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, April 24, 2012

Where the wild things are

I had the greatest long run today. I had on my schedule to do 10 miles. The temperature has been creeping up this week, and I'm a wimp when it comes to running in heat. I don't need one other thing to make my mind want to give up! On top of that, I had an irritating morning. Eric got up at 5 a.m. and rather than quietly working in his office, he instead began grinding coffee beans and banging pots and pans around to make an egg for himself.  Of course, that woke up Jean-Marc, who comes into my room and begins his day of demands.  Sigh.  I really would like him to understand that while I love him to pieces, I don't want to see or hear him until at least 6 a.m.!

Being a little concerned about the heat, I decided to head to the coast. At least the temperatures would be lower and a change of scenery might be nice.

Bottom line, it was splendid. I've gotten used to running without music. My music today was the pounding of the surf and the squawking of the pelicans and seagulls. My view was the ocean, with surfers sitting on their boards waiting to catch a wave.  It was fantastic.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My six month date

It was very strange going back to the oncologist's office after a six month reprieve.  But once I was there, the old habits took over. I know exactly where to sit, (the waiting room shares space with cardiac and other internal medicine specialities).  I know to make a pit stop right after I get called in to get my vitals taken.  The vanity in me knows to wear flip flop shoes so I can shed those extra ounces before stepping on the scale.  Yes, I need an examination gown. I know where I'm going before being led there. Everything is still very much as it was when I left it.  Even the folders on the wall that say "hospice referrals." Yikes.

Dr. P didn't keep us waiting very long this time. I hopped right up on the table as he pulled up my chart. He asked how I'm doing and Eric referenced me doing "lots of miles."  That launched us into a conversation about running. I told him about the races I've done recently, and that I was training for the San Diego Rock & Roll Half Marathon in June. As it turns out, Dr. P runs a bit too, but he does triatholons. Cool!  I would love to get into that, but I would need a bike!  (Santa??)

He asked if there was anything he needed to know about. Nothing bad to report, I said. I used to talk about my paranoia about recurrence, but all he offered before was a referral to a support group or therapy. I think running is my therapy now.  So I didn't mention that this appointment had me a bit anxious for the past two weeks.  He did an examination: feeling the lymph node area around my collarbones; listening to my heart and lungs; examining what is now my chest for anything unusual. As usual, he asked if I was going to do reconstruction. Nah.  Being a runner now, it actually is convenient not to have breasts. Besides, I'm not interested in harvesting other muscles to make a couple of boobs. Just my personal choice.

The subject of my Vitamin D levels was brought up.  Actually, Dr. P was the one to bring it up, although I would have if he hadn't beaten me to the punch. He was looking at my results from 6 months ago when they were around 42.  He said that was really good. Is it? Says who?  He said its an inexact science. I told him I would like my D levels tested again. He asked me how much Vitamin D I was supplementing. I looked at him with a twinkle and told him the truth...6,000 IUs a day. His eyebrows rose as he said that was quite a lot. In fact, he recommends that I cut it back to 2,000.  I thought to myself that 6,000 was actually conservative considering I had been taking 10,000 before! Really, my levels were shockingly low a year and a half ago. The low end of "normal" was 30. I was at 14. He didn't think a re-test was necessary. I gently insisted and he said he would order it.

We also talked about switching me over from Tamoxifen to the post-menopausal drug. He said that younger women with breast cancer still may have some activity going on in the ovaries, even in the absence of having periods. Since I was having blood drawn for the Vitamin D, he ordered an estrogen level test as well.  I asked him if it would be worth considering having my ovaries taken out. He said there is a clinical trial going on right now to determine if that is of benefit to women taking Tamoxifen, so he couldn't answer definitively. I've known him long enough to know he has opinions. So I asked what his was. He thought that it probably did help outcomes. Well, we'll see what my hormone levels are and talk about it at that point.

All in all, everything looked as normal as one could look given everything my body has been through. It's as clean of a bill of health as I can get.  I still wonder if I would have more peace of mind with an MRI or a PET scan. Maybe.  Maybe not. I don't know. Does it matter? If it comes back, as he said before, it won't be curable. Talk about having to just trust God with everything!

Even though he's a man of few carefully chosen words, Dr. P is a nice guy. On my after visit summary he wrote, "Good luck with your running."  Nice, huh?   But even thought he's nice, I hope I don't see him until October!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Life goes on, right?

I have my six month oncologist check up next week. Friday the 13th.  Good thing I'm not superstitious, isn't it?  I can't help but feel a bit anxious about it. Jennifer Griffin, the Fox News correspondent/breast cancer survivor, likened it to having a meeting with your parole officer.  You live in the world, doing the things that you are expected and supposed to do. You get your kids to school, dinner on the table, and errands run. On the outside, you look normal.  Most of the time, you feel normal. Some days several hours go by without thinking about what is now a part of my life: cancer. But you have this appointment that takes you back to the reality that for the rest of my life, I need to be on guard for the disease to rear its ugly head again.  Just like going to a parole officer would remind an ex-con that he was in a bad place and isn't really yet free.

Isabelle and I at the Carlsbad 5000 last weekend.
I have no suspicious symptoms.  I feel strong. I'm running 25-30 miles a week. I'm planning activities and things assuming I have a long life to live. I'm signing up for races-I signed up for the Carlsbad Half Marathon in January 2013. I'm working on my fluency in French.  But just the fact that I have to go back to see Dr. P triggers a little bit of anxiety. After all, when I was diagnosed, I felt great too.  

What if? What if? What if?

I can really psych myself out.  Dr. P said if I have pain that doesn't go away, that's a concern. The mind is such a powerful organ. If I think about it, I can actually feel sensations that I don't think are there.  I'm pretty sure its not real because if I think about it and take a few deep breaths, it goes away. I'm getting better about the paranoia. The bible study from Hebrews really helped me in this respect.  One of the "take home" principles I learned was that regardless of what my circumstances may be, God has promised me many wonderful things in His Word. Eternal things. Things that will last, unlike this life. (Cancer or not.)  When I start to feel anxious, I simply remember one of the many promises from the Bible.  It could be "No eye has seen nor ear has heard  nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)  I'm so grateful to have the Word of God!

There are a couple things I want to ask Dr. P while there. I've been taking Tamoxifen for 15 months now. He originally had said I should take it for 2 years, and then they would "see" if I am officially post-menopausal.  Then they would switch me to a different medication, Arimidex, I think.  I asked him why, and he said the outcomes were better. I'm wondering if we can just "see" now if I'm ready for it.  I also want another Vitamin D test to see what my levels are now. I've been supplementing 6,000 IU every day, and experimenting with a liquid form. Has it made a difference? 

I'm expecting a routine appointment with him asking me how I feel, if I'm going to get reconstructed.  The things he asks every time. I have no reason to think otherwise. But still...I'm not really free.