Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cure Panel Talk Radio Recap: A Chat with MMRF

The Cure Panel Talk Show

It's been awhile since I've written about Myeloma. Instead, I've been talking more to the divorced community. Sometimes, I get so tired of talking about Myeloma that I just need a break. It's always heavily on my mind, though. How can it not be? Everything I do, say, eat and breathe has something to do with Myeloma.

So I'll start writing about Myeloma more in the near future. After all, next week, I'll have a very exciting announcement. I've been working extensively with my friend Jenny, fellow Myeloma warrior and a champion of Myeloma causes. She is my inspiration. Anyway, I'll fill you in on the details in a few days but I can hardly wait.

That said, the latest Cure Panel Talk Show is ready for your listening On the show, the Cure Panel talked to the Anne Quinn Young of the MMRF, which has some interesting and exciting news to share about the latest in MMRF initiatives, Community Gateway, big data and more. To listen in, click here:

Divorced Moms column is out: Dating Again? 5 Types of Men That Are Universally Bad News

My latest Divorced Mom column is out! I love writing for this pub. This is an amazing community of strong survivors who are simply trying to make big decisions, bravely conquer the world of divorce and its oftentimes devastating aftermath, heal, and build a new life. It's empowering!

Dating Again? 5 Types of Men That Are Universally Bad News
By Lizzy Smith, Contributor - January 31, 2014
Is it important to avoid men who are trouble?
The obvious answer is yes!

For me, re-entering the dating scene after I split from my husband was quite the experience. I fell hard and fast for my first boyfriend. When we broke up and I had time to reflect on “us”, I realized he was none of the things I was looking for to begin with. In fact, he had some pretty big flags (see below). How did I let that happen?

Keep reading...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Our Yekaterinburg Adoption (Between Trips 1 & 2)

After Rob and I returned home from meeting Siena, the real paper chase began to complete the adoption and it was a nightmare. And incredibly expensive. The judge in Yekaterinburg was well known to be brutally tough. She had a list of requirements that had to be done to perfection or too bad. Because I was the one officially adopting and Rob and I were going to re-adopt when we got back into the USA together, I was busy gathering documents. The things I had to do included:
  • Getting FBI fingerprinted three times. I'd get fingerprints done once and, because everything took so long, they'd expire and I'd have to do them again. Every time I had to get re-fingerprinted, it cost more money.
  • Go to NINE different specialists. Yes, NINE. They included a pulmonologist, psychiatrist that specialized in addiction medicine (I could only find ONE of these in San Diego), oncologist, neurologist, gynecologist, ear nose & throat specialist... And after each of those doctors signed my form that I was in good health, I'd have to get them notarized, apostilled, and certified by the Medical Association that those doctors really were specialists in their particular field, and get that signature notarized and apostilled. These process took literally thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars. And then one of the doctors didn't date the form correctly, so the judge send the entire packet to be re-done. That meant I had to go back to every doctor and have them re-sign, re-notarize and re-apostille.
  • Go to the County Clerk to certify ownership of the home I was living in.
This is just a sample. Then December came and the judge shut down the courts for two months while she went on vacation and didn't do any adoption cases. And then a few weeks later, she shut the court down again while she helped certify the Russian elections.

And apparently, right before we traveled to Russia on our second trip for court, the judge required that Siena's social worker find the birthmother (Olga) to get her to sign relinquishment papers again. I'm so glad we didn't know this until after the adoption was complete. Anyhow, the social worker found Olga, a 17 year old girl, at her home. Her parents had both died and she was an orphan, too. She inherited her apartment from her parents-- a two-bedroom large apartment, which is hard to find in Yekaterinburg. The social worker knocked on Olga's door, which was answered by a very well dressed man. He said Olga wasn't there and asked who she was. After several days, she went back to the apartment. This time, there were several well dressed men inside. She told the men that if Olga didn't contact her, the judge would require that she cover all the costs of Siena's orphanage care and, if necessary, force her to sell her apartment to pay for it.

Olga called her back almost immediately and they met in a park. Olga said that she wasn't sure she would sign the papers, that maybe she would go pick up her child some day in the future. The social worker repeated that she either needed to sign the relinquishment papers, get Siena immediately, or start paying for her care. Olga signed the papers.

A few days later, Olga showed up at the orphanage demanding to see her child. The orphanage workers refused, saying she needed permission from the social worker first. They never heard from her again.

The social worker said that Olga was probably involved in some very illegal and bad stuff, like organized crime or prostitution. She was young, alone, and vulnerable. I think about her often. That poor girl. I want her to know that Siena is a happy, thriving, smart, loving and funny child who is doing so well and loved by so many.

Anyway, back to my story...

All this time, my grandfather was getting sick. We had just found out he had lung cancer. My grandfather was an amazing man. I miss him so much. He was fascinating and funny, kind, loving. He never smoked but he worked for years at the Hanford Nuclear Plant in Richland, Washington, which gave him lung cancer. He wanted to meet Siena before he died and I was desperately trying. As it turned out, he died right after we brought Siena home and he never got to meet her. Every day things were delayed with adopting Siena, I was getting desperate and sad and angry.

Rob's dad was also not doing well physically. Every day that Siena was in Russia was one precious day lost. It was making me physically sick. In addition to the paper chase, I was trying to manage a home, parent Morgan, cope with all kinds of drama with Rob and his daughters and ex wife, train a puppy, cover bills with not enough money, work a fulltime job, and fend of Rob's increasingly bizarre and aggressive behavior. It was a lot. Too much.

One day I called Rob and said, "I'm done! If they want to make it this difficult to take a child out of an orphanage, they can keep her."

Rob talked me off that cliff. "It's not your decision, Liz. This is our decision. She is our daughter. She needs a mom and dad and that's us. Take a day to calm down."

And he was right. The adoption kept moving forward, though so very slowly. Planning anything was nearly impossible. We couldn't plan trips because maybe (hopefully) we'd be traveling to Russia. I dreamt, slept and ate adoption. And while dealing with adoption nightmare, things were not going well at home. Rob and I were struggling in our relationship. On the one hand, we could sometimes be a great family. On the other, Rob's bizarre alcoholic behavior was becoming increasingly awful for me. The drama with Rob and his daughters was getting worse and worse. Everything at home was unpredictable and becoming more and more chaotic. I will write about that part in another post.

I had set aside $40,000 to finish the adoption but it soon became apparent that it wasn't enough money. I had sold one of the two homes in Utah that I owned to purchase the house with Rob. And Rob began pressuring me to sell my second home in Utah-- not to complete the adoption but to pay off the enormous loan from his mother to pay off his ex wife, Terri. I had already paid her some $40,000 of that loan from my personal funds but he still owed her a heck of a lot more money.

"We have to pay off my mom," Rob began saying endlessly. One day, I had heard enough. I called up my real estate agent and sold the house immediately. Every single dime of that money went towards paying off his mother. The adoption expenses started getting charged onto a credit card. After awhile, fatigued and stressed out beyond my breaking point, I didn't even know what I was spending anymore. I just pulled out that credit card and started charging.

Right before we finally traveled to Russia, I sat in front of Rob and started sobbing. "We will never recover financially. We are ruined," I said.

"We make loads of money, we'll be fine. Getting Siena is more important than any money," he said. At that moment, I felt love for him.

I am so grateful that I didn't know how difficult the adoption would be. Because if I had, I think I would have talked Rob into abandoning the adoption. I don't think I could have looked at that figurative mountain and climbed it. But now here is Siena and it was all worth it a million times over. What a blessing she has been and I owe having her to Rob. He pushed me through it and I will always be grateful to him for helping bring our daughter home.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My life's path

I just finished having a very fun and productive lunch with my friend K. Together, we are going to help women live better, more productive, and healthier lives. I am excited. I feel empowered and optimistic today.

So after a little thought (like 30 minutes of thought), I am putting together my life's goal. I have found my passion and sharing and helping others is what matters to me.

So my goals are:

1. Helping other domestic abuse victims. I want to help others recognize abuse and find the courage to leave it behind. I will accomplish this by writing and speaking publicly about my experiences.

2. Health (emotional, physical and spiritual): There is a powerful mind-body connection and conventional medicine is just one small piece of it. I will help others achieve their optimal health in any way I can. I will do this by writing on my blog, participating in radio programs, attending and organizing seminars, and practicing what I preach.

3. Making a difference in the cancer community: Helping other cancer warriors, their caregivers and their families to beat this disease is imperative. We warriors are so much more powerful than we think and, in many cases, we can work in tandem with the medical community to achieve maximum results.

4. Healthcare: Other than food and shelter, there is nothing more important than having access to quality healthcare. Hence the need for good health insurance. In this country, we are at a critical juncture in the healthcare debate and I want to make sure my story is told loud and often. So share I will! I will continue meeting with political leaders, writing, and speaking about my story.

I feel like now that I've shared this with you, I am on a mission. Firmly. Moving forward. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Silence is golden


Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

The topic of abusive relationships is heavily on my mind these days. I received many messages from my Divorced Moms column last week on why women stay in abusive relationships. It makes me so sad.

A few days ago, one of my frequent readers, Z, asked if I would speak with her brother. He is going through a horrible divorce. So we spent about an hour chatting this weekend. His stories are breathtaking. Of course, there are two sides to every story, I get that. But if his are to be believed, wow.

And, really, the only way to handle an abuser (besides calling the police, moving, and getting the hell out) is to keep your mouth shut. Hence today's topic: silence.

The awesome, amazing power of silence. If only I had mastered that during my marriage. Nothing shows contempt as loudly as complete and total silence.

During my marriage, I more often than not, kept my mouth shut. In the midst of horrific screaming fits, I would tell myself, "He's drunk. Or he wants to get drunk. Arguing with a drunk is pointless. Keep your mouth shut." And I'd remain silent for a few days. I'd leave the room and go to another part of the house, usually while Rob the Great (Alcoholic) would follow me from room to room, screaming again and again until he got tired of it enough and went to bed.

But when I decided to fight back, it was ugly. And when I did, I came out swinging (verbally) with all the power I could. And because I can have a very sassy tongue, I would say things aimed to wound back and they were just as mean as anything Rob could come up with. If was my (futile) effort to try and take a little bit of my sanity and power back. To defend myself.

That is where I failed miserably. I wish I would never have "gone there" verbally. Because nothing-- and I mean nothing at all -- argued my point more forcefully than an unwillingness to engage. Silence. Showing complete and total contempt.

And, when asked for my advice, I tell others who are in abusive relationships: Go silent. If your current mate is screaming at you, keep your mouth shut. Instead of screaming back or devising ways to try and defend yourself, spend the time on your exit strategy. If you're still being harassed by your ex, don't respond. Let your attorney handle it. Because that's when you loose your dignity, sanity, and emotional health. Sleep and healthy eating patterns go right out the window.

There is no winning in a war with your abuser. Words nor fists will accomplish anything at all.

A good friend of mine is still at "war" with her ex. He won't leave her alone and his wife is even in on the action. Last time they were in court, the wife showed up with a gaggle of friends and laughed throughout the entire proceeding. I gave her the only advice I could after she received some more threatening texts from him: "Don't respond. Forward it to your attorney and go get a massage."

I took my own advice about six months ago. Rob's attorney contacted my attorney to ask if Rob could start contacting me directly with things having to do with our vacation property. His attorney said it would be easier if we could just communicate directly on that one issue rather than going through legal counsel. My response was, "Is he serious? The answer is not only no, but HELL NO." And then I went and got a massage. It felt so peaceful. Taking sanity back and going silent works!

Silence is golden, especially in an abusive relationship.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Divorced Moms column is out! (And a very touching email about abuse): 9 Reasons Women Stay In Abusive Relationships

My latest Divorced Moms column is out! But before I get to that, I'd like to share a comment I just received today and my response back to her. Count this as one more reason I blog, and I blog very descriptively. Coming out of the shadows and living in truth, honesty, and in full openness is liberating. I spent far too long living a lie and covering up. And, truthfully, helping others is one of the reasons I get out of bed in the morning.

k - January 25, 2014   Delete                            
This could not be more timely! As I sit here after being thrown out of a car in 5 degree weather to walk 2 miles home last night.  Again.  He would not leave my home.  Took my cell. I got help next door and called the police for the first time.  He was taken to the station in a patrol car.  Last time this happened, the contrite, sappy nice messages started just like clockwork.  I bought into it.  And hear I am again 30 days later.  ENOUGH! I live in an upper middle class area, too vulvernable for this bs.  Divorced less then a year after a 30 year marriage.  Again, ENOUGH.  Glad I got neighbors and police involved.  

Lizzy Smith - January 25, 2014 Publish  Delete
K: Thank you for your comment and sharing your story. I am so very sorry to hear that. Having lived through the craziness of abuse, I know the horror you are enduring. The ONLY way to make it stop is to just cut ties completely. Easier said than done. Sharing my story is one of the reasons I blog. I write a lot about stories from my life in abuse. Check it out at I write very detailed experiences because some of the things that happened are so "over the top" that even I sometimes can't believe it. I want others to know that they are not alone when crazy things are happening at home. And it's not OK. It IS possible to escape. It's hard. It's traumatic. But the good news is that it will eventually end. If you stay in abuse, it will never stop. I wish you all the best. There are great support groups. Find one. If you ever need an "e-friend", I can be found at

Ok, I want to cry right now. These stories just rip my heart out.

...And now onto my Divorced Moms column. As you can imagine, it's about abuse. (And, seriously, if you're being abused, get ready to get out! I've written on that topic before. You can read it right here: How To Leave Abuse Behind.)

9 Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships (according to my kids)
By Lizzy Smith, Contributor - January 25, 2014
20131204_182342_resized.jpgWhy do victims stay? Ah, the million dollar question.
I used to think that any victim who stayed with her abuser was dependent and pathetic. And then I found myself in that very situation. My husband never hit me but the verbal abuse was intense. Yet there I was, I hadn’t left yet.

Physical abuse is obvious and dangerous. Life threatening. When someone is beating you up, you know it. Verbal abuse is just as damaging but tougher to recognize because there’s nothing to look at. They wounds reside in your soul.

Keep reading...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Name dropping from the Sundance Film Festival & the Mia Love for Congress Campaign

The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing and this year, it was time to check it out. So on Saturday, we spent most of the day in Park City. And, oh my, was it was jam packed with people.

We had to park at the Yarrow Hotel-- quite a nice hotel in Park City that William and I have stayed in on one of our monthly staycations-- and take the free shuttle to Main Street. As soon as we started walking around, I recognized my first celebrity.

And we start off with our Mad Men story! And, I will add, this is the best show on TV. Period.

First, you have to know that I'm obsessed with Mad Men. I literally haven't missed a single episode. The writing and character development is phenomenal. I love Don Draper, and Peggy, and strong and stoic Joan, and asshole Peter and, yes, my favorite is Roger Sterling. I actually love every single character, even annoying Megan. And the fashion? It is fabulous and dreamy and I want to own mostly every article of clothing those lovely ladies wear. I dig the home décor. I really should have been around in the 60's because I would've loved rocking the groovy hippie girl look, for real. So anyway, I look ahead and I see a shock of white hair and I just knew that... there was Roger Sterling! (Roger is the guy with the white hair pictured above). His character is so well developed. And, besides, I loved him on Allie McBeal and Desperate Housewives, and on commercials. Did I tell you that I LOVE HIM?

"Hey, Mom, it's Roger from Mad Men!" My mom almost feinted. "Come on!" I dragged her over to him. "Excuse me, but we really love you on Mad Men. We are huge fans and I really would love to take a photo with you and my mom. Please? She really is your biggest fan." I begged.

"Sure, but make it quick please." Oh for sure. So I snapped a good one. My mom was ecstatic. Actually, she was more than ecstatic. Can you tell?
Photo: Look who we ran into at the Sundance Film Festival just now- Roger Sterling from Mad Men!!!!
Yay for us! First celebrity we found as we have proof! (why are we so dang excited when we see a celebrity? Because I've seen many, many, many and I still get excited when I run into one.)

...But that's not all!

We ran into that guy from The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News-- Waters World or something like that. In fact, we watched him film a segment that was on The O'Reilly Factor on Monday, which included the segment we watched film. And right afterwards, he graciously posed for a photo with Morgan. He was so nice and approachable with a big warm smile. And he is really handsome and commands a room well. He is just eye catching.

And then we saw Jerry from Parks & Recreation, one of the funniest and freshest shows on TV. He was very nice and chatty. Coolest guy!

And then we also ran into this guy (who I love) from Bridesmaids, one of the funniest movies in a very, very long time. I actually watched this movie for the first time on a flight from Paris to Salt Lake City and I thought I was going to pee my pants. I was laughing out loud. It was the funnest two hours I've ever had on a long transatlantic flight like that!

And we saw this guy from Freaks & Geeks-- the one on the far right (remember that show? I loved it! This cast has/is still going places!), Samm.  Anyhow, he still does a ton of stuff, like Inglourious Basterds, Entourage, Modern Family, NCIS, and How I Met Your Mother. Plus a whole lot of other stuff. I see him all over the place.
Freaks and Geeks tv show photo

The only drag about our outing is that finding somewhere to get dinner was a nightmare. Many of the restaurants were closed for private functions. Many of the restaurants had lines out the door. We finally ate at O'Flannagan's on Main Street and it was pretty good and our waiter rocked it even though it was insanely busy. Home run on food! A bit pricey but, hey, when you're so hunger that you're ready to start eating your children's arms, you're happy with just about anything.

And then last night, I took the girls to meet Mia Love, who will most certainly be our new Representative in Congress. I am telling you, I love this woman (no pun intended-- get it? Her name is Mia Love). She is so nice, warm, engaging and sincere. And, best yet, she's pragmatic, smart, articulate and has star power. If she can appeal to a centrist (and sometimes liberal) voter like me, along with a very conservative base, well then, I think she has a bright and exciting future ahead of her. So we went to campaign headquarters and met with her again. I was flattered that Mia brought her husband over to meet me and she had already told him about my story. True, we did have a two hour discussion but that my story resonated enough that she told her husband as awesome. I do feel my story is powerful and I am on a quest to share it with others. We also met her awesome children. Mia will, once elected, be the first African American woman Republican to ever serve in the House of Representatives. Go Mia!
Photo: At Mia Love open house! Off to Congress, I can feel it!

Check out what they're saying about her.

I hope she gets elected and I'll do whatever I can in my very small way to spread the word. Vote for Mia!

As fun as this has all been lately, it was time to get back to work. That means: meeting up with my friend "Myeloma Jenny" and helping her edit the upcoming web site that will be "all things in the world of Myeloma", writing an article about my story and shop it around to the bigger pubs-- how I left an abusive marriage, nearly lost my health insurance then got it back, fought my disease, got new health insurance under Obamacare's Affordable Care Act (a story all its own) and, while working very well for me, the pitfalls and how my plan is simply not affordable for a vast number of Americans. I'll be shouting out that article when I'm done from the hills. Because healthcare is too important to remain silent and do nothing.

I went to Bikram Yoga tonight simply because I needed to calm down and get my head in the game. Be focused. Be calm. Be present. Concentrate. Press forward. But with purpose. My health is holding up. Still have chemo brain. But this week, my energy level has been good. Except Monday I needed a nap. And I had major fuzzies this afternoon. I had to spend couch/TV time for about a half hour until that awful sensation went away. And that's when I knew-- I must attend yoga now. So I did. I'm ready to face the world. Tomorrow anyway.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Two fabulous radio shows! Mpatient Radio (new ways of treating myeloma); and Cure Panel (nutrition & supplements during cancer treatment & beyond)

Last Friday, I participated in two fantastic myeloma radio shows.

The first was mpatient radio, topic: What can you do when your myeloma medication is no longer working? Dr Jatin Shaw described the best new approaches to overcome drug resistance and a host of treatment alternatives.

To read the transcripts or listen to a rebroadcast of the show itself, click here. After listening in and asking my own question, I felt incredibly optimistic for the future of myeloma. We have a long road but I do believe the future is bright. There are so many ways to treat this disease with many more treatments in the pipeline. That is all good news in the fight against myeloma.

The Cure Panel Talk Show

The second radio show was Cure Panel's Talk Radio. The topic was nutrition and supplements during cancer treatment and beyond. I could have listened to this segment for another few hours. To listen to the re-broadcast, click here. I am a huge fan of doing my part (beyond taking lots and lots and lots of drugs given to me by my oncologists), which means eating right, taking the right supplements, managing stress levels with Bikram yoga, massage and meditation, using essential oils, and anything else that might work. There are so many "alternative" approaches that it's really super hard to find credible options to try.

If I remember correctly (and chemo brain often fails me), there are the essential take-aways:

The No's
1. No red meat
2. No dairy
3. No sugar

The Yes'
1. Exercise 30 minutes a day
2. Manage stress levels (yoga and meditation and writing/blogging are good sources)
3. Supplements are good in the right doses. Turmeric seems to be a good things to take for those fighting many of the cancers. I am taking turmeric supplements. My oncology centers discourages but everything I've read seems to be a good option. So I prayed about it and swallow a supplement a day, with the exception of the day I get Velcade.
4. Cold water fish is good, like salmon, cod and others

So much more that I can't remember, so listen up- I think you'll love to learn more.

Divorced Moms column is out! Choosing Divorce: 5 Signs That It Was Time For Me to Pull the Plug

My latest Divorced Moms column is out! I love writing for this publication almost as much as I love reading it. What an amazing resource for those of us navigating the world of divorce. Enjoy!

Choosing Divorce: 5 Signs That It Was Time For Me to Pull the Plug
By Lizzy Smith, Contributor - January 20, 2014
Fotolia_50059509_XS.jpgI grew believing that marriage would be amazing. I’d fall in love and the two of us would have a beautiful wedding and then live the rest of our lives in bliss with kids and a nice home and vacations and lots of laughter.

And then reality set in.

My marriage started off with the fairytale but things went sour really fast. Instead of an amazing hubby, I got an alcoholic, which meant a home filled with chaos and abuse. The more I felt belittled, the less I liked him. At the end of the day, the only way to fix anything was by getting out.

Keep reading...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thank you, Mia Love, for meeting with me today! (Mia is running for Congress in the State of Utah)

This is Mia Love. She is running for Congress in Utah and it looks like she'll win her seat. The excerpt below is from Cosmopolitan magazine, which named her one of the 20 Women to Watch in Politics.


The mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, lost her 2012 bid for the House of Representatives, but she’s running again in 2014. If elected, she’ll be the first black female Republican in Congress and the first person of color to represent Utah —which makes her a standout hope for a party struggling to reach out women. “Any time I’m in front of that camera … I’m going to champion those conservative causes. I’m going to let people out there know that we exist, and that … there are conservative black Americans everywhere that believe in fiscal discipline, limited government, and personal responsibility,” she told The Daily Caller. Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson's announcement that he won't run again makes her election seem even more likely.


Earlier today, I sat down and chatted one-on-one with Mia for almost two hours! I loved our chat immensely and I was honored to spend so much time with her. As one might expect, she is engaging, warm, approachable and sincere. What I didn't expect was how much I liked her and how compassionate I really believe she is. And pragmatic. And smart and articulate.

Hey, I'm jaded-- I lived in Washington, DC. I've met more politicians than I think most of us can stomach in a lifetime. I've seen politics and lobbying up close and very personal. I worked for the country's largest and most influential special interest group in our nation's capital for almost six years. I get it. But I have to say, I'm a fan.

So how and why did I meet Mia? Because I am passionate about healthcare. Because of my experience over the last two years, I know how good people slip through the cracks when it comes to the disaster known as the US healthcare system. Until January 2012 when I was diagnosed with Stage III Multiple Myeloma, I was a healthy 44 year old. I ran. I ate healthy. I never smoked. I rarely drank. I took vitamins. I almost never ate meat except fish and chicken. I took lots of vitamins. I kept my weight in check. I had no history in the family of cancer.

And then it all changed in an instant. Oh, right... I forgot to mention that I had a high paying job with excellent medical benefits.

And then I almost lost it all. My husband, who I left upon diagnosis, threatened to cancel my health insurance. And he could have. And if I hadn't filed legal documents immediately, I would have found myself without insurance and uninsurable thanks to my newly discovered pre existing condition. And without insurance, there is no way I could have come up with the nearly $1 million tab it cost to treat me.

But now there's Obamacare and I have new insurance (thank goodness!) and so it's really important that reforms are made. Because I have at least another year of maintenance therapy and, who knows, maybe more. Because this month alone, one of my medications (just one!) cost over $7,000! Thalidomide, which has been around since the 1960's. It was originally given to women to combat nausea when pregnant. Until they discovered that it caused severe birth defects. Until a few years ago, a 28-day supply of thalidomide retailed at about $200. When it was discovered that thalidomide was very effective in treating select cancers, that same drug went from $200 to over $7,000 instantly. I think that should be illegal. But it happened. And who the hell can afford a $7,000 monthly tab for one medication? And without it, what do you tell someone? Just go die? So, yes, Obamacare has many, many good things about it. And I'm grateful.

Except Obamacare is also a disaster. And the Republicans all want to repeal it yesterday already. All of it. And who hears about their alternative plan? Not me!

So I contacted the Love Campaign. And they arranged the meeting.

Mia, like pretty much all Republicans, wants a repeal. But Mia also knows that something better needs to be replace it. And that's why we had a very robust and interesting dialog. And even though I'm pro national healthcare of some sort, I am behind Mia. I think she gets it and she'll lend a very important voice to this critical debate.

I will continue my quest to bring awareness to cancer and pharmaceuticals and medical care and research in any way I can. I am one very small voice in this arena but I have a story and a voice and I will shout as loud and as often as I can.

So just a quick shout-out to Mia. Thank you for listening and talking. I am a huge fan and I'll be voting for you in November!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

He's been served!

Well this was fast and unexpected timing. My ex husband, Rob, was served last night with the next phase of our legal battle. The divorce is final. Rob has still not paid me any of the funds he owes me, which I wrote about just a few days ago. That is being pursued on a different level (apparently, Rob loves to fight it out in courts, but that's ok, I'm used to the bullying and I can handle it). And now that the he has been served with the next phase of our legal drama, I can now share a little with my readers.

First, a little background...

Rob and I adopted out daughter, Siena, together from Russia. Rob never made it onto the birth certificate, which I will write about more in depth in the next few days when I have more time. But the main reason he didn't end up on the birth certificate was that in order to adopt from Russia, one must be married for two years before starting the paper work. So we adopted with me being the only one on the adoption decree. The agreement between us (and thank goodness I have several emails to prove this and the testimony of our adoption agency) was that we would re-adopt the child together once we were back in the USA with her.

We brought Siena home in July 2008 and within a few weeks, we went to an adoption attorney and had the paper work drawn up. But then Rob refused to sign. It would cost us over $1,000 and Rob didn't think we could afford it after spending so much money on the adoption. He promised to never abandon Siena or not take care of her.

Of course, Rob did both of those things. And, therefore, I have filed a "Breech of Contract" suit against him. We debated long and hard over which state to file in and we decided Utah was best. But I also have a California law firm that specializes in these matters that is ready to also file a "Paternity Suit" in California should that become necessary and I have to say, this law firm is amazing and I trust them completely. California has some very favorable laws on the books for people in my situation. If I need to "go there", I certainly will.

But, for now, we are filing in Utah and I also love the law firm I'm working with now. I think they are fantastic and, if any of you are in Utah, I encourage you to give them a call if you're in need. It's the Reason Law Firm at 801-915-4700. They are honest, responsive, competent, and very aggressive. I trust them completely.

I'll share more over the months ahead how things progress without sharing anything that isn't approved first by my attorney.

Over the next few days, I will blog more about finalizing the adoption. But if you'd like to read about the beginning of our adoption journey, click here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My myeloma side effects and Obamacare


Typically, my most fatigue days are Sunday and Monday because those are the days that I'm coming off of the Dex that I take on Fridays. Last Monday, despite feeling incredibly fatigued, I went to yoga. I had to sit through probably half of the standing yoga poses. I thought I was going to pass out. Everything turned dark and my head started spinning. So I got comfy on my mat and meditated until we got to the floor poses.

But I never know about fatigue. Sometimes I get fatigue on other days, and sometimes I don't get fatigue at all. And that's what is frustrating about managing side effects. I just don't know what my side effects will be or when I'll get them. Case in point...

I caught another winter cold. I think my immune system is doing quite well, especially considering that I take immune-suppressing drugs every day. That said, I get one cold after the next. For the most part, my immune system kicks in and it's just a cold. And that's what this one is.

But despite the fact that I have a cold, this past Sunday, I felt terrific. And Monday morning was a great day, too. So I went to yoga and it felt great. No dizziness or anything. I did every pose (though my balance was way off). Go figure. I would have thought I'd feel horrible Sunday, Monday and today but not at all. I'm coughing and sneezing and congested, but all else is great.

...Except, I was sitting at a stoplight and my heart started pounding. It felt like a huge panic attack except I had no panic. It was bizarre. It went away after a few seconds.

I have to say, it is really strange when you realize that your body can, and will, fail you. Usually (hopefully) most of us will experience that when we get older. I experienced this much younger than I would have liked. It is scary and sad and, well, I feel so not in control. It's all in God's hands. All I can do is live today as if this is all I've got.

I am now using my Obamacare health insurance. I'll blog about that very soon. I am happy with it, I think, but there is so much to discuss about healthcare. I called the Mia Love for Congress campaign office and they promised to get me a one-on-one with Mia Love herself soon. I want to talk to her about a whole host of things and share with her my story. I can't wait to hear what she has to say and to have a very robust dialog with her. She will almost certainly win a seat in Congress and I'm a fan. Strong women are my heroes.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Penetrating my peace bubble

I always know it's going to be a great day when I need to speak to my attorney. Kidding. Anyhow, on Friday, I had a little chat with my divorce attorney. Though the divorce is final, my ex husband hasn't paid me a single penny of the money he owes me. Big surprise.

In case you're new to my blog, here's a little background. Rob the Great (Alcoholic) bullied me throughout our marriage and, after leaving him, when I stopped allowing the abuse to continue by cutting off all contact with him, he continued bullying me the only way he could: by withholding funds from me. Every single time without exception that he was required to pay money, he has paid late-- sometimes months and months late.

When Rob finally pays me the money he owes me, then I will be serving him with the next suit, which I will share with you once he gets the papers. The bummer is that this puts my entire timeframe off by at least a month, maybe even two. Litigation with this "man" is endless. Instead of serving him in November, like I had hoped, it won't be until probably March, which means that I won't be done with lawsuits until... who knows? Forever? And then the "fun" really will start up all over again. Sigh. I'll just put my helmet on and press forward.

Interesting sunglasses, I know. This was some of the swag we picked up at the travel expo.

And that's just fine. After the call with my attorney, I simply got in the car with William and we went to a travel expo where we researched our upcoming staycation options and planned the Italy trip in June. If that conversation had taken place, say, 18 months ago, I would've been having panic attacks. Yep, this is progress!

Which brings me to the point of this entire blog today. I have a friend, who I will call Kristen. Kristen is remarried and so is her ex husband. But her ex husband is about as abusive, if not more, than Rob. You'd think this guy would want to just enjoy the love of his wife and their happy home instead of tormenting the ex wife, but apparently that's not the case here. (If you ask me, there must be something very wrong going on in that home. But that's beside the point.) Kristen has shown me some of the texts and emails from this guy and they are, well, horrific. Finally, she told me, she sent him an email that said, basically, no more! If you need to contact me, send it through my attorney. Guess what? She's sleeping again at night.

"Oh, Kristen," I said. "You should have been reading my blog. In my opinion, when you're breaking it off with a narcissist, the only way to take control of your sanity is by cutting off contact with him." Sure, he'll find ways to continue tormenting her but if she just ignores it, it's not nearly as "fun" for him. And, truly, the court has remedies for assholes like that, she just has to be patient, which takes a lot of practice and deep yoga breathing and massages. But, at the end of the day, she'll be stronger for it.

I'll say that, for me, this entire experience has made me stronger. Threats of any type are just that-- threats. Meaningless, pointless, comical threats. No one gets to penetrate my peace bubble unless I decide to allow it. And, seriously, I don't think I'm afraid of anyone anymore. My experience with Rob has given me this groovy thick armor that is, really, well... impenetrable. Dare I say, it's kind of cool.

And that, my friends, is empowering.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Divorced Moms column: 10 Ways I Kicked Divorce Stress in the Ass

My latest Divorced Moms column is out!

10 Ways I Kicked Divorce Stress in the Ass
By Lizzy Smith, Contributor - January 10, 2014  
My divorce was awful. Stressful and acrimonious and mean and all of it. There were nights I couldn’t sleep. There were days I couldn’t eat and mornings that I would wake up with knots in my stomach.
One particularly challenging day I realized something had to change. I literally was in my car at a stop light and I spoke to myself. “Enough. I cannot do this anymore.”

Keep reading...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The email that could've saved me

This is an email that my ex husband, Rob, sent his wife, Terri. I didn't see this email until a few months before I left Rob when Terri filed it as part of a court hearing between the two of them. When I saw it, I was literally disgusted and shocked. Rob and I had already met at this point and he was already filling me with stories about how the 18 years he spent with Terri were horrible because she was awful and mean and abusive and the list is endless. He portrayed himself to be an innocent victim of this woman. Soft spoken, kind Rob who had to live with an awful wife. Poor Rob. Except this email portrayed something far different. Clearly he wasn't quite the innocent victim in that marriage.

Had I known the dynamics of that relationship, had I known that he was apologizing to his wife for his horrible behavior...Well, first, he should not have been online finding a new girlfriend (me) when things were not resolved with his wife. Second, he should not have been pursuing me with a vengeance when things were so fresh. Had I known any of this, I would never have dated Rob.

When I finally started understanding the timing, it was just further confirmation that Rob was a complete liar and fraud and that this was his pattern for decades. Rob the Great (Alcoholic) wasn't a monster because I made him the monster (as he accused me of many times in our relationship). He was a monster and an alcoholic before me and he would be a monster and an alcoholic with the exact same personality after me, too. When Rob told me that I was his trigger for his alcoholism, well, truth was that Rob was an alcoholic because of him. Not me, not Terri, not work, not his daughters, not the death of his dad, not any other reason but because of the choices he made. It was seeing that email that led me to calling Terri in January 2012 after I had called the police and had a drunken screaming Rob removed from the home.

When I called Terri, I asked her one simple question: "He did this to you, too, didn't he?"

Her answer? "Yes."

I was the clueless girl when I met Rob. I thought his marriage was resolved. I thought his children were more settled in the divorce and separation. I thought Rob was "better" emotionally than he was. I thought Rob and Terri had been physically separated for many many months.

And then I had a thought... Maybe we ladies should pull public records of our new guy's divorce and read what the other side has to say. Or, if police were ever called out to the home, it might be worth reading those documents, too. Of course there are two sides and divorces are typically acrimonious because a relationship has failed. But we may learn some very interesting new truths and that can shed huge light on the character of the guy we're dating. Or it might even be worth chatting with the ex wife or the ex wife's friends. Can we ever be too careful about our new guy? No.

Lesson learned.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Traveling between tandem stem cell transplants - Yes, it's possible! Best way to heal? MOVE

In 2012 when I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, I immediately began treatment. When  discovered, I had 90-95 percent myeloma cells in my bone marrow and the T13 deletion. Though I was stage III at diagnosis, I was "lucky" in that none of the cancer cells had left my bone marrow and I had no signs of tumors or lesions on my body.

Nonetheless, I had to be treated immediately and aggressively. Initially, it was a massive cocktail of Revlimid, Dex, Velcade, and a million other pills. I then had my first of two stem cell transplants. To get a tandem transplant, the transplants must be done within six months of each other. Some chose to have the first transplant and then just a month or so later, do the next one. I just couldn't do it. Instead, I wanted a nice long break so I could feel normal, let my body recover, and just take back my own life for a bit. So I had my first stem cell transplant in May 2012 and my second four months later in September 2012. In between, my doctor told me to do something fun, but to be careful, and to avoid airplanes.

I had always wanted to do Amtrak across the country but I always worked and never had the time. This was the perfect opportunity. So in late June, we purchased Amtrak passes that enabled us to get off and on the train over a period of 21 days and make as many as six stops. So that's what we did.

Departing from Salt Lake City at 3:00 AM wasn't easy. I was very weak, I had to pack a ton of medications and two wigs and beeny caps, I had to take syringes, in addition to all the other things one must take on a long trip. Plus I had the two girls. My parents and brother also went on the trip, which was good. I knew that I did not have the physical or mental capacity to do a trip like that on my own.

Since we would spend a few nights sleeping on the train, we also had to pack up some bedding and the DVD players. What is cool about Amtrak is there is plenty of legroom and most every single seat has outlets. So the girls and I all took an electric blanket and a travel pillow. Thank goodness we did. The trains were frigid. It was like 500 degrees and humid outside and maybe 52 degrees on the train. No kidding.

So at 3:30 AM, we got in our seats, cranked our electric blankets on high, put on fuzzy slippers, and fell asleep as the train rocked quietly back and forth. I'm not sure I ever slept so soundly.

By the time we woke up, we went down to the bathrooms and brushed our teeth and got dressed. I had to quietly inject myself in the stomach, which was fun in that tiny little bathroom. While we made our way to Chicago, we ate lunch in the dining car, read books, watched movies, and went to the observation car and played games. It was actually very peaceful and fun.

When we got to Chicago, I realized that I was just worn out. I felt major fuzziness, which I knew was from the Dex I was taking. But I also quickly realized that if I was going to sit all day, the fuzziness was horrible. But if I was going to be up and walking around, the side effects declined to almost nothing. Wow-- getting up and moving around made all the difference in the world. No one told me that!

So in Chicago, we checked into our hotel room and went sightseeing. It was incredibly hot outside but we got on the double decker tour busses and saw the city by foot and bus. I've been to Chicago probably 20 times but I had never seen it like that before. The girls were great troupers and we had a blast walking up and down Michigan Avenue and shopping. We even took a barge tour around the city one of the nights we were there. In the evenings when it was dark, the girls went swimming. I was not allowed to be anywhere near public swimming pools so I took a peaceful bath instead.
I thought it was remarkable that, here I was just weeks past my transplant (which is really traumatic on the body) with a brand new immune system and I was doing really well! We stayed in Chicago for several days and then got back on Amtrak and went to Washington, DC. We rented a mini van and were there for five days, including 4th of July. I used to live in DC and I love the city. I loved showing my family and daughters the places I lived and my favorite museums. We went to the Smithsonian, Congress, Supreme Court, Union Station, all the monuments, Mt Vernon. We rode the metro. We went to the National Archives, where we stood outside under the hot sun for 30 minutes before we could get in. I swear, I thought we were all going to melt. But we saw the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

We drove to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and stopped for lunch in Maryland, and took a gajillion pictures. Again, as long as I was up and walking around, I felt pretty dang good. If I was sitting for long periods of time, I just needed a nap.

We got back on Amtrak and headed to New York City. We stayed at a lovely boutique hotel next to the Waldorff Astoria. We sent and saw the 911 Memorial and shopped and saw the Statue of Liberty and went to Magnolia Bakery and everything else we could fit in over the next three days.

We went back to Chicago for a few more days, and then came home.

I wore my wig everywhere I went. On the train, at night I would slip off my wig and wear my pink beany cap. I don't know if anyone noticed but I didn't care. I was warm and comfortable. I injected myself in my stomach every morning and evening so I wouldn't get blood clots. I took all my medications without missing a dose or day. And I didn't get sick.

By the time we got home, I had lessons learned to share with my nurses. Tell the other myeloma warriors to MOVE and MOVE around as often and as much as they possibly can! That was my advice. Sitting and resting was fine, but sitting and resting too much didn't help me feel better or recover faster one tiny bit.

I felt so good after that trip. I felt mentally and emotionally stronger. I felt the beginnings of recovery-- mentally, emotionally and physically. I then decided to get a third opinion at LDS Hospital and then a fourth opinion at Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. Did I want to get another transplant? my labs and biopsies were great. I felt great. My hair was growing back. The thought of starting from ground zero all over again was gut wrenching. LDS Hospital and Mayo both advised that they would not do another transplant on me. I decided that when I met with my oncologist, Dr Boyer, at HCI in late August, I would decline my second transplant.

And then I met with Dr Boyer and he reminded me of my high risk, aggressive myeloma and why they felt it was the right course of action. And I trusted his opinion and I did that second transplant in September.

The second transplant was easier than the first. I lost all my hair again. In fact, one night I got out of bed in the middle of the night and simply shaved it all off. I developed no mouth sores when I did the worse of the chemo. I stayed in the clean apartment in Salt Lake City for a week. I engrafted two days earlier than expected. I never felt horrible on the expected worse days. I was so mentally bored that I had my dad drive me through the canyons where we watched the leaves changing colors. I watched TV and stared at the walls. I felt pretty good. I ate well. Instead of eating lots of canned foods and frozen pizzas like I did the first time around, thanks to the severe food restrictions those of us with no immunity have, this time I grilled up lots of fresh fruits and veggies and ate really well.

When I engrafted two days early and was able to go home, I almost cried I was so happy. I came home and didn't tell the girls prior. When they came home from school and there I was, they both screamed. Siena had made me a huge heart get well card and decorated my room. It was so sweet.

The recovery from the second transplant was tougher, though. After the first transplant, I felt pretty good after a few weeks. This one left me feeling extremely fatigued for a very long time. Nonetheless, I pushed myself. I started doing Bikram Yoga within a few weeks of transplant. I started doing power walks with William. One day, we walked almost seven miles and I didn't even realize it. When we finished and he told me how far we had walked, I teared up and he just hugged me. I was so happy and amazed at my body. And so very grateful. God had come through--  he had done what he had promised. He allowed me to get sick, which enabled me to finally leave an abusive marriage, but he had taken care of me on the other side of sickness. It was this incredibly huge and powerful understanding.

Transplants are so hard but, for the most part, we survive and thrive through them. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Our bodies heal. They may never be the same again, but we learn to live with our new "normal". Because I'm still in maintenance therapy and it has a cumulative effect, some days I'm still really super fatigued. Like today. As soon as I post this, I'm going to watch football with William while lying on the couch. I'll probably sleep most of the day. And that's ok. Listen to your body.

I remember when I first entered treatment and I was talking to a fellow Myeloma warrior named Steve. He was on his way back from skiing. I couldn't even fathom skiing. I felt so horrible and awful.
"Don't worry, Liz," he said. "You'll be skiing again next year. I promise."

And I did! Less than a year later, I was skiing with Morgan, Siena and William.

As my first treating oncologist, Dr Raja, said, "Myeloma is highly treatable. You'll be around for a long time. But the treatments aren't fun."

She was so right on that one! But I'm getting better and this disease will not claim my life.

Just keep moving!