearly 15 months old boy, I'm really out of practice LOL Wouldn't miss the experience for the world though.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Major Work 2012

Have finally finished my 2 year Intermediate Historical and Contemporary Embroidery Certificate course at the Embroiderers' Guild NSW. The whole experience was certainly "challenging" for several reasons. I knew from the start what my theme was going to be - the difficulties experienced by the girls aged 12-16 years put into "Lynwood Hall" (now called Linnwood) when they were State Wards in the 1940's, 50's and 60's. I thought this would certainly fit into one of the theme categories we were offered, so I chose Pain. My original concept was to make or adapt a 1950's garment and embellish it with details illustrating my theme. About half way through the 2nd year I started to realise that I needed something a bit more unique, and while googling terms to find some suitable illustrations to modify I stumbled on emotional baggage images. Eureka, all I needed was a suitable piece of baggage. As luck would have it, not long after that I was volunteering at a vintage clothing show and bought a great 1950's suitcase at a great price. Full steam ahead. My final piece is mixed media using painted and stencilled handmade paper, unusual fabrics, machine embroidery, quilting and machined text. Don't know if I've passed yet, but hope I will as the marks from our progressive monthly assignments were good.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Au Revoir Grace

Why is it that we always promise we'll see our extended families more often, but it's usually at weddings or funerals that we catch up? Today we saw husband's side of the family at the funeral of his father's cousin Grace. A lovely lady, one of those true ladies that everybody just loved and in her 92nd year. We saw cousins that we haven't seen for years except at such gatherings and everyone left with promises to catch up more often. It's a fact of modern life that everyone is so busy that it takes a sad event to bring people together. My New Year's Resolution for 2013 will be to try to do better at visiting family members I haven't seen recently, so many on my side of the family too.
Grace and love of her life Cec

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Blast from the Past

I've been doing some reminiscing lately, for various reasons, and look what was posted on Facebook today? My husband's 2nd cousin (or 3rd I'm never quite sure) found this photo of her uncles and me. This was taken in my husband's back yard at Lurnea, I can remember the dress I wore, navy seersucker with red and white spots and I made it myself. I'm guessing I was turning 17 and had just started going out with John who was turning 18 and his cousin Bob with beard was 19. I look very like my oldest daughter and youngest daughter combined ! Thanks Kathie, one I haven't seen before and will now treasure.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

It's been difficult to post regularly this year. The Intermediate Historical and Contemporary Embroidery Course I've been taking with the Embroiderers' Guild NSW has needed a huge amount of dedicated time for homework over the 2 years. Then there's the dreaded "Major Work" due this December LOL We were advised at the beginning to pick a theme which would sustain us for the full 2 years, and 5 themes to choose from. They were Body, Time, World, Pain and Anarchy. So naturally I chose Pain! My connection for the last 10 years with the Linnwood/ Lynwood House story and the girls aged 12 - 16 who were sent there for various reasons which were not their fault has affected me from the first hearing. My own teenage years were quite turbulent with a fracturing family unit so I could certainly identify with the pain suffered by these kids. But how to interpret that into contemporary stitch? Well, I'll just say that whilst my theme hasn't wavered, my concept has "evolved" into what I hope is interesting and contemporary. At the moment I'm working on "emotional baggage" with a vintage suitcase, unusual materials and machine quilting. I'll try to post some in progress photos, it's quite hard to photograph this "mini installation" but I'll see how I go. Stay tuned !
South side of Linnwood with original fountain and restored rose garden