Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Divorced Moms column: Series Part 2 Marriage Hell (or How I Ended Up Married to This Ass?)

Series Part 2 Marriage Hell (or How I Ended Up Married to This Ass?)
by Lizzy Smith                    
May 29, 2014
Fotolia_44298098_XS.jpg
How the heck did I end up married to a man I didn't love and then allow him to abuse me? Good question. I write my story in an effort to try to understand it myself. Welcome to the series, “Marriage Hell.”

Rob and I were in the midst of purchasing our home that I didn’t want. We were getting ready to leave for our trip to the Bahamas to officially get engaged. And we had our first real argument. Before then, Rob was nothing but the perfect boyfriend. He was kind, attentive, thoughtful, happy, and calm. We had a very good relationship, actually. We had a lot of fun together, our children were all getting along, and Rob was quickly becoming my daughter’s dad. She loved him in all the sweet ways a child loves a dad and they were getting close. It melted my heart. This was the way it should be. This was my idealic image of a family and I was living it.

Our first argument started one evening when my ex husband asked if he could come over to borrow my computer; his internet was down. Since we got along decently and we had stopped having any kind of marriage or relationship in any way, shape or form for over five years, I allowed him to come over to my home. I was tired and went to bed in my bedroom with my daughter sleeping next to me, locked the door, and asked that he lock up on his way out.

Rob decided that same evening to come over in the middle of the night. When he did, he found my ex in my living room. There was nothing unacceptable going on. I was asleep and the ex was sitting on the couch with my computer on his lap and the TV and lights on. But Rob was furious. He left my condo and called me screaming. "I just went over to your house but guess who I found when I opened your door? Mac! What the HELL is he doing there?" Groggy from sleep, I tried to gather my thoughts. "He’s still here? Rob, I’m sorry but I’m sound asleep. And, as you can see, I’m alone in my bed with my bedroom door locked. I’m really sorry but he just came over to use my computer. That’s it,” I said. And then I started getting mad. What was Rob doing walking into my home, unannounced, in the middle of the night? Dangerous, actually (especially considering that I used to work for the National Rifle Association and knew a thing or two about protecting myself). And kind of creepy.

Keep reading...

The importance (and beauty) of taking breaks

 


If you've been reading my blog, you know I'm leaving for Italy TOMORROW! And as part of this trip, I am technically taking a two week break from myeloma treatment. Well, sort of. I will still take thalidomide every night but I won't get the Velcade injection weekly, nor will I take any Dex. Yay, no Dex crashes and highs. As I write this, I am in clinic getting my Velcade. Then next week, I get a break, and the following week a break, and then we fly home on June 19 and I will be back in clinic on June 20 to pick up with Velcade. So I am missing two weeks of treatment, though we will be on travel for about three weeks.

My body needs these breaks. It's like it has a big time celebration when I take these breaks. These drugs are intense and they have saved my life. But taking breaks is a good thing. My body responds so beautifully to breaks. I will most likely experience my Dex crash in about two days (sometimes I skip it, sometimes the crash comes earlier or later), and then a week later, it's like I start feeling normal again. I mean, as "normal" as one can feel considering I still take Thalidomide, which lowers my immune system. I take it at night, though, so I sleep most of those side effects off. So as I ramble, the bottom line is that Breaks Are Necessary and Good in myeloma. And I am (almost) as excited to go to Italy as I am to saying NO to treatment for a bit.

...Which gets me to thinking about breaks and vacations. They are so necessary, both mentally and physically. This trip to Italy is One Big Break from:

-Routine
-My current life

By "My Current Life," I mean that I can not be defined by cancer, myeloma, divorce, or any of it. I write a ton about those topics because they are my platform, my story, and my passion. But getting away from all of that is a good thing. A mental and physical break. I won't have clinic appointments, injections, labs... none of it. My body will start responding accordingly. Instead of feeling 80 percent of my pre treatment self, I might start feeling closer to 90 percent. Seriously, I'm not even sure I remember what it felt like to be normal, it's been so long. And these breaks are part of the healing process. I come back renewed with vigor to fight some more and to carry on with my new life's mission. It's amazing that at the age of 44 I can completely and totally change focus. How radically different my life looks these days and, cancer aside, I like it so much better. To have a passion and a reason is a really cool thing. Not that I'm happy I got cancer. Oh, Lord, no, I don't with this on anyone. But I did and so I make the best of it.



I achieved a huge milestone last Thursday: Kelsey, my favorite hairstylist and very good friend, took out my last hair extensions! It's official: all my hair is all mine! It's been over two years since I had all my own hair at a length I am comfortable with. Brushing my hair the other day was just so... weird... and fabulous! I washed my hair and I had total poodle hair. The next morning, I flat ironed it and, hey, I look like the old me! I can do this.

Yesterday, in preparation of our trip, the girls and I enjoyed a spa day. It was super fun. Morgan got a wax and mani, Siena got a spa pedi, I got a spa pedi and wax, and I treated my mom to a full facial and wax. I love girl spa days!


And while we were at the spa, William and his brother hiked Timpanogos Cave. We did this same hike last summer and it is beautiful and strenuous. When they got out of the caves, they stumbled upon my greatest fear EVER-- a rattlesnake. So help me God, if I had been with them on that hike (and I was supposed to be) I would have had a heart attack. Instead, John challenged William to get really close to it. Oh my gosh. Snakes are my biggest fear. My biggest nightmare ever was about a month before I left my husband. In this dream, I was sitting in the back of my husband's old Honda CRV Rob was driving and I was where the dogs would have been, or groceries- the very back part of the car. And on the back seat was a rattlesnake, coiled up but with its head up and peering over the back seat staring at me. I was as scrunched up against the back corner of as possible, screaming: "Stop the car, let me out!" And Rob said, "Just relax, the snake won't hurt you." And just then, the snake calmly slithered over the back of the seat and started attacking me-- bam, bam, bam. And I started screaming: "STOP. LET ME OUT LET ME OUT!!!" as the snake kept attacking attacking attacking. And Rob kept driving, refusing to stop and let me out. There was nowhere for me to turn, all I could do was cover my head with my hands and arms as the snake kept attacking and I continued screaming. And I woke up, drenched in sweat, heart pounding. It was 4:00 AM. Unable to go back to sleep and in total horror, I got up, took a shower, and went to work early. All kinds of Freudian ways to interpret that dream!


Rattlesnakes aside, I will go back to my trip. The girls are packed, my clothes are packed, and when I get home from this appointment, I will pack up my "extras"-- the passports, meds, vitamins, essential oils, toiletries and makeup, flat iron, book (I'm reading Zealot, about the historical Jesus, and it is fascinating), and magazines (InStyle and Vanity Fair), and toothbrushes. A quick night's rest, and off we will go. The girls will go to school for all of 45 minutes and I'll get them out early and airport bound we are. The girls were never excited about this trip until Sunday when we packed them up together. For the first time, it set in that we are leaving. Morgan started screaming: "I can't believe we are going to Italy! Oh my gosh I am so excited!" It was so cute. Siena hasn't stopped talking since Sunday, bless her heart. Non stop chatterbox. I just hope she crashes and sleeps when we get on the plane because, Lord knows, she basically hasn't slept for several days and it's driving me bat crazy.

Last night, Morgan had another reason to be excited. She went to her eighth grade graduation dance and danced a lot with her Big Huge Crush. Now they are texting each other back and forth and she is just one very happy and excited girl. Oh, the joys of first time (perhaps reciprocated) crushes. That butterflies I can't eat or sleep feeling. It's so cute watching her glow, unable to concentrate on much. Last night, we laid in bed together while she talked and talked and showed me photos that her friends took of the two of them dancing and talking. She looked so pretty in a new dress we bought for her-- white with blue/white skirt, a fit and flair style. She curled her hair in beach wave tresses and she just looked adorable. My little tiny Russian girl is grown up and beautiful. I'm so proud of her. There are few things I love more than lying in bed with my girls and just chatting and listening to them talk. We don't do it often enough.

Ok, dear readers, I will blog if possible from Europe. I'm assuming my phone will work over there and I can post photos and short stories so hopefully you'll hear from me. My Big Break. My Big Vacation. My mental and physical respite.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Divorced Moms column: Marriage Hell Series Part 1: How I Ended Up Married to this Ass

As promised, here is the first in an eight part series of Marriage Hell, which is publishing on Divorced Moms every Monday and Thursday, beginning today.

Series Part 1 Marriage Hell (or How I Ended Up Marrying This Ass)
by Lizzy Smith                    
May 26, 2014
Fotolia_51339723_XS.jpg
How the heck did I end up married to a man I didn't love and then allow him to abuse me? Good question. I write my story in an effort to try to understand it myself. Welcome to the series, “Marriage Hell.”

My path to marriage began with my ex boyfriend, Tom, the guy I really loved and the one who got away. When Tom and I broke up, I was devastated. I was nursing my shattered heart when I met Rob. Within a few weeks of dating, Rob asked me for a commitment. I said “not yet.” I was dating other guys and I told Rob that he should, too. He had been separated for just six months, after all (though I learned years later that Rob had only been separated for a few weeks and had lied to me about it). In my opinion, jumping from one relationship to the next is a sign of a really wounded guy in need of therapy, not a new girlfriend.

The first sample of Rob’s explosive temper came not too long after we started dating. I was at his home when he got a call from his ex wife. "Rob, I'm happy you're dating someone new, but you have kids so please take it slow," she said before Rob cut her off in a very loud booming voice (a voice I soon came to loathe): "I don't give a fuck what you think!" and he hung up on her. "Sorry," he said to me in a sheepish voice. “I learned that communication skill from her.”

Keep reading...

My week of no sugar concludes

Well I did it! A week of no sugar and processed foods. I'm holding steady at 133.5 pounds and I feel better. No belly bloat. My fatigue is as is. My neuropathy as is. Inflammation in my ribcage seems to have ebbed. I'm still as "fuzzy" and have the Dex crashes as usual. I will chalk it up to REAL side effects of the medications that I take. And I can't expect that a whole seven days of no sugar will make miracles happen. I plan to keep up how I'm eating as long as possible and, if I must, have a slice of birthday cake, then I will. Like Saturday, we went to the Real Salt Lake soccer game (pro soccer). Super fun, I've never been to a pro soccer game before. Totally sold out. There were NO healthy options. Not one. So I ate part of a hamburger. And last night, my mom hosted dinner. I ate a little desert. So not perfect, but pretty dang good, if you ask me.

Over the weekend, I accomplished packing up both of my daughters for our trip to Europe. That is no small process. Now I need to work on packing me up. It won't be easy and I absolutely detest packing. But the reward (a great trip) is totally worth it. We leave on Thursday for Venice- whoohooo! We fly to New York, have a three hour layover, then from New York to Venice. We'll have about six hours to rest up and then we have a gondola tour scheduled for seven o'clock. The next day, we check onto the ship but we don't leave until 6PM so we can get some (free) lunch on the ship then get off and explore Venice as much as possible. Then when we leave, we have a week of stops in Athens, Ephesus (Turkey), and Debrovnik and Split (Croatia). When we get back from the cruise, William flies home and we take the train to Milan and from there, spend two weeks in Northern Italy and Switzerland before flying home. Then we are back in Utah for 20 days then we go to Long Beach for two weeks, then home for a few days, then Montana and Canada for another two weeks. That is our busy summer. Hopefully restful, I can't wait to take a break from myeloma, divorce, and my usual life. We all need those breaks.

While I'm away, I have written a series for Divorced Moms called "Marriage Hell." It's an 8-part series that will run every Monday and Thursday, with part 1 running today (I'll post links tomorrow) that details how I ended up married. I get so many questions on how and why that happened and, hopefully, I'll explain that coherently and in order in that series. Stay tuned!

Happy Memorial Day! Yesterday, we visited my grandparents' grave. My grandfather trained fighter pilots for World War II. He was one of the greatest men that ever lived, if you ask me. Funny, smart, interesting, loyal, faithful and loving. I miss him so much. My grandmother, too, was a smart, resilient, strong woman. I look up to her. She was a survivor and an amazing woman. Memorial Day, indeed.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What the heck is a port? My video, bad veins, and suiting up for poison

Click here to view my "Port" video!
 
I had no idea what a port was until I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January 2012. A few months later and in preparation of countless infusion appointments, chemo, and two stem cell transplants, I got my trusty port. When I got a call from my doctor's office to schedule the port, I had no idea what it was and almost declined the appointment. When I realized that I was going to have a "thing" put in my chest and that I would be getting poked there, I almost had a heart attack. It was not a happy moment, I can assure you. But that port has been a godsend, no joke. Anyway, we filmed me getting accessed. Here is yours truly.

As far back as I can remember, I hated getting poked. Finding veins in my body is a really awful experience. One time, and this was awkward, I was heading into surgery to repair my broken ankle. I went back to my home town, Bishop, to get the surgery done over Christmas vacation when I was living in Washington, DC. My very good friend, Mandy, had just finished up schooling and we was drawing my blood. (Side note: Mandy is one year younger than I am and was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer that had spread to her lung and hip just one month after I was diagnosed. She is fighting hard and so far so good) She had to poke me six times before she found a vein. I wanted to punch her in the face but I felt so bad for both of us. I think it traumatized her because she stopped working in the lab just six months after her career began.

So when I was diagnosed with myeloma and all of a sudden, I started getting poked many, many times per week, it was pretty awful for me. And then I got my port. The first few times that my nurses accessed my port, I thought I was going to pass out. Anxiety was in the stratosphere. But quickly I realized that it was nothing! The nurse was simply poking through a very thin layer of skin. No fishing for a vein anymore. I don't even flinch when I get poked. It truly is "no big deal." Is it pretty? Of course not. But it's not that horrifically ugly either.

But what I loved best about filming this little segment is helping others understand myeloma and navigate their treatment. It's amazing that at the age of 44 my entire life and focus in life changed radically in an instant. I have a whole new purpose in life. A whole new reason to get out of bed. I want to make a difference. I want to help others. I want to live, find treatments and cures. I want to help other cancer warriors remain strong and help them kick evil cancer in the arse. Living a more purpose filled life is one of the blessings that have come about from my cancer diagnosis.



What I'm still not used to is seeing my nurses get suited up to give me my chemo injection. They get all covered up to put something into my veins. The meds will poison them and yet it's going into me. Weird. Unnerving. Necessary. Poison and kill cancer cells. But it's so weird. Before getting sick, I didn't like taking aspirin. It's quite the switch in mentality.

My Chemo Port: What it is and how it works - My Youtube video for www.myelomacrowd.org


Divorced Moms column: Internet Dating Stories From the Trenches

My latest Divorced Moms column is out! I love it when friends allow me to share their stories. This is one of my favorites. Lia keeps me endlessly entertained. Plus she's so funny and witty.

Internet Dating Stories From the Trenches
By Lizzy Smith                    
May 22, 2014
Fotolia_41265770_XS.jpg

My friend, Lia, recently re-entered the dating world. Her stories are so entertaining that I asked if I could share a few. She said yes and here goes. Thanks, Lia!

After I broke up with my boyfriend, I purchased a membership on Match. Here are my favorite stories so far.

Pious Man (with sex on the brain):
I live in Utah and many of the guys here are Mormon. In the Mormon church, each congregation has a separate "leadership panel", which they call the Bishopric. It consists of one Bishop and two Counselors. These men are supposed to be spiritual and live a very strict moral life. With that little preamble, here's the story of PM.

PM is one of the Bishopric Counselors in his ward. We met for lunch. He was nice enough but a bit cuddly for a first date. Like he caressed my knee and even put his chin on my shoulder. And then he said this: ...So, if we had never met and I paid for a night in a really nice hotel and told you to pick up the key at the front desk, go into the room, and change into a beautiful bra-panty set that I had purchased for you, and then turn off the lights and wait for me, would you have done it?

OMG.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Four days of "no sugar"

Today I weigh 133.6. I completed my fourth day of mostly no sugar, processed foods, and GMO foods. I say "mostly" because I have accidentally eaten foods that had bad things in it but wasn't aware of it until after the fact. I am eating tons of calories. I eat and eat and eat. I have only craved sugar once and that was last night. I was very tempted to eat very sugary blueberry bread but I didn't. Instead I ate a tomato with olives and muenster cheese. It tasted good.

But before I get more into all of that, I must complain. My head will not stop pounding. Total sinus headache for, like, 10 days. Oh.My.Gosh. Yesterday, I just couldn't take it. I called my favorite spa, The Brick Canvas at Thanksgiving Point, and headed off for a 90 minute facial. It was the best facial I've had in my ENTIRE life. From the heated table, to steam, to massage, to eucalyptus essential oils. It helped. Well, sort of. I came home, took a shower and accidentally dumped shampoo into my eye. It felt like knives were stabbing me. I was in the shower wimpering. I didn't even bother to dry my hair. By the time it dried, my curly crazy hair was, like, out to 'here'. I put it in a big scrunchy pony and that was that. I am using my Past Tense essential oils, taking Claritin and Ibuprofin and still that headache WILL NOT GO AWAY. And going sugar free isn't helping.

Sigh.

So how am I eating these days? Well, today I started off with scrambled eggs, half an avocado and a tomato. Except most tomatoes are GMO (thanks, Monsanto!). I drank big water with lemon. I always have a smoothie but I don't have them for breakfast anymore. I find it a great snack mid day when I am HUNGRY and need something sweet. Yesterday, I had my smoothie at 3:00 with almond butter and banana and coconut milk. Today my smoothie will include pineapple, banana, and strawberries. I'll throw some chia seeds in it and flax seed oil, too. Also, I love oatmeal for breakfast or eggs. Last night for dinner, we went out to eat. I ate a huge salad with a hardboiled egg and olive oil and balsamic vinegar, vegetable cream soup (was there sugar in it? I hope not but it is possible), and some bread (I should have skipped the bread). I came home and ate lots of pine nuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds. I also ate a Baby Bell. I should probably stay away from dairy but I can't cut everything out. I don't eat a lot of dairy-- just eggs, some cheese, and cream in my coffee. I am going to try and get off coffee this summer. I'd like to switch to herbal teas but there is something so soothing and satiating about coffee. It's my comfort food.

For dinner tonight, I'm making sole, mashed potatoes (from scratch) and grilled green beans. Or, if I don't feel like doing green beans (my daughters love them so much they can eat the whole thing between the two of them), I'll do a ton of grilled spinach with garlic, balsamic, and some fresh parmesan cheese on top. Yum. For lunch today? Not sure yet. I will make that smoothie and probably get a coffee as soon as I get out of the shower. Maybe some hummus, bread, and walnuts. That actually kind of sounds good.

This week is just turning out to be insanely busy. It always is right before a big trip. And my torso still aches, though it seems to ache a bit less. I'm still tired and fatigued. I will not give up on this "no sugar" thing. I really hope it helps with fatigue and pain!!! I switched my clinic appointment from Friday to Thursday. Siena has her end of the year dance festival. Saturday I will do piles and piles of laundry, and on Monday, we will begin packing. Please I need to get on a plane and go away and refresh and rejuvenate and recharge and see new parts of the world. I need it very, very badly. Let the summer begin. No more homework packets, carpools, early out days (I HATE MONDAYS. THE KIDS ARE HOME AT 1:20 AAARGH!!!!!!!!), schedules, waking up early, all of it. No more structure for a while. I am so over it.

And that is today's rant. I am now going to take a shower and try to do something with this insane hair that I have. I used to have straight hair. Now it is tiny little curly ringlets. It's a struggle but at least it's hair. I love hair. Yes I do.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Divorced Moms column: When the Power of Hope Becomes Your Personal Prison

My latest Divorced Moms column!

When the Power of Hope Becomes Your Personal Prison
by Lizzy Smith                    
May 19, 2014
Fotolia_42834957_XS.jpgLast week, I talked to a close friend of mine, Jenny. Jenny’s husband, Chris, just left her and, while she knows it’s for the best, she in deep emotional pain. Chris and Jenny have had a tough marriage pretty much from the beginning. He struggles with chronic migraines, has a stressful job, and at times, drinks too much. He yells, has put a few holes in the wall, and almost harasses her when they have really huge arguments. He will show up at her work, text and call her, and follow her when she run errands to yell at her some more. At other times, he emotionally shuts down, ignoring her, and refusing to be part of the relationship or to parent the children. It has been quite the rollercoaster ride.

What makes this all the more confusing for Jenny is that Chris appears to be a really nice guy to everyone else. He is funny, helpful, engaging and outgoing when they are around their friends or they are out socializing. No one would guess how Chris behaves without an audience. At times, Jenny wonders if everything is all her fault and if their huge marriage issues are not as bad as they seem. Plus (and this is the kicker) she feels sorry for him. With the migraines and job and other stressors, maybe it’s not really his fault, she says. Maybe she needs to be more understanding, right? (Wrong!)

Keep reading...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My week of "no sugar" and processed foods begins



On Friday, I started off my week (or longer) of absolutely not sugar, sugar substitutes or most processed foods. There are some foods that come in a package that have just a few ingredients that are perfectly safe and fine. I'm also, to the best of my ability, staying away from anything GMO. So far, so good. The tricky part is that those terrible additives are lurking everywhere so while I haven't been perfect, it's because I've realized after the fact that yucky things are hiding in my seemingly safe foods.

On Friday, I weighed in at 135.6 pounds. I am 5'8". I ate oatmeal with flax seeds, chia seeds, and loads of organic berries and bananas. I went to my clinic appointment (which ended up taking four hours oh my gosh), got hungry and ate an organic granola bar (which I will never eat again because it had some sugar in it). For lunch, I ate a spinach salad with watermelon and broiled catfish. They drizzled it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and after a taste, realized that the drizzle was sweetened. See? It is hard staying away from sugar. They put it everywhere so that we eaters become totally addicted to the food and eat more of it. It is poison. It is more addictive than cocaine. That is no lie. In the afternoon, I ate cashews and organic apples. And for dinner, I found the most amazing sprouted organic whole grain baguette and dipped it in organic hummus that I sprinkled with curcumin and olives and big huge shrimp. The problem is that I dipped some of the shrimp in cocktail sauce that has, you guessed it, sugar. I then went to Costco and was talked into buying $24 of AmberLyn chocolates because, they said, had no sugar, no sucralose and no artificial sweeteners. Except, it is sweetened with maltitol, which is not good. So I'm not eating anymore. Yes, they tasted yummy but I do not want to eat this shit.

Oh well, I am trying!

On Saturday, I weighed in at 134.8 pounds. I ate oatmeal, and grilled veggies, hummus, shrimp, smoothies... I ate and ate. In the morning, I met my friend from high school, Beth, and we went to a seminar taught my another friend of ours from high school, Susan. The entire class was about "inflammation, the silent killer." And guess what the number one poison is? Sugar! It was very fun and informative. In fact, when William gets back home, I am going to (try) and schedule a private cooking class with this girl and maybe do a group cooking class at her home where she picks veggies out of her garden and cooks and we all enjoy a glass of vino and eat the spoils. Sounds fun, eh? Me thinks so!

Photo: Great class hosted by Susan McLaughlin! So fun hanging with my Bishop hone girls
Beth, Susan and I after the class hosted by Susan's company. It was called Inflammation, The Silent Killer. It's always fun hanging out with girls from my childhood. I love them and we go so far back.

After our class, Beth and I went and ate Ethiopian food. It was good, different, and Beth and I got to catch up a bit. She works at the University of Utah medical center, which is just a stone's throw from the Huntsman Cancer Institute where I am treated yet we rarely have time to connect for lunch. Pathetic to be sure but at least we got to see each other on Saturday. And it was awesome seeing Susan. Interesting side note: In college, Susan and I were driving through the Nevada canyons in December and we got in a terrible car accident. It was a very bonding moment for us and an experience I will never forget.

On Saturday evening the combo of my sugar crash and crashing early from my Dex was a very bad combo. Siena, exhausted and cranky, had a bit of a temper tantrum and while she was in the tub washing her hair and having a total meltdown, her nose started bleeding. It looked really frightening and it ended up being a really horrible way to end the day. I went to bed feeling like the most evil, awful mother and human being in the entire world. Thank goodness that today has (so far) gone so much better. Lots of extra love and cuddles and kisses. Parenthood has it's challenges.

Today I weighed in at 134 pounds. Let's see how this whole "no sugar" thing goes. I'd love to weigh 130 pounds by our trip so that when I gain 10 pounds I don't look like a walking oompa loompa. Or, maybe if I follow William's lead, I won't gain a lot of weight at all. But I am also really curious to see if the inflammation I feel around my rib cage almost all the time will go away. That would be so nice. Or if I can feel less fatigue on my fatigue days. Or if my chemo brain will ebb a bit. Granted, many of the side effects I just mentioned are because I'm on heavy duty drugs and maybe nothing at all will help. But I do know that sugar does nothing for me physically and probably does a ton of harm.

Back in my prior life, pre diagnosis and pre split from my husband, I obsessed with baking and desserts. I loved to bake and bake and bake and eat lots of cookie dough. A few months ago, I decided I was going to bake a birthday cake from scratch from my dad. I found the perfect recipe and Siena and I put on our baker's aprons and off we went. I started frosting that cake and it looked awful and I wasn't into it. As my daughters looked on in horror and disbelief, I chucked the whole thing in the garbage and we drove off to the bakery and bought a cake instead. It's just not me anymore. Interesting.

Tonight I am making a caprese and chicken baguette sandwich and a shrimp/mango/avocado salad. For dessert, we're having "ice cream" from my trusty Yonana machine. That ice cream will actually be simply a frozen banana with berries on it. Now that is a dessert I can live with and enjoy guilt free.

Friday, May 16, 2014

My Divorced Moms column is out! Can you tell I have vacation on the brain? Now if only this awful cold would GO AWAY.

7 Fabulous Vacation Ideas for Chasing Divorce Blues Away
by Lizzy Smith                    
May 15, 2014
Fotolia_62730200_XS.jpgWhat better way to chase divorced-related blues away than with a trip? Getting away and doing something different is oftentimes just what the doctor ordered. Breaking routines, seeing something new, creating memories… it all helps you distress and rejuvenate. Whether it’s solo, with kids, or with a friend or companion, you can find a get-away to fit almost any budget.
Here are some ideas to get you started in planning:

Road Trip
Personally, I used to hate driving more than two hours. When I was married, I simply didn’t have the time or interest to get in a car. But after I split from my husband, I found driving cathartic and peaceful. My daughters would take their DVD players, a stack of movies, pillow and a blanket, and I’d have loads of “me” time. I’d call friends I hadn’t talked to in, like, forever. I’d look at the scenery, and if I noticed a sign that indicated something interesting off the freeway, I’d often stop and we’d check it out. As a result, we’ve discovered some really fascinating places that we would never have seen from an airplane. America is a beautiful country with all kinds of hidden wonders—you just have to be willing to search them out. What’s great about a road trip is that they can be as short or long as you want them to be and you can do it on a very tight budget. Just a few months ago, we were driving from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City and on a whim, I stopped at Kolob Canyon. I’d driven that stretch of road a thousand times but this was the first time we had ever pulled over. Wow, it was amazing!

Keep reading...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I'm sick. Again. Aaaargh!

True to form, I am sick. Again. My head is pounding and won't stop. My throat is on fire and has tiny little blisters on the roof of my mouth. I am congested and my doctor tells me to STOP USING AFRIN. But I only use it at night so I can breathe because sleeping when you can't breathe is miserable and I need rest, right? They say if I keep using it, I'll loose my sense of smell and taste eventually. Well which is worse? I'm thinking about that one. I'm coughing a little, but not that much. And, worse yet, I GOT PINK EYE. I mean, severe horrid PINK EYE. I haven't had pink eye since I was a child. I wanted to claw my eyes out. I didn't but it was really hard not to. Thanks to eye drops it is gone now but it was the height of misery. My entire torso aches and my spine is sore.

And there you have it.

I am fatigued. Today, I am tired of clinic, even though I love my nurses at Huntsman. But, case in point, last Friday, I should have been in clinic for about an hour. But one of my ports wasn't giving a blood return so we had to use heparin to break it up. Well, I was in clinic for almost four hours. I am tired of scheduling pretty much all day Friday for clinic. I am tired of being immune compromised and being sick every three to four weeks. I am tired of an aching torso, which they tell me, may never entirely go away. And I am tired of looking at my legs and seeing absolutely no muscle. I used to have very nice legs. I ran, they were strong. But Dex eats away at muscle. I am weak and I look weak. I still can do great power walks but I look like a frail girl and I hate it.

One day I will be done with maintenance therapy and I will get my life and body back, I hope.

Thanks, myeloma.

Last week, Jenny and I gave a presentation at BYU to a college class. William went with me as an observer. We talked about myeloma and the www.myelomacrowd.org site and its efforts. There is nothing more important to me than trying to cure and treat this disease. Outreach and education is critically important and sharing my story is something that I find great meaning in. In my prior life, I'm not sure I felt great meaning in anything really. I was just someone who worked worked worked and wrote lots of checks and just tried to survive. William said that he teared up in our presentation and he learned a lot about the disease that he didn't know about before. I suppose we were successful, which is good. It's amazing how a diagnosis can radically change your life in the blink of an eye.

So I get rest today, I nurse my pounding head, I do a little complaining and carry on.

My friend just lost her battle with breast cancer yesterday. She was diagnosed five years ago and fought a great fight. Hers was very advanced and aggressive and she beat her life expectancy. Cancer is evil, deadly and frightening. We fight it because we are given no choice. How we allow that to change us is ours to decide. I chose to make me better, stronger, kinder, and live life with purpose. The alternative is just simply unacceptable.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Our Happy Mother's Day



First, I've got to pay homage to my amazing mother. Really, she's the most selfless, giving, loyal, and loving mom that ever lived. She is from Uruguay, born and raised. Her grandparents on both sides were straight from Italy, so she is 100 percent Italian. That makes me 50 percent! Which is one of the reasons we are going to Northern Italy in a few weeks-- to see where half of my heritage is from. Anyway, her dad was a prominent engineer who worked on the equipment to make wine. He died of a massive heart attack when she was five years old, leaving her mother to raise her and her 11 year old brother. It wasn't an easy task but my grandmother rocked it. She was a very strong and resilient woman. My mom, being totally enthralled with rock n roll and movie stars in America, emigrated here with her two closest friends when she was 22 years old. She barely spoke English but she felt the adventurous call and her she came. She met my dad in college, they married, and the rest is history.

When I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January 2012 and fled my abusive husband, she and my dad were here to pick up the pieces. The drove from Utah immediately, were with me at the appointment when I was diagnosed, and helped me move from San Diego and into their home. She (and my dad) were with me every step of the way-- to countless appointments, staying with me in my "clean apartment" through two stem cell transplants, taking care of my kids, and taking care of me. An easy task? Hell no. She still helps me take care of the kids, helps them with homework, teaches Siena piano lessons, and so much more. She is my best friend, biggest cheerleader, and I am her biggest fan.

And sitting on the other side of Mother's Day is ME! I am a mom. It is the greatest thing I've ever done. It's also the hardest and most frustrating and, at times, heartbreaking. The enormity of this responsibility sometimes overpowers me. On Sunday evening, Morgan asked me if I liked being a mom. The answer was YES. It has given my life meaning. I never knew love like I did when I adopted my children. When I picked up Morgan from Russia, I would watch her sleeping and I would realize that I loved her so much that it hurt my heart. I would tear up and cry. I was more prepared for that profound love when I picked up Siena. But hangin' with my two girls is, seriously, the BEST THING EVER. Except when they fight, but let's keep this one on a positive note.

Photo: Mother's Day! I'm lucky to have THE BEST mom EVER and THE BEST daughters ever.

Anyway, a little recap on what we did. First, we went to church with my parents. We left early and then met everyone at Market Street Grill for brunch.  The girls left with my parents and William and I went exploring a few amazingly phenomenal neighborhoods and hiking trails around Draper. We also bought desserts at a beautiful grocery store. Later, we went to my parents' house and hung out, ate dessert, and watched TV. Nothing spectacular, per se, but spending time with the people I love the most is always a great thing.



Lastly, I got a few gifts. From Morgan, a necklace/earring combo. So pretty and thoughtful. I have worn them the last two days.

And from Siena, she put together a Q&A about me. It's so cute and funny (and totally inaccurate) ) that I have to share. Enjoy!

My mom's name is: lizzet
My mom is 23 years old
My mom is 5 feet 1 inches tall
My mom has blond hair and brown eyes
My mom's favorite food is shrimp
My mom's favorite TV show is Doctor Phil and Mad Men
My mom's favorite movie is Thor
My mom loves to wear sweats
My mom drives a Volvo SUV
My mom is really good at watching TV
My mom's job is to take care of me and my sister
My mom wakes up at 19 o'clock am
When I am at school, my mom goes to get her hair done
My mom works really hard to make her hair look good
When my mom is with her friends, she likes to go to lunch
My mom wishes that there would be peace in the world
When I get home from school my mom gives me a big hug
My mom goes to bed at 7:00 pm
To relax my mom likes to watch TV
The best thing my mom cooks is shrimp with pasta
One thing that makes my mom mad is me not picking up my clothes
One thing that makes my mom happy is me being sweet and being with her friends
My mom makes me laugh was when we were in the grocery story and she said "Where are the bananas?" And I said "I'm right here mom." Because my nickname used to be Siena Banana.
My mom's favorite season is summer because we get to go to the beach with our friends
My mom wants to go on a vacation to Italy and Turkey
My mom's favorite vacation is when we went to my favorite place, Maui
When my mom was my age, she liked to color
When my mom was my age, her favorite subject in school was math
My earliest memory of my mom and me was when my mom and dad got me from the orphanage
My mom's favorite memory of me was when she asked "where are the bananas."
I love it when my mom reads to me. We go to my bed and she reads my favorite book called The Secret Garden
If I had $1 million I would buy my mom a yellow car. It is a Bug but it is small
Some day my mom and me will go to Italy and we will go to a garden.

Dear Mom,

You are the best mom ever. I love when you come to my soccer games. I love when you cook my favorite foods in the morning and when I come home. You make my favorite lunches. I love it when you pick me up from school and we go to Paradise Bakery and get a smoothie or a cookie.

XOXOXOXO Love Siena

Monday, May 12, 2014

Divorced Moms column: 5 Tips to Managing Your Single Girls' Budget

My Divorced Moms column is out! This one is all about the money. Enjoy!

5 Tips to Managing Your Single Girls' Budget
by Lizzy Smith                     
May 12, 2014
Fotolia_63040787_XS.jpgWhen I was married, I hated managing and living on a budget. It was my duty and I did it but I dreaded it.

And now that I’m divorced, guess what? I still hate managing and living on a budget.

A few years ago, I read the Dave Ramsay plan for budgeting. He is a big advocate of cash and it made a lot of sense. But trying to convince my husband to go along with the Ramsay concept was an exercise in futility. It was just one more thing to argue about so I gave up.

After our split, the ball was in my court. It was time to set up my Single Mom Budget and figure out how I was going to manage my money. No one to argue with this time around. It took me a bit but I love the way it’s turned out.

Keep reading...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Divorced Moms column: 20 Summer Wardrobe Essentials Every Stylish Girl Must Own

My latest Divorced Moms column!

20 Summer Wardrobe Essentials Every Stylish Girl Must Own
by Lizzy Smith                    
May 08, 2014
It’s summertime and warmer temps. What better way to welcome in the new season than to go through your closet and purge and refresh? First, I'm a fashionista wannabe. I study InStyle magazine and have watched too many "What Not To Wear" episodes than I care to admit. That's why I try to keep it simple so that I can't screw it up. I think I've got a little recipe that works (for me). Here are my 20 favorites.

1. Flip Flops
flip flops.jpg
In my book, a girl can’t have too many pairs of flip flops. Jeweled, plain, colors, metallic and embellished—it’s all good. I purposely make sure my flip flops don’t match my outfit—that way they stand out more. What’s even better is that the price of flip flops range in price, that way you can find a a pair to fit any budget. I’ve spent $3 to $150, from Old Navy to Saks to Ross, the styles and prices are amazing.

Keep reading...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sleeping alone


When I was a child growing up in Bishop, California, we experienced intense windstorms. The type of storms that would make the house shake and the howling terrified me. I swear, I thought for sure that the house would come off its foundation and blow away, just like in the Wizard of Oz. When these windstorms hit (sometimes, the winds would get up to 70 miles per hour), I would wake up and try to go back to sleep and calm my pounding heart. I was embarrassed to wake up my parents. I felt like such a coward. Usually, I just couldn't help it. I'd finally get out of bed, got my parents' bedroom and tell them how afraid I was. I would crawl into bed with my mom and my dad would go sleep in my bed. Finally with someone in bed with me, I could go back to sleep and actually sleep very well. No worries. I was safe.

As I grew older, I loved storms. When I lived in Washington, DC, the amazing thunder and lightening storms were some of my favorite things. I marveled at what nature could do and I felt so safe and protected indoors while danger lurked just outside.

After getting diagnosed with myeloma, I became childlike again. I was afraid to sleep alone. I felt danger everywhere. I actually felt danger lurking inside my body and there was nowhere safe to hide. If I was around other people, with lots of distractions, I didn't have to think about it as much. But when no one was around and it was just me and God, well, I felt terror sometimes. I'd pray and beg God to let me live, to let the treatments work, and to let me be alive long enough to raise my children. But there was not safety, no respite. I oftentimes simply slept on the couch. I was in so much pain that getting in and out of bed could be really "un-fun" and so the couch was easier. But when I did sleep in my own bed, I slept with the TV on. Sex In The City played all night long until (and I don't know what time this was) it switched over to info-mercials. I would wake up around 6:30 and switch it to the local news and then at 7:00AM, start my ritual of getting out of bed and waking up the girls for school. Without the TV on, I became too afraid to get rest.

It took me a good eight months before I could turn off the TV and sleep soundly in silence. When that happened, I realized that I had made important progress in my emotional healing. I was surviving my diagnosis and my divorce. Things were slowly improving and life was achieving a sense of normalcy for me.

I  no longer fear silence, darkness or even death. I want to live. I love life. But, really, I fear nothing. I mean, I do fear cancer and chronic illness. Of course, who doesn't? But letting go of fear is rather amazing. It doesn't mean I don't ever experience fear, grief, or sadness. But I know that inside this body is a survivor.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Divorced Moms column: The Return of Me. Finding Fearless Lizzy Post Divorce

My latest Divorced Moms column is out! Happy Monday.

The Return of Me. Finding Fearless Lizzy Post Divorce
by Lizzy Smith                    
May 05, 2014
Fotolia_63971714_XS.jpgI look back at the person I was while married and it saddens me. The more I write and reflect about that prior life, the more I realize how much I was not myself – at all. Before marriage, I was funny, sarcastic, happy, energetic, smart, and witty. I loved exploring new places and learning new things. I loved robust conversations and shopping; traveling and cooking. I found joy everywhere. I loved life and felt on top of the world. But during my marriage, I quickly became a shell of myself in order to try and “keep the peace” in the midst of a tumultuous and abusive marriage.

Case in point…

While I was married, I read Reading Lolita In Tehran. It was the story of a female professor of literature at the University of Tehran during the Iranian Revolution. Her students were reading many of the same books that I read in college and it inspired me to put aside my favorite “chick lit” books and Vanity Fair magazines for a bit and read something of substance. My then-husband, Rob, read nothing. Not a newspaper or magazine or, heaven forbid, a book. He told me many times that he hadn’t read a book since the sixth grade. I thought this might be the perfect bonding opportunity- pick a good book and we could read it together before falling asleep. Maybe if he experienced great literature, it would inspire him to read more and maybe, just maybe, he’d start being different. I know—it was a stretch and not a realistic expectation but, hey, I was gasping at any straw. So I picked The Great Gatsby. It was short, easy to read, and the story haunted me.

For two nights, I read one chapter out loud to Rob. Until the third night when I started to read and Rob nearly shouted at me: “Stop! I just want to go to bed. This is stupid!” I felt like he had slapped me. I got out of bed and took a long hot bath and read the book alone. Oh well, I tried.

My point is that Rob and I were on different planets when it came to our interests, priorities, and desires in life. Alcoholism aside, finding things to talk about with Rob was a challenge because his interests were fishing, work, and where we should go out to dinner next. And my interests ranged from kids to managing a home to future vacations to… yes, current events, politics, weather, a tiny miniscule of work and just about everything in between. I soon discovered that there were loads of triggers for Rob that would surely start a huge fight. Those topics could include anything that had to do with running the home, children, or finances. And he knew nothing about anything that required reading a book, magazine, newspaper, or listening to a news source. Intellectual curiosity was non-existent. But even if I did manage to avoid obvious hot topics, anything could (and did) become a trigger. So I withdrew more and more into myself. I laughed less. I was not spontaneous. I was cold and reserved. I was sad. I often did things on autopilot, taking no joy or satisfaction from anything except achieving a spotless home. It was the only thing that was in my control so control it I did. With a vengeance.

Keep reading...

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Losing my (rugby) virginity

Displaying 20140503_173345.jpg
It's never too late to learn or try new things. And this is the topic of today's post- new things.

 
Yesterday, William, Morgan and I went to our first ever college rugby game. (Siena stayed with my mom because she is sick - again - with a fever and cold. She was super sick just a few weeks ago. Ugh. Oh well, let's get her sick and well now because we leave for Italy in just 25 days so better now than later!) Morgan and I were complete newbies to the sport (William was not). We went to the Real Salt Lake stadium and watched the national championship game between BYU and Berkley. BYU won for the third consecutive year. (How BYU can turn out championship rugby and volleyball teams yet suck in football and basketball is another story.) But nonetheless, it was a spectacularly beautiful day and the game was awesome. Weird and fascinating and brutal. We loved it. And I did something I swore I'd never do again-- I cheered on BYU. It didn't make me feel ill so, hey, it all worked out. After the game, we spent hours going from store to store trying to find just the right soccer shoes for Morgan. We got some dinner, then met my dad and brother and watched the new Spiderman movie on the IMax screen. I hated the movie. I found it long, rambling, slow and non-sensical. It sort of developed story lines and then didn't develop them. And I felt like the movie would never end. William fell asleep during part of it and I almost joined him. Oh well.

A few days prior, William and I went to the Tulip Festival at Thanksgiving Point gardens. It was so beautiful and we literally stopped and smelled the tulips. It was fresh and delicious and peaceful. It was a very happy morning. Last year, we went to the Tulip Festival, too, and I was still wearing a wig. I was miserable because my hair was growing back in and my wigs weren't sitting right on my head any longer and they made my scalp itch. If there was just a slight amount of wind, I'd wear a hat over it because I was afraid my wig would just blow off. Anyway, William and I were walking out of the gardens and a cute girl with a short haircut walked past us. I grabbed William's arm and said, "See that girl? My hair looks kind of like that without the wig." He said, "It's cute. Why are you wearing a wig anymore?" Good question. A few weeks later, I bravely pitched the wig and went with the short haircut until I had enough length that I was able to add hair extensions. It was a huge, ginormous step for me. Here we are a year later and I have just four hair extensions on the side of my head only. And before we leave for Italy, I'm taking out all the hair extensions. My hair is naturally very curly so I either blowdry it straight or I put huge big curls. Either way, it's HAIR!

On Friday, I let Morgan ditch school for the day. She's doing great in school and she went to my weekly Velcade injection appointment at Huntsman Cancer Institute. At my appointment, we met my friend and fellow Myeloma Warrior, Jenny, and we filmed me getting my port accessed and getting my chemo injection. We are going to use that video on the www.myelomacrowd.org site and also add it to the new Youtube channel, too. Jenny filmed and Morgan was a backup. Morgan wants to be a nurse and loves going to Huntsman with me. The nurses are so nice to her and sometimes they allow her to help them take the pulse and blood pressure of other patients. It's fun to see her be excited about a future career path. After my appointment, we went shopping. Morgan's step sister, Kalie, sent her a gift card to Hollister for her birthday and she spent it on a top, a pair of shorts, and a cute sweater. And then we went to lunch. It was a nice Mommy-Morgan day. We need to do that more often.

Now the Mom-guilt thing: On Saturday morning, Siena woke up and said she felt dizzy and her tummy hurt. I blew it off. "You're tired, you went to bed too late, and you have a game. Let's go." She played a decent game-- scoring the only two goals for the team and winning it 2-1. A few days earlier, she scored five goals! Because I had promised to pay out $5 per goal, she's getting rich while I'm getting poor! She's saving all that cash for our trip to Europe at the end of the month. Anyway, as it turns out, she really was sick! She had a fever for the rest of the day. Thanks to my Angel mom, Siena was able to stay with her all day and rest up. Thanks, Mom!

This week promises to be a busy one. I meet up with Jenny tomorrow so we can coordinate our presentation to a BYU class. We are hoping to get a few interns to help us with the Myeloma Crowd efforts. I haven't given a presentation in a very long time. Hopefully it's a success-- not for me or for Jenny personally, but for our efforts to find cures and treatments for this disease.

I cannot believe that our Big Trip is just a few weeks away. I'm a little overwhelmed by the reality. I'm really excited. I need a vacation! But the packing and prep- yikes! I pulled out our passports and, thank goodness, they're all still valid. Siena's expires next March so after the summer, I'll need to get her a new one. I do believe we're going to head up to Canada in July so after that trip, it's new passport time. I love seeing new parts of the country and world and I hope Morgan and Siena appreciate how lucky they are to be able to experience these trips. I hope it broadens their perspective on life. They're such amazing and good girls. I'm so proud of them.

I love Spring. I love flowers and the smell of newness. It's hopeful, and I love hope. Speaking of smells, I put a roast in the oven with lots of carrots, garlic, potatoes and even apples. Oh my gosh it smells so good. I'm melting.
 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Road to Myeloma Diagnosis (as seen on www.myelomacrowd.org)

Symptoms and signs. The months prior to myeloma diagnosis. From www.myelomacrowd.org

The Road to My Myeloma Diagnosis
by Lizzy Smith

I’m often asked what my myeloma symptoms were. How did I know I needed to go to a doctor? How was it discovered? I know in everyone’s minds it boils down to this: If I have cancer, what are the early warning signs?

For me, I often say that discovering myeloma was accidental and random and that I had no real symptoms. But looking back on the months leading up to diagnosis, that isn’t true.

The first signs of trouble were in late May 2012, some eight months before diagnosis. As we did every year, my then-husband and I flew from San Diego to Utah to run in the Ogden Marathon. I always ran the marathon as part of a team and my official leg was five miles. Because I was the second to last leg, I always ran the additional three miles, too, totaling just over eight miles to the finish line. The night before the race, I took a home pregnancy test and found out that I was pregnant at the age of 43. It was my second pregnancy of the year—in January I had discovered I was pregnant, too, and had miscarried a few months later. I started my portion of the race and almost immediately just simply couldn’t run. It is like my body hit a wall. Less than one mile into it, I stopped running, threw up and walked the rest of the way. That was odd—I could run at least five miles with no training at all and now I couldn’t run just one mile? I chalked it up to the pregnancy.

Several weeks later, I realized that I either cracked a rib or at least had severe rib pain. I looked up pregnancy symptoms and found that many other women had sore ribs too. That’s what it was. I thought nothing more of it. A month later, I miscarried again but I had another cracked or sore rib, this time on the other side of my ribcage. Once that healed, I caught a cold and seemed to crack another rib from coughing. In December, just weeks prior to diagnosis, my husband grabbed me around the waist and broke a rib. That was weird.

I also tried to start up with running again in the summer prior to diagnosis and I just couldn’t do it. I could walk ten miles but I couldn’t run more than a mile. I thought I was just out of shape and unmotivated so instead of running, I simply enjoyed walking. Looking back, I know that I was severely anemic thanks to the myeloma.

About four months prior to diagnosis, I started experiencing severe night sweats. I would wake up drenched with the sheets soaking wet. I thought it was stress from a terrible marriage. I would have nightmares and wake up with a pounding heart, terrorized, and feeling like I had just stepped out of a shower.

I also started becoming extremely forgetful. I wouldn’t remember my drive home. I would be in meetings that I wouldn’t remember being in at all. Work deliverables went ignored because I simply didn’t remember them at all. That wasn’t like me. I thought it was all stress related, though.
And, finally, in early December, just a month prior to diagnosis, I went on a business trip to New Orleans for five days. When I got home, I was exhausted and burned out in a way that I can’t adequately describe. But, I thought, I should be exhausted. I had worked insane hours in New Orleans. I had come home to a disaster — filth, laundry, dogs who needed care, children whose homework had been ignored, and a husband whose life was spiraling out of control from the effects of alcoholism.

I finally went to my doctor and told him that I was exhausted and wanted blood work done. I really didn’t think I had anything severe going on and, really, why I insisted on blood work is quite odd. Was it my guardian angel or God directing me to get help NOW? I think it was. I have felt that direct hand of God throughout my diagnosis and fight to get well. This was the start of it. My doctor thought I was being overly dramatic. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong. I think you’re having severe marital problems but we can do some blood work.” And so on my way out of the building, I stopped by the lab for a CBC. And that started my road towards true diagnosis. While my doctor had terrible bedside manners, I will forever be grateful that as soon as he saw the results, he realized that I needed follow-up testing. I was dangerously anemic but my iron levels were fine. That wasn’t normal. He immediately ordered more blood work. And then a body scan and a 24-hour collection kit and bone marrow biopsy. By the time I was officially diagnosed, I was a stage III with over 90 percent myeloma cells in my bone marrow, though a clean body scan. Somehow the myeloma cells hadn’t yet found their way into my bones.

I was always watchful for signs of cancer and I didn’t think I had any of them typical symptoms. I did not have unexplained weight loss. I didn’t have lumps or bones that broke easily (although yes I did – my fractured ribs were broken bones). I didn’t “feel” differently. Except yes I did. I just simply thought it was symptoms of pregnancy or stress. But yet the symptoms I did experience seemed so ordinary and so easily explained away. I believe that my pregnancies spurred unnatural cell growth. I believe that my myeloma started growing quickly right around the time I became pregnant the second time—and I believe the myeloma grew fast and out of control. For me, I believe that my disease went from nothing to everything in just months. I will never know for sure but in my gut, I just know it’s true.

I hear from so many other myeloma warriors about visiting their general doctor and waiting months if not years before they are diagnosed. Few doctors know the signs or what to look for. Education and awareness is key and it will make a difference in prognosis.

Keep reading...