Thursday, March 28, 2013


Today's Update: So today my body aches everywhere, especially the part of my ribs between my breasts. If I touch my arms hard enough, they hurt, too. Last night it was my floating rib on my right side. They keep telling me at clinic that it's my bones healing or readjusting but it scares me and I'm so incredibly tired of being sore.

So let's go back to last year...

When I first met "Rob", I was in a great place, emotionally and financially. I owned two homes in Utah that I rented out. I had a big fat savings account. I lived well beneath my means. I had a good job. I lived near the beach. I had no debt whatsoever, not even a car payment, and I had a very nice newer Volvo. When Rob and I purchased our home together and set a wedding date, he had massive amounts of debt ($75,000 he owed his mother, who loaned him that money to pay off his ex wife, Terri), credit card debt, no money at all in savings, and an old Honda CRV. Throughout our entire relationship, I busted my ass off to pay off his financial obligations, including almost $1,500 per month in child support and over $650 per month in spousal support. His debts took precedence over joint credit card debt, everything.
Additionally, I did nothing but work while Rob did little more that drink after work and fish. He acted like he was the most important employee ever at the company he works for. Without Rob the Great (Alcoholic), the whole wide world would fall apart! Except Rob's hyper sense of his importance was only shared by Rob. He complained about the gobs of hours he had to work. Except many of the hours he was supposed to be working were actually spent at the San Diego Brewing Co. throwing back beers. On a Friday by 2:00 pm there was only one place Rob could be found: the BrewCo. When I had the audacity to tell Rob that I was drowning with responsibilities of working fulltime and taking care of the home, dogs, kids, his older daughter, and the Big Bear property, he would get even more agitated, scream at me, then apologize and tell me he'd do better.

Rob blamed everything for his disgusting behavior. The triggers and excuses were ENDLESS! Work, his dad was sick, stress at work, his daughter's latest problems (I'll write a post just on this one!), Kalie not wanting to talk to him (who could blame her?), Terri, upcoming court battles, work, work... It was one excuse after the next. That's why he drank, lied, didn't help around the house... It was so tiring. As if I didn't have any stressors? I kid you not, if Rob was home, it would be 7:30 or 8:00 pm and if he wasn't sitting down and watching movies he was asleep.
When I got sick, I literally stopped caring about anything related to finances or the house or anything. I was, quite literally, in survival mode. I knew that fighting my disease with Rob around would be impossible. He couldn't handle any responsibilities surrounding the house. How could he handle the home and an ailing wife? He'd drink more, scream at me more, do less, and I'd have to pick up the pieces while feeling sicker than ever. So as I was leaving, I literally handed Rob a stack of bills and a check book and said "Have fun with this. Four five years you've promised to pay bills and you've done nothing. Now it's your turn."

When I got to Utah, I found some pajamas that said "It's all about me." I bought them. For once, it truly was all about me. I texted the photo to Rob and it infuriated him. How dare it be all about Liz for once? It was supposed to always be about Rob, right? Not anymore. Seriously,  my mindset at that point was "fuck you, Rob."

When I left San Diego, I was on disability. Rob demanded that I send him my disability checks to cover household expenses. He texted, emailed and called me many times a day literally screaming at me or calling me a lying, lazy thief. SEND ME MONEY NOW OR ELSE, he threatened me (see email exchange below). And I was actually going to do it just to stop the horrible communications from him.

And then I called my attorney and told her what I planned on doing and she said, "Oh hell no! That money is to take care of you and the children. You aren't working. Who knows when you'll be able to go back to work. He makes a substantial income. He gets his bonus in a few weeks. Let him figure it out"

And she was right. I had loaned him over $40,000 to pay off his mother and had worked hard to help him pay off the additional $35,000 he owed her. I had helped pay child support, spousal support, Kalie's braces, his credit card debts... And it went on and on and on. And now that I was sick, it was time that I took care of me first for a change. And then Rob mentioned the bonus he was set to receive a few weeks later. He wanted me to put in writing that he could use his bonus for whatever he wanted. At first I was going to do that. And then I thought, "What the hell. I received a bonus just months prior and what did I do with that money? I gave it to his mother to satisfy more of the debt he still owed her from his prior marriage. Why should I allow him to take his bonus money and keep that for himself too?" So I said no way. That money is to be used for community expenses. And, of course, the screaming tirades in that high-pitched voice were just unbelievable. Women sopranos just cannot reach the pitches that Rob does.

As if fighting cancer wasn't bad enough in Rob's head, he decided to make it worse. He taunted me about a new woman he was communicating with on She was Jewish and she had lots of MONEY. Nice, Rob. Enjoy dating that woman while I get chemo poured into my veins. I should have expected no better than what he heaped on his first wife's head. When Terri left him, Rob found me immediately and just couldn't get a commitment from me fast enough. Apparently he made sure everyone knew that I had money and was successful. And, of course, he needed my money to help him pay off his massive obligations. It made perfect sense that he'd find another "me" to bail him out of this marriage, too. Instead of taking time to heal and adjust, find another woman immediately. Bob cannot be alone because that might actually force him to confront the ugly person he is inside and, well, the only thing Rob can do consistently is show up for work, drink, fish and sleep. And blame everyone else for his screaming fits when event alcohol isn't enough to help him cope.

But here's the best part of all: Rob threated me that if I didn't send him my disability checks, he was not only going to cancel my health insurance, he was going to contact the California disability office and get my disability benefits cancelled, too. He thought that if I wasn't living in California, then I should get no benefits from California. Rob was wrong, though. I came to Utah to seek medical treatment and I let California know. See, I don't lie and deceive like Rob does. Transparency, honesty and decency is actually important to me. So Rob's threats were just that. Nonetheless, they were cruel and heartless and disgusting.

But don't just believe my words. Let's hear it from Rob himself. (PS: When Rob says he discovered $4,500 missing from the Big Bear account, it was actually a live check that I received at home and left it for him to cash. I never stole a dime from any of our accounts.)
A Nice Email Exchange with Rob

----- Original Message -----
From: lizzysmilez
Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 03:50 PM
To: Rob the Great
Subject: Re: Re:

You knew that if you continued drinking that the kids and I would be gone. You got exactly what you wanted- a kidfree, wife free environment. It was entirely your choice. Own it. I'm sure you're happy with your decision. We are gone- be happy! :)

Two marriages down. The first was all Terri's fault (nothing to do with your drinking and terrorizing her or your kids), and the second one because I'm your trigger and the reason you drink and terrorized another set of wife and kids.

You have no idea how I feel, my limitations, the help I need and require-- nothing, so stop presuming. You are mean, a bully, and I really don't need it. I am fighting for my HEALTH while you threaten my medical insurance. Classy.
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

-----Original Message-----
From: Rob the Great
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2012 14:36:27
To: lizzysmilez
Subject: Re: Re:

Correct. On your own, without me which was your decision. I'm paying for it every day, mentally, physically and financially. Mommy and Daddy are there taking care of your every need.  Like the call to NIFCU which stiLl got me no where, it's so simple to go to the bank, or maybe on line, to have major money deposited in the joint account so I can manage whatever budget I can.
----- Original Message -----
From: lizzysmilez
Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 03:29 PM
To: Rob the Great
Subject: Re: Re:

I am SICK rob. I have very little energy and do as much as I can every day. Sometimes I can do more things than others and your threats, implied and outright, are so immoral and wrong and disturbing. Difficult??? I'm SICK
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

-----Original Message-----
From: Rob the Great
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2012 14:24:07
To: lizzysmilez
Subject: Re: Re:

State disability and your health insurance are at risk. Deposit disability checks in the joint account and use that account for all expenses. I require income in the past and a balance sheet.  If you can't do that, I don't control the outcome. It's your decision to be difficult. Have a happy day.

----- Original Message -----
From: lizzysmilez
Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 03:21 PM
To: Rob the Great
Subject: Re: Re:

I lied throughout or marriage about what, exactly?
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

-----Original Message-----
From: Rob the Great
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2012 14:17:27
To: lizzysmilez
Subject: Re: Re:

Deposit money in the account and make it visible. If you can't do that simple thing, you are taking money from me. It's so simple that I can't believe with all the emails you send like this, with half the energy you could open an account, deposit money into the joint account and take it out like I do.  No, there is something way wrong here, it has been since I discovered 4500 missing from Big Bear. You lied throughout our marriage, took money and now I demand to see it. If not I will take necessary action without regret. I don't trust you for obvious reasons.

----- Original Message -----
From: lizzysmilez
Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 02:54 PM
To: Rob the Great
Subject: Re: Re:

Rob, You are a mean bully and your emails for over a month are wildly inappropriate, heartless, cruel, ill timed and immoral. I don't know who you are, obviously never did. And I am struggling every day with my health and to be perfectly honest, I don't even care. At all. Your accusations, version of the truth, taunts and threats mean nothing to me. Hate me, whatever, don't care. Stop the hateful emails and demands and act nice. I don't feel well and right now your having to take on duties that I did single handedly for 4 years just doesn't resonate when I'm just struggling to swollow 20 pills a day and keep it together. Seriously, stop it- you are way out of line
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

-----Original Message-----
From: Rob the Great
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2012 13:21:44
To: lizzsmilez
Subject: Re: Re:

Money is to be deposited in the joint account along with a document that depicts what was received in income and spent tomorrow. If not, I will take action to get the information I need to ensure we are being fare.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I got good news on Friday!

This is a photo of my port. It is a square box right underneath my skin with four screws. There are two holes in the middle where my nurses can poke me with needles and draw blood and give me medicines instead of going through my veins. From the port, you can see underneath my skin running from the port up to my jugular vein a cord.

As part of my maintenance therapy for at least one year, I go to clinic at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital (HCI) at the University of Utah every week, usually on Fridays. HCI, along with University of Arkansas, is one of the top Multiple Myeloma clinics in the world and the most aggressive. Because I was young at diagnosis and in excellent health, they're pulling out all the stops with me. That means I've undergone six rounds of intensive chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants. I also had a pick line in my neck for a week and a port in my chest that is still there. I've had one hospital stay for four days and five bone marrow biopsies. I'm not even sure how many blood transfusions and platelet transfusions I've had.

So every Friday I show up at clinic and my angels (nurses) give me my weekly dose of Velcade (a chemo drug). Every other Friday I get partial labs drawn, and once per month a full CBC. Once every three months I get Aridia to strengthen my bones and that adds three hours onto that visit.

This past Friday was my full CBC day and my nurse told me that my labs looked the best they've maybe ever looked. Even for a normal person without MM, my creatine and platelets were amazing. I did a happy dance. Every time I get great news, I just celebrate that. I try not to look too far ahead because then it's nothing but darkness and fear. So I was thrilled and so was my mom.

So what did I do? I celebrated by eating, like, 3,000 cookies over the weekend. Ugh. Not good. I try to stay away from sugar because it's really super bad for cancer. But I sometimes fail miserably.

A shout-out to my mom

I have to mention my mom. She is the most amazing, kind, loyal, energetic, hardest working woman I have ever met and that is no lie. She told me even before I was diagnosed (but after my doctor called me in Utah to tell me I needed to have major testing done when I came back) that I would never be alone in whatever it was I needed to fight. She was right. She never lets me go to doctors visits alone. She is always right there beside me. And some of those visits are long and tedious. I may not have a husband who is there for me, but I've got my mom!

Side effects (the bad ones)

So this is what being sick does to you (or at least me, anyway). It teaches you to live in the moment. I no longer fear death at all. I don't want to go, though. I pray many times per day that I will be around long enough to raise my children and I am planning on staying strong and fighting HARD.

The Aridia that I take once every three months attacks my jawbone. Sometimes when I eat, one side of my face will swell up. I massage it out. It also sometimes makes my jaw lock up. And it gives me headaches and jaw aches. I use Doterra essential oils to help with inflammation, usually frankensense and Wintergreen, sometimes lavender.

Every evening I take thalidomide. I wait until I'm ready for bed because it makes me feel fuzzy and tired and it makes my feet tingle.

Once per week, on the same day I get my Velcade injection, I take 20 mg of dexamethasone. That gives me the jitters, makes me very edgy and temperamental. I also have a really hard time sleeping for two days so I have to take Ambien for those nights or I won't sleep at all. I use lavender and Breathe essential oils to help calm and center me. Yoga breathing also helps. (Side note: When first diagnosed, Kaiser put me on 40 mg of Dex per day. It made me feel horrid! When my doctor at HCI found out how much I was taking, he was shocked and gave me a break for a week. Then we dropped my dosage back. It helped.)

For a year, I've had to give myself an injection in my stomach every night to prevent blood clots. The side effect here is that I have a black and blue stomach- and it hurts. Finally I get to take a pill instead. I'm thrilled that I'm done with self injections!

Fatigue! Sometimes by the evening, I'm so tired that it's indescribable. Here's an example: I'll be in bed and look at the remote control that is next to me but I don't have the energy to reach out and grab it.

Bone pain! My bones, especially my rib cage area, can be prone to soreness and tightness. Usually I don't need pain medications but sometimes I do. When I first moved to Utah, I went to sit on the toilet and one of my ribs popped. Bob broke one of my ribs in December and it took months to heal. There were nights that I slept on the couch because it was less painful to get off and on the couch than to get in and out of bed. Ouch.

Two days post Velcade injection, I'm just tired and fuzzy feeling all day.

If you've ever heard of the term "chemo brain", it's real! There are times I can't remember names or events. Sometimes I struggle with counting out the right change when I'm purchasing something. I remember one morning trying to get dressed and literally sitting on my bed to concentrate on how I was supposed to do that. "Think, Lizzy, think. Find jeans. Put jeans on. Now bra. Bra is in the drawer. Now top that matches"...

Before diagnosis, I had 20-20 vision. Now I can't see a thing without glasses.

Before treatment, I had long thick hair. Now I wear really good wigs. I actually like my wigs better than I liked my real hair. But wigs are annoying sometimes and by the end of the day, I can't wait to take it off forever. That said, my hair is coming back and fast. By the time summer gets here, I'm going with whatever real hair I've got.

Thanks to this disease, I had to leave my beloved San Diego. I loved living there and Utah is not a place I'd ever have picked to move. Not in a million years.

I also had to quit working, something I never thought I'd do. I was proud of my career and the income I commanded. I now find absolutely no happiness from my job. Oh, wait, this is a positive thing!

I've become dependent in ways I never wanted to be. I rely on my parents to help me raise the kids, take me to doctor appointments, pick up medications, sometimes talk me off a cliff when I have a panic attack... It's been incredibly humbling to realize I can't just do it alone. Thank goodness I have them.

Side effects (the good ones)

I left an abusive husband.

I get to have the time to spend with my kids. I actually know them now.

I get to spend precious time with my parents.

I focus a lot of time and energy on my physical health (as if I have a choice).

I'm closer to God than ever. I pray all the time.

I'm developing a very close mind-body connection. Bikram yoga helps. Power walks help. I talk to my body a lot. I praise it for fighting hard against myeloma cells.

I cheer every birthday I have, every good health day I have, every wrinkle that I see. I am so grateful for Every.Single.Day. I no longer fear getting old, I embrace it.

For once, it's sometimes all about me. Ok, mostly when the kids are in school. But for the entire five years I was with Bob, it was all about everyone else. For once, it's sometimes just all about me. I never should have lost myself like I did.

Good news is good news!

So as I reflect on Friday's news, I'll just let it lie right there. Good news is good news. I'll take it and celebrate just that. Hopefully next time it'll be without the sugar overload.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Beginning treatment, fleeing my alcoholic husband, and moving (simultaneously)

When I was diagnosed, my parents were with me. Dr Raja was kind, positive and upbeat. After weeks of terror and fear, getting the diagnosis was actually a relief. I also left that appointment with, like, 20 prescriptions of medication. I was told that I was starting a work-up for a stem cell transplant. Before this diagnosis, I basically wasn't taking an aspirin. Going from that mindset to dumping all kinds of toxins into my body was scary.

One of the medications I started taking was a combo of dexamethasone and Revlimid. My bone marrow showed over 90% of myeloma cells, which put me at a Stage III. The dex-Rev combo would help start killing myeloma cells immediately. Over the next several weeks, I began to feel the effects of dex and it was awful. My voice changed to this rough tone. I became weak and dizzy with a racing heart. I felt so weird, like I was floating. I didn't think right. I was tired but wired at the same time. Morning were awful. I would walk a few steps and need to sit down to stop my racing heart. I felt horrible all the time.

The night of my diagnosis, I sat down with the girls individually and explained that I had a tough blood disorder, that it wouldn't kill me, but I had some big treatments ahead and I needed the help of Grandpa and Grandma because Daddy couldn't be counted on. I also told them we were moving to Utah. Siena was fine with it, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Morgan not so much. She cried. She was incredulous. She understood. It broke my heart that we were in a situation where, when I got sick, I couldn't depend on my husband. Oh, no, the thought of going through tough treatments and fighting for my life with Rob was revolting. Even in "good" times, Rob couldn't be counted on. In anything that smelled of challenging, Rob became an even more hateful and evil and agressive drunk. I learned that firsthand earlier in the year. I got pregnant and miscarried twice in 2011 and both times and through two D&Cs, Rob was awful-- drunk, mean and most unhelpful. This would be far worse.

Here is one particularly telling email that I got from Rob:

From: Rob
To: Lizzy Smilez
Sent: Saturday, January 14, 2012 6:07 PM
Subject: Re: Re:

Had my liver tested to be able to use antibuse, it's in great shape. how cool is that!
Nice, huh? Here I was, newly diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and one of the biggest dangers of the disease was total liver and/or kidney failure, and this email was just disgusting and disturbing. Here's another exchange...
From: Rob
Sent: Monday, January 16, 2012 02:42 PM
Subject: Re: Sundance Meadows Customer Receipt/Purchase Confirmation

And if you think kalie is being supportive by perhaps telling you I'm at the brew co all the time, she's not. To have you out of her life, she thinks she also gains quite a bit. So, for your info., I can't drink alcahol, I'm on antibuse. I had to get non alcohol shaving cream, anti persprent and rethink everything I do as it's a huge deal. I did this for me as I need time to think clearly now without the fog. And yes, I am soul searching, if I wasn't, I'd have gone legal by now.  If you think there is a way we can ever be together, to work together without any negative family influence I can do that too.
From: Rob
Sent: Monday, January 16, 2012 02:10 PM
To: 'lizzysmilez
Subject: Re: Sundance Meadows Customer Receipt/Purchase Confirmation

And still, I'm at the door knocking as I feel god brought us together for more than a learning experience. Let me know if you will except my help, if not, I will be on my way Liz. And I am a real good guy, just beant to do a lot in life because of my own doing with not speaking out. And drank to get through it all. But we bith know that there has to be a new direction for us both and we can do it together as a team
From: lizzysmilez
Sent: Monday, January 16, 2012 01:58 PM
To: Rob
Subject: Re: Sundance Meadows Customer Receipt/Purchase Confirmation
I need a village, you're right. In San Diego, I have nothing and no one, least of all you. Your behavior frightens me and our relationship is horrible and volatile. The only time we function somewhat normally is on a vacation. Normal riggors of family life leave you angry, agitated, and desparate and I hate it. In san diego, I don't have your support and with the exception of kalie (big surprise) your family is absent.
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®
And so it was that on a Saturday morning, looped up on all kinds of scary medications, I threw clothes in trash bags, loaded up the girls and cat, and started driving to Utah. Fleeing was a more accurate word for it. And along the way, text after text after text came in from Rob. Incredulous that I was leaving. Begging me to come back. Threatening to cancel my health insurance. Telling me I was a thief and liar. It was shocking and horrible. I couldn't drive away fast enough.
The only thing "good" I can say about those horrible and bizarre texts and emails was that it distracted me from the really important things that were going on-- namely my fight for life. I didn't even cry once about leaving Rob. I was numb and shocked and horrified.
Think about it...
But think about it... Here I was, hearing the dreaded and devastating news that I had CANCER, leaving my abusive alcoholic husband, and moving to another state, all at the same time. Oh, and taking two young children with me who were grappling with the fact that their parents were splitting, that they were having to move to a new school and make new friends, that they would never live with their dad again... All of these things ALONE are HUGE but try doing it ALL TOGETHER AT ONCE is really unimaginable! Traumatic and scary and devastating doesn't even begin to describe it.
I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Looking back, I don't know how we did it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Let's here from Rob directly (a mea culpa)

And here we hear from Rob directly. This email was sent to me and my parents.

From: Rob
Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 7:26 AM
To: Lizzy, Keith, Jackie

Good morning Liz, Keith, and Jackie,
I hope in the near future, I can see you all so I can personally apologize to you for my actions.
I don’t know what the future brings, however I do know that my actions the last couple of weeks and at other times in the past, were not those of a good husband, partner, father, nor step son.
I now understand that you all identified major problems with the way I was trying to deal with the new news that was progressing, and like I tend to do, went to my unhealthy way to deal with it as I often do (not always) with stressful situations. I really did not know how to deal with the news as it was something you never think can happen to you. There was a lot running through my head and all I could not settle it. I will do better if allowed back to help.
What I’m trying to say is, although initially, I was not too happy about the decision that was made to leave with the kids, but now know it was the best decision. I know the move has been very impactive to all, including the kids, and I apologize as it was primarily based on my actions.
I know Liz, by contacting my work, and a lot of folks I know was only trying to help. I am taking serious steps on my side to get better, more than ever to ensure that in whatever next step I take in the future, they are good ones so the past negatives can fade away. There is no magic pill and it won’t be easy for me.
Keith and Jackie, we all need to get strong and by you taking Liz to Utah, it will help both of us to gain strength. As I started with, I really don’t know what the future brings, but know that both Liz and I are where we have to be at the moment to get strong one day at a time.
Please download the attachment and read both care notes. They both are reflective across any illness. They meant something to me when I read them, you may get something out of them as well.
Take care and have a great day, Thanks Rob

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I had a panic attack last night

Last night I had a panic attack. I've only had a few in my whole life and last night was one of them. I have a sore torso. My lower back aches. My ribs hurt. My right shoulder hurts. And that can be a sign that my bone marrow is filling up with myeloma cells. Or it could mean I'm healing and everything is readjusting. My blood work is good and normal so I think the likelihood that it's myeloma cells is small, but being sore everywhere reminds me every single waking moment that I'm in the fight for my life. Most of the time I know I'm kicking myeloma in the ass and that this will not kill me. But sometimes I just get scared. No, make that terrified.

I called my sponsor last night. His name is Steve. He was diagnosed two years before I was. He had two stem cell transplants, too, just like me. He was in full remission for just three months. He is still doing really well. He's on a permanent treatment plant that includes a once per week injection of a bunch of drugs but everything is stable and low. He helped talk me off the cliff.

The first panic attack I ever had was when Rob and I were purchasing our home together. I was still living in my condo by the beach and I loved it there. I knew that buying the home and getting married to Rob was a huge mistake and I decided I wanted to back out. I was in the bathtub and Morgan was asleep. I called Rob and I could hardly breathe. I told him I wanted to back out of the house, that it was all too soon and too much and I didn't want to do it anymore. He freaked out, saying that we would lose $25,000. I told him I didn't care about the money. Rob, as he is really good at, just slammed that through. "We'll be fine. We make a lot of money. blah blah blah" Rob always said that everything works out for his family, I'll see. When we met, he just slammed through everything-- a commitment, buying a home, moving in together. I should've been stronger and just said NO but I've never been so good with that. Before I knew it, I was in too deep and couldn't get out. Ugh.

The second time I had a panic attack was when Rob and I were adopting our daughter, Siena, from Russia. The adoption process was a nightmare and we were finally back in Yekaterinburg for court. Our driver, Lydia, picked us up at the hotel and we left for court. And we got in horrible traffic. I thought for sure the judge wouldn't see me and with that realization, I found that I couldn't breathe. Rob kept telling me to put my head between my knees and he was rubbing my shoulders. Terror can't begin to describe that feeling.

The third panic attack was the day of my diagnosis. On Monday I had been told my the Xray tech that the doctors thought I had cancer. That is the day that Drunk Rob screamed and spit in my face and I called the police to have him removed from the home. My parents arrived on Wednesday. My doctor's appointment was on Friday. I had spent the past few days taking Ativan and Ambien at night so I could sleep and calm down. Friday morning I woke up unable to stand up straight, heart pounding, barely able to breathe. Another Ativan helped.

My fourth panic attack was during my stem cell removal process. I was taking all kinds of drugs to stimulate my stem cells to produce but they weren't producing. And I had a meltdown. I was convinced that I would have a failed stem cell harvest and that was bad news. My doctor's office got approval from my insurance company for an injection that would force them to produce, and I was lucky because that one injection was $14,000. Thank goodness that I did start producing those stem cells.

And my fifth panic attack was last night.

Ok, Liz, breathe. I know I'll be OK. I don't know what my sore torso means but I know I'll survive this. I am positive. I am angry. I hate cancer. Anger is good, I think. Venting (especially on this blog) is good. There are things and people who want nothing more than to destroy me and fighting back is good.

So, yes, I am brave. If you saw and talked to me, you'd find me positive and funny; sarcastic and loyal. I have a huge heart. I love without reservation. I am endlessly loyal. I'll do anything for anyone. That said, I am done being a doormat. For too long I've given of myself so selflessly that it's hurt me. I won't do that anymore. I've come to realize that I matter, too.

When I left and got to Utah, I found a pair of pajamas at Walmart. The top said "It's all about me." I took a photo of it and texted it to Rob. He flipped out over it. I was unapologetic. For once, it was all about me. For the years I was with Rob, I gave until I had nothing left to give. And then I found a way to give more. I gave him all my money to bail him out of massive debt he had to Terri, his first wife. I paid all the bills and managed the budget, even though I didn't want to and Rob promised from Day 1 of moving into our home that he would take it over (he never did-- spending the time drinking and diving was more important). I kept the house clean, did all the laundry, did 90% of the grocery shopping and cooking, managed our vacation rental home in Big Bear... you name it. I gave everything, to the detriment of my mental and emotional sanity and, finally, my health. Now that I was diagnosed, for once, it was all about me.

I find a better balance now. A lot for my kids (they still come first), some for my family and friends, and a whole lot for me, too. I like my priorities far better now.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hmmm... John Edwards (like Rob) just might be an alcoholic!


"Rob" the Great (Alcoholic) and John Edwards share so many traits it's scary. For starters, they both crapped on their wive's heads when they got cancer. John Edwards fathered a child with his girlfriend when his wife was in remission; Rob got a new honey before his wife's ribs healed that he himself broke (not to mention spit in her face on the day of her bone scan and called her a thief, liar, lazy and a drama queen).

Anyhooo, here's the latest on John Edwards:


In September 2011, Rob started his typical screaming/tirade episode at me. Again. It was so old and every time I heard that high pitched falsetto voice it was just pathetic and stupid and revolting. And he said something to me that really did shock me for once.

"I'M NOT AN ALCHOLIC!" he screamed like a shrill woman. "I talked to my alcohol counselor and I'm not even an alcoholic!"

OK, so that did floor me. I was speechless for once. I said, "Well, Rob, if you tell me you're an alcoholic, I'm going to believe you're an alcoholic."

"I ONLY SAID THAT TO TRY AND SAVE THE MARRIAGE. I'M NOT AN ALCOHOLIC!!!!" I'm telling you that NO ONE can scream like Rob. The thing is, only a few of us have had the pleasure of hearing that ridiculous and shocking pitch. I swear, I wish I had it on recording because no one would believe it. And you'd laugh after the shock wore off because it is just plain stupid.

So we had a couple's counseling session with his alcohol therapist at Kaiser. Except, as usual, Rob didn't show up. Just me. This is a typical Rob pattern. He'll get into going to therapy, AA, a diet, you name it. And quit. The only thing constant with Rob is his job at SDG&E (which, by the way, is no different than working at the DMV or post office), drinking, and diving/fishing. Oh, and SCREAMING. In fact, when Nicole was younger and Rob and Terri were still married, she got very sick and was in the hospital. Rob said that Terri abandoned Nicole completely and became besties with their daughter, Kalie, and ignored Nicole. Rob and Nicole bonded and he is the one who did all the counseling sessions with her while his skanky (his words) wife went out and partied, took Kalie out shopping, and hooked up with other men. Except that wasn't exactly true. Rob, after a few weeks, stopped going to Nicole's therapy sessions because he had to work late. Except he wasn't at work-- he was drinking at the San Diego Brewing Company instead. (Kind of like when I had a miscarriage and was lying in bed bleeding and cramping. Rob wasn't at work then either-- he was drinking at the San Diego Brewing Company.) But I went to therapy and met with his counselor.

"Rob tells me you say he's not an alcoholic. Well, whatever he is or isn't-- I will tell you he has a drinking problem. It materially changes his personality and it's a big problem in our marriage and it was a huge problem in his last marriage," I told her.

"Wait a minute," she jumped it. "I did NOT tell Rob he isn't an alcoholic. Rob is an alcoholic."

"But he told me you told him that he wasn't," I stammered.

"That's not what I said. Just because he can go days without drinking, or even go on the wagon for a few months, doesn't make him NOT an alcoholic. It makes him a dry alcoholic. It drives everything he does. Every decision he makes."

"But why would he tell me that?" I asked.

"Because alcoholics lie. And Rob is no exception."

Yes, alcoholics do lie. It's the pathology of their disease. I felt so stupid and duped. I knew he lied. He lied to me about his drinking, where he was, what he was doing. He lied to others about everything and I'd bight my tongue so as not to embarrass anyone. He embarrassed me around others when we had had too much to drink.

I'll never forget the time that we invited our next door neighbors over to dinner. Justin was the assistant basketball coach at SDSU. Rob proceeded to down wine like there was no tomorrow. When there was an audience, Rob was a happy drunk. Slap happy, silly, talkative. Stupid. This was no exception. He rambled on and on. He said stupid things. He wouldn't shut up. I could watch Ruth (Justin's fiancé) and Justin exchanging funny looks. I wanted to crawl under the table. When they left, I walked them to the door. Ruth said, "Your husband is funny."

"Oh, yes he is," I said in a sarcastic voice.

She gave me a big hug. "It's ok. Are you ok?" she whispered.

I nodded my head. I couldn't speak because if I did, I knew I'd start crying.

I'll never forget the time that Kalie was on rotation and was staying the week at our house. Kalie and Rob got in a huge fight and she ran up to her room and slammed the door. I could hear her sobbing. I went up to her room and knocked on the door. She invited me in. I sat on her bed and she started unloading on me.

"He drinks every day. He is at the BrewCo every day drinking," she sobbed.

"What? No he's not," I said.

"You don't know that?" Kalie looked at me like I was crazy. "You can't tell? Because I can! I can see it in his eyes. They are glassy and watery. And he has mints in his mouth to hide the smell. You don't know this?"

I shook my head. "No," I whispered.

Rob didn't like Kalie and I talking about him one tiny bit so he showed up. "What's going on?" he asked, standing in the doorway.

Kalie started yelling at him. "If you keep drinking, I'm leaving. I will not stay in this house with you drinking anymore. I hate it!"

"Ok," Rob said.

Well, two days later, Rob took us to dinner at -- guess where? -- the BrewCo! And he ordered a drink in front of Kalie. I almost fell out of my chair. When we left, I said, "Why did you do that?"

"That will be the day I let a kid dictate what I do. I'm the adult, not her."

And a few days later, Kalie called Rob up and said she wasn't going to be living with him any longer. A few months later, Rob was in court with Terri and Rob lost custody of Kalie. His custody went from 50-50 to 90-10. Nice job. But, no, Rob isn't an alcoholic!

Not long after that, Rob decided to go on the wagon and go to AA. One day, Rob was supposed to go to an AA meeting after work. I was picking up Siena from pre school and I got a call from Nicole telling me her dad wasn't at AA, he was at the BrewCo because her boyfriend, Tristan, had called her to tell her he saw her dad pulling into the parking lot. "He needs to decide what's more important- his family or drinking for once," Nicole said.

So I drove by the BrewCo. I couldn't see his car. I pulled around the back and, sure enough, there it was. He had parked his car so I couldn't readily see it. Instead of being at an AA meeting, he was drinking. So I walked in. "Hi, hope that drink is worth your marriage." And I walked out.

Rob came home SCREAMING at me. "You FUCKED the whole football team in college. How dare you call me out on drinking," he SCREAMED like a shrill woman.

"Bob, the kids are in the house. They can hear you."

"I don't give a FUCK you FUCKING WHORE. HIT ME!! HIT ME!!" he screamed. He had me backed up into a corner.

"Back off, Rob. You're drunk!" I yelled back.

"Hit me! Hit me! You FUCKING WHORE! HIT ME!"

So I slapped him. Hard. He backed up. I went to his closet and started throwing clothes on the floor. I was shaking. "You have to move out. I hate you. Oh my God. I hate you. Go!"

And he did. He moved in with his mover for two weeks. I was giddy happy he was gone. For two days I wouldn't answer his calls, respond to his texts, or answer his emails. I went silent and it was heaven. I didn't love him. I never did. His behavior was revolting. He made me ill. I finally got a call from his mom, Peggy, and I answered.

"Are you going to divorce Rob?"

"I can't live like this anymore, Peggy! This isn't right. He needs help. He is a monster when he was drinking. And this was a huge problem in his last marriage," I said.

She then sent an email to all us adults- me, Rob, Chris, Joanie, Kathy, and Alec about alcoholism and how her step dad was an alcoholic and how horrible it was. Rob entered treatment. Chris sent an email back not happy about it. I let Rob come home. I was sick about it though. I did it to save the marriage, for my faith and hope in family and home and marriage. But I didn't want him home. It was not good for me when he came home. And he didn't drink (to my knowledge) for three solid weeks. I went with him to a few AA meetings. I went to Alanon. I learned that alcoholics accuse their significant others of being controlling. Well, Rob accused me of being a control freak.

Honestly, I tried the whole gamut. I allowed him to drink. I drank with him. I didn't drink with him. I forbade alcohol in the home. I allowed it in the home. I stopped saying anything either way. I stopped stalking him at the BrewCo. I detached. And the more I detached, the angrier he got about that. I just stopped caring. I grew to resent him. He was pathetic to me. He screamed at me. The more detached I got, the more he tore me down: I didn't make as much money as he did. I couldn't handle life without him. I was lucky to have him. He was the GREATEST dad in the whole wide world. I was lazy. Blah blah blah.

When we moved from our house into a smaller home, I was cleaning out the garage and found countless mini bottles of vodka. Pathetic. But, no, Bob Stolberg the Great was no alcoholic. He was a great guy. A great dad. And great amazing human being. He was AWESOME!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Rob is a legend only in his own mind (even his family knows he's sick)

I fled abusive "Rob" on the Saturday of MLK weekend 2012 and moved to Utah. I had thrown clothes into trash bags, put the cat in a carrier, and drove off. And as I drove towards Utah, I received text after text from Rob. They varied from "I love you, come back, I'm so sorry" to "you're a lying bitch." It was truly bizarre and unbelievable. I couldn't get away from him fast enough. In fact, just days after I left, he sent me an email stating that he got on Antibuse (a prescription that makes an alcoholic really sick if they come in contact with alcohol) and that prior to getting the prescription, they had to check his liver function. He told me he had a PERFECT liver! I wanted to throw up. One of the main effects of my disease was that it attacked one's liver and many with my disease first presented with complete liver failure. It was so incredibly inappropriate that it made my head spin. But that's Rob for ya.

What really confused me, however, was that Rob's family was silent. Well, Kalie, his younger daughter from his first marriage, called and texted me to see if I was OK. Kalie and I had a rough start in our relationship but she had ended up being a close pal and confidante. It was a relief to learn from her that Rob's abusive behavior wasn't just reserved for me-- he had done it to his first wife, Terri, as far back as she can remember. But, I kept wondering, why was not a single Stolberg calling or texting me at all? 

And then I got "the call". I won't betray confidences or throw anyone under the bus so let's suffice it to say this: The person who called me was one of Rob's adult family members (not the children).  The phone call was this: Rob had emailed the adult family members telling them not to have any contact with me. He went further by telling them that he wanted letters from them saying I was awful to his children and anything else they could say negatively about me. This family member said that the Stolberg's always stuck up for each other and that is why no one would contact me but that they all realized Rob was sick, that he needed help, and that what he had done to the kids and me was wrong. This person also said that Rob had promised (again) to enter treatment for his alcoholism but instead was busy trying to find a new girlfriend. In fact, he had contacted one of Chris and Joanie's friends trying to arrange a date the weekend I left him. (Rob had also contacted Chris asking if he could move in with them but that no one in that home really wanted Rob there because he would try to sneak into Chris and Joanie's liquor supply in the middle of the night.) This family member said that they were all stunned with Rob's rush back into another relationship. He had done this after he and Terri split-- dating way too soon instead of taking time to heal. And he was repeating it. They all recognized Rob needed a lot of help and therapy and time, but they all realized, too, that Rob was incapable of doing that. (I have to say, when I learned that Rob had emailed Terri just weeks prior to our meeting telling her how sorry he was for how he treated her, I was sick. I felt so stupid that he had been trying to repair things with Terri just weeks before he pursued me with a vengeance. It made me feel so stupid and used. And Rob did this again with the new honey. If I were her, I'd feel like an idiot, too.)

...And then I got to thinking: Is remaining silent the right approach to take when you know your a member or your family needs serious help? If your son or brother was sick, wouldn't you try an intervention? How many times had I called Peggy, his mom, and discussed Rob's problems with her? She tried the soft approach with Rob-- setting up appointments with her priest, Father Joe, asking him how therapy was going, calling me at work asking me if I would take her son back if he got help... But no serious intervention, which Rob desperately needed. Maybe if that had happened, Rob wouldn't have destroyed two families.

So as I ponder the Rob the Great (Alcoholic), I wonder how much of his abusive behavior and destruction could have been prevented. Did someone in his family owe it to me to warn me that Bob was an alcoholic? Would I have listened? The only one who tried to warn me was Terri, his ex wife, but when she did, it was too late-- we were just days away from our wedding. Rob was great at hiding his disease. He lied to me. He deceived me. He was abusive. His behavior was ridiculous.

I'll never forget an email that Terri sent to the Stolberg family a few months after Rob and I got married. In the letter, she was trying to set the record straight and defend herself against the lies that Rob told everyone about her. I will never forget one sentence she wrote

"I prayed every single day that things would get better with Bob and they never did," Terri wrote.

That sentence sent chills up and down my spine and throughout our entire chaotic relationship, this sentence replayed in my head over and over and over again. I did the same. I prayed every day that Rob would change, that things would get better, and they never did.