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.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pillows and Pathology

Day 5 post-op.

Pillows are my new best friends. I have them everywhere: upstairs; downstairs; in the car. The American Cancer Society sent me two small pillows that I tuck under my arms when I'm on the couch downstairs. Kaiser gave me a heart shaped pillow to use under the shoulder strap seat belt in the car. Up in my bedroom, I've got a big incline pillow that I sleep on. Then I've got 2 throw pillows that I tuck under each arm. Then a third pillow in the middle that my hands rest on.

Unexpectedly, my surgeon called yesterday to give me the results of the pathology report. I wasn't expecting to hear anything about the report until my post-op appointment on Wednesday. She said there were "no surprises." We go in tomorrow to see her and will get a copy of it for ourselves and go into it much deeper. But the bottom lines were:
  • The right breast was clear of any tumors. That is good-that means my right lymph nodes will all stay in my body. With the left gone, these will be working overtime.
  • The tumor on the left breast was 3.5 centimeters. It felt huge. I was afraid it was going to be much bigger.
  • She got clear margins. She mentioned something about not needing radiation for this reason. I asked her if that meant I wouldn't need radiation at all, and she deferred to the oncologist, Dr. P.
  • 5 of the 15 lymph nodes from the left side were positive for cancer. I already knew there was activity in the lymph nodes since the lump I felt was a lymph node. Because of the delay in surgery, I was afraid that all of the nodes would be positive. Having only 5 is an answer to the prayers that the cancer not spread.
  • I asked her what "stage" of cancer I have. She had to scramble a bit and do some cross-referencing on the phone, but she said the factors in the pathology report put it at a 2b. Another answer to prayer. I was afraid it was a 3.
    Eric did some research last night and there still is over a 50% chance that there are cancer cells floating around my body somewhere. I think he was kind of hoping that chemotherapy would not be necessary. He kept making comments over the past few days about how flawed the prophylactic use of chemo is when you don't really *know* there is cancer there. I've been resigned to the reality of chemo being in my future. But this 50% statistic is helping him come around to it as well.

    With this news, I am feeling pretty good. I was holding out a little bit of dread and fear about the pathology report. To see just how "bad" it was going to be. It was the last unknown, at least for now. It helps to have the enemy unmasked and out in the open.

    Dr. K said that if the drains were draining 50 cc or less each per day, she would be able to take them out tomorrow. Yesterday, 2 of the 3 did less than that. The third drain (the second one on the left) did 60 cc. We'll see how they do today. Overnight, they did not drain much. It usually picks up during the daytime. The drains are very uncomfortable. They itch and ache where they are coming out of my side. I'll be a very happy camper when they come out.

    So now I am focused on recovering physically from surgery. I want to get back into as good of shape as I can before chemo starts. I know I won't be jumping into my Jillian workouts. But if I can do some cardio on the recumbent bike and keep my lower body strong, I'll be happy. I'll feel strong and ready to take chemo head-on.

    My prayer requests today:
    • That the drains be able to come out tomorrow. That means 50 cc or less each day. If there is more that they need to do, I want them to stay in. But if it is possible for them to come out tomorrow, it will help me rest better. I'll be able to find my new 'normal.'
    • That it not hurt too bad when they take out the drains. I'm a little paranoid about this. I've been warned that it feels creepy. I can deal with a few seconds of creepy. I can deal with pain too. I'd just rather not.
    • That I continue to be able to rest. Sleep is physical therapy. I can feel the renewal of energy and tissue when I wake up. Sleep is a godsend right now.
    • Overall harmony in the house. It is hard being cooped up during the summer. Like all kids, mine bicker and have typical sibling rivalry. That raises the level of drama for everyone in the house. Eric and his mom get all worked up about it, sometimes seeming to take one side over the other. It just escalates. Eric also gets annoyed at what he sees as the kids' obsession with video games. They don't do it as much as he thinks, really. But he always seems to be coming down hard on them for it. Everyone just needs to chill out and cut each other some slack right now.
    I want to thank everyone again for your prayers and support. I've received so many wonderful messages from so many of you. It is so encouraging and uplifting knowing that you all are out there with us in spirit. When this is all over, I want to throw a huge party and invite everyone to come and celebrate in pink and plaid!

    Have a blessed day. God is good, all the time!


    1. Hi Tonya,

      The drains didn't hurt me when they came out, but maybe that's because I took some pain pills beforehand. :)

      I'm so sorry you're having to go through all of this. What you are on the inside is the most beautiful part about you. Hang in there sweety, you and Eric can go shopping for some new boobs!!!

      I'll be praying for less cc's, so you can say good-bye to the tubes.


    2. Tonya,
      I am reading every day- you sound you are doing well, considering everything!
      I have seen drains removed and taken them out. I have not seen people have pain with that.
      And my 7 year old daughter had surgery on her face (long story- really bad accident with multiple broken bones in her face)- they had to go in under her scalp for the surgery, and she had two drains coming out of the incision in her scalp, just over her ears. When they pulled them out and she said it only hurt a little. So for a 7 year old to say that, it must not have been too bad for her. I think often the sutures holding in the drains are the worst part.
      Good luck!!

    3. Dear Tonya,
      Thinking of you everyday, come on 50 cc's! Baby steps everyday.Rest and then when you can't stand anymore rest...Rest! I am glad to hear the Pathology report too!Prayers, Love, and Comfort Hugs,Sheilah