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.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Just can't escape it, even in paradise!

I'm back home from Catalina.

It was nice to change the outside scenery for a few days. Taking care of the practical needs of everyone while out of my usual environment helped to distract me from time to time from the "big C" refrain that is on an endless loop in my head. But it definitely pushed its way to the forefront many times. I tried to focus more on making sure everyone had a good time and did thing that they wanted to do. Isabelle had heard about glass bottom boats, so she and I did that on our last day. Olivier was pretty flexible with stuff and seemed to have a good time. Jean-Marc absolutely loved the swimming pool-he definitely is a water baby. The first time I took him in, he was giddy! It was really cute. We got many adorable pictures of him hamming it up for the camera.

But cancer was never far away from me. I don't think Eric noticed it until he downloaded some of his pictures that he had taken the first day. When he saw this one, he realized my mental state. We were on the boat on Tuesday morning, pulling away from Long Beach harbor. The picture does a good job of summing up how I am most of the time. I'm physically present, but not "present." I wish I could be fully engaged mentally in what is going on around me...especially when it is good.

Maybe I'm more sensitive to cancer related things. But I kept hearing snippets of the conversations of passers by that brought me back to it as well. For instance, walking on the pier, a man was on his cell phone and his end of the conversation that I couldn't help but hear went something like, "...they think they got all the cancer out in the surgery...." Every tourist shop I walked by I peered in looking at their collection of hats. I'd like to get a light brown/beige hat to wear once I lose my hair, but not one made of straw. Gosh, even a sand sculpture Isabelle made with her hands looked like breasts to me! Is that nuts or what?

On Wednesday afternoon while I was at the pool with the kids, Kaiser left a message on my cell phone. I called them back to find it was the "surgical outreach" department. Unfortunately, by the time I got the message, they were closed. I called at 9 a.m. on Thursday and left my own message. When they called back, it was just a medical history pre-op interview. Sigh. My medical history up until now is pretty boring. No other medical conditions. No disease. No medical devices. No medication. The only interesting part of the conversation was when she asked if there had been any changes in my weight over the last 6 months. Bingo! I told her I had lost 50 pounds. She asked me if I was going to write a book about how I did it. I told her that Jillian Michaels already had. After I hung up with her, I called the surgical scheduling department to see if my surgery date could be moved up. The answer was NO. That bummed me out for a couple of hours. I felt better after lunch, but my mood seemed to latch onto Eric, who was out of sorts for the rest of the day. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was realizing how much 2 1/2 days restaurant meals was costing.

I went out for a run early on our last day. The hotel had a "gym," which was a small room with some old equipment. Why run on a broken down treadmill when I could run around the island? I ran up to the Wrigley Memorial, which is on a slight incline. I ran back down. I ran through the small town of Avalon, past the boat terminal on Pebbly Beach road as far as they would allow pedestrians. It took about an hour. It felt great, but my old shoes need replacing, so my knee started hurting. The run was nice, but pointed out this disconnect I have--here I am, able to RUN for an hour. To the people I run by, I don't look sick. But here I am, with cancer cells dividing inside me, trying to kill me. I'm glad I went for my run. I want to feed that "strong" side of me for as long as I can.

I hope I don't sound too morbid or self-pitying. I really did have a good time and I'm glad we went. As my last post showed, God is ministering to me to help me get through this. The trip gave the Eric and the kids a sense of having had a vacation, and I'm 3 days closer to surgery.

My prayer requests:
  • I continue to have trouble with sleep. I get to sleep okay, but if I am roused in the night for whatever reason, I have had trouble going back to sleep.
  • That this cancer does not get any bigger. My cancer is estrogen driven. This week has been a pre-menstrual week for me. I've been paranoid that my cycle is making these tumors grow like in time-lapse photography. I won't know what "stage" or how big it is until after surgery. Not knowing this is kind of eating at me as well. I really don't want to be at stage 3, but I'm afraid that I may very well be.
  • I know the surgery date is in God's hands, like everything else. But each day of waiting is torture. I pray for an earlier date-every day makes a difference. Waiting for certain pain is hard. I'd rather just jump into it and get it over with.


  1. I just read the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It's all about ultra runners who compete in 100-miles races injury free. Many of them wear very thin shoes or go barefoot. Might be a fun read for you and a bit of a distraction while you await surgery.

  2. Tonya, in keeping with your warrior imagery, I have been thinking about this along the lines of Sun Tzu and "The Art of War". He is famous for KNOW YOUR ENEMY.

    He said, " If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy,for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
    If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."

    Right now, at this stage before the physical fight begins, you are gathering the information needed to fight your enemy.Your commanders (surgeon, oncologist, prayer partners, and others)are gathering information about the enemy (tests, xrays, scans, etc) You are researching treatments, pros and cons of various options, and reaching out to others for spiritual and emotional support. You are getting to KNOW your enemy AND yourself.

    Your enemy is unaware of your actions. "He" may think he has the run of the place. That "He" is getting stronger and preparing to take over. "He" is becoming arrogant.

    You must focus now on the preparation of your commanders. On getting them staged to mount the battle. Visualize them being positioned around the battlefield in ways to strike the strongest, most devastating blow. That is what these days of waiting are for. They are not being wasted, but are being used to full advantage as you search yourself and gain insight into the enemy. You are gathering your forces.

    When the signal is given, your commanders will attack with overwhelming force and the unsuspecting, arrogant foe will not stand a chance.

    In the meantime, we are standing in the gap, interceding on your behalf every day. "Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

    We love you.
    MOM & DAD

  3. I have Born to Run, if you want me to send it to you, Tonya.