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, January 27, 2011

Making plans and connecting dots...

I'm in a new phase of my radiation therapy. No longer do they put the pad on my chest to bring the dose closer to the skin. The positions of the machine seemed to be the same to me, but they could have made some adjustments.  Not having the pad should help my skin out, or so they say.  The radiation will go in a little deeper, I suppose.

Today they told me after the treatment they were going to "plan the scar." So I was just supposed to continue lying there while they did it. Whatever--I'm going along for the ride.  Apparently, at the end of radiation, they will spend some time giving my left scar some extra attention with the radiation beams.

Today, after the typical treatment, the techs began to slide in extra plates on the machine above me. It felt like being a bug under glass in a NASA experiment at the international space station. The extra plates made the machine come down to almost my chest. It is really hard to describe what it looked like. I found this picture on the internet that comes close. (That's not me!)  Then I got to wait for my actual doctor to come in. Thankfully, the techs were sensitive enough to take the robe I was laying on and drape it over me so I wasn't exposed like a piece of meat on the table.

I rarely actually see the doctor. Today I passed him in the small hallway as I was arriving and gave him a smile and nod. He just passed by without even noticing that I was there. I was a little miffed by that. Hello!! After a few minutes of lying there, he came in and began to draw dots around my scar. It went all around the scar and he mentioned that he would include my drain scars as well. Then he left. All he said to me was, "How are you today?"  Not like he even listened to the answer.  I could have done the Charlie Brown "waa waa waa waa" and it wouldn't have made a difference.  Maybe he was just having a bad day. I actually liked him the first time I saw him. So I'll give him the benefit of the doubt today and be merciful in my judgment.

After the doctor left, the techs then laid a transparency on top of me and then traced the dots and connected them. They took a picture of it for my file and I was done.  They said I could see the doctor if I had any other questions. I was kind of annoyed by his attitude today so I declined. It all is so technical and complicated, I don't even know where to start with questions! I just am trusting that they know what they are doing and that this is going to help the cancer not to come back.

I do get to wash the marked dots off of me, which is good. There is a small round sticker with a vertical line on it that I am not supposed to remove. It helps them to line me up on the machine each day. They've replaced it once so far.

After radiation, I went to the gym. It was fantastic today.  I did 35 minutes on the elliptical, back up to pre-surgery levels.  Yeah! Then I decided to do 30 minutes of intervals on the treadmill.  A very good friend suggested that a 10 minute mile was a "reasonable" speed.  I had been doing about 11 1/2 minute miles for the 5k. So I decided to do my speed intervals at a 10 minute/mile pace. On the treadmills at the gym, that works out to 6.0 speed. It seemed fast at first, but I was able to do it without my heart rate getting past 90%. I was very glad to see on the slower intervals that my heart rate went back down to about 60%. I have a tendency to not dip back down when I'm doing intervals that are too hard. So this was good news. Maybe I'm getting in better shape.  I would love to do the 5k in 30 minutes or less....so that is going to take some training on my part.

I have a Jillian iPhone app that I experimented with after the cardio session. You can pick a body part and see short videos of Jillian demonstrating exercises and telling you how many to do for each. I chose legs. There were 3 moves: a plie squat in second position where you would rise on your toes at the top; a "curtsey" squat; and a side lunge where you would raise the leg up each time. Okay.  But she wanted me to do 5 sets of each!! Yikes! Not after all the cardio I had done. I did 2 sets and know I'll be feeling it tomorrow!  I just dig all things Jillian!

The workout was great and made me feel really strong.

My prayer requests:

  • That I continue tolerating radiation well.  That my skin does not burn to the point that it is too uncomfortable or itchy. So far, it hasn't been bothering me too much, even though it is red and chafed looking. My energy levels remain normal. Many have told me that they got very tired towards the end of their radiation. I hope I can carry on at this current level of activity. 
  • That my lymphedema continue to be manageable.  I had physical therapy yesterday and was happy to see that most of my measurements were within the same range as before. There was some slight swelling at the 10 c.m. mark, but it wasn't too bad. It probably had gone down after she did the manual drainage session with me. I'm wearing bandages about 12 hours a day. 
  • That I am cancer free.  Someone asked me today if I was. I just don't know.  Maybe the surgery got it all in July?  Maybe the chemo got the rest of it? Maybe we are nuking the stragglers into oblivion?  I just don't know.  I like to think that this radiation is kind of preventative...to help keep it from coming back.  But we just don't know.  I'll blog more later about where to go from here.  But for now, please pray that I am cancer free. 

1 comment:

  1. Tonya,

    Been there, done that, with the radiation! I hated it, but, it did (eventually) end.

    Big hugs...