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, October 25, 2010

A crucial catch

Yesterday was the big day...I got to be a part of "A Crucial Catch 2010."  I was invited with 29 other breast cancer survivors to participate in a Chargers pre-game ceremonies.  It was a gorgeous day in San Diego.  Too bad the Chargers couldn't hang onto the ball!  But the game was not the reason I was there.

I met the other women at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the American Cancer Society.  Even though I had never met them before, I felt like I had. Many of the other ladies knew each other from their volunteer work with the ACS.  It didn't matter that I was new-I felt right at home with everyone and very much welcomed.

They gave us these really neat Charger shirts that had a V-neck and said "SURVIVOR 10" on the back.  Another survivor there had little pink ribbon tattoos that we all put on our cheeks.  After they gave us our tickets (field level seats), we piled into vans and carpooled over to Qualcomm.

On the field during practice
They wanted us to be there by 10 a.m. for a run through and practice.  There were three different things they wanted us to do.  First, they got us out on the field and arranged us in the shape of a pink ribbon.  I was near the top at the arch.  They would do some presentation about breast cancer awareness while we were standing there.  Then we were to go to the sidelines and line up by the Charger girls to welcome the team on the field.  Then we had to run to the middle of the field for the national anthem.  As we did that, a sorority brought in the biggest American flag I've ever seen, as well as a huge pink ribbon and held it behind us.  It probably took 40-50 girls to hold these things.  After the anthem, we were to run off the field and back up through the tunnel.

After practice, we had about 90 minutes to kill.  They had some sandwiches and food for us, which was nice. The best part was just being able to hang out with these other women and get to know them.  I was the "youngest" survivor.  I learned that you count your "survivor" age by the date of your diagnosis.  So I'm only a little over 4 months out.  There were women there with years-one even 25 years out. I had felt a little strange calling myself  a "survivor."  After all, I'm still in treatment.  But I have survived surgery and 4 rounds of chemotherapy. So on some level, I suppose I have earned the title.

I had chemo 2 days before, so I was a little paranoid about the sun.  I've found myself to be extremely sensitive to the sun with chemo. I wore my compression sleeve on my left arm as a way to shield that skin from the sun.  I had my 30 spf sunscreen with me that I reapplied several times.  During the game, I went and got a hat to shield my face.  Thankfully, by the 3rd quarter, the sun had moved on and we were in the shade.  The lady I sat next to during the game went at half time and came back with a frozen lemonade for me. That tasted soooo good!  The lemon really cut through the metallic blah taste in my mouth. She totally blessed me with that, and when I asked how much I owed her, she told me it was on her. It was one of the best parts of the day.

The reaction we got from the public was interesting. Many people would high five us, or shout out "Yeah, Survivors!"  Sure, some guys who had been tailgating for a few hours would make comments about loving that body part for which we were there to raise awareness. But for the most part, it was respectful and encouraging.

The atmosphere got more and more exciting as game time approached.  They led us down to the tunnel and gave us some hot pink pom poms to wave.  We got out to the sidelines and watched the Charger girls get introduced.  Before we knew it, we were being told to "go, go, go!" So we ran into our positions as the human survivor pink ribbon.  It all went so fast.  But it was amazing to be out there on the field with so many people.  I had my iPhone with me and snapped some video of the Chargers coming on the field. It was pretty exciting, even though I had no clue which players were "good" or not.  I figured I'd shoot as much video as I could and then let others tell me what I saw later!   The most awe inspiring part of the ceremonies for me was during the National Anthem.  I was on the 50 yard line, and we were facing the team.  I sang along and thought about my brother Jared, who at that moment was coming home from Iraq.  As it got to the end of the Anthem, "land of the free, and the home of the brave" there was a flyby with 3 jets-FA-18's I believe they said.  The BOOM was huge and it was amazing.

Then they led us out and it was over. Just like that!

We had pretty good seats in the end zone.  We were in the "super fan" section. People who really took their Charger football quite seriously.  Two guys at the front of the section who had their heads painted with bolts. Many spent a good part of the game on their feet.  I was pretty clueless--both teams were wearing white and navy blue, so half the time I didn't know who was who!  The 4th quarter did get interesting when they nearly were able to come from behind and tie the score after being woefully behind the entire game.

I couldn't help but be amused at the reaction of the fans after the game as we were exiting the stadium.  I saw tears and angst.  In the bathroom, one girl was sobbing, "they just play with our emotions!"  I just looked at her with a smile and thought to myself, "Honey, it could be so much worse.  You could have cancer!"  It's interesting how things in life are put into perspective when you are dealing with something like that.  What's a football game in the end?  A few hours of amusement.  Not something, in my humble opinion, to get all worked up about.  But then again, I'm not a superfan.  I'm just a survivor.

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