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.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Chemo tips...

As you know, I got my hair cut really short last Friday. On my way home, I stopped by Sprouts to pick up a few things. (Did I mention that I'm driving myself now? It's been since last Thursday.)

Anyway, I'm in Sprouts and my phone rings. It's a really funny ring tone...a baby laughing hysterically. The number was a 619 area, which is San Diego. This summer, a 619 number has usually been a call from Kaiser, so I answered the call. (Um...not to say I screen calls!) It was the volunteer from the American Cancer Society, Pam. The ACS has this mentor program where survivors are paired up with women in cancer treatment and they provide support and tips. She and I talked about a week before my surgery and she was calling again to give me some tips on chemo.

She told me a lot of stuff, some of which I knew already. Some was new. Some I don't think I really agree with (more on that later). I've decided I'll pick and choose and leave the rest.

Here are some of the tips that stand out for me:
  • The day before, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The more water in my system, the more my veins will pop out and they will be able to get the IV line in easily. I've got pretty good veins, but I'll do whatever I can do help the process move along.
  • During chemo, it should not burn. If it does, let the nurse know ASAP.
  • Get in the habit of carrying around kleenex and ritz peanut butter cracker sandwich cookies. The kleenex for a runny nose-I'll likely lose the hair in my nose and it will cause a drippy nose. (Ew...I hadn't thought of losing hair there). The crackers in case of nausea. She said they were better than saltines since they will bring up my blood sugar. I already have an organic version of these in my pantry in little individual snack baggies. I'm ready.
  • It's likely my pee will turn color. She was given Adriamycin (which I'm not taking). The drug itself is bright red and her pee turned red.
  • There will be changes in my nails. Dark lines and deep ridges. In rare cases, some people lose their nails--usually their toe nails. Gosh, I hope I'm not one of those.
  • She had her last chemo treatment on December 5th. My last will be December 3rd. By Valentines Day, she had a 1/4 inch of hair.
  • There may be changes in my voice. Hers dropped an octave.
  • Have plastic bags and paper towels in my car in case I need to clean up after myself getting sick.
  • Don't be around sick kids. This might be hard. I've got 3 kids. We usually are pretty healthy, but with the older two being in school, you never know. Then there is the nursery at church. My pastor's toddler caught a bug there a couple weeks ago and got his mom and dad sick. That's not good. I'm going to get in the habit of having the older ones wash their hands a LOT, and routinely using a hand sanitizer on Jean-Marc.
  • Inspect my mouth daily. Mouth sores are common, and hard to treat. I need to be aware of any developing so they can be treated as soon as possible. Switch to a soft toothbrush and be diligent about oral hygiene. But be careful flossing-use dental tape rather than the thinner floss.
  • She had a lot to say about food. This is where I am going to do my own thing. She said that mow isn't the time to diet. If something sounds good, eat it. She said that everyone likes Taco Bell while on chemo. What?? Fast/junk food? She said to avoid raw food--like fresh fruits and vegetables, unless they are in their own "skin" like a banana. Now I understand with a low white blood cell count I need to be careful. But I do only buy organic produce, and also have started using an organic produce wash. I am definitely going to run this one by my oncologist. She went on to say that "white" foods are good. White bread, white pasta, white pudding, white breakfast drink mixes. White stuff. If its white, its okay. Hmmm. I've just spent the last year getting nutritionally void refined flour and sugar OUT of my diet. She lost 40 pounds while on chemo. From our conversation, it seems that nausea was a big problem for her, so whatever she could keep down was what she ate. I don't know. Maybe it will be the same for me. I don't want to lose 40 pounds, but I could stand another 10-20. (Not that I'm dieting--I am NOT!) But I really am worried that the slowdown in my metabolism will make me gain weight back. I got rid of my "fat" clothes. I don't want to go out and have to shop, bald, for clothes in bigger sizes. Above that, if there is one thing I've learned over the past year, is that food is medicine. My body is going to need solid nutrients, not junk food. I think junk food will just make me feel worse. We'll see. I am going to eat as well as I can-solid, healthy nutritional food.
I had this conversation in public as I browsed Sprouts. It kind of typified my life. Here I am, grocery shopping, but talking about this stuff like its the most perfectly normal thing in the world.

Pam didn't go through radiation, so she is going to round up another volunteer to call me in a few months as I start to get mentally prepared for that phase of treatment. I really appreciate this program by the American Cancer Society. It's one thing to read about this stuff in a book. But to talk to someone who has gone through it adds an extra element. If she can do it, I can.

My prayer requests:
  • That my body continue to heal from surgery. I do feel like I've made progress. I haven't had any Advil for 2 days. The sunburn pain is manageable. I'm having more shooting, stabbing pains in my incision. I've heard that is a sign of healing? The swelling is also slowly going down on my sides too.
  • That I not be afraid of chemo as the date approaches. Right now, I'm not fearful. I'm actually kind of anxious to get going on it. Pray that I stand strong against the enemy that wants to knock me off of this place of peace.
  • That there not be any renegade cancer cells in my body. That the surgery took them away 3 1/2 weeks ago. But if there are, that the chemo will be effective against them.
  • Eric's health. He's been having some sores in the back of his throat. I'm convinced this is stress related. He's under a lot of pressure as we move into this phase of my treatment. We are kind of hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst-that is, me being laid up for several days at a time throughout the fall. He's got some business trips coming up that he can't miss out on. Thank God for my mom, who is able to come and stay with us and help us get through. For that matter, pray for her health as well!
  • Overall peace in our home. With the stress that goes along with mom having cancer, the kids and Eric sometimes get into arguments. Everyone needs to take a few steps back, give each other an extra dose of grace and chill out. I'm sure the enemy is doing a tap dance at times when he sees the conflict.


  1. I think you are 100% right about the food thing... I bet there will be something healthy that you will want to eat even if you're feeling not so great. I am guessing that when you feel wiped from chemo that "comfort food" is what people find easier to eat... if you have healthy comfort foods that will help a lot. That said, if your body is really telling you the only thing it can keep down is a burrito, I'm sure you'll trust it. :-)

  2. Hi Tonya,

    I don't agree with the junk food either. But here are a couple of things I noticed with Chemo:
    1. Your tastebuds go away. So, things don't taste the same or for that matter, they don't taste at all!
    2. You want foods that are bland and easy on your stomach, but won't give you the "runs". The raw fruits & vegies might cause that, and maybe that's why she mentioned it. Most important - Don't hesitate to use imodium if needed. I found that out the hard way . . .
    3.Your face will feel flush for a few days after each chemo. It goes away.
    4. The Chemo doesn't hurt, nor should you feel anything happening when the IV is in. BUT, if you do, let the nurse know right away. I had an alleric reaction on my 3rd dose. (Light-headedness and heavy breathing) They came over and gave me a shot of Benydral and I was fine, but it scared me.
    5. I'm sure she mentioned to pack a lunch, snacks & waters. I also ate breakfast, as I didn't like the idea of the meds on an empty stomach.
    6. Plan to be there all morning. Then when you leave, you'll be wondering when does it hit? You should be able to pick up the kids and feel like normal. The symptoms won't start until the next day or so. Strange huh.

    FYI- I never had mouth sores, I never had nail problems and I never had major vomiting and I don't think you will either. I felt a little sick after the 1st round, but that was it.

    You're so healthy right now, that you're going to be alright. I still continue to think about you daily. I teared up last night on my way to Let's Tent, thinking about your next 5 months.

    You are amazing though. I'll be praying for peace in your house.

    Hopefully we'll see you on Wednesday at Fro-yo-Love for Beach Encampment paperwork "stuff".