Stitch by Stitch: The Healing Power of Knitting
I'm a knitter. A cancer survivor, yes, but also one of those people who is absolutely, and completely, obsessed with making things with sticks and pretty string.
BY Dee Wieczorek
PUBLISHED August 31, 2015
"Ooh! What are you making?"
My name is Dee and I’m a knitter. A cancer survivor, yes, but also one of those people who is absolutely, and completely, obsessed with making things with sticks and pretty string.
I knitted my way through chemo, while waiting for my turn on the radiation table and for CT scans. I purled in exam rooms, before blood work, after speech therapy and while I spent five days in ICU. My surgeon came in to see me and there I was, knitting a sock. My bed and table were covered with patterns and sock yarn and stitch markers and I had a knitting needle jammed behind my left ear. I looked like I’d just wrestled a Muppet and lost. Badly.
“I think you’re ready to go home.”
I made a pretty fabulous pair of wool cabled bed socks while I got chemo and a lovely cowl in a gorgeous silk blend yarn as I waited for my morning radiation treatments. I finished another pair of socks in my post-surgical haze, half listening, to the nurses at their station.
And I understood the power of it, this knitting thing. Of course it was about control; that part I got. During a time when I had little say over anything that was happening to me, I could pick the pattern and choose the prettiest yarn and create something beautiful.
What I didn’t yet know about all this sticks and string stuff was how transformative it would be. Many knitters mark time by how quickly they can finish the sweater or the shawl, but this wasn’t about how fast I could knit that pair of socks or if I’d get a chance to wear the cowl this winter if my neck was still red and raw from the radiation.
When I pulled out my knitting from my project bag, I felt myself take a deep breath in and let it out, slowly. I would check my pattern to make sure I was in starting the right place. I’d feel the yarn (oh, the silk blend is so perfect for this) and maybe sniff it. The Irish wool for the fingerless mitts had a marvelously earthy, sheepy smell, and don’t those cables look great in it? Oh look, I goofed that one up.
And that’s okay. It can be fixed. I’m being fixed, too.
Stitch by stitch, I’d relax. I’d look up from my chemo chair and see my fiancé next to me, reading. I’d knit a few more rounds and check to see how empty the IV bag was. A few more rounds and this week’s treatment will be done. Three more treatments and the sock will be done. Cashmere, take me away.
And the socks were done. So were the mitts and the other pair of socks and the cowl. And a bag, too.
And then me. Done.
Well, not quite yet. I’ve still got more than a few sweaters left in me.
Dee Wieczorek is a head and neck cancer survivor. She lives in Delaware County, Penn. with her fiance, their cat and way too much yarn. She can be found on Twitter @littleredyarn.