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, June 12, 2012

Tough Chicks

As a breast cancer survivor, I have several new "notable" days to observe each year. Not all of them call for a celebration.  On Sunday, June 10th, I observed the second anniversary of my cancer diagnosis.  It was the day I learned for sure that I had the disease.  I had to have had it for awhile, so it wasn't anything new to my body. But to my mind and spirit, it was a day that changed my life forever.

When I got off the phone with the nurse who broke the news to me two years ago, I went upstairs and did a Jillian Michaels level 3 workout. I didn't cry or freak out. I just exerted myself to nearly my max. I sweat like a dog.  When I got tired, the word "CANCER....CANCER...CANCER...." reverberated in my head. Each repetition was like taking a punch. As I was stretching out afterwards, I did shed a few tears. But my mindset was not that of being a victim. I had become a warrior.  Working out was training for the bigger battle for my life.

I learned through the course of my treatments that my strength did not come from myself, but it came from the Lord. If it were not for His strength, comfort, and sustenance, I would not have been able to cope with it all, physically, mentally, or spiritually.  That is why when I hear this particular song, "My All in All" I literally can break into sobs. It pierces my heart. It is like "our" song.  God's and mine, that is.  

You are my strength, oh God.
You are my help, oh God.
You are the One on whom I call.
You are my shield, oh God 
My life I yield oh God
For you will always be my All in All

Wouldn't you know it?  On Sunday, June 10, 2012, that was the last worship song we did in church. I couldn't sing, I just meditated on the words with my hands upraised in praise and tears rolling down my cheeks. There are no accidents. God was observing this day just as I was.

After church, mom and I drove up to Orange County to attend an event put on by the Komen affiliate in Orange County. It was a celebration of survivors with a luncheon and fashion show. One of the women I met doing the 3 Day commercial last fall invited us.  (It was so fantastic to see her again, and meet her family!) I can't think of a better way to have spent that day but in the company of dozens of survivors and co-survivors.  Some survivors had 20+ years. Others were still in treatment. But all of us were bound together by a common bond. One speaker referred to it as a sorority of sorts. Perhaps. I never was in a sorority in college. If it is, it is one with one heck of an initiation, to be sure.  You get a two survivors together, and they can talk for hours comparing their histories, their surgeries, and all that they have done against their common enemy.  And they genuinely care for one another. We live with so much in common.

One thing I am struck by so many of the survivors I meet is their strength. To get through the emotional, physical, and mental gauntlet of diagnosis, surgery, chemo, radiation, reconstruction in most cases and then living with the specter of possible recurrence requires strength. Especially to do it well.  We all do the best we can do. So many of the women I met and saw on Sunday are surviving with strength and panache. It was like IN YOUR FACE, CANCER!  It was so inspiring. Some of these women had battled cancer several times. One woman had a recurrence after 20 years and it was now in her bones. But she was amazing. She was a active, she was smiling, she was beautiful. She was kicking butt. I loved her.

It is one of the things that motivates me to push myself physically.  It's not vanity that makes me get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. to run for an hour. Instead, it is my way of being stronger than cancer. To kick its butt. To show the world and cancer that it doesn't have me. I may have had it, but with God's strengthening and grace, I won.  Even if it comes back, I won. I won't go down weak.  Like other survivors, I am a tough chick!

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