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.

Monday, August 2, 2010


11 days post-op.

I want to try and describe what it feels like physically for me right now. I know I'm impatient. But it feels like I'm never going to physically get over this surgery. I know that's not true. I know there will be a day (not too long in the future) when this will all be a memory. I'll be dealing with chemo and hair loss. But I don't want to forget this stage of my journey.

My right arm and shoulder aren't too bad. I have a pretty good range of motion, just a little feel of tight skin pulling when I lift my arm above my head. It almost feels like a sunburn. I also have that feeling on my upper chest. When I touch my upper chest, it has a slight tingly feeling. If it is touched too hard or rubbed, it actually hurts. My left arm has that feeling as well. Eric tried to hug me yesterday morning before my pain meds were in my system. Knowing that my chest area was sensitive, he tried by grabbing my left arm to squeeze. Ouch!

I have a chafing feeling in my front underarm. Kind of like that sunburn feeling, but with adding the feeling of fabric friction rubbing on it. Not the arm pit, but the front part where the sleeve hole is. If you were sewing, its right where the bodice part and the sleeve come together in the front. It's worse on the left than the right.

My left side is definitely much more affected. About 2 inches under my armpit, I am very swollen. This is probably the most chronically painful area. Every time my arm is down, it is bumping the swelling area. I walk around with a small pillow tucked under my left arm to help. At night, I've tried to use a cold pad for the swelling. I don't know if its helping, but it feels good. I've also been taking arnica montana 30x twice a day for the swelling. Any homeopathy folks out there recommend other remedies?
The range of motion on the left is definitely decreased. But it isn't as bad as I thought. I'm able to do a lot of the exercises fairly well. I don't over do it. I stop when I feel more than a slight pull. I'm not allowed to push or pull anything over a couple of pounds. The stretches feel good. I've always liked stretching. I would say that the majority of the 'pain' is from that sunburn feeling rather than the incisions themselves during my stretching.

As my pain meds wear off, I start to get intermittent stabbing pains along the incisions. Occasionally the stabbing pains are hot, like a hot knife, under my left arm.

I've got 2 incisions. The one on the left is about 8 inches long and wraps from under the left armpit around to the middle of my chest. The one on the right is smaller and doesn't go as far under the arm. I've got 3 holes that are healing from where the drains were on my sides. They didn't put stitches in, but they are healing nicely. I've got another small scar that is about an inch and a half on my right front armpit from some superficial skin repair that my surgeon did. I don't feel anything on that. I haven't taken any photos yet of what I look like, but should. I want to document this whole thing.

I've been taking about 6 pain pills a day. The maximum dose per 24 hour period is 12. I wish I could wean myself off of these and transition to Tylenol. The pain is worse in the late afternoon and evening. By bedtime, it just hurts to move. It's all I can do to pop my last 2 meds and crawl into bed.

My prayer requests for today:
  • That my body continue to heal. That the pain subside to a level where I can stop taking the prescription pain medication and just take Tylenol. That this swelling on my left side go down.
  • That I be able to slowly increase my physical activity without overdoing it. Mom and I have been walking. I may try to do some recumbent stationary bike this week. The physician's assistant told me last week it would be okay at least 1 week post-op.
  • That things go smoothly around the house. Before finding out about the cancer, we had planned to have our backyard redone. That work is supposed to start today. We also have the cleaning lady come today. Eric's work is pretty busy right now. The kids are kind of bored. I just hope these various balls we have in the air stay in the air or at least come down in order!


  1. You can use warm arnica oil on a clean cloth (or gauze...I assume you have some) to help with the swelling and inflamation. Apply 2-3x's per day for 15-30 minutes.

  2. I hope you will check out acupuncture. It can help you with pain relief and reducing the amount of pain pills you take, and it might help reduce the swelling and inflammation.

    Of course, you do not want to have acupuncture in the arms or near the surgery area. That could increase the risk for lymphedema. Sometimes they tell breast cancer survivors not to do acupuncture for that reason.

    But acupuncturists can do points far away from the surgical area that may still help quite a bit.

    Also, it has been shown to help with nausea during chemo, so you might want to have it on board then as well.

    Use it or not as you see fit, but thought I'd at least mention the possibility.

    Sending you love and healing strength!