About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Meeting Dr. P

I had my long awaited oncology consultation yesterday.

Eric went with me. Him being in the drug discovery field and knowing many researchers (including cancer specialists) has been a great blessing. He had several pages of notes on research that he had done to get ready for the meeting. I just wanted it to start. As I waited, I played with an app on my iPhone called "Bible Shaker." You choose a category, push a button, and then an appropriate verse pops up. So I chose the topic "Fear" and started pushing the button. There was one really cool one and for the life of me right now I can't find it or remember exactly what it said. But it did say "You will not die." Thank you Lord.

The door opened and Dr. P came in and sat down. He was a quiet man who sat hunched over on the stool and looked at us over the top of his glasses. As we had our conversation, he reminded me of some of the scientists that I've met that have worked with Eric in the past. Quiet, but smart.

Had the results from this week's MRI (an answer to prayer). The MRI showed 3 tumors on the left breast that were fairly close together. That explains the strange feel that it has--it seemed huge. Now I know that it is 3, not one big one. There was a suspicious area at 6 o'clock as well, which may or may not be cancerous. If I was interested in trying to save the breast, it would need to be biopsied. If it was cancerous, a lumpectomy would not be an option. I had already decided that a mastectomy would probably be the way to go, and this sealed it. I don't want to have another biopsy and wait another week for results.

We discussed whether to do chemo first or surgery first. Chemo first would tell us if my cancer was responsive to chemo--apparently not all are. When they do surgery first, they remove the known cancer and then blast you with chemo to kill any cancer cells that may be wandering in the system. They don't know for sure that they are, its kind of a prophylactic measure. If it was responsive to chemo, the tumors should shrink. Frankly, knowing that there was something suspicious in there that we couldn't even feel yet makes me want to just move ahead with surgery STAT.

I brought up the question of a bilateral mastectomy. He did not think it was necessary. There is no evidence of cancer on the right side and I've had the best diagnostic tests done. With my history, I will be monitored very closely for the rest of my life. If cancer does develop, it will be caught early...hopefully stage 0. But still. I want to fight this right now once and for all. Do it right the first time. Knock it out with overwhelming force. He said the chances of it moving to the right after treatment were like 1 in 20. He thoughout t hose were small odds. I don't know. It seems pretty high to me. There is also the question of symmetry. I'll be given a prosthetic breast to wear during treatment and until I do reconstruction. (If I do reconstruction). I wonder if I'll be lopsided if I only have a single? The wig lady earlier this week regretted not having both taken off for that exact reason. Any thoughts you fellow pink ribbon clubbers have out there would be welcome. I was awake for part of the night pondering this question.

There is also going to be the option of participating in a clinical trial. If I choose to participate, I would have to do the chemo down at Zion rather than in San Marcos. They would randomly assign me to one of three groups. Each group gets a different chemo cocktail. I want my experience to help others, but I'm not sure about the trial. I also want to be treated with what is known to work. There's time to decide.

He also did a breast exam. He checked the lymph nodes in my neck. All clear. Whew. He checked the left side and felt the tumors we already knew about.

Througout the exam, Eric was quizzing him on various drugs and trials. As he helped me sit up after the breast exam, they started chatting about Eric's line of work, various uses for drugs on different types of cancer. I'm standing there in a hospital gown, just wanting to get dressed, and these to science guys are yakking! It was funny in a way. They could definitely communicate on a different level that I could.

Is Dr. P "the one?" I suppose so. I'm not really that particular about his personality as long as he is a good doctor and knows what he is doing. On a personal level, he got warmer as we went through the meeting. I get a sense that he really knows his drugs. Eric quizzed him pretty good. He made me feel like I had a good prognosis, even though he won't know the extent of the cancer until after surgery. He referred to women with "much more advanced" breast cancer. Funny how knowing there are others out there worse off than you can be a comfort.

It looks like I'll start chemo in early August. I should have the surgery within 2 weeks. I'll find out more specifically on Monday. That is an area for prayer. I want this cancer cut out as soon as possible. 2 weeks will be an eternity. I also ask for more clarity as I decide between a bilateral or single mastectomy. Thank you all, once again for being prayer warriors on my behalf. It is working!


  1. Tonya ~ there are three places in the NASB that use the words “you will not die”. I felt led to search for them this morning to pray them over you! As I read in Leviticus 8 I had such a peace. It shares about a time of preparation of Aaron. You, God's dear precious child, may have to wait two weeks for surgery yet trusting that ALL things happen for His purpose I have no doubt that God will use it for a time of special nurturing placed before you by the Lord. Tonya ~ as I read in and around the verse in Leviticus such a peace came. When I went to the first chemo appointment with my friend Sandi last fall one of the things the Lord laid on my heart to do was to anoint her with oil. She allowed it, and we prayed her through each appointment with confidence she is cancer free today. The doctors and nurses of Kaiser were led by God to the right “chemo cocktail” then just as they will be for you! The angels of heaven and the God of our existence are hearing our cries of prayer and supplication. As I read in Leviticus today it gave such confirmation of God's hand in our lives. Tonya ~ your strength and courage in walking the walk is radiating from you. Thank you for sharing your faith. Blessings to your day Tonya and prayers for strength as you make choices and decisions are offered up trusting each step is being held up by God's grace and mercy. Praying for you ~~~ Nadine

    Leviticus 8:33-36
    [33] Do not leave the entrance to the tent of meeting for seven days, until the days of your ordination are completed, for your ordination will last seven days. [34] What has been done today was commanded by the LORD to make atonement for you. [35] You must stay at the entrance to the tent of meeting day and night for seven days and do what the LORD requires, so you will not die; for that is what I have been commanded.” [36] So Aaron and his sons did everything the LORD commanded through Moses.

  2. Can't help with the bible verses, but I can with my own experience. I too was asked to be part of a clinical trial, and yes it would be nice to help others; however, the trial has specific instructions. For me, it wouldn't have worked because of my sensitivity to medicines. They would have had to adjust the dose right from the beginning. Plus, I liked being close by. Sometimes, I would have friends or family stop by for awhile, as I sat for 4 to 5 hours in the "Chemo Room".

    As for Uno or Dos, a mamogram nurse told me once, "when in doubt, cut it out!" So they did! There are pros and cons, we can talk about tomorrow.

    And for equality, these plastic surgeons are amazing. Of course, they'd rather work with a clean slate! ;)

    Hang in there. It sounds like you're getting great information and that you're going to be just fine. Great job with being so pro-actice.