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, February 3, 2011

Burn, baby burn

I've been an ostrich with my head stuck in the sand.  Or a little kid who didn't want to hear something, so she sticks her fingers in her ears, closes her eyes, and says "lalalalalalala!" really loud.  Or maybe just preoccupied with life to really think about the effects of radiation.

Compared to chemo, radiation isn't that bad.  At least not yet. Chemo made me feel like a different person sometimes. It really messed with my hormones and emotions. It fogged my brain.  I couldn't articulate my thoughts and forgot details. It changed my taste buds. It changed my outward appearance in several ways.  Luckily, those effects were temporary and are going away. I feel like myself again. My hair is starting to grow back. My nails still look bad, but I can cover that up with some polish.  Except for the toenails that fall off!  I'll have to wait for them to grow back before I can have normal looking feet again.

So after all of that chemo-drama, I didn't really think a lot about radiation. They said it would make me tired. Okay, maybe.  Chemo gave me some tired days too. So far, I haven't had fatigue, thank you Jesus.  They said my skin would get red, so I should put on creams several times a day.  Starting on day one, I did just that.  I've also been using pure aloe and drinking aloe juice. The redness has come, and continues to grow, both in size and intensity.  And I still have 10 more treatments left.  So it's going to get worse.

A fellow cancer-blogger, Charmine, posted a photo of her radiation burns at their worst for me and gave me some tips on her blog. (Thanks, Charmine!) Yikes. I hadn't thought of blistering, peeling, and oozing burns. But that may happen, especially considering the state I am in now with 10 more treatments to go.

This is what it looks like today, after 22 treatments. The dark red patch under the arm is where I'm putting the pad on that the nurse gave me.  (You also get to see a little bit of my mastectomy scars...lovely, eh?)

I've learned a bit more about "the pad" as well.  It's called Mepilex. It apparently is just a dressing that will soak up ooze from a wound. I asked the nurse about getting more today. She has to order it, but promised not to leave me hanging if I needed it. They have more "samples" in the office.  That's good. Now my question is about moisturizing the area. If the Mepliex is just a dressing, the area isn't getting moisture. She told me to keep it on 24/7 except when showering.  But then the area isn't getting any soothing relief from anywhere. I plan on asking her about this tomorrow. I'm wondering if it would make sense to Aquafor the area up at night and let it soak in, then put the Mepilex on in the morning and for the rest of the day. At this point, there is no broken skin or blisters.  It feels good to have the pad on--it cushions the area and prevents chafing from my upper arm.

I don't want this to slow me down! I don't want to give into cancer. I went to the gym after treatment today and did an hour on the treadmill, alternating between running at a 10 minute mile pace and walking a 15 minute mile pace on an incline. Being paranoid about the chafing, and a little worried that too much sweat would make the pad fall off, I tried to do some of it with my left hand on my hip. It was easy to do while walking, but a little awkward on the running parts. I finished the workout with Jillian's "lean and mean" leg circuit workout. Man, I'm going to be sore. It took me about 20 minutes and consisted of 475 squats/lunges. She said to do the circuit 5 times, and I did. I didn't plan on doing all 5. But once I did 3, I figured I was more than halfway there. I burned 200 calories on that leg workout alone! (A total of 662 for the whole session!)  I may not be able to do upper body and my burn may slow down my running.  In that case, I'll do what I can do! I may not be able to walk tomorrow, though!

Praise report! Another bright spot came today at my physical therapy appointment. My swelling is definitely under control. My upper arm is a whole centimeter smaller than it was on December 22. All of my measurements were either smaller or the same as before. The bandaging is definitely working. I am so thankful that the lymphedema isn't acting up while I am coming to terms with radiation burns!

My prayer requests:

  • That my skin not burn any more than it has. If it does, that it be manageable. That I be able to cope with the physical effects of radiation and still live my life. This too, shall pass. 
  • That my lymphedema continue to be under control. 
  • My friend from church is having her hysterectomy today for uterine cancer. Please pray that the surgery be a success and that the cancer isn't as bad as they initially thought. Pray for her recovery from surgery and strength for the road ahead. 

1 comment:

  1. Hy Tonya,
    Radiation is not too bad than chemo but you can take care wich burn. Drinking water or another liquid is very important for you. Keep the area moisturizing. See in my blog www.aatrocha.blospot.com.br photos about Amanda's treatment (radiotherapy). God bless you. Apologise my english. Marina. Brazil