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 25, 2010

Red, green and a little bit of blue Christmas

It is Christmas Day!  Happy birthday, Jesus!  It is so strange to think of where I was a year ago and how much my life has changed since then.

I'm feeling a bit schizophrenic. On the one hand, there have been moments of incredible joy and delight.  On the other hand (the left one), I am fighting feelings of frustration and mild depression.

First some of the joy.  It's Christmas!  Who doesn't love that?  Last night, Jean-Marc was so excited.  We let the kids open one present on Christmas Eve-new pajamas.  The bow from the package somehow ended up on his behind.  As it turned out, he liked it that way. When the stickiness wore off, he wanted the bow back one so we had to get some tape to tape it to his butt!  Then he was doing this funny little happy dance on the floor.  It was a riot!  The older two kids were excited too. They went to bed really early.  Olivier in particular is being very skeptical about Santa and trying to bust the myth about all things Santa.  I keep telling him that Santa doesn't bring presents to unbelievers.

I spent the last 2 days in the kitchen cooking and preparing to cook.  That was why I wasn't able to update the blog.  I made a huge feast for Christmas Eve dinner last night-even down to a homemade apple tart.  It was gorgeous-something you would see in a pâtisserie!  I roasted a free range turkey, made some celery and leek stuffing, tried a new cabbage recipe with chestnuts in it, and added some rutabaga to my mashed yukon gold potatoes. All organic, of course!

I had an extra surprise for the family this year.  I bought a family gift to open yesterday afternoon....the game Twister. I thought it would be something fun for us to do.  It was.  We all took turns falling down and winning.  My brother Jared is a typical Graham.  He is pretty competitive and wants to win.  It's in the blood.  Anyway, I had challenged him to a game after beating the kids.  Boy, he was in it to win it! Rather than putting his hand or foot down on the spot closest to him, he would reach over and get into my space. It was a lot of fun.  At one point, he got a bit over-zealous to beat me to a spot and accidentally kicked my left index finger.  Ouch!  Okay, no biggie. But it was my "bad" hand. It was still fun.

I didn't sleep well last night.  I realized at one point that I hadn't put down Jean-Marc's "big" present.  Where was it??  Even though I thought I knew where I had put it, it was enough to disrupt my sleep.  Eric was another source of sleep disruption.  He came home from France fighting a flu bug and succumbed to it yesterday morning.  So he was moaning and groaning all night. Not his fault, but annoying anyway.  Then at about 5 a.m.,  my left hand felt swollen.  I had worn my compression sleeve/gauntlet to bed, but my hand was definitely bigger than it was the night before.

What the heck?  I was so discouraged and upset.  I did my manual drainage and spent some extra time on my hand.  I couldn't help but cry as I did it.  I felt like I had just taken 2 steps back after having taken 1 step forward.  My hand swelling had gone down by Wednesday.  It was looking better, even though not back to normal.  What caused today's swelling?  I have no idea.  Could it have been the kick in the hand from last night?  Or maybe my body is trying to fight off the illness Eric has.  I don't know.  But it looks like this condition is going to be ever-present with me.  I hate feeling fragile, like a walking eggshell.  I am getting physically stronger every day!  I just passed the 3 week post-chemo mark.  I don't want to be dealing with this for the rest of my life, but it doesn't look like I have a choice.  It makes me more angry than the cancer did.

So having that happen on Christmas morning was a bit of a bummer.  But the kids came in our room at 6:01 a.m. and were so excited, I was able to put it to the back of my mind.  As the day has progressed, my hand looks a little better.  I soaked in a warm tub of bath salts that mysteriously showed up in my stocking.  That felt good.  I wonder if bath salts are good for lymphedema?  Don't my midwife friends tell pregnant women suffering from edema to soak in epsom salts?  (Or something like that).  Regardless, the bath felt good and revived my spirits a bit.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not super-depressed.  I'm just annoyed and frustrated.  Lymphedema is not life threatening.  Cancer was/is.  So I popped my first two tablets of tamoxifen at noon.  Hopefully, I won't have any adverse reactions to that.  I had the scary thought wondering if I would be allergic to that.  What a mental battle this has been and continues to be!

My prayer requests:

  • That the swelling go down in my hand/arm.  You wouldn't realized how often you see your hand in the course of the day.  Every time I see it all puffed up, those emotions are churned. Argh!  My body is revolting against me. I still have to do radiation to that area-I need to be able to control that swelling.
  • That I do not have any adverse reactions to the tamoxifen. I'm already having night sweats and hot flashes.  Hopefully they don't get too much worse.  I'm pretty sure that I want this menopause thing to be permanent.  Why go through it twice?  In 2 years, they will test my hormone levels to see if I am post-menopausal. I just want to be able to take this drug.  So please pray for no allergic reactions to the drug. 
  • That the tamoxifen be effective in preventing recurrence of cancer.  

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