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.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No regrets

I have this amazing gift of flexibility now that I did not have before.  I can choose to have hair.  And not just "hair" but hair that looks salon-perfect. Or I can choose to wear a scarf on my head. Or a hat. Or a cut up T-shirt made to look like a turban.  Do I have a headpiece to match this outfit?  If not, I can just put my hair on in seconds.  I just have to glance in the mirror to make sure it is on straight.

Even better is that I can choose to have breasts or not.  Let me tell you, it is very nice not to have them when I am exercising!  (Or when I step on the scale for my weekly weigh-in!)  Do I feel like wearing a bra today?  It has been very easy getting used to the feeling of freedom that going bra-less provides.  It never bothered me before to wear one-it was just one of those things that you get used to as a woman.  But a few months without having to wear one makes a big difference.  I pointed out to my friends this week that I wasn't wearing my "boobs" that day before our power walk.  It was the first time they said they noticed I was flat. Maybe they were just being nice.  But people don't seem to notice the ironing board look that I sport most days. It could be that the hair/no hair/hat/scarf thing gets the most attention.

In any event, I am enjoying having choices in how I look.

As I thought about it, I realized that it gives me another reason I have no regrets about choosing a bilateral mastectomy rather than a single.  Then my choice would be "lopsided or not?"  I would feel uncomfortable going without a bra, so I would end up wearing the prosthetic most of the time. I know others have made different choices and that is fine.  We all have to live with our decisions and I'm DEFINITELY not knocking a woman who made a different one than me.  I'm just saying that I'm happy with my own personal choice.

Speaking of living with the consequences of mastectomy, there is an amazing exhibition in New York this year called The Scar Project. Its a series of large scale photographs of young women who have had the surgery. Some are in various phases of reconstruction. Some have had bilateral, others unilateral. There is even one woman who is pregnant after a bilateral mastectomy.  If I was in NYC, I would go in person.  But you can check it out online as well.    The website has this quote from the photographer:

"Although Jay began shooting The SCAR Project primarily as an awareness raising campaign he was not prepared for something much more immediate . . . and beautiful: “For these young women, having their portrait taken seems to represent their personal victory over this terrifying disease. It helps them reclaim their femininity, their sexuality, identity and power after having been robbed of such an important part of it. Through these simple pictures, they seem to gain some acceptance of what has happened to them and the strength to move forward with pride.”

It is brave for them to be photographed for public exhibition like this. I'm glad they did, so we call can see what this disease does to women.  Like the poster for the Exhibition says "Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon."  It's a good reminder this month of October.  It may be fun to sport pink ribbons and talk about mammograms during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  But it definitely leaves a path of physical destruction in its wake.  Thank God that treatment has increased survival rates.  The scars will be there forever, though. Yes, breast cancer is not a pink ribbon. (I still will put one on my car, though!)

I don't know if I could pose like that, even for my own personal use.  I have thought of taking pictures at various stages of recovery, just to document.  But I haven't done it yet.  My scars still look like Frankenstein. It reminds me of being at ICAN conferences where women would photograph their cesarean scars. I never did.  I never wanted to.  I still don't like to touch that darn scar, even though I've come so far and grown so much since that day in 1999.  It is similar, but not exactly the same with my mastectomy scars. I can touch them-I massage Vitamin E oil into them daily.  It is an interesting thing for me to ponder, and I don't have answers right now.  Both scars deal directly with my femininity and womanhood. I didn't plan to write this-it just came out as I was typing.  Maybe I will blog more about it later when I have some answers.  Right now, the more I think about it, the more questions I ask myself.


  1. You are a great writer Tonya. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this very personal subject. Big hugs.

  2. Interesting thoughts Tonya! Thank you.
    I was advised to use Nutri Metics Nutri Rich Oil [not sure I have spelled it correctly] on my scars post mastectomy. My surgeon was always amazed that I had no obvious scar tissue or loss of range of movement. Unfortunately, that all changed with recurrence some time later.