Saturday, April 27, 2013

You have a tiny penis and you suck in bed!

From the time of my diagnosis when "Rob" screamed and spit in my face and called me a thief, liar and drama queen, I really tried to take the high road. I either remained silent, pleaded with him to show compassion, or tried to remind him that I had just been diagnosed with CANCER (to no avail). Finally, I started throwing the meanest verbal insults his way. Mature? No. Right? No. But I felt the need to fight back.

This awful fighting pattern was true throughout our entire marriage. It would go like this: Rob would get drunk (or want to get drunk) and scream at me in that horrid pitch that only Rob can reach. 90 percent of the time, I'd walk away. After all, arguing with a drunk is pointless. But that would never be good enough for Rob. He'd follow me around the house. Sometimes I'd say something like, "I'm walking away from you. Go away." In which case he'd respond by screaming some more with this crazed, glazed look in his eyes. If it was a weekend, I'd pack up the girls and me and go stay in a hotel or stay with my best friends in Long Beach before coming back. And then Rob would start texting or emailing me horrible messages, which I'd ignore for a day or two. And then I'd start responding. It would take two to four days before Rob would calm down enough and apologize for his ridiculous behavior and promise to go to help with his drinking problem. And, of course, that would never happen. He'd say he was at an AA meeting when, in fact, he was drinking at the BrewCo instead. (He did this same thing in his first marriage, by the way.)

Rob always accused me of having a huge temper. I can honestly say that I deserve a medal for the most part for ignoring his stupid behavior. Until I didn't. That one out of 10 times that I decided to fight back got ugly because I was ready to defend myself (finally) with every ounce of energy I had.

So this time I told him what I really thought about him but always had the somewhat good sense beforehand to not say.

You have the smallest penis ever

You suck in bed

You're fat

I never loved you (true statement)
When I met Rob, he was simply a guy to hang out with while I tried to mend my shattered heart from a prior relationship. Rob was really good at selling himself as a good, honest, sweet guy who simply had been terrorized by his ex wife who never appreciated what a great guy he really was. He seemed innocent and kind and helpful. He was great with my daughter and good to me. This is what Rob does-- when there's an audience, he's "on it". And he was aggressively pursuing me. When we purchased our home and got married, I didn't love him at all. I liked and respected him and thought we could have a good future together as companions and parents. The problem was, Rob is none of the things he portrays himself to be. And once I figured that out, ever learning to love him was impossible.

I cheated on you (not true)
I told him I cheated on him with my ex boyfriend Todd. I knew this would cut through his heart. His ex wife, Terri, had an affair when they were married (although the number of affairs Terri had grew each time he talked about Terri-- first she had one affair, then three, then countless). I told him that I cheated on him and his next wife would cheat on him, too, because he was a horrible husband. Well, that part is true. He is a horrible partner. Unpredictable, volatile, a liar, a hair trigger temper, mean and lazy. But I never cheated on him. I did meet up with Todd several times throughout my marriage but I never once even kissed him (besides on the cheek). I wanted to cheat on him. But it just wasn't me so I didn't.

And so it was that my texts finally matched his in evilness. I can't say it made me feel better but there was something sadly empowering about no longer keeping my mouth shut. Here I was, downing some 30 pills per day, getting blood transfusions and platelets, undergoing another painful biopsy without any medications, receiving texts from Rob the Great (Alcoholic) that accused me of being a thief and a liar... And I at least was finding the strength to fight back. Somewhere in my reserves of fear and exhaustion and shock and horror about my health, I could at least fight Rob where it hurt him the most. Literally, below the belt.

And yet, after several weeks of this, it served no purpose but to make me sadder than ever. I had jumped into the Rob cesspool and it was not a pretty or comfortable place to be. I wasn't proud of it. I didn't want to fight like that. It was not the person I wanted to be. And Rob and I actually started a reconciliation of sorts, which will be a blog post of another day.

Lessson learned?
So what did I learn from this? For me, when I feel cornered like a wounded animal, I fight back. Actually, I don't fight back for awhile, hoping that I'll find an out. Hoping that my logic will prevail over something more primitive in all of us. But I'm human and eventually I'll come out swinging. I did this throughout my entire relationship with Rob. And it is not the person I want to be. It is not the way I want to handle conflict. Logically speaking, you can't argue with a drunk. There is no point and no one will ever win. I wish I could use the logical part of my brain always.

If I could do it all over again, I would have left Rob a few months after our wedding when I started seeing the first patterns of alcoholic behavior, laziness, and aggression. Instead, I believed so strongly in my commitment, in my sense of duty to family, and the hope I had that Rob would become the man that he tried to portray himself to be initially, that I stayed. I stayed to the detriment of my emotional and physical health.

Rob says I have a huge temper and I'm a control freak (more on that later). It's so trite to hear that from the mouth of an alcoholic. I learned that in Alanon. Alcoholics accuse their partners as control freaks because those around them don't like the behaviors of an alcoholic. That makes us, the victims, seem controling-- because we refuse at some point to think that behavior is acceptable. Bob is no different.

Lizzy's advice
So here's my advice to anyone living with, or dating, an alcoholic: Run. And run fast. It never gets better (unless the alcoholic bottoms out and puts in a fulltime commitment to recovery). It always gets worse. It is not healthy for anyone to live in that kind of environment. It messes with the victime emotionally. It is detrimental to children living in that environment. It is a hell like no other. Save yourself.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Heck yes we need national healthcare. And here's why! (my story)

No one should ever hear these words and for one second have it be believable: "I'm going to cancel your health insurance or else!"

But those are the exact words I heard from my dear husband in the midst of my cancer diagnosis. In case you missed it, here's just one email out of many texts, emails and voicemails I got from Rob the Great (Alcoholic) threatening just that:
From: Rob
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.


Yep, I was diagnosed on January 9, 2012, so this was just a few days after my cancer diagnosis! Geez, thanks asshole. May you rot in hell.

As disgusting as that sounds, what's really pathetic is that he could have done it (which is why I quickly filed for a legal separation, which legally prevented him from doing so). We had decided several months prior that he would cover the family on his employer's health plan and, sure enough, he could cancel me just like that. And where would I be? Uninsurable. Untreatable. And marching to a sure death without life saving treatment that I desperately needed.

The morality of Rob making such a threat is pretty much not even debatable. Yep, it's disgusting, hateful and disturbing. (But that's Rob for ya-- alcoholics are universally manipulative, controlling, abusive, liars and bullies.) What truly is disturbing is that in this great country we live in, that we are debating the need for national healthcare. Here I was, a tax paying citizen with a college degree and a high paying job, and yet I could easily fall through the cracks.

I've had this discussion with family members and (mostly) friends who are staunch conservative Republicans (or just lucky US citizens) who tell me that no one in this country can be denied healthcare. Heck, all one has to do is walk into an ER and they treat you, insurance or no. Well, that's true and it works if, say, you're in the middle of cardiac arrest, have a cold, or lost a leg in a car accident. But hate to tell you, if you have, hmmm, something like cancer, you don't go to an ER to get diagnosed or treated. You can't walk into an ER and ask for a treatment schedule. You can't walk into an ER and say, "Hey, I'm here for my chemo appointment." And you can't walk into an ER and say, "Yeah, I'd like an MRI to see if my cancer has spread." Sorry, doesn't work that way.

When I left my alcoholic and abusive husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic), I had Kaiser, which is pretty much like driving a 2001 Honda Civic. It mostly works but if you can have a chauffer-driven Bentley, the choice would be an easy one. It's more effective, trustworthy, and "pleasant" (if you can call anything "pleasant" when it has to do with cancer). And, trust me, when you have cancer and you have doctor appointments as often as you go to the bathroom, you want (need!!) the chauffer driven Bentley! In Salt Lake City, just 35 minutes from where I was moving (fleeing to, actually), was the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Institute and Hospital. And, as luck would have it, they had a Multiple Myeloma-specific clinic and was one of the two leading research hospitals in the United States and tops in the world. I desperately wanted them to see me.

My mom got busy, making dozens of calls. But, no surprise, they didn't accept Kaiser insurance. To see me, I'd either have to have insurance first (and they pre-verified) or I needed to pay half of the initial testing and first appointment. That 50% was $16,500. And that was the cheap and easy part.

Desperation and panic set in. Rob, of course, was of no help. He refused to switch insurance carriers, even though he could. Further, he kept threatening to cancel my health insurance. He also threatened to call the State of California and try to have my disability benefits cancelled, too. Because that's what really great guys do to someone who is just diagnosed with cancer. Especially when there is no one looking. (Rob is a great guy, in all honesty: kind, helpful, resourceful... if there is an audience only. No audience and, well, he's just a liar, alcoholic, bully, lazy, mean and evil with a super high pitched wailing screeching scream that truly one cannot fathom unless you've had the luck to hear it yourself.)

Thank God that my moving from San Diego to Utah qualified with my employer as a change that enabled me to enroll in my own health insurance. And after dozens of phone calls, I had health insurance that Huntsman accepted and I was accepted as a patient. Now my sincere wish and prayer is that no one ever need to step foot inside any oncology center ever. But if you do, I wish everyone could be treated at Huntsman. It is a level of service I have never seen anywhere except maybe at the Ritz in Washington, DC. It's beautiful, has free valet parking, lots of natural sunlight, sits at the foot of the beautiful Wasatch mountains, and every single person working there has a halo over their head. They are my angels and I truly love them. I know I'm in good hands and as long as they keep treating me, MM will not claim my life.

No one in this country should ever be in my shoes with health insurance. I was lucky that I was able to secure insurance. But millions of American aren't and that is as immoral and wrong as Bob was in threatening me.

And that's why I believe in a national healthcare system. Luck should never have a part of whether or not one can access healthcare or medicines. Ever. Never. Ever.

Monday, April 8, 2013

My "I know God lives" experience

Several weeks ago, my friend, Beth, and I drove to Bishop, California for a funeral of a friend's dad, Dave. Dave was a good man- robust, interesting, stoic, quiet. He was fine one day, had a stroke, and quickly passed away. Dave and Lorrel had six daughters. One of their daughters, Melanie, was shot and killed by her boyfriend when she was 21 years old.

Beth and I stayed at Kay's house. Kay is the mom of some of our friends growing up and is like a mom to so many people in Bishop. Kay is one of the most fascinating women I've ever met. But that's a story for another day.

Anyway, on a Saturday afternoon, Beth, Kay and I went to Vons grocery store. As we were standing in line, I felt my Tiffany earring falling out. I watched it fall to the floor, bounce, hit Kay's shoe, and disappear.

"My earring!" I said. To make a long story short, we got the store manager to help us move all kinds of displays looking for that earring, to no avail. So I said a short prayer. Now first of all, it makes me insanely crazy when people talk about how they lose their keys and they said a prayer and Heavenly Father helped them find the keys. I always think, "Whatever! God has no time to help the child being raped and tortured but he has time to find your stupid keys?" But here was my prayer:

"Dear God. This is not about the earrings because I know you have bigger fish to fry. But if you help me find my earring, I'll know you're really there. Amen."

So we left Vons without my earring. We walked out of the store, through the parking lot, got into Beth's car and drove back to Kay's, then walked up a long driveway, through a garage, up some stairs into her family room, up more stairs to the dining room... And then I heard Beth behind me say, "Is this your earring?"

And sure enough, it was my earring! Beth had found it on the step leading up to the dining room. Now how the heck did that happen? All I can think of is that the earring somehow ended up on Kay's shoe or her pants and it stayed with her through all those places I mentioned above and fell off her body at a time that Beth would find it. Highly weird and unlikely and a grand way for God to let me know that he was answering my prayer.

I said another quick prayer of thanks: "Dear God. It wasn't about the earring. Thanks for letting me know you're there. Amen."

And that's how I know that God is up there listening to me. He loves me. On my scariest and darkest days, He's right there next to me. He's given me some huge challenges, He's seen me experience desperation and sadness and sickness and disappointment. For some reason, this is my path. But He loves me and He has a plan for me, and he's watching out for me. And now, even when I have bad moments, I go back to that experience and it helps.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A great week exploring Colorado and Utah

I took the girls and we spent Spring Break at my friend Emmy's house in Denver. Back when I worked before getting sick, I never had the time to stop and smell the roses. I always hopped on a plane to wherever I was going and got back on it when I was done and got back to work. For the first time ever, I'm enjoying the drive and stopping along the way and exploring. And I've decided that this country is mindboggling amazingly beautiful. Every time I see something spectacular, I see evidence of God again and again and again.

So after the girls got out of school on Friday, we started driving to Denver. We stopped overnight in Grand Junction and the next day continued. I saw a sign for Aspen. I'd never been to Aspen so we made a detour. Very beautiful. And ritzy. And stylish. More private planes than I've ever seen in one airport. Clothes I can't even think about buying.

We got to Denver that evening and went to dinner with Emmy and her son Spencer.

Over the next few days, we visited downtown Denver and went to Estes Park's Stanley Hotel where Steven King got the inspiration for The Shining. It was stunningly beautiful. I decided that I love Colorado!

Anyhow, my friend Emmy and I have known each other since our freshman year in college and we have been through a lot together over the years. We even moved out to Washington, DC together. (The photo above is right after we had graduated and moved to DC. Here we are at the Vietnam Wall.) She's a great person and a great friend and I trust her completely.

Emmy, caregivers, and guardians
And so I got to thinking... What would happen if I relapse and get really sick again and my mother can't be my caregiver? What if I pass away and my parents are unable to raise my children? Who would I or they turn to? My first reaction is that they would, of course, is my BFF Julie (who I also met in college). But then I realized that Emmy is a great option, too. She is very responsible and structured. She has a big huge heart. If I got sick, I know I could count on her.

Sadly, if I pass, Bob cannot take the children. I asked him if he would a few times in 2012. He said that after the divorce was final, he'd make that decision. Nice, huh? Seriously, it was his further attempts to control me by dangling the threat of me giving in to him in the divorce in "hopes" I could talk him into taking the kids. And Bob absolutely using his children to try and get his way. He did it with his two older daughters and he's doing it with the younger ones now. A zebra never changes its stripes and Bob is no exception. Whatever, can't control me anymore!

But, seriously, the reality is that Bob isn't able to raise children. Oh he can have "fun" with them, but parenting is something he could care less about. He used to blame it on the fact that his parents didn't parent him-- they cared far more about working (his mom) and the Phantom Regiment Drum Corp (both his parents) than their children. And he was too busy working hard while Terri raised the kids, was lazy at work, refused to earn more money, and screwed countless men (his words). So Terri, his ex, raised the kids when they were married. When they split, Kalie stayed with Terri. Nicole initially lived with Bob because Bob didn't parent at all and it was a great place for a teen struggling with smoking pot daily, partying and never showing up for school or working. Living with Terri, well, none of that would be tolerated. Living with Bob, not only was it tolerated, but he gave Nicole spending money, too. So if these younger children are sent to Bob, he'll keep drinking more (he cannot handle any stress, and everything except drinking and fishing and watching movies is stressful), neglect their homework, take them fishing instead of to the pediatrician, and if they don't do their own laundry Lord knows Bob won't and they'll just go dirty.

So, while I've been incredibly unlucky in many ways, I am so blessed in many others. While I was married to a pathetic mean and volatile alcoholic who could not be counted on "in sickness" (not even when I was pregnant twice and suffered two miscarriages within six months), I at least have family and incredible friends who are there for me no matter what. And it is reciprocated in every way.

Back to my trip
So as we were driving back to our home near Salt Lake City, we saw the sign for Moab and The Arches National Park. It looked beautiful from the highway and Morgan suggested we stop there for the night instead of rushing home. Initially I wanted to say no and then I thought, why not? I've never been and neither have they. So I called some hotels and I got the last hotel in town (lucky us!), I switched my weekly doctor appointment for my labs and chemo injection, and we spent the evening exploring one of the most beautiful and picturesque towns I've ever been. Unique and breathtaking. Photos and words will never do it justice.

The next day, we went to The Arches and all I can say is that I was in tears at times, that's how beautiful it was. Spectacular. Only God could make something like that (using natural elements, like water and wind). And, oh my gosh, I am so happy we had the flexibility to just see it. To stop and smell the roses. To live in the present. That is what I'm learning to do. Find joy and peace at all of this. And to breathe. And to enjoy the children.

So was getting sick lucky? No. But is there an upside? Yes. A blessing in disguise? I choose to think of it that way.

PS: I cannot wait to go back to Moab! We found heaven on that trip.