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, February 12, 2011

Fellowship of pain

The light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter and brighter.

There has been a new face lately at the radiation office, a Mexican lady who is brought every morning by her husband. I saw her in the back several days ago, dressed in the gown they give us. I assumed that it was breast cancer, since she had to change like I did. We've exchanged smiles and nods, but not much else. Yesterday, I was in the room of the radiation oncologist's office waiting to be called in for my session.  Her husband was there, getting some coffee.  For those who have known me a long time, especially family members, you know that slurping and chewing sounds have always driven me crazy. This man is a coffee slurper. Knowing that, I have tried to "beat" them by getting in before them. But yesterday, I was too late. When I walked in, he was getting the hot coffee. I mentally geared up for annoyance. I got out my iPhone and was going to check into Facebook to give myself something else to focus on.

He started to talk to me, asking questions about my treatment. His English wasn't great, and he had a pretty thick accent. But living here in Southern California and taking 3 years of Spanish, I understood him. I could see the worry on his face as we talked. I felt like such a heel for being so ungracious, even if it was in my own head. His wife was going through 33 radiation treatments as well. She had a lumpectomy. I don't know if she had chemo, he said "yes" when I asked him, but she has hair. But that could be a wig.  Anyway, he just shook his head, saying, "It's hard...worry...."

At that point, another patient came in. A tall man, probably in his late 50's or so. He was bald. He checked in and sat down. He was really friendly and mentioned that he had forgotten his hat. As it turns out, it was his first full day bald. His hair was falling out, so he had his daughter shave it off the day before.  I told him that I did the same thing too. It was too traumatic waiting for it to come out on its own, and besides, it was a mess.  I told him my hair was starting to come back in and pulled my scarf off a few inches. He was impressed. Then we joked about the "perks" of not having hair. I told him how my nose always drips because I don't have nose hair. He lamented about not being able to do his "comb over" any more. We had a good chuckle.  As I got called in, he said, "You've got to laugh, you know?" Ain't it the truth. If you didn't, you would just want to cry.

The scar session was interesting. It looks like they have customized a plate for the linear accelerator that is the outline of my scar that they did a couple weeks ago. They got everything in place and then had one of the doctors come in and make sure it was good to go. Then everyone left the room and I waited. And waited. And waited. I wondered if it would make the buzzing sound like it did before. After several minutes, the buzzing started and it was over. The tech said it took a bit longer because they were making sure everything was done right. That is fine with me. Do it right, folks!

My burns are turning really nasty. The first blister has popped and is peeling. When I took of the Mepilex pad today, there were bits of dead skin on it. Gross! I didn't want to put on my new one until I came home from the gym, so I found the cleanest spot and stuck it back on. I also have some burning on my upper back that I noticed for the first time today.

The bright spot was that I was still able to go to the gym and have a great workout. I beat my 5k time by about 45 seconds and felt like I was kicking cancer's butt every step of the way!  It is a beautiful and sunny day here in San Diego, so I also spent some time outside in a tank top to soak up some Vitamin D.

My prayer requests:

  • That my burn wounds heal without incident. I don't want to get any infections or have any complications. Let them heal and the recovery can begin!
  • That my lymphedema stays under control.


  1. God has graced us with giving us such an amazing woman. You are in my prayers Tonya. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Jean

  2. Oh Tonya! ;( I'm so sorry you've burned so badly! That looks so painful. I was fortunate and didn't burn nearly that bad. I am praying for your fast healing, friend - and of course for lymphedema control too. xoxo

  3. Hi Tonya, just checking in on you. How many more to go? You are almost done. You look great really, except for that one spot. Why did it have to pick under your armpit of all places?

  4. Oh, ouch ouch OUCH. That looks really painful. But you're doing great at not letting it keep you down, keeping up with the activities you love. You're doing great and think how close you are to being done!

  5. I know it's painful, but you're getting there!!