By Daniel J. Vance
Annie Modesitt of St. Paul, Minnesota, authors the popular knitting blog “The Knitting Heretic” and teaches her chosen craft at shows and conventions worldwide. Last year, doctors diagnosed her with fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by long-term, body-wide pain in soft tissues, including joints, muscles, and tendons.
Modesitt began learning knitting after moving to Texas in 1986, when a friend gave her yarn and needles. Later, she returned to New Jersey and started designing hand-knit sweaters for magazines.
“And not long ago, I came to Minnesota to teach and felt it was a remarkable place,” said 49-year-old Modesitt in a telephone interview. “So we sold our home in New Jersey in 2006. Then during the move to Minnesota, Gerry, my husband, began feeling pain in his back and general malaise.”
Six months later, after breaking two back vertebrae, Gerry learned he had multiple myeloma, which is a type of cancer in bone marrow plasma cells. His cancer was Stage 3, they said, and at the time he expected to live perhaps five years.
Modesitt said, “It was really hard hearing the news. I wasn't aware then this was terminal cancer. The best you can hope for is to stay steady and people with it don't get better.”
She soon shared the news through her knitting blog. “Because I couldn't just hide this gigantic part of my life,” she said. “Then people kept asking how they could help financially. We said if you want to donate to help with costs, you can buy a knitting pattern I had up for sale. They could pay whatever they wanted. Literally, thousands of people bought the pattern and that helped us financially survive that year.”
Since, her husband has been doing “beautifully” after a stem cell transplant and has only slightly elevated blood numbers. They can't get it all out, she said of the cancer. They know it will return. When it does, Gerry likely will have another stem cell transplant.
Her advice to others in similar situations? Her answer doesn't surprise. “The first thing is learn how to knit,” she said. “It's good to have something occupying your hands to get rid of nervous energy. Also remember that if you're going through something heartbreaking, be sure to look around and find the beauty and joy in life, and find the reason to get up and get life around you.”
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