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, September 20, 2010

Winds through the stubble

I need to find another word for "weird" and "bizarre." I find myself using those adjectives way too much. But they pretty much are my life right now. They describe a new normal that I keep finding new aspects to.

I went outside (in the backyard) today without anything on my head for the first time. It wasn't for very long. In fact, covering my head completely slipped my mind. I just wanted to get Jean-Marc outside to kick some balls around. He loves doing that, and I needed to kill some time with him. If we were to stay in the house, he would start begging me, "eat, eat." It was a good hour before any reasonable dinnertime for him. So we went outside. (No worries about sun-it is a shady yard in the late afternoon).

I still have some stubble on my head, and to feel the breeze through it was...you guessed it! WEIRD!

I had a physical therapy appointment this afternoon. This was with a different therapist up here at the Kaiser facility in San Marcos. I was very happy to go, especially after the tingling arm scare this weekend. She started out by measuring my hand and arm to compare them with the measurements taken last month. They were a little bit bigger, but not by much. She wasn't really concerned about it. I just need to always keep a constant eye on my arm, wrist, hand and fingers to be on the lookout for any swelling. Especially since I wear my wedding rings on my left hand.

She went on to do some manual lymphatic drainage and described the technique as she did it on me. Its a very light touch. Calling it a "massage" is almost a misnomer. You start at your collarbone doing circular motions down and up. The idea is that you want to move the fluid away from the left armpit and towards the heart. From there, the heart can pass it to the kidneys and you basically urinate the bad stuff out. (Lovely, huh? Hey--your body does it too! It just doesn't need the help!) From the collarbone, you move down in the abdominal area, then to the hip crease/groin. Then diagonally down from the waistline to the groin, the left armpit to waist, then groin. That is the pathway that is most important-you want to show the body where to put that fluid on the left side...away from the armpit to the lymph nodes in the groin. After that, you move to the upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist then fingers. Deep abdominal breathing helps move the fluid around as well. I'm supposed to do this 1 or 2 times a day.

She also worked on the cording on my left armpit. That was a little uncomfortable because it required her to really stretch the arm out and manipulate it around until the scar tissue would pop a little bit. I just focused on my breath and was fine. She said I had a really good range of motion and that the scar tissue looked really good everywhere. I'm glad to hear that, because it looks like a freak show to me.

I really liked this therapist a lot. She seems more low intervention than the one I saw before. She didn't think I needed a compression sleeve and gauntlet at this point. I told her I wanted to have one on hand in case the need did arise and she was fine putting in an order for two of them at the Women's Health boutique.

I asked her about using light hand weights to do some circuit training. I've been itching to get back to more upper body work. At this point, she said the weight of my own arm is enough of a challenge. (I thought...NOT!) Perhaps after all of my chemo and radiation I could start out with some very light weights. I'm just going to have to settle for getting exercise another way for awhile. I don't know if I'll ever be able to get back to the muscle tone in my arms that I had before the surgery. But at least I'm alive! Praise God for that and the strength that He has provided me.

I did some pilates this morning. Ouch. I'm going to be sore. I definitely need to do that more often. The core work is incomparable. This workout did a little bit of cardio which consisted of some ballet moves, which brought me back to my childhood doing demi-plies, grand plies, and eleves. The hardest part was the mat work on the floor for the abs. Oh. My. Gosh. It was killer. I was glad it was only 30 minutes! It was hard, but if I do it more, I'll be so strong in the middle. I think I'm going to go for it. My abs have gotten a bit soft since my surgery. I haven't gained any weight, per se. But considering I had all my breast tissue removed, I should have lost a few pounds through that. So I think I did put on a bit, even though the scale does not reveal it. I also went on a power walk with friends after we dropped the kids off at school. We didn't do the "big" hill, but it was enough to get the blood flowing.

I am definitely due for a long visit at the Women's Health Boutique. I need to get fitted for the compression sleeve, but also for post-mastectomy bras and foobies! (Foobies=prosthetic/fake breasts that slip inside a pocket in the bra.) I've been going without anything for a few weeks now. No bra, no camisole. It would be nice to have a more feminine form though sometimes. So bring on the foobs!

My prayer requests:
  • That I do not develop lymphedema. I just don't want to go there. Having to wear really tight compression garments all the time, no way.
  • That the chemo drugs are effective against any renegade cancer cells. Someone at church yesterday asked me if there was anything he could pray about for me. He has sat near me on and off for a few years. I don't think he's that involved in the fellowship-he drives down from LA a few times a month to visit his mom. I guess the scarf on the head didn't give it away, because when I said he could pray that the chemo does its job, he was shocked. It's good to know that wearing a scarf on your head for 2 weeks in a row doesn't flash 'CANCER PATIENT' in neon lights to the world.
  • That the stubble on my head just fall out. The good news is that the sores on my head have stopped appearing and it isn't irritating as it was last week. Answer to prayer, right there! Thank you, faithful saints!

1 comment:

  1. No-weight exercises CAN be very effective - your therapist is right! Just do them very slowly: several seconds up, hold, and several seconds down. Make sure that the lowering is equally slow - our bodies do about 70% of the work of an exercise in the lowering. When you are ready to add weight, start off with water bottles. Small ones are about a pound & a half or so. Larger bottles are 2-3lbs. You can vary the weight by using less water, and it's a good reminder to stay hydrated:)