Getting Nervous…

I just got the patient itinerary for my first week at the Clinic of St. Jude. I’m really nervous now. Actually, I’m freaking out. My coordinating physician down there already has me booked for the first five days with lots of testing and consultation. (Well, I knew that was going to happen but now it’s in solid print.) I can’t believe that I’m going down there all by myself and am going to have to deal with this 24/7 for days on end. I can’t believe that I’m going to be in a new place with new doctors doing all this stuff. I feel overwhelmed already.

I’m trying to remember that I have friends there that will support me. Alana lives there, and so does Bethany and her husband. Other friends live close by. One of my best friends from elementary school(!) is doing her medical school rotation in town just for those three weeks!! And I know my coordinating physician personally.

I can do things like tell them that fasting from midnight to 4:00pm two days in a row is just not going to happen. I can make people actually read my records and not just endlessly rerun tests that have already been done (just for the sake of doing them again.) I can (and I will) decline certain treatment “options”.

The thing is though that all of that takes a lot of energy: physical, emotional, and mental. I’m not even there yet, and I’m already overwhelmed.

It’s so ironic that I have to be this involved in the management of something that’s out of my control.

Please pray. A lot.


February 2014: Polaroid Block

This post is part of Hive 2 of the Stash Bee.


What is your name? Abigail Cashelle

Where do you live? in the United States

Tell us about your family. I’m single 20-something girl. I grew up as the oldest of three girls in a fairly traditional evangelical Christian home.

Tell us about how you got interested in quilting. I’ve wanted to quilt for as long as I could remember. I remember going into my mother’s crafting book stash and secretly reading pages on quilting that were in there. She had a Sunbonnet Sue book that I practically memorized. But I never actually started quilting until I started graduate school in 2011. By then, I had summoned up enough self-confidence to dare to learn to quilt without a teacher (or really knowing anyone who quilted.)

How do you organize your fabric stash? It’s organized chaos really. I have a set of drawers with current works in progress, including projects that I have in my head but haven’t even seen the light of day. I have a big box of fabric scraps that I’ve collected from various projects, from a sewing friend, and from remnant bins at various fabric stores. Then I have a box of stash fabric (not organized, just folded.) On top of all that, I collect vintage sheets, so I have a box of those, organized by color.

Who is/are your favorite fabric designers? For a while, I loved everything that Cosmo Cricket came out with. I love Sarah Jane‘s style and have used some of her prints here and there, primarily for baby quilts. Mostly I just love anything with a retro flair or that reminds me of someone that I’m quilting for.

What is one thing you have learned that you wish you knew when you first started quilting? I wish I realized how creative sewing is. I’m not an exact person (as you will come to find out), and so I always imagined that sewing would be impossible. To tell the truth, I am learning to be more exact, but I’ve also discovered that quilting has a tremendous amount of creativity and freedom to it. You don’t have to follow a pattern to the hilt and there’s no exact requirements for the length and width of a quilt. It helps if all your blocks are the same size, but if they’re slightly off, people can’t really tell once it’s on a bed and definitely not when they’re sleeping under it.

sewing edges for block #3What is your favorite sewing/quilting tool and why should we all go out and buy it? It took me a while to hop on the washi tape craze, but it’s come in really useful for quilting. I’ve used it to mark a 1/4″ sew allowance on my sewing machine. I use it to tape my schematics to the wall or to tap the rest of a fat quarter package back together. It’s super nice also to make those packages seem extra special when you’re mailing a quilting gift to someone. Right now, I only have green washi tape, so it would be nice to have another color. But this girl quilts on a budget, so I tend to go for the basics. Plus I figure that if I’m frugal on the tools, I can spend more money on the actual materials!

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. I’ve listened to Pride and Prejudice as an audiobook so many times that I have entire sections memorized. However, I still discover new things in it every day. To the high school English teacher who said that it was not a work of literary merit, I would have to say that that put it in a special category for me and made it one of the only books from high school that I still go back to all the time. I love all the movie/TV adaptations that I’ve seen, including the two BBC versions and the Kiera Knightley version. I think I like the Jennifer Ehlre/Colin Firth version. I’m a devoted fan of the Lizzie Bennet diaries; I love the way in which they’ve adapted the story to modern life and the ways in which they’ve interpreted the characters’ personalities. I’ve read a ton of fan fiction but am not a fan of the zombie/vampire twists (simply because I avoid that genre altogether.)

A few other things to note about myself:

– I am a historian by trade. I specialized in the antebellum South (which means the era before the Civil War and the area where slavery was legal.) I’m fascinated by tradition and by modern adaptions of the traditional.

– I have a chronic illness which has had a fairly significant impact on my life. I’ll be at a medical clinic undergoing more diagnostic evaluations for at least part of the month of February. Although I might be a little harder to get a hold of than usual, I’m really, really grateful for a distraction as preparing for the visit and even thinking about it has been kind of stressful (and scary). [My blog tells you much more about this journey.]

The Quilt Tutorial

My first memory of a Polaroid camera is a Sunday School class when I was four years old. One of the teachers owned a Polaroid camera, and they would come up with crafts that involved taking a picture of each of the students. My four year old self loved the idea of instant photos and watching the photograph develop. In sixth grade, we spent at least one week in art class altering photos we took with a Polaroid camera. We discovered that if you used toothpicks or q-tips, you can draw rings of fire around your subject. The bride at the first wedding I attended as an adult used Polaroid cameras to take photos of the guests for her guest book. So lots of memories!!

I’m excited about the possibility of a Polaroid quilt, one that can showcase some fun prints, can bust part of your stash, and can celebrate the past (and the present)!

fussy cut: block #3
Note how close to the edge of the fabric this picture is. Remember that Polaroids are a form of amateur art, so it’s totally fine if part of the image is missing, which is good since this scrap of fabric I bought from another crafter doesn’t include another full image of this scene.

The final block will be 9.5″ square (including seam allowances). Your block can showcase as many Polaroids as you like. I’m asking that your background fabric be at least 75% green or blue. Prints or solids both work; I just want to keep a color theme going. Keep in mind that Polaroids are not professional photos, so if your subjects are off to the side or partially cut off, it’s part of the theme!! (I told you I wasn’t exact.)

All measurements are merely suggestions. If different sizes or ratios work better for your particular feature fabric or your 9.5″ square block, be creative!!

1) Select a feature fabric. Find something that you can feature in your photograph. The broader the spectrum of choices, the more fun for me!! Cut out a square or a rectangle. My pears are about 3.5″ by 4.5″ plus seam allowances. The initial “A” is about 3 inches square plus seam allowances.
February 2014 block

2) Using a white or cream solid fabric, cut strips about 1″ wide for three sides of your fussy cut piece. Sew the opposite sides to the piece and then sew the third side connecting them.

3) Cut another strip about 1.5″ wide for the remaining side and sew that down.
making it a polaroid

4) Now you have a Polaroid (in fabric)! This is the perfect moment to square the edges if you want to.

Decide at this point whether you would like to feature multiple Polaroids in your block. If you do, follow steps 1-3 for each Polaroid. (Keep in mind that if you’re appliquing the second Polaroid on, you won’t need as many seam allowances when you cut the strips of white/off-white fabric.)

5) Select a contrasting or complementary fabric for the background. It can be a print or a solid, but please make sure that at least 75% of the fabric is green or blue.

adding the sides

6) To add the background, add strips of fabric to two of the sides. Then add strips of fabric to the other two sides. I intend to cut these blocks at an angle with a final side of 9.5″ square. If you make your blocks somewhat bigger (maybe 12″ square-ish), that will give me enough room to manipulate my ruler.

block #3: ready for trimming
7) To add a second Polaroid to your block, I would suggest appliquéing it to the block you completed in step 6. I used Steam-a-Seam to attach the “C” to my “A” block and then zigzag stitched it down with white thread. It could have been cool to use blue or orange thread although I didn’t think about that until later.

applique ready

8) Please mail me your block without the final cut. Once I have everyone’s block, I’ll make the final decisions about angles and placement and then cut everything all at once.

finished block

Polaroids came in different sizes and shapes over the years, so draw your inspiration from your feature fabric. I’ve seen Polaroids taken with the thick edge off to the side. I’ve seen square and rectangular Polaroid prints. I’ve also seen mini Polaroids taken. Use this as an opportunity to celebrate the spontaneity of layman’s art and don’t be over concerned about the tiny details. Just make sure that I can actually fit my 9.5″ square ruler over your whole block!!

I’m so excited to see what you all come up with and I can’t wait to put this whole quilt together. This is definitely a quilt design that makes more sense in a bee because it thrives on the diversity of stashes.

Email me directly or post questions to Flickr if you run into trouble as you piece these blocks.

Best wishes,

P.S. Please be sure to use my name as it appears on the address list. It’ll help the mailman get less confused!

Stash Bee Blocks!!!!

I’m really excited about being a part of a quilting bee. It’s my first one ever, and as a historian, it’s pretty exciting to be part of an American tradition.

I’ve just finished sewing my blocks for this month and next month!! Here’s a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on.

January 2014 block
January 2014 block
block completed by Abigail *after* mailing
Feb 2014 block #1
appliqued on!!
Feb 2014 block #2 (with my initials!!)

Disney Princess Personality, Part II

One of my intrepid readers saw my post yesterday and sent me a link to this:

According to this chart, being a Snow White means that I am a ISFP, which we already knew based on my blog content (apparently).

However, seeing as how I come across as many, many things, apparently, I also qualify for the roles of:

Since I have yet to become familiar with either Tiana or Anna, does that make me an introvert rather than an extrovert??

What a puzzle!!


Disney Princess Personality

I keep thinking that I’d love to be Ariel (minus the skimpy clothing), but I saw this Disney princess personality test this morning, and I took it. I was surprised by the result, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. What do you think?


Medical Records (Part III)

In thinking about gathering medical records and keeping track of everything, I realized that I have found one program that’s really intuitive and that’s become second-nature for me.

If you’re female and have menstrual cycles, I’ve found “Monthly Info” to be a very useful website for keeping track of that information. You can register for free, put in the beginning date of each cycle, and it conveniently calculates the average and range of your typical cycle and predicts when your next period will start. And, importantly, you can export or print this with you and take it to your next doctor’s appointment. All of this is completely free. It takes about one minute to register and about 30 seconds to update every month.

I used to keep track of all of this in my planner. (Where “all” means circling a date every month.) But that’s hard to show a doctor, right? Now I just print it out. My gyn loves it. It’s there if anyone needs it. And I put in all my records dating back to 2010!!

Just some thoughts on the topic,

P.S. About 200 pages of records were sent to the Clinic of St. Jude & my half-inch binder is filled to the brim. And I still have to pick up records from one more doctor and one more radiology center!! One of the clinics asked if I had a large file. She said that a “large” file happens when someone has a lot of tests or is hospitalized. Well, meet the girl who challenges that definition. My file was 128 pages at that clinic and it’s all from clinic visits and labs. No lab that was done there took longer than 30 minutes. (The ones that were hours long took place at a different clinic.) Abigail buck tradition AGAIN. Of. Course.

Medical Records (Part II)

Following my first post about medical records, I have made some progress. I’ve also discovered how much work I have to do. For example, I have images stored at no fewer than 8 facilities (and that’s only the ones that I remember!)

1) my records my way: I decided that since these are my medical records and they are going to dictate how I am treated, I get to make all the big decisions. I got a green half-inch binder (because I love half-inch binders and I’ve never seen a green one before.) I also got divider tabs that you can write directly on. I had them in elementary school and I LOVED them, but my dad never let me buy them again. He said the ones that you can print out labels were better. And I put everything in sheet protectors. Because I love sheet protectors.

2) paying for records? I’ve also successfully gotten around paying for records but putting down “for continuing care at the Clinic of St. Jude*” and no one has questioned that. Plus I carry around my intake letters from the Clinic of St. Jude that say that they want you to bring your own records (as opposed to having your records transferred.) {St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless causes, and I’m giving the clinic I’m visiting the code name of the “Clinic of St. Jude”.)

3) sorting: I’ve decided to sort the records by anatomy because I’m fairly certain that no sane doctor is going to confuse the foot with the heart. (And he does, we have much bigger problems.)

4) prescription records: for some reason, I’ve never had a consistent way of keeping track of which medications that I’ve tried and why I didn’t like them. This has resulted in me retaking medications only to remember why I stopped talking them before! Somehow keeping track of it is stressful, so I’ve just been lazy and kept every single receipt and medication brochure from every prescription that I’ve ever filled since 2005. (It’s a huge mountain of paper, and no sane person wants to tackle that.) Well, I asked and Ken’s colleague was able to pull up every prescription I ever filled at his pharmacy since 2009 in about 5 minutes. And it’s an easy to read table of information that has most of the pertinent information on it. I started looking up how to get records from other pharmacies (namely the pharmacies I went to in graduate school), and it turns out that it’s not that hard. Just two more stops to make.
5) in person: Everything has to be done in person. It’s annoying, but it’s also kind of better. That way, they check your identification, and only certain people can pull up your entire medical record. Plus, they do it while you wait, so you don’t have to worry that your chart is just going to be out for every random passerby to see.

6) electronic records: the beavers and armadillos actually use electronic records; (I was there when they switched over!!) and so I can actually walk away with a CD that has everything on it. No more requesting records from every single department I ever went to. (which would be ridiculous.)

All this is to say that I’ll go to the Clinic of St. Jude with a green binder full of records in sheet protectors plus a stack of CDs with images and electronic records on them. It’ll still be cumbersome, but that’s the reality of having a mysterious chronic illness for almost a decade. And it definitely beats trying to request them while I’m at the Clinic. Because that could take forever, and there’s no way that I’m voluntarily repeating some of those tests. Those were once in a lifetime experiences, thank you very much.

I have a list of places to stop by when I visit Grace & Timothy this weekend. There’s six locations plus I have an appointment with Dr. Mark to talk about visiting the Clinic of St. Jude. I still have at least one hospital, possibly two, to visit in my hometown to pick up records. But I’ve already pulled together images from four facilities plus pharmacy records. I just need to remember to call Dr. Bill’s office and have them send me the recent blood test results!!

It’s still a bunch of work, but I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (I think).

Abigail Cashelle

Gearing up for a Visit

Ginger Family cookies - need we say more..?I’m getting ready to meet Timothy & Grace’s little one. I’m so excited for them and I can’t wait to meet their little daughter. She’s being christened this weekend, and this lucky “aunty” will be there!! 🙂 (weather permitting — dad wants me to add.)

I know that they don’t have space for a lot of stuff plus they don’t really need stuff, but I wanted to bring something to celebrate. I finally settled on these cookies. I got ::gasp:: five boxes of them because they were mega on sale. Grace says that she loves gingerbread, and I think it’ll be perfect for a family celebration, right?


Keeping Track of Your Own Medical Records?

IBM Sorting Machine
an old-fashioned method of sorting

I’m assembling all my medical records in one place in preparation for the big consultation next month. By medical records, I mean not just lab results and imaging reports, but radiology films, doctor’s notes, procedure notes, therapy abstracts, medication history, the whole nine yards. And I’m wondering, How do you keep track of all these things?

I’ve been sick since 2004, so it’s a lot of information to keep track of. It’s scattered across medical facilities in three different states, across a myriad of clinic networks & private practices, and in paper or electronic form.

I have a medical resume of sorts that Elliot encouraged me to pull together; it’s definitely be extremely helpful, but at this point, it’s really just an abstract or a table of contents. I’ve been thinking about getting 250 sheet protectors and a binder and just putting everything in there, maybe even with binder tabs, just to have a handbook with me. Or maybe a computer? [Lugging stuff like a computer around a clinic doesn’t sound fun (but neither does lugging a binder!)] The binder definitely has the upside of demonstrating that you’ve actually seen a doctor before, but I sincerely hope I’m past the point of convincing people of that. Plus it’s a little easier to lay stuff out. (Speaking as the person who handwrote her exams for her 8 hour comprehensive exams.) It’s nice to be able to understand what I have in my hand if I’m in charge and have to go around bossing everyone else around. But I have no objection to being the holder of the magic key that everyone else understands and is in their native language (even if I don’t speak it.)

sorting the papers on my desk
another sorting method (probably not ideal for my situation)

Does anyone have any thoughts or suggestions? I’ve already contacted the coordinating physician at the clinic, and he just told me that the more information at his disposal the better. But my historian brain and my chronically ill experience tells me that how information is sorted is half the battle.

And I have serious objections to spending tons of time uploading data into a system that won’t give out more than I put in. At least give me some summaries or nice bar graphs please??

I have a giant file folder and an electronic file folder with all my lab & imaging results (and the more recent electronic images!) But the only record I have of medications I’ve been on is receipts from pharmacies. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to go about retrieving medication histories from pharmacies (or insurance companies) or how to organize that information in a way that is potentially useful??

Any and all suggestions would be helpful (and would keep me from losing my already lost mind.) Programs, apps, organization methods (electronic or paper). If you want to set my medical history to music or paint it, I also would have no objection. Comment here or email me at abigail (dot) cashelle (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thank you so, so, so much,

It’s a Sign…

I was at Dr. Bill’s office today (the doctor with the duck). I had asked the receptionist to make a note on my chart that I was losing my voice. So naturally, when Dr. Bill came in today, he asked me about my voice and whether I thought I had a cold. I started answering his questions, and then rapidly backtracked and said, Well, that’s not why I’m here though.

Thinking back, it’s kind of hilarious. I think I have a cold of sorts, and talking constantly at work is not helping. Plus coughing sometimes gets scrambled into choking (stupid tissue refusing to work properly?) but whatever. It’s just a cold. It’ll go away. I have bigger things to worry about. Like random bruising for no good reason. And blood appearing in places it should never be.

So I showed Dr. Bill my list of things that I needed to talk to him about, and he went and got his reading glasses so he could read them. We talked about them a bit, and he went ahead and had blood drawn to do a CBC. He advised me to go ahead and see a specialist that I had tentatively made an appointment with already. He said that that could also provide useful information. So we shall see. But he agrees with Ken that it’s probably not the meds that is causing this.

In the grand scheme of things, what’s losing one’s voice? At least temporarily?

only a chronic illness sufferer,