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, December 27, 2010

Steep learning curve

I've come to realize that I am on the beginning of  steep learning curve about myself.  More specifically, my left hand and arm.

I need to be aware of how everything will affect my body now.  For example, I've been reflecting on my hand swelling on Christmas.  Playing a simple child's game ended up with me getting my finger tweaked. As my therapist pointed out today, anyone would have a swollen finger after that.  It's just that I swell differently.  But it goes beyond the obvious.  Things I eat and drink can affect it too. Not too much salt, lots of water, limiting diuretic drinks like coffee. I need to use the arm, but not too much. Its going to be a fine line.  That part is a little hard for me, because I like to push myself physically.  Now, that can be detrimental when it comes to activity involving my left arm.  I need to learn to read the signs and know where that line is.

I'm also learning about how to treat myself. Eric and I are learning how to apply layers of bandaging and foam to treat swelling.  It is a pain.  Over the weekend  found some customized garments that were layered to do the same thing.  I asked my PT about it today.  She pointed out that doing your own bandaging gives you flexibility to address the swelling as it changes.  Good point.  There may be times when I only need to wrap my hand, other times, my whole arm.

I've been reflecting on my own reaction to this lymphedema.  It really has made me more upset than the cancer diagnosis.  Yet its not life threatening like the cancer was/is.  With the cancer, I was told up front that I was in for surgery, chemo and radiation.  Those things all had an end date.  I'm realizing that this lymphedema is a lifetime of watching and treating myself.  Keeping an eye on the size of my fingers, hand and arm. Comparing the left and the right.  If I'm going to engage in any "risky" activities (traveling, exercising, being in heat, etc), I need to take precautions.  It's not going to end.  It's my life.  So I'm coming to terms with that.   My physical therapist also mentioned that I not only have to be "kind" to my arm physically, but emotionally as well.  I need to accept this as part of who I am and not hate my arm and hand.  She mentioned another patient who had lymphedema in her legs and referred to them in the third person.  I can see how it would get to that point.  When I look down at my swollen hand, I get annoyed at this part of me that is turning against the team.  I need to accept this fact about myself and not detest my own body.

Another thing I'm realizing is that there are just some things that I cannot control.  I knew that about the cancer diagnosis as well.  But I was given a set of things to "do" to deal with this huge game changer that was put into my life.  I was warned about lymphedema, but was given a set of things to "do" to avoid it.  I did those things, and it happened anyway.  I think I've been trying to control too much.  In reality, something that I've known intellectually is true is being reinforced in a very real way.  I'M NOT IN CONTROL OF ANYTHING!  God is.  I'm weak and fragile.  He is strong.  I need to remember that and draw on His strength, and not try to rely on my own.  Because it won't cut it.  Not even close. Maybe He will deliver me from this trial.  Maybe He won't.  It's not for me to try to control.  I need to "let go and let God." In the meantime, I have a book full of promises that I can rely on and not freak out:

  • God loves me and wants the very best for me.  He is there to give me strength and shelter from the storms of life.  He listens to me and hears my cries. I am not alone in this.
  • He WILL work out all these things for my good.  And probably the good for other people too. 
  • Regardless of my physical situation in this life, whether I have a recurrence or not, whether I am swollen on my left arm for all my earthly years to come, that this life is just a vapor.  It's a drop in the bucket when compared to eternity.  And because of Jesus' sacrifice on my behalf, I've been guaranteed eternal life in a body that will not be sick. Praise God!  


  1. Lymphedema can be fatal, the excruiating pain that can develope is basically what killed my wife, she could not take it anymore. She was dependant on Morphine for over a year!!!

  2. Tonya, I'm sorry you have to deal with lymphedema on top of everything else. Learning to live with side effects of cancer/cancer treatment can seem nearly as daunting as the cancer itself. I'm happy you have a supportive husband and PT. I agree you'll have to learn acceptance of your arm or at least not detest it as your therapist wisely said. This, too, will take time so go easy on yourself.

  3. Wow, I did not know that lymphedema could cause so many problems-I'm so sorry about your wife. I have a lot to learn.

  4. Tonya...

    Big hugs; no, we're not in control. And you too learned even before me, about yet another "stage" in all this cancer journey.