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.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Please indulge me for a moment while I whine.

But haven't I had enough already?  I mean, really!  I've sucked it up and then some.  Hello, Tonya.  You have breast cancer that has already spread to your lymph nodes.  You'll have to have chemo.  You'll lose your hair.  What kind of surgery do you want?  Single or double?  Lumpectomy isn't for you--your tumor is too big, and we think there might me another one at 6 o'clock on the left side.  Double?  Okay.  Chop-chop, all gone.  Fine.  Bloody fluid oozing out of tubes coming out of my sides?  Fine. 18 or so inches of ragged scar on my chest where my breasts used to be?  Okay.  They were trying to kill me anyway. I'll do what I have to do. Oh, and by the way-since we took out all your left axillary lymph nodes (they were riddled with cancer anyway), you have an impaired lymph system.  Just don't get cut/blood pressure checked/scratched/poked/burned/scraped on your left hand or arm for the rest of your life.  Might swell up like a balloon.  Alright now, chin up!  Here comes 6 rounds of chemotherapy. Take all these drugs to help you get through it.  You don't want to get sick now.  Fine. I did it.  Followed directions to the letter.  6 rounds of taxotere and cytoxan, done.  Months of baldness, of sideways glances from people-sometimes even my own kids.  Fine.  Half of my eyebrows gone, fine.  Fingernails that are yellowed and sore, fine. Beauty is only skin deep anyway.  Losing some of my physical conditioning--no more push ups for awhile.  Fine.  I'm in treatment anyway.  Chemo-induced menopause, welcome.  Your ovaries are fried from chemo. Night hot-flashes that mess up my sleep.  Fine.  The 2-5 years of tamoxifen was probably going to take me down that road anyway.  Now get ready to be blasted with radiation for 6 1/2 weeks.  You want to do all you can to make sure "it" doesn't come back.  Fine.  A lifetime of living with the specter of "it" coming back.  What choice do I have?  Fine.  I'll suck it up. Other survivors somehow seem to be able to do it, I can too. Fine. 

I've done every single dang thing I was told to do.  Even went to physical therapy "just in case" so I could learn the warning signs of lymphedema.  I did everything right.  

But I got lymphedema anyway.  Insert your preferred expletive here.

It's just not fair.  But life just isn't fair.  Sometimes it sucks.  And right now, I'm pretty ticked off at my arm and hand.  

I sucked it up and wore that uncomfortable sleeve all day and night yesterday.  I did take the top layer off before bed, but it didn't make that much difference.  I took it all off at 6 a.m. this morning.  My arm looked better, but my hand did not look like my own.  It looked like someone had replaced it with a surgical glove that they had puffed air into and tied at the wrist.  I spent over 30 minutes doing manual lymphatic massage to try and get it down.  I kept my compression sleeve/gauntlet off for an hour or so to see if it my hand would go down.  After breakfast, it did seem to be better.  Not great, but better.  

So I put the sleeve/gauntlet back on.  (I need to come up with a shorthand name for it).  The two younger kids and I went out for a few hours to shop. Olivier was at an all day boy scout leadership training session. We had a great time at the Vista Farmer's Market and went to the mall to do some Christmas shopping.  Isabelle's riding lesson was canceled because of the rain, and she loves "the mall."  In the middle of the expedition, I looked down at my gauntlet-clad hand and the puffiness was spilling out over the top.  I took the gauntlet off, and my hand had swollen up even worse than in the morning.  I even wondered, how far can my skin stretch?  It was awful.  Could the sleeve be actually trapping or forcing fluid into my hands?? What will happen if I keep them off?  Will my arm swell up again?  

I still don't know the answer.  Right now, I've had them off for about 3 hours.  My hand is down. I'm going to work out later and do some more manual drainage.  I'll really examine the arm then to see.   It seems to be a little swollen, but maybe its the angle.  I need to get in front of a mirror and really see what's going on.  

Why can't this just go away already?  Whine, whine, whine.  Stamping my feet.  I've done everything I was supposed to do!  I'm still doing everything I'm supposed to be doing.  Well, except wearing the sleeve right now.  But my hand was a freak show and I panicked.  

I'm also really frustrated that this is happening right before Christmas.  I want to enjoy the holidays.  Chemo is over, man!  I wanted to really celebrate this year. But I can't.  Because I'm freaking out about my hand and arm.  I feel like I'm being cheated out of my Christmas.  It sucks, and I'm mad as heck about it.  I want to be carefree and happy, enjoying the season with my family.  They've been through a lot too.  They deserve to have me present and available to them.  I don't feel like I am right now.  My mind is in a twist about this stupid lymphedema.  They are being ripped off too, and its not fair to them.


Please pray for my arm and hand.  That this lymphedema go away.  That my physical therapist and I have wisdom about how to treat the condition if its God's will that I deal with it.  That I be able to put all of my worry and angst in a mental box and put it away for periods of time so I can spend time with my kids and have holiday fun.  


  1. Oh Tonya, YOu are a trooper! I am thinking of you and praying for you and thinking of you and your family often. Whine if you need to. We're here! xoxo

  2. We are here to listen through the bad times as well as the good. Lots of love coming your way tonight. (And always, of course!)

  3. I'm mad at cancer for you as well!!!!! Stomping my feet over here. I'm so glad you are just letting all those feelings spill out and "drain" instead of puffing up your heart and brain. :-)

    I read every single update. I'm one of your many silent prayer warriors who care and I'm so glad you are who you are and have continued to fight and share and be honest with all of us. And just the way you attack things with a desire to know and research and do the very best you can...it's inspiring and motivates me to tackle my own problems with as much vigor and also trust in Jesus. You rock sister. Puffy hand, get thee gone!!!

  4. So sorry! I know what a drag that is - the last thing you need to deal with! You might want to try switching to a glove rather than a gauntlet. The gauntlet wasn't enough for me - fluid would get trapped in my hand when I wore my sleeve. I cut the tips off the gloves for easier use of fingertips. It's worth asking your therapist about. And keep working on it. In the early stages it's still possible to reverse. I've had several episodes of severe swelling, but was able to get it down & under control with exercises & self-massage. Now I just wear sleeve/glove as a precaution when I'm doing high risk stuff like ice climbing or long flights. I'm hoping this will be just a brief episode for you. Sending you lots of good, unpuffy thoughts.

  5. You deserve a good whine after everything you've been through!!! I agree, I'm glad to see you "draining" those feelings here instead of just letting them puff up your heart and brain.

    A positive, upbeat can-do attitude is great, but it can get false and actually bear you down emotionally if you don't vent every so often. So vent away, my dear; get that frustration out. You will get back to your can-do-itness soon, I know. Many hugs to you.

  6. Tonya, I have been quietly following your blog for a while now, and just want you to know how amazing I think you are. I'm so sorry that you are going through this and can't even begin to imagine what it's like. You have been a source of inspiration to me over the years (ICAN) and I know you have the strength inside you to fight this awful disease!!! Keep fighting, warrior!