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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Our family just spent the Memorial Day weekend in San Francisco. It was the first family trip that we have done since my diagnosis. In fact, it may very well be the first one we've done since Jean-Marc was born almost 3 years ago.  Each family member has their own interests and activities that keep them (and me) busy. But we don't do that much together as a family. We manage to eat most meals as a family, but as far as activities go, we aren't together that much. This trip was something that we did as a group and we will definitely have many fond memories of our time in the City by the Bay.  We had a wonderful time and were able to fill each day to the fullest while there.
Jean-Marc, "Little Guy" and I are ready for our flight!

It was the first time I traveled by airplane since my lymphedema. Changes in altitude, especially extreme ones like air travel, can trigger lymphedema. I wasn't sure how to approach it. It is a short flight, so I wasn't too concerned about my arm ballooning up. But I wanted to see how travel would affect me, and was ready for anything.

On the flight up, I just wore my compression sleeve and gauntlet. Part way through the flight, I thought my fingers looked kind of puffy. I switched my wedding rings to my right hand just in case, so they wouldn't get stuck. It could have all been in my head, too.  But better safe than sorry.  I stayed in my compression wear all afternoon until we got to the hotel.  That night, I did a good session of manual drainage and wrapped my arm and hand in bandages.

Over the next couple days, I repeated this pattern.  Compression all day, bandaging at night. I'll admit though, the last night, I just bandaged without doing the manual drainage. We had a long and very physical day. I was just to tired.

Our flight home left early Monday morning, so I just left the bandages on for the flight home. I wasn't sure how TSA was going to treat me with my arm like that.  I had heard horror stories of other breast cancer survivors who had to go through some uncomfortable screening moments with their prosthetic breasts. Here I was adding a wrapped arm on top of two foobies!   In the end, it wasn't a big deal. They did segregate me and swab my arm for explosives, then they kind of did a pat down of the arm to make sure there wasn't anything in there.  No full body scan or patdown or anything like that.

Overall, my arm seems to have made it just fine. I do need to take some measurements and compare it to last week's "pre-flight" numbers. But just looking at my arm, it seems not to have changed much. That is a relief. It also was a good trial run for our longer trip this summer to France. That is a good 12 hour flight.  On top of that, we'll probably be met with pretty warm temperatures, which is another trigger.

I'm curious for followers out there who also have experience travelling with lymphedema. What do you do to minimize the effects?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm still here!

It has been awhile since my last post. In some ways, that is a good thing, right? Nothing new to report on the "cancer" side of life.  In fact, I'm even starting to think of myself as someone who "had" cancer. (As opposed to someone "with" cancer.)  Yes.  It is something that I had in the past. I dealt with it, did the whole nine yards of treatment (double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation), and have made dietary and lifestyle changes to keep it in my past.

I'm delving more and more into learning about the link between nutrition and cancer, as well as other diseases. I'm reading "The China Study" by Dr. T Colin Cambell.  After a career of studying nutrition and disease, he advocates a whole foods, plant based diet. There are others who disagree with him, and to try to read their competing scientific reasons, and Dr. Cambell's rebuttals makes my head spin.  In the end, I guess I just have to do the best with the information that I have. I'm still going to try for 80% plant based diet, with about half of those raw.  I'm not swearing off animal products at this point. But those that I do eat will be organic.  I can easily go a few days with no animal products at all, but my family balks at it. I'm not 100% convinced about the healthfulness of a vegan diet at this point, especially for my kids who will pick over protein sources if they don't like them. Regardless of what I do, I know to listen to what my body is telling me and adjust things accordingly.

I am still enjoying my exercise about 6 times a week. In an ideal world, I would run 3 times a week doing one long run outside (7+ miles), one tempo run on the treadmill at the gym (20-30 minutes at a challenging pace) and an interval run.  I'd also do 2 circuit training workouts. That is what helped me drop the weight last year, and I've been doing it a little bit more. There really is nothing else like it for me to notice changes in my body and fitness level. But I have to be careful about lymphedema and the weight training. In the ideal world, I'd also do at least 1 workout of cardio cross training at the gym on the elliptical and stationary bike.  But the world is still not ideal-imagine that!  I'm getting 6 workouts in a week, but they aren't exactly this mix of workouts. That's okay. I'm feeling strong and good.

I spent part of last weekend camping with Olivier. It was just the two of us up at a San Diego-Imperial Council's campground in the Santa Ysabel mountains. There was a day of shooting sports on Saturday, with camping on Friday. We brought his little 2 man tent and camped Friday night. It was a lot of fun to spend some one on one time with him.  It had been a long time since I had camped, and it was the first time it was just Olivier and I.  It was fun being back into a scouting atmosphere and seeing other adult leaders that I had not seen in awhile. I've been to that campsite before, but this time I was in much better shape. It was so nice to be able to go up "cardiac hill" like it was nothing! In fact, I challenged Olivier to run up it, but he didn't take me up on it.  Being in better shape reaps all kinds of rewards that I had not considered before-I'm able to get more out of life with less boundaries.  Being "done" with cancer means that I can get back into scouting more, and I'm really pleased to be able to do so!

Jean-Marc has been sick since last Friday, which has interfered with my plans. He's got a nasty flu/cold that started last Friday. He threw up once on Sunday.  Up until today (Wednesday), he has been lethargic with no appetite. All he wants is to have me sit on the couch with him and watch whatever it is that he wants to watch. I've had my fill of "The Wiggles" and "Thomas the Tank Engine."  Jean-Marc just sits there moaning and mumbling, "I'm crying, mom.  I'm crying, mom.  My tummy hurts." Once on Sunday night (or maybe it was Monday), he even said, "Pray for me."

Isabelle woke up yesterday displaying similar symptoms to Jean-Marc. No appetite, and lethargy. I kept her home from school and took her along with Jean-Marc and I to the pediatrician. We ruled out ear infections and strep throat. It's just some virus that we have to ride out.  She threw up in the car on the way home. Luckily, I was able to pull over and she jumped out and got most of it into the gutter. TMI?

The thing is, we have tickets for a family trip on Friday! We MUST be healthy! We are taking the kids up to San Francisco for Memorial Day weekend.  Olivier and Isabelle had read a couple of books about kids who lived on Alcatraz and struck up a correspondence relationship with Al Capone, an inmate. They loved the books, "Al Capone Does My Shirts" and "Al Capone Shines My Shoes."  We found a great package deal online and have roundtrip airline tickets, 3 nights in a hotel (2 rooms) and a rental car. We've already paid for it, so we're going!  We are going to spend Saturday at Alcatraz and Fisherman's Wharf. On Sunday, we are going to rent bikes and bike across the Golden Gate Bridge.  There is a vegan restaurant that I'd like to visit called Cafe Gratitude. I'm not sure we'll be able to make it. It is near the mission, so perhaps we can check the mission out at the same time. Isabelle has been studying California history this year in the 4th grade, and missions make up a big part of that. We'll see.

We also are hoping to close escrow on our old house in the next few days.  I am so grateful to God that we got some great buyers, a good price, and a fast escrow in this market!

Anyway, I'm here. I'm doing good. I've just been busy....living! Thank you Jesus!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wings like eagles

God has been incredibly good to me. Yes, even in the midst of having cancer. Maybe even one day I can be glad that it happened to me.

I have been turning into more of a runner these days. The very thought cracks me up. Me??! The girl who absolutely hated "running day" in Junior High?  I can't help but giggle at myself when I'm doing it. I don't even recognize this person!  I picked up a copy of a running magazine a few weeks ago and read it cover to cover. I even filled out the little annoying subscription card that kept falling out of it and sent it in. I'm learning the lingo, too.

I've even verbally committed to my first half marathon!  A friend of mine suggested it. She has a few of these races under her belt. This one is the "Tinkerbell" and it is run in and around Disneyland. Its a women only race next January.  I looked at the information on the website and they say you have to maintain a 16 minute mile or risk being picked up. Heck, I could walk faster than that. By January, I will have 60 miles in 3 days under my belt.

But I might even be able to run the 13 miles!  Its hard for me to do street running because of Jean-Marc. I don't have a jogger stroller, and I've run a little with our cheap rickety umbrella stroller and it is not very stable. It's easier to go to the gym and run on the treadmill.  But that masks how far you are really going. Yesterday morning, I took to the streets with a cool app on my iPhone, Log Your Run.  This app has a GPS thingie in it that can track where you are, how far you are going, your mileage, pace, etc.  I had a couple of hours to myself because the kids spent the night at my mom's house. I ended up doing 7.5 miles!  I do confess that I had to walk part of it on some very steep hills in La Costa.  If it had been all flat or less intense hills, it would have been no problem to run the distance.

I don't really know how to train to run, but had read somewhere about how to mix up your runs so you don't get bored and so that you get more out of your exercise time. So I ran 2 miles on the treadmill with a variable hill program. Then I did Jillian Michael's leg circuit which takes about 20-25 minutes. It's constant squats and lunges. Then I ran 2 more miles at no incline. The last mile I did at a pretty fast pace. Running after the leg exercises is supposed to simulate the fatigue in your legs after a longer run.

I was marveling at this last week while running on the treadmill at the gym. I kept thinking about the scripture in Isaiah and personalizing it as if it were written just to me.  She who waits on the Lord shall renew her strength. She will be lifted up on wings like eagles. She will run and not grow weary.  She will walk and not grow faint. (Is. 40:13)  I can't help but rejoice and praise the Lord as I am running and feeling like I am flying like an eagle. I am not even 3 months out of cancer treatment and am feeling so....well.  I am even thinking of my cancer in the past tense, even though I have the constant reminders that it was a part of my life.  Things like my scars and the lymphedema. But as for the rest of it, I'm running like a healthy person.  Because I AM a healthy person. God has strengthened me and sustained me through this trial.  He even prepared me for it ahead of time.  It would have been SO much harder if I had been out of shape and not already into a habit of exercise when I was diagnosed. But He knew this was coming, and I believe He planted the desire in my heart to lose weight and get fit. There was a battle ahead.  Any and all success in my health both before, during and after cancer treatment I credit 100% to the Lord.

There will be more battles ahead in this life. More trials. More difficulties. That is an absolute. But God will be there with me giving me whatever strength and aid that is required for me to fight it. Words fail to describe how full that makes my heart. I am thrilled to be called His!

Here is a Word for us all:

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8, New King James Version)  


Friday, May 13, 2011


"Scars are tattoos with better stories."

I saw that yesterday online on a t-shirt with a pink ribbon above it.

Scars may have stories, some that we may not want to hear.  My scars are a constant reminder of my breast cancer status.  I can't ever get too far away from thinking about it because of them. But as I get farther away from my diagnosis and surgery, they become more a part of me. I don't get a little sock in the gut when I see myself in the mirror anymore. I was wearing my foobies a few weeks ago, and Eric commented how strange it was to see me with "breasts" again.

Lately, I've been seeing several women having problems with their reconstruction surgery. Unable to sit up because the surgeon took abdominal muscle to form a breast.  Painful expanders. Repeat surgeries to fix things, and so on. I am very comfortable with my decision not to reconstruct. I don't fault anyone for choosing to reconstruct-it is a very personal decision. My decision is working for me and I'm glad not to have any surgeries (that I know of) on the horizon.

The downside of not reconstructing is that I do have a constant reminder of what I've been through.  There is no facade of normalcy. There are days when several hours goes by and I don't think about cancer at all. But when I change or shower, there it is again. But the scars don't bother me.  In a weird way, it makes me feel like a warrior-they are signs of my my battle. They have made me stronger.

I have a scar from my cesarean 12 years ago. It took me a long time to see the upside of that one. It was a very traumatic experience. But that scar put me on a journey toward a completely new way of looking at pregnancy and birth. A healthier and safer way. If it were not for that scar, I would not have had the two amazing unmedicated homebirths that I had with my younger two children. That scar benefited them too.

I can only hope that is the case with the scars on my chest. It has put me on a path of wellness. I was already on it from my weight loss last year. But I'm learning a lot about the link between nutrition and disease. It's so much more than weight maintenance now. It's eating healthy to live healthy. I hope this rubs off on my family so that they can avoid disease by having a healthy diet. In that way, then they would benefit from these scars as well.

Yes, my scars have stories to tell. But the story continues to unfold. Only God knows how it will end. My life is in His hands and I pray I can glorify Him through my scars.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It gets complicated

Today I had the opportunity to sneak off for a couple hours all by myself and do some clothes shopping. This does not happen very often, and I'm pretty sure this was the first time since my diagnosis.

Last year, it was a blast to shop for clothes. I had gone from a size 14 to a size 6. I'm still 10 pounds away from my actual goal, but am tired of being in the mindset that I have to lose more weight. I've been able to maintain where I am since my diagnosis, and being on Tamoxifen, that is no small feat. So I'm starting to try and get a mindset of being happy where I am. Of course, if 10 pounds would magically fall off, I'd be thrilled. I'll still work on it, but decided not to put off the shopping. (Maybe its the chapter in the bible study book I'm doing about being content?)  Besides, the opportunity does not present itself very often. And hey, if I lose 10 pounds or more and need to get clothes smaller than a 6, well...then, I'll go buy 4s!

Shopping is still fun-6 is pretty much my size right now and that is beyond amazing.

I had the forethought to put on my foobies at the last minute before heading out the door. I was mainly looking for shorts and tops. The first few tops I tried on fit great with the foobies. As I was slipping the third one on, I realized...maybe I should try them on without the foobs. I don't wear them all the time, and I don't want to be locked into having to wear them all the time. So I had to go back, take off the bra, put the clothes back on. It's a little more complicated than it used to be!

In the end, it was a very successful shopping expedition. I got 3 pairs of shorts and several tops that are different from those that I already have.  It was fun, even with the added complication.