Thursday, May 28, 2015

Contempt. Once this horrible emotion has entered your marriage, it's over

My latest via Divorced Moms. Kind of raw, but the whole point of my articles is honesty. And ugly, dysfunctional marriages are real. Here's your look into mine. I was hardly perfect. And there you have it.

Contempt: Your Number One Relationship Killer
by Lizzy Smith                    
May 29, 2015
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Fotolia_52474476_XS.jpgWhat is the number one predictor of divorce? Contempt. Irritability at your partner. Disgust. Derision. When you blow off your partner. Or even jokingly put someone down, even in jest.

John Gottman, who wrote Why Marriages Succeed or Fail after studying 2000 married couples over two decades, found that contempt, criticism, and defensiveness ultimately lead to divorce. And, further, couples who made faces (like eye rolling or sneering) when their partner was speaking were likely to be separated within four years.

This was all too true in my own marriage. Once I had developed contempt for my husband, we were on borrowed time. It happened subtly. And it took me time to realize that, wow, I wasn’t just sometimes annoyed with my husband, he disgusted me thoroughly and completely.

Rob and I married one summer and within months, his personality changed in bizarre ways. At the time, I had no idea why or how. But in hindsight, the signs were all there. Initially, he was “high” on a new relationship. He was a happy drunk (though I didn’t realize he was a drunk at all), excited, outgoing and full of energy. He was fun. When we married and shared a home (and he actually had some responsibilities attached to that, like helping to clean and walk dogs), he became a mean drunk, explosive and evil (unless we were getting ready to go on vacation, in which case he was a happy drunk again). He would scream, jump up and down, and slam his fists into tables. It was truly frightening and strange.

One day, I went to our marriage therapy session. I showed up alone because, true to form, after my husband had a big drinking binge, he stayed far away. After telling our therapist how I honestly felt about my husband—that I mostly hated him, didn’t trust him, his touch made my skin crawl, and I determined that he was uninteresting and dumb – she told me that our marriage was doomed.
“Once contempt has entered the picture, it’s basically un-fixable,” she said.

When did this all start, I wondered. I pin-pointed it back to about five months into the marriage when Rob, his mother, and I were walking from the parking lot to a Charger’s football game. I was joking around about how badly marriage sucked and why would anyone put themselves in such a miserable environment on purpose. Hahahaha. She said that she was really uncomfortable with the bantering. It struck me that she was right. I mean, who jokes about that (especially in front of your husband's mother)?

I started to increasingly realize that I was rolling my eyes when he spoke, not kissing him during make-up sex (too intimate, I’d say), and even saying awful things to him, sometimes jokingly ("You're so funny, you can't even manage a coherent thought!) and sometimes horribly bold ("How's that beer working for you? Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? You are a mess.). Truth was, as I thought about it deeper, I was striking back at his abusive behavior in a very passive-aggressive way. If he could scream at me, I could say incredibly mean, below-the-belt things back. I was desperate, somewhat in denial myself, and not ready yet to say out loud how I really felt: I wanted out. I wasn’t in love. I didn't even want him to touch me much of the time.

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MCRI Radio tomorrow: The measles vaccine in treating multiple myeloma

The measles vaccine is a very exciting treatment for myeloma. To learn more and ask questions of the doctors doing the major research at Mayo Clinic, tune in tomorrow! Here it is from The Myeloma Crowd.


Our Next MCRI Show: Expanding the power of the measles vaccine in multiple myeloma with Dr. Frits van Rhee and Dr. Stephen Russell, Friday, May 29 @ 11 am CST 

Friday, May 29,  9 am PST, 10 am MST, 11 am CST, Noon EST

Call In by Phone to Listen Live: (347) 637-2631 or Listen Live Via Computer

The powerful measles vaccine made a media splash with its response in multiple myeloma patient Stacy Erholtz. Further Phase II studies are now planned to take things a step further. Dr. Frits van Rhee, MD, PhD of UAMS and Dr. Stephen Russell, MD, PhD of the Mayo Clinic will share their work to overcome barriers to enable the vaccine to work in a larger number of high-risk and relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma patients. 

Dr. van Rhee is a professor of Medicine and Director of Clinical Research with the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He earned his MD at Erasmus University of Rotterdam in the Netherlands and his Ph.D. at the University of London. He was a Fellow in Hematology and a Research Fellow at the Hammersmith Hospital & Royal Postgraduate Medical School in London. He was also a Registrar Fellow in Hematology at John Radcliffe University Hospital at Oxford and at the University Hospital in Nottingham.

Dr. van Rhee’s research focus is on immunotherapy. He leads the Developmental Therapeutics Project in the Myeloma Institute’s PO1 grant called “Growth Control in Multiple Myeloma” from the National Cancer Institute. He’s a member of the International Society for Experimental Hematology, International Society for Cellular Therapy, and the European Group for Bone and Marrow Transplantation. He’s on the Editorial Board for Annals of Hematology, Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cytotherapy and he reviews for many journals including Blood, Clinical Cancer Research and the British Journal of Hematology and many others.

Dr. Stephen Russell is a board-certified hematologist and world leader in the field of gene and virus therapy. He graduated from Edinburgh University Medical School in England having decided as medical undergraduate that he would spend his life attempting to convert viruses into powerful anti-cancer drugs.

Dr. Russell moved from Cambridge to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in 1998 to build and direct a new Molecular Medicine Program focused on the development and clinical testing of new, genetically-based therapeutics. He is a professor of Medicine with the distinction of a named professorship, the Richard O. Jacobson Professorship in Molecular Medicine. He serves as an associate medical director for the Department of Development at Mayo Clinic, Associate Director for Translational Research in the Cancer Center, and Deputy Director for Translation, Center for Regenerative Medicine in the Mayo Clinic as well. He was one of the founding board members of the European Society of Gene Therapy and a member of the board of the American Society of Cell and Gene Therapy. He serves on the editorial board with several scientific journals including Human Gene Therapy, Gene Therapy, Cancer Gene Therapy, the Journal of Gene Medicine, and the Journal of Molecular Medicine. He is also the co-author of more than 275 peer reviewed scientific publications.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Milkweed Balm - My answer for intense leg and feet cramps?

Every once in awhile I come across a product that I find really amazing and helpful in my life. And when I do, I like to share. Since starting my new therapy for multiple myeloma of twice weekly infusion of Carfilzomib, once weekly 50 mg of Dexamethasone, daily Revlimid, -- all this for three weeks-- followed by one week off, and once per month Aridia, I get intense cramps in my legs and feet. I've written about this prior both here and in some articles at Myeloma Crowd ( I have woken up in the middle of the night whimpering in pain. The only thing that has semi-worked (until now) is waking up, walking around, massaging peppermint oil vigorously into the cramped areas, and waiting it out. It is not conducive to a restful night's sleep- that's for sure. Once the cramping is gone, I sleep with pillows under my knees, thereby creating a tent-like effect and protecting the positioning of my legs and feet.

And then I came across Milkweed Balm. It's a lotion that smells ok. Different, but worth it. The cost is $12 for the lotion and $25 for a roll-on, so it is quite affordable. The company touts the lotion as a way to ease pain, whether it be incision pain, sports injuries, chemo pain like neuropathy, eczema, inflammation and, in my case, cramping.
Milkweed Balm fights pain. Filled with Omega 7 fatty acids, anti-inflammatory agents, antioxidants, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium and zinc, Milkweed Oil helps alleviate pain topically. Just put it on where it hurts. Milkweed Oil has a cumulative effect, so the more you use it to begin with, the less pain you will need to reapply in the future.
I'll try just about anything! So I did. Within one week of using it every morning and evening on my feet and calves, I have yet to get another one of those horrible muscle cramps. Not one. From one every night on the days I get Carfilzomib to zero. It's been a month and they haven't been back. Is it because of the Milkweed Balm? I have literally done nothing else. I haven't even used my peppermint oils that helped once I got the cramps. No extra vitamins or medications-- nothing at all. So... I will say it certainly helped and may be the reason they've stopped.

The company offers a free trial sample. Why not check it out? To order, or for more information, visit or call 800-621-3696. In my world, if it doesn't hurt me, I'll try just about anything. And, of course, if you're under doctor's care, talk to him or her about it prior to starting any new alternative treatments.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

12 Items To Spruce Up Your Wardrobe For Summer. My latest via Divorced Moms

My latest via Divorced Moms. Happy Tuesday!

Summer Wardrobe Refresh! 12 Items To Spruce Up Your Summer Look
by Lizzy Smith                    
May 26, 2015
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Summer Wardrobe White dress.jpg
1. White Sundress
I love sundresses. They're the easiest way to get dressed in the morning: simply put on a pair of panties, perhaps a bra, sundress and a pair of cute sandals. All done. For this season, a white dress is essential. Nothing speaks pretty simplicity than white. Most every retailer has an option to suit any budget. My favorite is this one from Anthropologie, retailing at $138.

2. Pedicure
Pick a bold, bright color. Since likely you'll be wearing sandals and flip flops, having nice toes is essential.

3. A New Hair Color
Try going for a whole new color that's not "you." While you're at it, get a good trim and maybe even splurge on a scalp massage.

4. Statement Sunglasses
I love wearing funky sunglasses. Pick a pair that you like, perhaps two, and keep your eyes happy (and stylish) all summer long.

5. Flip Flops With Bling
A new pair of fun flip flops are a summer must-have. Personally, I love lots of bling on them. The great news about lizzy3.jpgflip flops is that they are available for just about any price. At Ross, you can find many options under $15. Nordstrom's shoe section leaves me weak in the knees but the prices are a lot more than at Ross or Target.

6. Swimsuit
There are swimsuits perfect for laying out, and then there are those made for doing stuff. A month ago, I went to Ahtleta and purchased two pairs of board shorts and two tops-- one bikini, the other a more covered version. Both are amazing for snorkeling and doing athletic activities without worrying that you're showing your breasts or your bottoms are riding up your bum. Ahtleta's quality is fabulous and the bigger price tag is well worth it. In the photo here, I'm wearing both the shorts and top from Athleta. That day, we went snorkeling in Roatan, Honduras and not once did I need to tug, pull or readjust my swimsuit. Plus, after we were done, I simply threw on a white skirt and it was appropriate to go out to a nice restaurant for lunch afterwards. Dang I love it when swimwear is so versatile.
summer wardrobe board shorts.gif
7. Shorts
A new pair of shorts (or three) are a summer wardrobe essential. This year, I purchased a few pair from Ann Taylor Loft that were outside my comfort zone of the typical solid colors. I purchased them during a 50% off sale so they were less than $30 per pair. Plus, I love the length-- not too short, not too long. With a nice top, they're a bit dressy.

8. Straw Bag
A cross between a purse and a beach bag, an oversized straw bag is the perfect choice for the summer. It should be big enough to fit all your essentials (like money pouch, cell phone, keys, and lip balm) plus extras, like a beach towel, book, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. I found some cute options at Target for under $30.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

MCRI Radio Show: Let's CURE myeloma! CAR T cells may just be the way to do it. Tune in Weds, May 27 11A CST

Tune in to Wednesday's Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative's show! This project could be a CURE for multiple myeloma! Let's WIN this battle. I think we are SO close. From

Our Next Show: The power of CAR T cells in Multiple Myeloma with Dr. Einsele and Hudecek, University of Würzburg, Wednesday, May 27 @ 11 CST

Call In by Phone to Listen Live: (347) 637-2631 or Listen Live Via Computer

CAR T cells are a hot topic in multiple myeloma as an extremely powerful and potentially curative therapy. It is a highly personalized treatment because the patient’s own T-cells are redirected to eliminate cancerous cells using a targeted protein found on the myeloma cells. Learn what Dr. Hermann Einsele, MD and Dr. Michael Hudecek, MD are doing with CAR T cells to target the CS1 protein, commonly found on myeloma cells. 

Hermann Einsele, MD, is Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of  Würzburg in Germany. Following his medical training at the Universities of Tubingen, Manchester, London and Seattle, he became a research fellow in the Department of Hematology/Oncology/Rheumatology/Immunology at the University of Tubingen, Germany. He was board certified in internal medicine in 1991 and became Assistant Professor in 1992. In 1996, he was board certified in hematology/oncology. He is a Visiting Professor at the Fred-Hutchinson-Cancer-Research-Center in Seattle, USA and the City of Hope Hospital, Duarte, USA.

Professor Einsele is a member of the American Society of Hematology, the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT), and the EBMT working parties for Infectious Disease and Immunobiology. He is currently a member of the board of the German Society of Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplantation. In 1999, he became Chairman of the German Study Group Multiple Myeloma. In 2003, he received the van Bekkum-Award of the European Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation. He has published > 350 articles in peer-reviewed journals. His research interests include multiple myeloma, stem cell transplantation and adoptive immunotherapy. He is a member of the board of the German Lymphoma Group. In April 2011 he was elected Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists (London).

Dr. Michael Hudecek, MD,  leads the CAR T cell lab work at the University ofWürzburg. Dr. Hudecek obtained his MD with summa cum laude from the University of Leipzig, Germany, and performed his post-doctoral research fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, USA. Dr. Hudecek joined the University of Würzburg in 2012 as a clinical fellow and research group leader.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Divorced Moms: Tips for co-parenting during the summer months (by guest author Missy Boyd of High Swartz LLP)

My latest via Divorced Moms. Happy Memorial Weekend! Be safe, my fearless readers, and do something this weekend that's different and brings you joy. A tall order? Not really. Do something to really write home about. I will and I'll share next week.


Got Kids? Co-parenting Tips For The Summer Months
by Lizzy Smith, with Guest Writer Missy Boyd of High Swartz LLP (                     
May 22, 2015
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Fotolia_41023901_XS.jpgI don't know about you but I am excited that school is almost over. For us, next week is it! I've already scheduled out some camps and summer vacation plans. By now, I am so tired of the structure, homework packets, lunches, and practice spelling tests that I could scream. I've long stopped looking in my children's backpacks for anything and I've found myself skipping some of those "mandatory" end-of-school parent activities because I am just burned out.

But how to manage summer is another topic entirely. These days, I work from home and enjoy huge flexibility. But I remember all too well scrambling to find summer camps for my children, managing visitation schedules, and backup plans if my children were sick or another activity came up.
And how many parents do I know that end up in a warzone over the summer plans of the children. One parent thinks it important that a child go on an expensive school-sponsored trip to Italy while the other parent refuses to pay half the bill. Or another parent thinks it perfectly ok that children are left home unsupervised to save money, while another parent wants them in structured camp, like swim or art. One parent may want to take the children on vacation during a week not typically hers. Or both parents have conflicting summer plans. I know parents who literally duke it out in court, spending untold money to work it out. When this happens, attorneys must get involved for the sanity (and sometimes safety) of everyone, including the children.

I am excited to offer excellent advice written by family law attorney Missy Boyd of High Swartz LLP ( Enjoy!
As each school year winds down, parents’ schedules grow more hectic.  A parent’s calendar is filled with final parent-teacher conferences and end of the year class events. Meanwhile, determining summer childcare is at the top of their long to-do list.

Whether an attorney is working through an agreement for an open divorce case, or has been called upon to solve a dispute, it is important we craft a solution that is in the best interest of the entire family, and prevents future conflict.

When considering shared responsibility of school activities, parents who kept the divorce amicable may be able to attend events together, or can cooperate by taking turns. For the not so friendly exes, consider what is most important to each spouse, and what their personal schedules allow.

Also, contact the school. Nowadays most schools allow separated parents to meet with teachers individually and post report cards online for shared access.

This issue demonstrates why it is important to share the custody agreement with faculty once complete.  It helps the teachers keep things as convenient as possible for the family, and the child.
Selecting summer childcare is an interesting issue because it can be considered an amenity and not a need.  Also, there is virtually no legal precedent which delineates at what age a child can be left home alone, which can lead to some strong disagreements between parents.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I'm on Huffington Post! The 10 Best Things About Getting A Divorce

It's so excited when my articles get picked up! My latest from Divorced Moms was just picked up by Huffington Post and it's getting some interesting comments, same with on Facebook. Check it out!

The 10 Best Things About Getting Divorced
By Lizzy Smilez for

I don't know a single person who has gone through a divorce and thought it pleasurable. Divorce is tough, ugly, acrimonious and, well, it pretty much sucks. But if you look closely enough, I'll bet you can find many great things that emerged from your divorce. I know I can. And when I think about it and remind myself of the positives, "thriving my divorce" seems a more accurate description of my experience (sort of). Hey, at least I learned to laugh again and have fun!

So I picked my ten favorite things about my divorce. It actually wasn't that hard. Consider making your own list.

1. It ended
Winston Churchill said "If you're going through hell, keep going." This quote ran through my mind countless times during my marriage. In fact, I once posted it on my Facebook page. None of my friends really knew what I meant by it but I did. I knew I needed to keep moving or I would stay right there. It's been a tough battle to finalize the divorce but at least it's over. I no longer need to live in a constant battle zone.

2. The whole bed is MINE
When my husband and I split, I spent several nights sleeping nearly sidewise on the bed. I wanted the whole dang thing to myself and it felt fabulous. No more sharing. It was all mine mine MINE. It was symbolically powerful.

3. Purging the ugly stuff
I got to get rid of all the stuff I hated. Like the ugly framed print that was hanging in the loft. And the tacky Christmas ornaments? They'll never hang on my tree again. No more doing his laundry and putting away his work pants that were always too short and wrinkled because I refused to iron them anymore and he was too lazy to do it. His ugly brown leather couch? Gone. Everything I own now is clean, fresh and pretty. It doesn't look or smell like him. I love it.

4. No more compromising
All of a sudden, instead of fighting over everything from vacation plans to walking the dogs, it was done. Bed times, cleanliness, vacations, food in the fridge, noise levels... My home, my way. What a nice switch.

5. Peace
My marriage was extremely high conflict. I literally never knew from one moment to the next if a huge argument would erupt. When we separated, the realization that I no longer had to walk on eggshells was exhilarating. At times, I was almost giddy. It meant everything.

6. Living in truth
Oftentimes we hide the nature of our marriages from others. At least that was true for me. Most everyone my husband and I knew thought we were a happy couple. I hid our reality in shame and embarrassment. It was exhausting. When we split, it was a relief to live in truth. I no longer had to pretend to be something I wasn't. I decided to open my life and blog. Everything is now out there for anyone to read. This approach isn't for everyone but it works for me.

7. Emotional healing
After my marriage ended, the healing began and it was high time that it did. I'll never be completely healed. But I've survived it and I'm doing really well. Had I stayed married, I'd still be sustaining more wounds. Lots of retail therapy, self-help books, vacations, the love of family and friends and meditation helped. I had really bad days but it got better and better. The important thing was to be nice and forgiving of myself and to give it time. They say that time heals all wounds. It's true.

Keep reading...

This life post cancer isn't so bad. In fact, sometimes it ROCKS

A few weeks ago, William and I were went on a fabulous walk. The kids were in school and the day was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, mid 70's, and sunny. We walked from the house to Thanksgiving Point Gardens during the tulip festival. The waterfalls were raging and it was a flower explosion of spectacular colors. We started talking about fear and our ability to find happiness.

I stopped mid sentence, mid- stride. I had an epiphany.

"I stared my biggest fear in the face. I got a cancer diagnosis, I lost my health, my hair, my husband (that was a great thing!), my career, home, and vacation house. But look where I am now. I am NOT sitting in a windowless office getting ready to head into another mindless meeting to deal with artificial deadlines. I am outside among the tulips! And guess what? This is spectacular!"

I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone. But what if-- just what if -- the worst thing we can imagine happens. Then what? If you had told me a few years ago that I would simply walk away from a high paying job, leave my house and vacation house, and throw it all up in the air, I would have thought you nuts. I would NEVER have even contemplated letting go of all my responsibilities. But life presented me with no choice. And I survived it. I healed. I thrived. It's ok. And honestly, I can't imagine going back to my prior life. It was horrid and awful and... awful. All of it.

I recently read an article about a woman who was working stupid hours in New York City and she simply walked away. She sold everything, moved to St John and started selling ice cream on the beach. She found a better life than the grind she lived before.

What happened when I just walked away from my horrible former life? I found tulips, sunshine, and a purposeful life. Letting go.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cancer Stories: Making up cancer to snag a guy. Accusing someone of making up cancer because you're evil. Oh my!

My latest on Divorced Moms. During my infusion appointment this afternoon, I caught a Dr. Phil episode in which a horrible woman in San Diego faked multiple myeloma, convinced her friends and family she was really sick, and accepted loads of cash in donations, watched her friends shave their head in support, and get tattoos. Seriously, no one deserves cancer, except her. Why can't she have multiple myeloma? I can only say, faking cancer is really bad karma. Which then lead me to write my post today about a woman who faked leukemia. And also my ex husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic) who accused me of faking cancer. Seriously, if you accuse someone who is in the midst of a cancer diagnosis and treatment of faking it, there is a very special place in Hell reserved just for you. And so today's post is seeping with anger and indignation. Because that's how I'm feeling at the moment. Of course, it doesn't help that I'm high on Dexamethasone today (50 mg oh my gosh), I will get no sleep at all tonight, and my heart is pounding. I am picking William up from the airport in a few minutes. I hope to calm enough to feel joy and excitement by then!

Come to I think of it, I'll watch the final Mad Men episode one more time to calm down. It was so beautiful. An amazing, spectacular, end without being sappy. They wrapped it up perfectly. Ok, that's all for now.

Peace and joy, my readers,


When You're Willing To Fake Cancer To Snag A Guy
by Lizzy Smith                     
May 19, 2015
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When I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (a blood cancer) and immediately left my husband, he accused me of faking the whole thing. He also went about telling his family and friends that I was making it all up. Which was quite shocking considering I gave him a copy of my diagnostic report and he saw me with a port stuck in my chest. One evening he sent me a text with wild accusations that included: "You're a thief, a liar and a drama queen. You're making up cancer!" I had heard this stuff before when I was being diagnosed, but this one was really ill-timed: I happened to be on Day 1 of a 4 day hospital stay because I was spiking a really high fever. With no immune system, if we didn't find the infection (if there was one) and treat it immediately, I would quickly die. I immediately texted him a photo of me wearing a pink beanie cap to protect my bald head, and my arm attached to an IV. It didn't matter to Rob the Great (alcoholic). I was still a liar. Clearly, he was raging drunk (again).

When he told his mother that I was lying about cancer, her response was: "I never believed she had cancer anyway. She's just made her pretty little bed and now she needs to lie in it." Rob forwarded the email to me. It was horrifying. Whatever the fuck that meant. My response to that (which I never wrote out or sent) was:

1. I'm not a liar. If you need to find one, though, look to your son who lied to me about his alcoholism and went to great lengths to hide it from me when we were dating. He frauded me into marrying him because had I known about his wild drinking binges, he wouldn't have made it past the first date and look how much better off we'd be. Honesty goes a long way and if you had encouraged your son to lead an honest life, maybe he wouldn't be the disaster he is today. And you knew about his alcoholism and watched silently as I married him. And then proceeded to have conversation after conversation with me about his problem.

2. Maybe, just maybe, if you had taken a bigger interest in your son and conducted an intervention, he would not be going around terrorizing the people around him. Maybe he'd be a better man. Granted, as an adult, he is clearly responsible for his own abusive behavior.

3. How I made my bed by getting cancer and suffering through treatments is nuts. I worked myself to the bone trying to manage a household almost with zero help from your alcoholic son, to my own detriment. I carried his enormous weight around my neck, drowning every single day while he sat his fat ass on the couch watching TV and too-high volumes or going to bed in a drunken stupor at 7PM. All while I tried to avoid his horrific, explosive tempter tantrums.

4. Who the fuck makes up a cancer diagnosis anyway?

Well, to the last point, I have found a few. No one deserves to get cancer. No one. Except maybe someone who makes it up.

Such is the story of "Betty," a single mom to a young son, who met a guy "Ben." She fell crazy in love with Ben. Ben adored the son, Betty not so much. But he continued dating her for several months until he was ready to call the whole thing off. He tried to break it to her gently. A day later, Betty called Ben in hysterics. She had just been to the doctor for a follow-up appointment and she had advanced leukemia. She had maybe ten months to live. Ben felt horrible, what would become of this fatherless boy? Betty had no contact with her son's father. Ben did what he thought was the right thing: He offered to marry Betty, become her son's legal guardian, and raise him after her death. She readily agreed.

Keep reading...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lizzy Smith via The Myeloma Crowd: The case for living LIFE today. Because it can all change in an instant

A wrote about this topic here on my blog several weeks ago. I added details, plus some advice and published this on Myeloma Crowd. This is an important article for anyone because tragedy, illness, and unexpected events happen to everyone, whether it be an accident, cancer, divorce... I could go on and on. That's why I've decided to live BIG and GRAND because life is right now, this very moment. It's about creating memories and relationships. May Zoe's story be one more powerful reminder. Laugh and have joy as much as possible. Because life can be beautiful and amazing.

The Case For Living LIFE Today. Because It Can All Change In An Instant


Who can ever forget their path to cancer diagnosis? No one. It is a life changing event of epic proportions. Some of us had health problems for a long time that were left too long either ignored or undiagnosed. Others, like me, felt just fine until hearing “you have multiple myeloma” unexpectedly. Either way, life changes forever in that one instant.

Such is the case of my friend “Zoe.” Just two months ago, she went to work, came home, fed the kids, cleaned the house a bit, got in an argument with her hubby and went to bed. The next day, her stomach was hurting something awful. She went to the ER and was admitted. She had a huge mass on her ovary, was running a fever, and her blood work came back positive for the gene that expresses with ovarian cancer. She got her official diagnosis that very night. Next up were more tests the next day to find out the type, staging, and best course of treatment.

This was all quite a shock. She really had no symptoms prior. Or did she? Looking back, she had lost quite a bit of weight, but she was trying to eat healthy. She was a little tired, but she worked crazy hours as a nurse in a hospital and had children. Nothing else seemed amiss.

Just the next day, Zoe was transferred to a cancer hospital via ambulance. A biopsy ensued, which came back inconclusive. A reason to celebrate? Not so fast… Chemo was starting up quickly, she needed treatment immediately.

About a week later, I got a text from our mutual friend. Zoe was not doing well and was heading into emergency surgery. The cancer had eaten away a huge part of her bowels and there was an enormous mass. They brought her to full consciousness just long enough to ask her if she was a “Do Not Resuscitate” and, if she was, she needed to sign paper work. She said no. They put her back under for surgery. Her odds of making it through the procedure were about 50-50. How can this be possible? Just days before, she was a normal person with a normal life– cancer and big changes not even on the horizon! But it was true, all to horrible, awfully true.

My friend and I cried. She was at the hospital; I was too far away to be there. At 2:15 AM I got a text. Zoe was still in surgery but the doctor had come out to talk to the family. Zoe was doing really well. They took out a huge part of her bowel and she was getting a full colostomy. They had also removed her cancerous tumor. She would have two bags for the rest of her life due to the colostomy but by the end of surgery, she would be alive. Alive! After recovery, she would need to start chemo for her primary ovarian cancer. Not an easy road but fighting (and winning) was now possible. After reading the text and a quick phone call, I sat up and bed and cried. A mixture of hatred towards cancer, and thanking God for letting her live so she could fight like hell, get well, and get back to the business of life.

Today, Zoe is still not doing well. There are complications, newly discovered masses, breaks in chemo because she’s too sick, and endless hospital visits. I have to believe she will beat this. I’ve met countless people in my work with cancer people who have been on the brink of death, have been told to get their affairs in order, and have turned it around, beaten the cancer and healed. She must be one of them. I asked our mutual friend to give her some advice from another fellow warrior who’s been there. This advice is true for everyone in any situation:
  • Her odds of getting better increase exponentially by taking care of her physical body. To the best of her ability, she must eat power foods and eliminate anything processed. Her body needs help. Load up on organic produce, beans, nuts and seeds.
  • Even ill and in a highly precarious state, get up and move as much as possible. I met a woman going through a transplant who managed to do modified yoga from her hospital room. I met another guy who walked the halls nearly every day throughout his transplant for over a month. By the time he was done, he had walked a marathon. Not everyone can do this, but push it as much as possible.
  • Stay emotionally healthy. Even in a hospital join a support group either in person or online. Read self help books. Meditate. Pray. Laugh with friends even if it’s really hard. Ask for visitors if that’s allowed. Be surrounded by only great people who are there to support you.
  • If possible, get acupuncture, massage and try hypnotism.
  • Take daily showers and feel clean. If possible, get dressed so when you look in the mirror, you can feel strong and resilient even if you’re not feeling it (yet, anyway).
  • Watch fun movies and read uplifting books. This is a time for comedies.
  • Continue reading those magazine and books that show life can be normal. It can be inspiring to an extent.
And the overall theme of this experience (and article)? Life is normal. Until it’s not. And when that moment comes is anyone’s guess. The banality of bad news. Life changing events rarely come with warnings. We are doing life’s ordinary stuff when everything changes in one instant. You know, we’re walking the dog, putting dishes away, going through emails at work, sleeping… And life as we know it ends. Just like that. No fanfare. And how do we cope? Who knows.

And that’s why I’ve learned to live. Live BIG and GRAND as often as I can. As often as my health and treatments allow, and responsibilities to children, self, family and loved ones. I travel like crazy and have discovered locales that bring me great joy. I go hang gliding. I ski. I do things that are outside of my comfort zone. When I feel angry, sad and depressed, I hit up the salon, go for a walk, or play with my friend Katherine’s dog. Anything to get out of that zone and into a different one. I plan to go skydiving soon. Wear your favorite shoes, use your pricey perfume and favorite dishes daily, and break out the handbag you paid way too much for and have been hesitant to use in case you ruin it. Who cares? It’s doing no good in the closet. Go hang out with your friends and laugh. Pity parties are allowed, but letting them go for too long does accomplishes absolutely nothing and can be extremely dangerous to our fight to get well, recover, and our emotional, spiritual and physical health.

I pray and hope for Zoe. One more warrior to cheer on. Please, God, let her be ok.

Divorced Moms column: Marriage Hell - I Wish You Had A Bigger Heart

One of my more brutally honest blog posts, edited, scrubbed up and published on Divorced Moms. Life with an alcoholic is universally a sad, volatile experience. Enjoy!

Marriage Hell: I Wish You Had A Bigger Heart
by Lizzy Smith                    
May 14, 2015
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Back when Bob the Great (Alcoholic) and I were married, we went on a cruise with his whole family. His parents paid for everyone to go, which was incredibly generous, thoughtful and kind. One day on the ship, there was a newlywed game. Bob and I were going to enter the contest since we had been married for just over a year at the time but we didn't. I didn't even go to the game but Bob did. He gave me the summary when we met back up. One question that they asked was "I wish my wife had a bigger ....." Bob said that if we were playing the game, he would've answered "I wish my wife had a bigger heart."

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"You can be cold," he answered. "I wish you looked at me more lovingly."

Nice, I thought. And I wish you had a bigger commitment to not drinking. I wish you wouldn't scream. I wish you could handle stress. I wish you would finally start paying the bills. I wish you would help around the house. I wish you would stop getting in my face. I wish you wouldn't make promises and break them all. I wish you would stop acting as if you're the most important person in the whole utility company where you work and blame your job for why you have to hit the bars every night before you come home. I wish I wish I wish I wish. Well, maybe if you were a better man, I wouldn't be so cold. I wish I loved you. I wish I liked you. I wish I respected you. I wish you weren't an alcoholic. I wish you'd stop blaming me for why you drink. I wish you'd start taking responsibility. I wish you'd stop sitting your fat ass on the couch and watching TV while you watch me work like a dog. I wish you'd stop going to bed at eight o'clock at night. I wish you weren't so lazy. I wish you were better in bed. I wish you had morals.

When we got off the ship, Bob made a commitment not to drink anymore. "Please go with me to AA," he said. Absolutely! We went to two meetings together. Apparently, Rob kept going for a few more weeks until his daughter called me one day to say her dad wasn't at AA, he was at his favorite bar. I drove there looking for him. No car in the front. I was in the parking lot when his friend, Kevin, came out. "Is Bob in there?" I asked. He nodded. I drove around the back of the bar and there was Bob's car- hidden from view just in case I drove past.

I walked into the bar. "Hi!" I said in an overly cheerful voice.

"This is non alcoholic beer," he said. Sure it was (wink-wink)!

A few days later, I gave Bob a big huge pass. His dad went into the hospital and it was awful. He wasn't doing well. One day, we were at his bedside and he had a moment of clarity. "Don't forget to let me tell you what happened," he said. He had just come out of a few days of near unconsciousness. I kept reminding Bob to ask his dad what he meant. He probably had seen angels or family or whoever. I wanted to know. He never got the chance to ask him because he passed away shortly thereafter. It was on a Sunday.

 Bob's dad was a great man. Kind and generous. I never heard that man speak ill of anyone. He was wonderful with the children. They would sit on his lap and he would talk to them endlessly. I never saw him light up more than when the kids were around. Siena still talks about him often.
Bob, no surprise, started drinking again with a vengeance after his dad passed away but before the funeral. And boy oh boy did I get an earful about how he felt about his dad. Much of it positive, a whole lot that wasn't. I was writing and delivering the eulogy and I wanted to smack him. Get off the fucking booze, sober up, and shut the fuck up, I wanted to scream. I loved his dad. I was working hard to help out his mother by doing the eulogy, planning the logistics of food and beverage for the wake, writing the obit, and working with my meeting planner to organize the funeral luncheon. Bob was at the bars. Still, I said nothing. He was in mourning and grief and I tried to give him as many hugs and as much comfort as I could. It was a tough one-- feeling empathy and utter disgust at the same time.

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MCRI Radio Show - The next in our series. Let's find that cure for myeloma!

This past week, I met a woman on Twitter who lives in Salt Lake City and is heading into her first stem cell transplant. Another myeloma warrior in my neighborhood. I'm going to visit her on Sunday. I also found another woman on Facebook who is in Salt Lake City living with multiple myeloma. I just picked up Tom Brokaw's book where he talks about his multiple myeloma diagnosis and fight to get well. Is it me or does it seem like way too many people (growing numbers) are affected by multiple myeloma? So my response? Let's find that cure-- especially for high risk disease. And regardless of how aggressive myeloma starts out as, as time progresses, it will eventually become high risk if it isn't already. Because those pesky myeloma cells are wily and smart. But we can be smarter and stomp it out.

Here's the latest upcoming radio show in which my fellow myeloma warrior, Jenny Ahlstrom, is interviewing doctors who are on a quest to either cure myeloma or take one huge step forward in making it a permanently manageable disease. Join me in tuning in. And learn more by visiting or

Myeloma Crowd's MCRI Radio Show - Which multiple myeloma cells are evading treatment? Learn more from Dr. Gareth Morgan, Dr. Niels Weinhold and Dr. Christoph Heuck from UAMS this Monday @ 11 am CST

Monday, May 18,  9 am PST, 10 am MST, 11 am CST, Noon EST
Call In by Phone to Listen Live: (347) 637-2631 or Listen Live Via Computer

Which myeloma cells are the most aggressive and resistant to treatment? Drs. Morgan, Weinhold and Heuck seek to understand where the most aggressive clones are coming from. Is it from clones that adapt the best to the bone marrow environment? Research is showing that patients with several different types of myeloma cells at diagnosis seem to have early relapse and shorter survival while patients with one dominant type of myeloma cell tend to do better.  Learn what the team is doing to find out which clones are the most aggressive and which therapies could actually induce stress and increase the mutation rate, leading to a more resistant myeloma clone.

Gareth Morgan, M.D. FRCP, FRCPath, Ph.D, Professor of Medicine, is the Director of the Myeloma Institute at UAMS.  He is also the deputy director of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS.  Dr. Morgan came to UAMS from The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research in London where he was a Professor of Haematology and Director of the Centre for Myeloma Research.

Dr. Morgan is an internationally recognized clinician scientist who works in the field of molecular genetics of blood cell cancers, in particular, multiple myeloma.  He is specifically interested in how this knowledge can improve the treatment of cancer.

Before coming to the Myeloma Institute, Dr. Morgan served as a professor of Hematology and director of the Centre for Myeloma Research at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research in London, Europe’s largest comprehensive cancer institute. He is also a founding director of the European Myeloma Network and has authored more than 450 peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Niels Weinhold, PhD is Research Assistant Professor at UAMS. His field of study includes the genetics of multiple myeloma, minimal residual disease, and diagnostics in multiple myeloma. Prior to his coming to UAMS he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Heidelberg, in Germany.

Dr. Christoph Heuck, MD, is Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Myeloma Institute for Research & Therapy.  He completed a hematology/oncology fellowship at Montefiore Medical Center and an Internal Medicine residency at Jacobi Medical Center, both in New York. Dr. Heuck is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He received his medical degree in 2003 from Humboldt University in Berlin, graduating magna cum laude.

Dr. Heuck has conducted research related to molecular genetics of multiple myeloma and other cancers.  He is board certified in Internal Medicine and board eligible in Hematology and Oncology.  Dr. Heuck is a member of the American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, American Society of Clinical Oncologists and American Society of Hematology.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The defensiveness of Mormons

I was born and raised Mormon, but I am not your typical Mormon. About a decade ago, I started re-thinking all the platitudes, stories, and assumptions I'd heard my entire life. Call it Lizzy's Critical Thinking Stage. And much of the time, I'd hear things that I thought were nuts. I've stopped being silent-- if I think something sounds crazy, I say something. If I have questions, regardless of how atypical it is in Mormonville, I speak up.

One of the Facebook groups I joined is called Mormon Friendships. One woman mentioned that she was feeling really annoyed because her bishop was asking intrusive questions. What should she do, she asked? I answered that she's an adult and if she didn't want to answer something, or attend a one-on one meeting with her bishop, don't. Duh. Then I got all the typical responses from more traditional Mormons. Bishops are there to help you. Thanks to a bishop, you can be forgiven for big sins, like sex outside of marriage, speaking out against the church (apostasy), and murder. The Lord speaks directly to the bishop and stake presidents (stake presidents are a step above a bishop and oversee several different congregations). And if you must go through a church court (where a panel of men vote to ex communicate members), it's because it's a path for forgiveness and all meant in love.

I wanted to scratch my eyeballs out.

I asked one very specific question about five times. It went something like this (I can't copy and paste my original comment because after this fiasco, I exited the group): Is there any scripture from The Gospels where Jesus said that he was dying on the cross for our sins but the only people who really got to participate in the atonement were those that went before a panel of men and asked first?

Oh the answers I got! Actually, there were no answers. Instead I got personal attacks:

-Are you Mormon?
-You are a troll!
-Are you a FEMINIST?
-Are you part of the Ordained Women movement?
-I feel like I'm back in the mission field and have encountered a hostile investigator
-You must not like men very much. Are you divorced? Probably has to do with that
-Did you see what she's wearing

Geez, that's the best answer you've got? Call me names and make wild accusations that have nothing to do with the question?

(Back to my original question: I'm not a fan of ex communication from a faith pretty much EVER. I think it's super un-Christlike. After all, we are all Big Time Sinners and the whole purpose of Jesus and the cross is to forgive us of our sins so we can live in God's presence on the other side. If church isn't a comfy place for sinners, well, it SHOULD BE! I do believe that having a spiritual advisor can be tremendously helpful. But when the whole purpose is potentially punitive if you've sinned too big, how open and honest can that relationship with a Bishop be? Not so much.)

And this is my total disgust today of the faith of my ancestors. Fear. If you're going to say a single thing against The Faith, you are to be ignored, ridiculed, dismissed. I sort of get it, I suppose. If someone started verbally questioning the character of, say, my child, true or not, I'll probably want to rip your throat out. But if we can't have deep, open and honest discussions about the church, then that is really sad.

So I left that private group. It was just one more reminder that I don't like a lot of Mormons. I mean, there are a gajillion amazing people in Mormonism that are so amazing, kind, honest, hard working, and Christlike. But there are those that are mean, judgmental, pious and awful. Who will defend the faith above ALL ELSE. It is a "if you're not totally with us, you are Satan incarnate." I do not share that opinion. And I'm done being silent with how I process things. If that makes people around me uncomfortable, too bad.

Monday, May 11, 2015

MCRI's next show: Weds, May 13, 1PM EST. Let's find a cure for myeloma!

I'm on the board of the Myeloma Research Initiative (MCRI), one of the coolest projects ever and one in which we may find (relatively soon) a REAL cure for myeloma, high risk myeloma. Who wants to donate money to cancer research where you don't know where it's going, what it's done, or the timeline? What I as a donor want is real, tangible progress, results, and something reportable and transparent. That's what MCRI is doing. We are on a quest to pick a project or two that show the greatest potential for a cure-- like a cure in the near future, not a jillion years away. And the really great news is that I'm not picking the project-- myeloma doctors and specialists are. I'm helping with communicating this amazing, important, groundbreaking, potentially game-changing initiative. Anyway, here is one potential study that may receive MCRI support. So read up and listen in if you can. Catch you on Wednesday's show!


Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative (MCRI) Next Show: A potential cure for 14;16 multiple myeloma using a PIM2 Kinase Inhibitor with Dr. Carmen Baldino, PhD and Dr. Kelvin Lee, MD, Wednesday, May 13 @ 1 pm EST

Wednesday, May 13,  10 am PST, 11 am MST, Noon CST, 1 pm EST
Call In by Phone to Listen Live: (347) 637-2631 or Listen Live Via Computer

The 14;16 translocation is a high-risk feature in multiple myeloma patients. Through the work of Dr. Carmen Baldino, PhD, scientific founder of Jasco Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Kelvin Lee, MD of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, a new drug has been developed that may be potentially curative for these patients. In this 7th show for the Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative, we interview Drs. Baldino and Lee to learn more about this important drug now in development.

Dr. Baldino is a scientific co-founder of Jasco Pharmaceuticals, LLC and the company’s President. Prior to joining Jasco, Dr. Baldino was one of the scientific founders of China based BioDuro, LLC, an integrated R&D services company, and served as its Vice President of Research and Business Development. Dr. Baldino also spent ten years at ArQule, Inc., most recently as Vice President of Chemistry, managing a group of scientists responsible for early discovery technologies, medicinal chemistry, and analytical chemistry. Dr. Baldino obtained his B.S. in Chemistry from Southern Connecticut State University (1987), Ph.D. from Purdue University & the Scripps Research Institute (1993) with Professor Dale L. Boger, and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Yale University with Professor Harry H. Wasserman. Dr. Baldino’s academic research focused on the total synthesis of natural products and bioorganic chemistry.

Dr. Kelvin Lee is Professor of Medicine at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute as well as Vice Chair of Medicine and Chair of Immunology. His laboratory has a long-standing interest and publication record in multiple myeloma, being the first to characterize CD28’s pro-survival function in myeloma. In his lab he also studies the bone marrow microenvironment and other survival proteins.

To learn more, visit

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My (very) happy Mother's Day. This Myeloma warrior takes nothing for granted

Today we celebrated Mother's Day and I am so blessed to be here, feeling good, hanging with my family, my children, my inspiring mother, and my fiancé. Despite living with and surviving myeloma, I am blessed, feeling terrific, and embracing every holiday and special day.

Honestly Mother's Day is a contrived day and I'm oftentimes uncomfortable with the whole Happy Mother's day thing, all you mother's are fabulous, and on and on. Not every mom is great, not everyone has a mom alive, and not everyone is a mother. This day brings great pain to many out there. Acknowledged. I get it. But everyone has had a mother and having a terrible mother is certainly one reason for many of society's ills. Not all, but many.

Liz Lizette Smith Nielsen's photo.
But let's stay positive. I feel so blessed to be a mom. It wasn't an easy journey. It started off with fertility drugs, a failed IVF, and eventually five trips to Russia to have my two girls. I love them so much that it aches. Today my nine-year old daughter wrote out a card. She said I'm as sweet as candy and smell as great as a rose. My heart melts. My 15-year old has given me a million hugs today. The best thing about being a mom? Feeling unconditional love. It is so pure, perfect and good.

I have a fabulous mom who leads by example. She is nurturing, gives of herself completely, and is honest, affectionate and loving. She is smart, speaks five languages, and is fascinating, cultured, well traveled and beautiful. She was there with me for my cancer diagnosis, helped me leave an alcoholic and abusive husband, allowed me to move into her home, held my hand throughout my entire illness, and helped raise my wounded, confused, and shell-shocked children through it all.

My fiancé gave me the best gift I could hope for. He shopped, prepped and cooked dinner. He entertained my family, cleaned up, and was an impeccable host.

And, lastly, I watched the season finale of House of Cards. Oh my, I'm buzzing at following perhaps the best show ever produced with some of the finest acting. So this isn't that important in the scheme of things but I can't stop thinking about it. If you aren't watching this superb show, you must. Oh.My.Gosh. I am totally obsessed.

I take nothing for granted, including being alive to enjoy another day surrounded by the people I love most.

Be happy, healthy and strong,


Thursday, May 7, 2015

10 traits of a great mom

My latest via Divorced Moms. I have a long ways to go if I'm going to master these traits but that doesn't mean I'm not working on it.

Happy Mother's day,


10 Traits Of Great Moms
by Lizzy Smith                    
May 07, 2015
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liz&mom.jpgMother's Day is on my mind. My fiancé is hosting dinner at his house and we're chatting up menu and dessert. And I've been browsing shops for the perfect gift for my own amazing mother.

Not everyone is blessed with a great mom. And many don't have their moms with them. I know how lucky and blessed I am. My mother truly has given me a great example of what selflessness and unconditional love looks like. (It doesn't mean that it's rubbed off entirely on me. I am far less selfless than she is. I definitely have boundaries with my children that my mom never established with me.) My mom has placed her children's needs as her absolute number one priority. There has never been a day that I haven't been able to count on my mom, or to talk to her about any topic at any time of day or night. And when I was diagnosed with cancer in January 2012 and moved in with her and my dad, along with two children and a cat, she has been my angel. She and my dad were my caregivers through massive amounts of chemo and two stem cell transplants. They've helped raise my daughters. My mom was my number one supporter through my horrific divorce. And she is my best friend. There are no words for how much I love, respect and admire my mom.
liz Morgan Siena.jpg
When I graduated from college and started a career, motherhood wasn't even on my radar. I wasn't sure I liked babies all that much and, really, I was more focused on climbing the corporate ladder and traveling in my spare time. When I turned 31, I realized that I did want a child. My husband I and tried IVF and it didn't work.

Long story short, over the next several years, I ended up becoming a mom through the beautiful (yet difficult and expensive) process of adoption. I traveled to Russia four times to get my two daughters. The first was almost two years old when I became her mom. She was afraid of everything, timid and inquisitive. I would look at her when she slept and cry because she was so perfect. My second daughter was nearly three years old. She came into my life ready to take on the world-- fearless. They are my number one priority, the joys of my life. When I first heard the dreaded "you have cancer" words, my first reaction was "I have to beat this. I will not leave my daughters." They gave my fighting strength.

And now that I struggle every day with being a good mom, I wonder what I can do to be better. Since I'm certainly no expert, I asked them. And then I thought about the example of my own mom. And then I asked friends. What traits make up a fabulous mom? Here are the top 10 answers.

1. Trustworthy
My 14-year old daughter confides in me all the time. She needs to know that I'm not going to tell anyone else. I learned this the hard way. I used to share her stories with my husband and my parents. I don't do that anymore. When a child confides in you, it should be no different than if a friend does the same. Your child, regardless of age, needs to trust you. Earn it, keep it.

2. Gives great compliments
Build up your child. Who wants to constantly hear negative messages, like "you're not good at that" or "you look terrible today" or "why can't you do anything right." This is where I struggle. I am always nagging my children about their wardrobe choices and I really need to stop. In fact, I asked my teen what the most annoying thing I do as a mom. "Telling me how to dress," she said without hesitation. Ugh. It's ok to have minimal standards, like showering every day and not dressing like a hooker, but beyond that, this is probably not a hill we should die on. Children, just like dogs, thrive on positive attention, not punishment. The more you compliment and build up, the more they thrive. A good friend of mine who is also a doctor of psychology gave me great advice when I was a new mom. I was telling my little daughter not to pull the dog's hair. She suggested that instead, I rephrase that to "pet the dog gently, like this" and then demonstrate better behavior. (And a side note: Never put your children down to other people. And if you need to vent about your children, for goodness sakes, do it out of their earshot!!

3. Leads by example
Kids smell hypocrisy a mile away. Hypocrites generally have no credibility or respect from anyone, including children. If you want to raise honest children, be honest with them. Let them see you living an honest life. I you want to raise kind children, be kind to them and others around you. If you want smart children, read to them. Do your best to be a smart mom. You get the picture. I try to speak to my children the way I expect them to speak to me. If I'm yelling at them and calling them names, why would I expect they not reciprocate?

4. Is generous with hugs and kisses
Hugs and kisses go along way. My nine year old is always giving me hugs and telling me how much she loves me. She finally embarrassed me (she doesn't know this!) because I realized that she almost always beats me to the punch and that is just not ok. I vowed that I'll hug her every morning before she has the chance to make the gesture first. I also promised myself to tell her many times a day how much I love her. For my teen, this is even more important. The teen years are tough. Letting my daughter know how much I love her is critical. She needs to know I'm here for her always, no matter what.

5. Sets clearly defined expectations and consequences
Children must know what your expectations and rules are. Lay them out clearly. Write them down. Better yet, discuss rules and expectations with them and set those boundaries together. Hold them accountable when they fail, as they will. Have appropriate consequences for the crime. In fact, I sometimes ask my children how they should be held accountable. Not long ago, I shut off the data plan on my teen's phone for a week. It was an appropriate consequence. For my nine year old, I generally withhold allowance.

6. Listens, then listens some more
I read an article recently where the writer said that by the teen years, our children know our opinions on just about everything. By the time they're that age, stop telling them how you feel and instead, listen to them. Ask them open ended question and give them time to talk openly and honestly. Don't be critical and don't shut them down. Be respectful, ask why and how they feel a certain way, and acknowledge their opinions. The more we listen and establish a good relationship with them, the better off we'll all be. Conflict and strife in your household will be far better, I assure you.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Here's what Tom Brokaw and I have learned about surviving cancer. Tips for thriving in this crazy cancer world

My latest on Myeloma Crowd.

Here’s What Tom Brokaw and I Have Learned About Surviving Cancer       

tom brokaw


Today I read an article in Parade magazine featuring fellow myeloma warrior Tom Brokaw, journalist, author, news anchor. He has a book coming out on May 12, A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope in which he chronicles his journey of myeloma diagnosis and treatment. There’s no doubt that a cancer diagnosis of any type radically changes your life, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And it changes the lives of everyone around you. Since it’s been over three years since I began my battle, I’ve learned a lot about me, my loved ones, priorities, my body, and, well, life. Anyhow, in Parade, Tom shares his tips for surviving cancer (or anything similarly traumatic). I second Tom’s tips, but have quite a few more of my own to add.

Tom’s Tips

It’s going to be harder than you think it is
Clinicians, oncologists especially, are so concentrated on curing and treating the disease they don’t give patients enough of the personal piece of it—this is going to be tough. I had fractures in my spine that had to be repaired that came as a big surprise; nobody warned me that I might get some really severe, threatening fractures. It was painful, and I lost two inches of height, bang!

Accept that your life is going to changeThe kyphoplasty [a procedure to shore up spinal fractures]was a life-changer. The doctor didn’t want me to play golf any more and was worried about me fly-fishing. Golf is something I enjoy, but fly-fishing is a different thing: That’s religion. Hunting is religion for me. I didn’t want to give those up. I did go hunting last fall, and I got really tired. Hunting is a rhythmic sport—you have to turn back and forth, and I had no rhythm whatsoever in my hunting. I couldn’t get my body to respond the way I wanted it to.

Break down the mystique of medicineWhen you walk into a doctor’s office you’ve got to have the same attitude you would about anything else. You’ve got to ask tough questions and you’ve got to not be afraid to challenge their credentials. There’s a lot of arrogance in the medical community. There are good, reliable websites you can go to for information— the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins. In my case I thought, ‘I’m on the Board of the Mayo Clinic, they did the diagnosis and they’re going to send me to Sloan-Kettering, which has a big reputation.’ Yet some things went wrong, frankly. But I had enough confidence to say, ‘Hey wait a minute. This is not working. I’m not happy about this.’

Make an effort when you canLast weekend I was invited to attend the Final Four in Indianapolis. I didn’t feel great; I had a sinus condition because my resistance goes down, but I kind of pulled myself together and I did it and I was glad I did. I had a great time. I’m a big event guy and I love those things.

Lizzy’s Tips

Know not everyone is your supporter. Cut them out of your life NOW
Honestly, before getting cancer I had the misconception that anyone who was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or injury was automatically granted kindness and forgiveness from everyone around them. I was wrong. My then-husband called me a thief, drama queen, liar, and lazy, and spit in my face. I immediately left him and filed for divorce. Since then, I’ve heard from other cancer survivors who had people in their lives do horrific things to them. We survivors must cut people out who aren’t positive influences. Immediately. Our very survival (and sanity) may depend on it. Feel no guilt and never look back.

Side-effects, treatment schedules, and doctor appointments will dictate most everything in your life. Get used to itGet a good trusty calendar to help you keep track of it all your appointments, medications and tests. Refer back to it many times a day. That said, it is possible to work around your schedule and build a powerful and amazing life that matters. It will take trial and error to figure out how to work around it all but never give up trying. Depending on where you are in treatment, you’ll have times where managing it all is far easier than others. Expect the ups and downs.

It takes time to get used to managing your side effects. Never give up trying until you find ways that work for youI am taking Carfilzomib and on the days of treatment, I can experience intense muscle cramps. One night, I woke up in the fetal position whimpering before I was conscious enough to realize what was going on. I remembered what worked for me before: I jumped out of bed, rubbed peppermint oil into my calves, massaged vigorously, stretched, then piled up pillows under my knees to protect the positioning of my legs and feet, and went back to sleep. It was the last of my cramps. Initially at diagnosis, I had a really hard time with mornings to the point where I would often almost faint when getting up. I finally found a work-around that works for me– I spend 20 minutes with the TV on watching the news and slowly waking up. I then take a shower and go back to bed for a few minutes, then climb one flight of stairs, spend a few minutes resting on the couch, and then getting my kids up and starting breakfast. It works, but I tried many options before I discovered this. Bottom line: Never give up trying combinations until you find one that works for you.

Feel free to say no often
Know your limitations and say no when you can’t realistically do something. It’s ok, you must take care of yourself first.

Be nice to your caregivers, family and friends
Some of your medications (like Dex) will make you feel like a monster. You will need to remind yourself to be nice, say thank you often, and do nice things for your supporters when you’re feeling up to it. We cannot do this journey on our own and it’s not easy sitting on the other side of the cancer table.

Take care of your body
It’s easy to take lots of medications and sit back and be a sick patient. This is not to your benefit, though. Now more than ever it’s time to give your body all the help you can so it can fight better and stronger, and heal. Eat lots of fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, and fish. Limit or eliminate processed foods and sugar. Exercise. Get sleep. And have FUN. Yes, it makes a huge difference.

Live life like you never have before
Life is precious. Make your Bucket List and start living. When you’re feeling down and depressed, get out and do something fun. Go on a trip, go skydiving, make friends, take afternoon naps, take up a new hobby. Life is today. Grab it and find joy. Even with cancer, this is possible.

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