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.

Friday, May 25, 2012

What every woman should know

What every woman should know is....what her breasts feel like.

I'll be honest-I never was good about doing breast self exams. I never even considered breast cancer a possibility for me. None of my female relatives, save one of my dad's sisters, had it. I was young, I had breast fed three babies at least a year each. I figured I was "safe." I would fib when health care providers asked me if I did them.

But no one is safe.

I even had a clear mammogram!

When I did feel the lump under my arm (two years ago this weekend), I didn't know what to make of it. I didn't know what "normal" was for my breasts. Part of it was because I had lost 50 pounds and went from a D cup to a B. I figured that a good bit of the fat melted away to reveal lumpy breasts like I had heard my grandmother had.

But it was a cancerous lymph node. One of five, as it turned out.   The mammogram and its interpretation missed a 3.5 centimeter tumor in my left breast.  While I am in favor of mammograms, they are not the be-all and end-all in breast cancer detection. I know way too many women who had clean mammograms like I did and had breast cancer.

So feel your breasts, gals. Do it regularly. Know what they feel like so if you notice ANY changes, you can alert your health care provider.

To learn how to do a breast self exam, check out this link.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


When it rains, it pours.

I've been having one heck of a time lately.  Things just keep piling on.  In the midst of it all, I have been having renewed fears of recurrence.

Where to start?  First off, an uncle that has been a part of our family all of my life died suddenly last week. It came as quite a shock, even though I had not seen him in many years. With Facebook, our family feels very connected, even if we don't see each other that often.  Of course, I wanted to go up to Oregon for the celebration of life and to spend time with the family.  Making arrangements is kind of stressful, especially when you are trying to coordinate with others.  That alone would be enough, right?

Jean-Marc has been having this cold that never ends. I'm usually very low-key about minor illnesses.  Last Saturday, his eyes started oozing and were red. I immediately thought...pink eye!  I started using some homeopathic drops that I have, as much as he would let me. He hates the drops and squeezes his eyes shut tight. But a little gets in, and it seemed to help. Nevertheless, I kept him out of Sunday school on Sunday and preschool this week. Right there, that upsets my "routine." I know it sounds petty, but I am a creature of habit. I have my workouts and things I like  need to do while he is at school. Like get out of the house and RUN.  Running is my way of feeling like I am beating cancer. The runs I did take were later in the afternoon and I just felt sluggish. I did the miles, but it was tough.

Today, Jean-Marc started complaining of a sore throat. Considering that I'm going out of town in two days and Eric is already grumbling about having to pull my weight as much as his, I thought I'd take him in to see if it was strep throat.  We spent the morning at Kaiser. Luckily, it wasn't strep. However, it was diagnosed as an "acute sinus infection."  Maybe I shouldn't have, but I opted for an antibiotic. With me going out of town for a few days, hopefully it will knock out whatever he is dealing with so he can be in shape for the weekend with dad.

Now for confession time. Our family has been battling head lice for the past few weeks. It's not a complete secret-the school knows about it. The whole 5th grade got checked the day I reported it and the news spread like wildfire. Poor Isabelle. But she coped with it pretty well. It is hard to see your kids be ostracized for something like that.  It isn't as disgusting as I thought it would be, but it is persistent, frustrating, and time consuming. It started with Isabelle. She had been complaining of an itchy head for awhile, so I took her to the doctor. She has always had dandruff, so when the doctor said it was that, I didn't second guess her. When the itch didn't stop, I e-mailed and asked for a referral to a dermatologist.  Another doctor responded with a prescription to a medicated shampoo called "Derma smoothe," saying that a dermatologist would prescribe that anyway. Fine. We did it.  The itch went away for awhile and we thought all was well. When the itch came back, we did another treatment. The next morning, Isabelle showed me the shower cap that she had slept in and there were dead bugs in it! Still in denial, I googled, "bugs in hair that are not lice."  Bottom line, there ain't such a thing.

Off we were to the pharmacy for the over the counter treatment. We did everyone in the house. The shampoo is the easy part. Then you have to stand there and comb out the nits. The first night, I spent nearly 4 hours on Isabelle. We checked daily for a week and then re-treated her 8 days later. It all seemed to be fine. We went ahead and treated everyone in the home. Jean-Marc had a few, as did I. I thought we had put it behind us, but then about 5 days ago, I notice nits in Isabelle's hair. This time, they are smaller and are slipping through the comb. We are spending hours a day at this, seemingly to no avail. I realized today that this has really taken a toll on Isabelle and I particularly. I found a service called "Hair Angels." They will come to your house and guarantee to get rid of it for you. Granted, its not cheap. But we've already invested nearly $100 in over the counter poison that we are putting on our heads. Eric hasn't consented yet. Hmm.  Let him spend a few hours this weekend with Isabelle's hair and maybe he'll change his tune.

For the past few nights in the middle of the night, I've been having moments of panic, even while semi-asleep. Fears of recurrence.  The first night, I tried a trick that has worked for me in the past. I just imagine Jesus. Or I'll repeat in my mind, "Jesus...Jesus...Jesus."  It didn't work. I just kept imagining the stitch in my side being an internal organ riddled with cancer.  (I did a pretty intense Jillian DVD on Monday that has made me sore all week.)  But this middle of the night battle has made me a bit on edge.  The strange thing, is that this all goes on while I am asleep. But I'm aware of the dialogue in my head. It truly is a spiritual battle and I am under attack by the enemy. He wants to destroy anything good and rob me of my joy. Last night,  I started mentally singing a song from church, "Jesus Messiah, name above all names, Blessed Redeemer, Emmanuel. The rescue for sinners, the ransom from heaven, Jesus Messiah, Lord of All..."  I remember having to do this two or three times throughout the night. But it worked.

Today I realized all of this happening together is definitely a spiritual attack. Just being able to identify it as such has helped me cope, although I'm still frustrated with the hair situation. So please pray for me as I continue to battle on. He who is within me is greater than he who is trying to come against me!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Teenager in the house!

My oldest child, Olivier, is turning 13 years old.

It is really strange to think I will have a teenage kid. I'm not old enough to have one of those, am I?

Many people see the aging of their kids as a sign of themselves aging. They don't like it because it reminds them that they are also getting old.  While it is a strange thing to see, I'm not one of those people.

It is bittersweet to remember those early days when Olivier was a little baby and toddler. He was a pretty easy baby and I learned a lot from his cesarean birth.  Now I see flashes of adolescence and in some moments, flashes of adult maturity. He's still a good kid, too. :-)

I realized a few days ago that I am happy to see this milestone come. Yes, I am getting older. But that means that I am still alive!  I remember early after my diagnosis reading stories of women who lost their battles with cancer and left young children behind. (I don't recommend reading these stories to the newly diagnosed....it was very upsetting, especially before I knew exactly how extensive my own cancer was.)  I wept over these poor families to lose a mom at such a tender age. Leaving my kids is the one thing that I don't want to do.  Personally, I'm not afraid to die. I know where I am going when this life is over. But I don't like the idea of how it would impact them not to have me around in this life.

I will never complain about getting older-bring on the birthdays!  I also will treasure each of my kids' birthdays and being able to see the people they are growing to become. Thank you, Lord, for this time!