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, August 13, 2010

Getting physical

One week until chemo!

I noticed a strange thing under my left arm the other day while blow drying my hair. (No, its not a lump!) It is like a tight cord under my skin. I don't have it on my right side. It must have something to do with the lymph nodes having been taken out.

I have my first physical therapy appointment on Tuesday. I'm looking forward to talking with this person and finding out more about what my body can (and cannot) do. When I stretch my arms up to the ceiling, it feels like the left side is shorter, and that cord under my arm really pops out. I'm also looking forward to learning about self-massages that I can do to aid my body in lymph draining so I do not develop lymphedema.

I love getting massages. I always have. Really deep and hard ones. So much so that it sometimes hurts, you know? I don't know when I'll be able to have another one. At this point, it would just hurt on my arms and upper chest. But I don't know if the deep tissue massages are good for me now that my lymph system is compromised. I stumbled onto the concept of "oncology massage." I think I read about it in a comment to someone's blog yesterday. Anyway, there is a Society for Oncologic Massage. I browsed their lists of therapists and found one that nearby in Carlsbad. Of course, I'll ask my doctor first. But it would be nice to get a massage at some point. My friend who went through chemo not too long ago said her massage therapist would not do a massage while she was in chemo. Maybe there are special techniques that are okay?

This is a pre-op picture of me being silly. I had just worked out and was high on endorphins. That's my excuse for it. I kept it to remind myself of what I could do "before." If my body totally gets out of shape, I'll look at it to know I can get back again.

Mom and I continued our workout regimen this week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday we go to the gym and do a solid hour of cardio. I have a heart rate monitor that I like to wear to make sure I'm not slacking off. I try to get to a 400 calorie burn in an hour. For me, that is one intense hour at about 80-85% of my target heart rate. Then we stretch. The last two times, I've been able to do some lower ab work as well. As long as it doesn't pull on my chest, its okay. I have to be really careful
about form, which means...no cheating! On Tuesdays and Thursdays we walk. This week with my mother in law gone, we've taken all 3 kids to Discovery Lake and get them moving as well. They have the option of biking or walking. Jean-Marc has no choice-he's stroller bound! Walking alone gets kind of boring, and my heart rate doesn't get up much past 100. So yesterday we stopped at benches that are situated around the lake and did some intervals by stepping up onto them. I would do a minute on each leg, per bench. Nice!

I am pretty determined to keep exercising during chemo. Its one of those "things" that I'm focusing on to help get me through this. I've read that the effects are cumulative. For those who have gone before me in this...is that your experience? I know during week 2, my white blood cell counts will dip and I will have to be careful about exposure to germs and stuff. I'm wondering if that means no gym? Maybe I'll have to start to browse the Exercise TV listings to see if there are programs I can do at home. I wish I could use handweights. That will be one of the questions for the physical therapist next week. I'm doing the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k on October 17th. That will be right before round #3. Of course, I know there is always walking. I live in a pretty hilly area and could probably get a good burn on with a power walk. I don't usually do those since the trails are unpaved and I usually have to push Jean-Marc in the stroller. Although by the end of this, there will probably be some days that walking down the street to the mailbox will be a triumph.

All of these ramblings aside, I know it will work out. (No pun intended!) I just have time to think right now and try to strategize my approach. Maybe I have too much time on my hands!

My prayer requests today:
  • That any floating cancer cells in my body are responsive to chemotherapy. This isn't a given. One advantage of doing chemo before surgery (which I opted not to do), would have been to know that the cancer was or wasn't responsive to chemo. Now I'm in the dark and have to just trust that it will work. I started thinking about this over the past couple of days.
  • That my body continue to heal from surgery.
  • That the sunburn pain feeling goes away. I'm pretty sure that I'm off the hydrocodone for good. I've only taken Advil over the past 3 days, and I'm not always on that.
  • That I sleep tonight. The last 2 nights, I've not been able to get back to sleep after waking up in the night. I guess that is the downside of not being on a narcotic!
  • That I accept my changing hairstyle(s). And lack of hair. I really don't like my hair right now anyway. But the thought of being bald is on my mind still.

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