Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Believe it or not, I'm grateful for cancer and divorce

Happy Thanksgiving week! It's time to make my annual "grateful" list, which is the topic of my latest Divorced Moms column. Today I am very tired and after posting this, I'm taking a nap and later today, hitting up yoga. Not a bad way to start off my favorite time of year.

This Thanksgiving, I'm Grateful For Cancer And Divorce
by Lizzy Smith                     
November 25, 2014
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Thanksgiving.jpgIt's Thanksgiving week and I think all my Facebook friends are posting a list of all the things they're grateful for. I've decided I don't want to do the expected thing and post my own list. Because if I did, it would include the typical:

1. My daughters
2. My family (especially my parents, who opened their home to me and my two children when I was newly diagnosed with cancer and left my husband)
3. My friends and loved ones
4. The luxury of traveling

...oops! I just started the list that I promised I wouldn't. I think I'll stop right there.

But on Friday, I headed off to my weekly oncology appointment. Though I'm in full remission from multiple myeloma (a blood cancer), I am on indefinite maintenance therapy, which includes a chemo pill that I take daily, and a weekly injection of another chemo-type drug. (Neither of these drugs cause hair loss-- I already went through that!) I also get labs every three months. At that appointment, I got revaccinated. This was necessary because when I first entered treatment, I had two stem cell transplants, which wiped out my entire immune system. So all the vaccines I've had growing up were basically cancelled out. Here I was two years later getting new shots (progress!) because I was finally healthy enough to get them. And as I was sitting in clinic getting one poke after another (seven in total!), I started thinking about the radical direction my life has taken since getting cancer, and, wow, I realize how grateful I am for the experience. I mean, I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone, and I'm not happy I got it. But I did, and cancer was the catalyst for many amazing life lessons and experiences.

So I think I'll make a different kind of "grateful list"-- a list of why I'm grateful for the Cancer Journey.

1. I got a divorce
I wanted a divorce since just months after the wedding. During our dating phase, my husband pretended to be someone he wasn't-- a nice (and sober) guy. Soon, his disturbing personality patterns emerged and a few months later, he confessed that he was an alcoholic-- a highly functioning, closeted, raging alcoholic. Our marriage was a Hell that's hard to describe. And as many times as I asked for a divorce, and dreamt of a world without my husband, I had yet to pull the trigger. The minute I found out I had cancer, that all changed in an instant. I left my husband within days of diagnosis. While divorce sucks, a bad marriage sucks a whole heck of a lot worse. Some people need to be cut out of our lives just like a tumor. My husband was one of them.

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