Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Road trips (like this one) rock!

I haven't written in almost a week because we are on a road trip, it is fabulous, and I've had no time. Road trips are not something I do often, as I'm not a huge fan of driving. But there are times when nothing is better. If you have time, don't feel rushed, and the whole point of driving is to stop along the way, then this is a Big Huge MUST. The last time I did a road trip was two years ago when I took the girls and we drove to Denver. We stopped in Moab and it was spectacular and unexpected and if we had simply hopped on a plane, we would have missed it.

So flash forward to planning out this summer. William and I decided to take two trips, one via plane and another in a car. Since I planned out the whole South America trip, plus last summer's trip to Italy, it was his turn. This is what we've done so far...

Day 1 - Pendleton, Oregon

We left Salt Lake City and made it to Pendleton where we stayed the night. We walked the small, picturesque, cute town. We also saw some pretty cool wildlife off the side of the road.

Day 2 - Snoqualmie Falls, Washington and Seattle

We drove through Richland, Washington, home of my dad! I have visited Richland more times than I can count but the last time I was there was in high school. Oh the memories! But we didn't even stop. We got to Snoqualmie Falls, Washington and hiked down to the falls. It was very hot but breathtakingly beautiful. We stopped at a raspberry farm and picked our own. I ate more raspberries straight off the bushes than made it into our basket. We also stopped at a farmer's market and purchased Rainier cherries and all the spices and sauces that I could fit in my basket. We survived crazy traffic into Seattle and drove by William's former homes, then met up with his daughter and son-in-law at Benihana's for dinner. Believe it or not, I've never eaten at the chain. I collapsed in bed that evening. I was so tired!

Day 3 & 4 - Victoria, Canada

We took the ferry to Victoria and checked into our hotel. We didn't realize what a spectacular location we chose-- literally a stone's throw from the famous Empress hotel. I was here, too, but the last time was in 1986. I hardly remember this phenomenally adorable city. We visited Butchart Gardens, walked the town, took a nap and went swimming, and spent two nights sitting on the waterfront watching street acts, sipping fresh lemonade, and eating grilled corn on the cob. (By the second night in Victoria, I was thinking that I could really get into this whole Canadian thing.)

Day 5 - Vancouver, Canada

We went to Granville Island public market, got lunch, ate more fresh fruit, and purchased cheese and chocolates. We checked into our amazing hotel downtown and paid $40 for parking. That's Chicago prices! After soaking in the pool, sauna and hot tubs, Morgan watched Siena while William and I had a date. We walked up and down festive main streets, and got sashimi and sushi. Yum! Fantastic restaurants, fresh produce, and organic everything. Right up my alley.

Day 6 - Harrison Hot Springs, Canada

We drove to home of the Sasquatch! We stayed at the historic Harrison Hot Springs hotel, spent hours soaking in the hot springs, checked in the girls for a two hour romp on outdoor slides in the lake, then had another Liz-William date. I picked up a pizza and salad for the girls. They were exhausted and more than happy to watch TV and relax. We went to dinner in the main restaurant. So fun-- very vintage vibe, 1950's style. We ate fillet while watching the older people dance the fox trot to the live band.

Day 7 - LaConner & Seattle

We stopped in the beautiful town of LaConner for lunch and then I hit up a lavender shop where I went a little crazy buying soaps, lavender dark chocolate, lavender lemonade, and lotions. And here we are back in Seattle, tired, with a Big Fat Headache and, oh, so very happy.

So far, this has been a perfect trip and I wouldn't change a thing. We have five more days before we head back and we'll explore Seattle the rest of the time-- Pike's Place, the underground original city, the big huge Ferris Wheel and who knows what else?

I love exploring everywhere. It expands my horizons and my perspective. And, for my daughters, it helps them realize that the world is one big, amazing place.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Keeping kids entertained this summer? Here are tips!

My latest on Divorced Moms. And now we are heading to Seattle in just a few hours. Yay!

43 Fun Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer (Fits Any Budget)
by Lizzy Smith                    
June 24, 2015
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1. Vacation
Whatever fits your budget, go away for several days or longer. Whether it's a cruise, a trip to abroad, or a drive to visit the grandparents a few hours away, go! Instead of buying a lot of "stuff," take loads of photos and make them a photo book as a keepsake. When we go on vacations, I buy my daughters a magnet for their magnet board. They are inexpensive (usually between $4-$8) and it's a fun, simple way to track all the places they have been.

2. Water park
Don't forget an umbrella and loads of sunscreen. I actually find waterparks relaxing. While the girls are playing, I'm catching up on my reading. If you can, put your phone away and take the time to yourself with few distractions.

3. Town festival
Many towns host a summer festival. Oftentimes, many of the activities are free or reasonably priced and can include concerts, carnivals, games, and many local food options.

4. Local rodeo
I've never actually been to a rodeo, though I grew up in a town that had many. My daughters are begging to go to one. This summer, I'm really going to try to get them there. Why not?

5. Horseback riding
A huge bonus? You'll probably discover a trail that you never knew existed. Schedule your rides in the early morning or late evening if it's hot where you are at.

6. Free splash pads (generally found at malls and parks)
What child doesn't love to run in water when it is super hot outside and there are loads of kids around? Splash pads are a great way to entertain the little ones, spend no money, and keep them happy (and get them tired!).

7. Fair or carnival
I love the displays and shopping at the larger county fairs, the kids love to hit up the rides and games. Plus, there is usually interesting food to try (even if some are heart attack inducing). Fairs are perfect for the whole family, regardless of age, though they can be extremely pricey, so be prepared to spend.

8. Amusement park
Lagoon is our big amusement park and my daughters look forward to going every summer. We also have an annual pass to Knott's Berry Farm in Southern California because we visit there so often.

9. 5k walk
Stay in shape and support a good cause. Organized races are really fun. If you have really small children, put them in a stroller. Typically, most walks or runs also have an organized 1k run for the little ones.

10. University campus
Why not explore a local university or college campus and get some lunch in the cafeteria? Your children will start getting a "feel" for what a college campus feels like when it's not as crowded and finding parking is easier.

11. Learn a little about a new culture then go out to eat somewhere new from that culture
One of my favorite restaurants in Salt Lake City is Mazza, a Middle Eastern restaurant. I think we'll start with that one. You need not spend too much time on learning about the culture. Maybe even discuss facts while in the car on your way out to eat. It's a great way to learn something new.

12. Hot springs or other outdoor "find"
Go online and discover a new outdoor area you've never been to. A friend and her boyfriend just went to an outdoor hot springs. It included a 30-minute walk down a dirt trail and ended with soaking in outdoor hot springs. She said it was simply awesome. They went in the evening when it wasn't so hot. Likely there are interesting and unique places around you, too. Go on-line or ask friends for suggestions.

13. Hike
Discover a new trail. Consider going early in the morning or late in the evening. Wear good shoes, sunscreen, bug spray and watch for snakes! Next on tap for us is Timpanogos Caves. I've hiked this several times but my daughter's haven't. It includes a rigorous steep hike and ends at phenomenal caves. It's truly spectacular and the hike is a great work-out. I'll probably treat them to lunch afterwards at Sundance Ski resort. I love hiking. I think it's great to expose children to the outdoors, discover new and beautiful places, and get them away from TVs and cell phones.

14. Day camping
Do everything you would normally do if you were camping but you get to go home at night to sleep. It requires a whole lot less prep and planning, too! Of course if it's your "thing" and you have the equipment, stay the night at the campground.

15. Swim in a local lake
Take blow-up rafts and lunch to add to your fun.

16. Visit the mountains or beach
Take food and barbeque.

17. Visit a local museum
I'll bet there is a museum you haven't been to right in your own town. Stop and visit one. You'll learn something new and so will our kids.

18. Matinee binge
Sometimes when it's hot outside, nothing sounds better than sitting in a cool dark theatre and taking in several movies while eating popcorn. No guilt.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Myeloma Crowd: What is a bone marrow biopsy and does it hurt?

I am a little sore from my bone marrow biopsy but it's not stopping me from doing anything. So what is this dreaded procedure? It's an essential way of diagnosing multiple myeloma, monitoring disease, and learning more about your particular type of myeloma. It is also used to assess if one is in remission or there is relapse. I wrote about it fro www.myelomacrowd.org. Here it is, enjoy (if "enjoy" is a proper word to use when talking myeloma and biopsies)!

Diagnosing Multiple Myeloma: What Is a Bone Marrow Biopsy and Does It Hurt? 


What is a bone marrow biopsy and does it hurt? I am not going to sugarcoat… A bone marrow biopsy is not like a day at the spa. That said, it isn’t the most painful thing I’ve ever endured either. I think I can speak with authority since just this morning, I had my seventh biopsy since diagnosis in January 2012, and I haven’t yet had anything more powerful than topical lidocaine.

What is a bone marrow biopsy?
From the Mayo Clinic:
Bone marrow biopsy and bone marrow aspiration are procedures to collect and examine bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside some of your larger bones. 
Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration can show whether your bone marrow is healthy and making normal amounts of blood cells. Doctors use these procedures to diagnose and monitor blood and marrow diseases, including some cancers, as well as fevers of unknown origin. 
Bone marrow has a fluid portion and a more solid portion. In bone marrow biopsy, your doctor uses a needle to withdraw a sample of the solid portion. In bone marrow aspiration, a needle is used to withdraw a sample of the fluid portion. 
Bone marrow biopsy and bone marrow aspiration are often done at the same time. Together, these procedures may be called a bone marrow exam.
Bone marrow biopsies are typically done in your oncologist’s office or even in a hospital setting. The procedure goes like this:

1. You show up at your appointment time. If you request a local anesthetic or conscious sedation, discuss this with your doctor prior so if there are food and water restrictions prior to the procedure, you know beforehand. You may also ask for anti-anxiety medication or something else to relax you. Personally, I prefer to go cold-turkey because I want the rest of the day to myself– I don’t want to feel tired and groggy. But the choice is yours.

2. You lie down on the bed face down, sort of like getting massage, except not really. I don’t change clothes or even take off my shoes, the Physician’s Assistant who does the procedure simply lifts up my top and tugs down my pants enough to have full access to my back pelvic area. I usually ask for warm blankets because that relaxes me more.

3. My PA cleans off my skin and injects lidocaine (a topical numbing medication) into the area and the surface of my bone. A special needle is inserted into the bone. The needle has a tube attached to it, which creates suction. A small sample of bone marrow fluid flows into the tube. This is the part that hurts (if you’re awake, like me). It feels like a reverberating electrical shock in your entire back and pelvic area. But… it lasts just a VERY LONG second or two. This is done perhaps three times to get enough sample. Each time, I want to scream but by the time I’m ready, it’s over. The needle is then removed.

4. Pressure and a bandage is applied to the skin. I am told that, while I can shower immediately, no bathing or swimming for 48 hours. Watch for bleeding through the bandage or unnecessary pain because infection is possible (though not highly likely).

5. The bone marrow samples are then sent to a lab to be examined. This will let your doctor know how many myeloma cells are lurking in your bone marrow.

The first time I got a bone marrow biopsy, I had no idea what it was or that I would be getting one at all. The doctor gave me my diagnosis: “You have multiple myeloma. But there are so many treatments available, that you’ll be around for a long time.” (Relief! In an odd way when you’re are just told you have cancer.) Then “We need to get a bone marrow biopsy really quick.” (Oh my gosh what is happening to me!)

The second time I got a biopsy, just a month later, I almost had a panic attack. I knew what it entailed and I was petrified. My PA talked me into going without sedation so it wouldn’t ruin the rest of my day. She was nice and talked me through the whole thing. She was terrific and I did it! These days, you need another biopsy? Fine. I don’t even think about it until I’m on the table. And then I concentrate on other parts of my body that aren’t being touched. It helps. Today, I complained because they put me in a different room and I hated the table. But I treated myself to new shoes afterwards so, hey, that was kind of cool. Plus my dad drove me to my procedure so we had time for some daddy-daughter time in the car, chatting and catching up. Right now, the site is a bit sore, the numbness is wearing off, but it’s all good. Not to say that others don’t have a tougher go of it. If you think this might be you, it’s ok to get sedation. I just talked to my partner of this Myeloma Crowd site, Jenny Ahlstrom, and she gets sedation. It’s all good, no excuses to anyone for the choice you make.

Wow, I can’t believe I just wrote an article where parts of it are talking about the positives of my bone marrow biopsy. This myeloma journey is an odd one. I can find good in a biopsy? Ok, well, then I will.

To read the original article click here.

Working mom guilt is crushing. But kids of working moms turn out great!

One more reason for the Mommy Wars to end. Seriously, the balancing act of career and children is hard. But at least the guilt over how your job is screwing up your children for a lifetime can end. I can attest that it is imperative that moms have a way of supporting themselves, even if they marry a great guy who can financially support them and the kids. Because you do not know what the future holds and you may end up needing to become the supporter. And if you're unable to do that, horrible days are ahead of you. Because living in poverty is no fun.

I am grateful that when I fled my marriage, I did not need my ex's money to live, nor to feed the kids. I could do that all on my own. So if you're a working mom you are a powerful, positive role model and the odds that your sons and daughters end up educated and self-supporting increase. And that's a good thing. Here is my latest article via Divorced Moms.

Working Moms: Your Children Will Be Fine! 
By Lizzy Smith                    
June 23, 2015
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Fotolia_61877469_XS.jpgAs far back as I can remember, I knew I wanted a career. Not just a job, but I wanted to climb the corporate ladder, make good money, have a nice office, and even better job titles. I went to college, graduated, moved to Washington, DC on an internship on Capitol Hill, and then took my first (very low) paying job in an office environment. Like most every other entry level co-worker I knew, were all scraping by, working a second job on the weekends to help cover the cost of outrageous parking in the District, a professional wardrobe, pricey rent, and happy hour expenses. Still, it was an amazingly fun, growing experience. I met a ton of friends and did some cool things, like go to an official Inaugural Ball, attended many hearings in Congress, and even a reception on the South lawn of the White House.

A year later, I got a better job offer that actually included a livable wage. I had finally gotten on that corporate ladder and I started climbing it. I wore fun business suits every day, started traveling in my spare time, and then got married. Next stop was children.

With both of my daughters, I never stopped working. No gaps in employment, I was so happy about that. My resume was “perfect.” First, I didn’t feel I could afford to quit. Second, I got a lot of personal kudos from a job well done that I never got at home, and lastly, my identity was so tied to my ability to work and bring home an income, that I couldn’t fathom walking away from it.

…But the GUILT. My children, some told me, would be messed up in the head because I was too selfish by insisting I continue working fulltime. My priority was not motherhood, clearly, or I would make “better” choices. Truth was, my children both loved pre school and they were fine. I was the one who wasn’t doing so great. The balancing act is hard. I was exhausted, annoyed and pushed well beyond my breaking point. If I had help, like perhaps a sober husband who would pitch in (just a little), it would have made a huge difference. But in addition to taking care of my job, the kids, house, vacation house, all the bills, and much more, I had to care of my husband, too. Because caring for an alcoholic is almost a fulltime job in and of itself. Nonetheless, my children seemed ok. Should I have
felt guiltier than I did?

Apparently, the answer is a Big Fat No. According a recent study conducted by the Harvard Business School, daughters of working moms grow up to be more successful than their peers in the workforce. They are also more likely to be bosses, supervising other employees. This is actually fantastic news. How many additional studies point out that women who are divorced and have children are exponentially more likely to live beneath the poverty line? Yes, having earning power is critically important, especially if we have children. After all, it is our moral, ethical and legal responsibility to provide for them. With this in mind, consider this statistic: daughters of working moms earn 23 percent more than daughters of stay-at-home moms. That’s significant.

Keep reading...

Monday, June 22, 2015

The people I meet (thanks to myeloma) & unbreakable bonds between step sisters

Yesterday, Father's Day, I got a text message from someone I don't know. Her father is a fan of mine (he is a myeloma survivor) and his daughter is going through a tough divorce. Since I've survived myeloma and a tough marriage and divorce, he apparently "demanded" his daughter reach out to me. Maybe I could help, or at least provide a listening ear. Though he is out of state, his daughter lives in Salt Lake City (what are the odds?). We are meeting up for dinner tomorrow evening.

Today, I was checking in for labs and a bone marrow biopsy at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) when a man walked up to me and said "I want to introduce myself. I know you from your online work." We chatted for probably 20 minutes, a fellow myeloma warrior. Wow-- that was very cool.

Another woman I met through my online articles contacted me yesterday asking my opinion on  demanding a switch on treatment medications. I'm no doctor, I could only tell her that there are so many differing opinions surrounding how best to treat myeloma and that at some point, we need to listen, research, pray and role the dice. We must go with our gut instinct on some level so yes, if I felt I needed to do something different, then I would. Because I also feel that if I screw up in my decision, there are so many other treatments that I'll get back in kick-ass mode again and there you have it.

I absolutely love connecting with my readers and knowing that I am making a difference for others. I feel like I have a true purpose in life and that means EVERYTHING.

William is running for Lehi City Council. He has committed to walking every major Lehi neighborhood and commercial corridor in the city between now and election day. As he talks to business owners, he is also embarking on raising funds for myeloma. We are going to donate everything we raise to the Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative (www.myelomacrowd.org/mcri). Our lives have meaning.

Yesterday was Father's Day and after church, we all went to a late lunch. I was surrounded by fabulous dads. I realize that with the support of these wonderful men in my life, I can't fail. I am happy. My dad is a rock star. I love him more than I can ever express. He's been there for me through thick and thin. He's been there for my children. He inspires me with his strong faith and morals. I am so grateful to celebrate another Father's Day right here with him, in person, not over the phone from miles away.

A few days ago, I purchased a plane ticket for my daughter, Morgan, to go to San Diego to hang with her step-sister Kalie for the weekend. To say she is excited is an understatement. Her dad has totally abandoned her, ignoring every text and overture she makes to him. How we can learn from children. Kalie is amazing. Grudges? She doesn't have them. Today she texted me that her older sister wants to join them while Morgan is in town. Gosh, YES. The fact that they can all reconnect is simply... it's good. It's right. It's not about me, it's about a great 15 year old child who doesn't understand how or why she was mostly cut off from her dad and everything surrounding him. The fact that the kids can do something better and right says a lot. Again, I am grateful. Relieved. Happy. Happy for THEM. Because I hope that, for the rest of their lives, they can forge a bond, a good relationship, and they can be there for each other. Because we can never have enough support, love and friendships in our lives. It's as simple as that.

Friday, June 19, 2015

How to erase the pain of Vanishing Dad? Buy a plane ticket for daughter to San Diego

Father's Day. I used to love this day because I get to celebrate my dad. And my dad ROCKS. I was talking to William last night about my dad after we finished getting massages. I was sharing some of my favorite childhood memories. My dad was a teacher and had ample time to do "stuff" with us kids. We sometimes drove out to Mill Pond and got on a Tom Sawyer-type raft and floated around the lake. We drove up to the mountains and cut wood for the frigid winter months. And we went on numerous trips in our motorhome, sometimes camping at Mammoth, or heading to Reno, Seattle or Salt Lake City. We skipped rocks on lakes (I could never get this one quite right). And we took picnics to the park and went swimming at Keoghs. Great memories, a happy childhood.

For my children, though, Father's Day is really painful. Like knife in the gut painful. It reminds them that their dad has vanished and they often wonder what they did to make it this way. I tell them all the time that it's his fault, not theirs. But hearing it and believing it are not the same. Anyway, I could go on and on but I write about it in today's Divorced Moms column. Yesterday, I purchased a plane ticket for Morgan to go hang with her step sister, Kalie, for a few days. She is ecstatic. When I texted her that the tickets were purchased, she called me from camp (a big no-no) and started screaming. While Kalie is no longer her legal step-sister, you don't divorce children and so Morgan considers Kalie her sister forever. She loves her and misses her and I am so incredibly grateful that Kalie is so kind to the kids. She is an amazing person and I know the two of them will have a great few days together.

Anyway, happy Father's Day weekend, my dear readers. Morgan comes home from camp tomorrow and I can't wait. I miss her like crazy. Siena and I are heading to the zoo for Family Day as part of her Bible Camp. William may join us but he's really super busy these days. I will make some pretty big announcements about him soon. But a little teaser: He is doing something amazing and grand, and something that will help bring awareness to myeloma, too. And... we are leaving for one of our two Big Summer Trips next Wednesday right after my infusion appointment. We are going to Seattle and then up into Canada. I am so excited.

Much love, Lizzy

When Father's Day Is Anything But Happy
by Lizzy Smith                     
June 19, 2015
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Fotolia_55534857_XS.jpgLast Sunday, my oldest daughter, Morgan, and I were at brunch. We started talking about what we should do for Father's Day. As soon as I brought up the topic, I felt I had made a mistake. Father's Day. Ugh. Her dad decided to vanish after the split because, well, he's not a good man. He knows full well that the number one way to "get me" is to hurt the children. Their pain is my pain, only a million times worse. Plus, the kids were "too stressful" for him (alcohol is his number one solace) so he's simply cut them out of his life.

"I was thinking, Mom, that Daddy doesn't even know what I look like anymore. It's been three years since I've seen him or talked to him," she said with tears in her eyes.

What was there to say? "I know. I'm so sorry. You have to know that it's not your fault, it's his," I said. My heart was shattering. I started thinking about escape topics. How could I distract from where this was heading.

"The last time he saw me, I was just a kid. Now I'm driving and in high school. I'm so different and he doesn't even know it." I noticed she wasn't eating her food even though it was now pushing noon and she hadn't eaten all day. Isn't she hungry?

"If he saw you, he would recognize you. You haven't changed that much," I answered. And I wondered... Would he recognize her? What would happen if they met up again? Will he ever allow her back into his life? Oh, please, God, let this somehow work out.

Rob and Morgan were really close. They loved the same things-- fishing, boating, the ocean, lobsters. Their relationship, though of course Morgan was severely impacted by the explosive alcohol-fueled fights between Rob and I, was sweet, genuine, and loving. They were great friends and they loved each other deeply. How I wish I had picked a better man to be a father. How I wish that his choices and behavior wouldn't impact innocent children, skew their view of fatherhood, husbands, and men. Impact their future. Oh, dear God.

"I really miss him, Mom. I miss everything. I text him and he won't even answer back."

"I just say things like I love you or Happy Easter or whatever. Nothing." There was a pause. "Why?" she asked.

"I don't know. I hope that some day it will change. I just don't think he can. I have to think that he has a conscience and it hurts him to know how horribly he has behaved," I answered. "I think he's embarrassed."

Finally, and it seemed like an eternity, we switched topics to an outdoor camp that she was interested in attending. "Let's sign you up," I said.

And this is the only way I know how to handle life when it comes to Daddy. Distract. Give more. Try to make things "better" and more cushioned in their life. And, really, I know that this is just simply one of those deeply difficult life lessons that they are learning far too young: that people, including men who should love them, can disappoint and hurt and that nothing is guaranteed. And there is nothing I can do to make this lesson less awful and painful and devastating. It's just "one of those things."

Always trying "fix", here's how I've at least tried to distracted Morgan this summer:

1. Purchased a plane ticket for San Diego to visit her step sister, Kellie. Kellie is Rob's younger daughter by his first marriage. During my marriage to her dad, she mostly didn't live with us. She refused to live with Rob's alcoholism and when he refused to stop drinking, she stayed with her mom fulltime. Kellie and I stay in touch and I love and respect her. She is smart, kind and funny. Morgan is ecstatic to spend a few days with her step sister, just the two of them. In fact, when I told her the ticket was purchased, she called me up from camp screaming.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Countering the Mormon version of getting married young

Here's my latest article via Divorced Moms. If there is one thing I don't wish on my daughters is the Mormon version of how your life pattern should be: graduate from high school, go on your mission, come home and get married IMMEDIATELY, and have children right away. And it makes me INSANELY angry when my daughters are taught this craziness. I could go into more detail but I already do right here. So read on. I seriously hope my daughters wait to get married. I hope they grow, LIVE and experience on their own before they partner up. Please, oh please, don't let them make these HUGE GINORMOUS life decisions when they are still children. I'm doing my best to counter this crazy message. Wish me luck.

Teaching Our Daughters A Realistic View of Marriage
by Lizzy Smith                    
June 16, 2015
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Fotolia_64258889_XS.jpgA few weeks ago, my 15 year old daughter went to a one week camp for girls sponsored by our church. While there, one of her chaperons shared with the girls that she and her husband got engaged after three weeks! "They're so cute, Mom, and they are really happy," she told me when she got home.

I was horrified. While a three week courtship may be true in her case and perhaps it is (so far) working for them (they are a very young couple with several children already), I wish she had added a caveat. Something like, "But I don't recommend this approach because after three weeks, you're really taking a big chance." But she didn't. This left many of the girls (my daughter, who knows better) giddy with the story. Think about it-- in just a few years, they could be engaged, too! High on a new relationship, with a diamond ring on their finger, shopping for pretty white dresses, planning a big party and honeymoon, and decorating their first apartment together. Whooohoooooo!


Don't get me wrong. I believe in marriage, love, commitment, children and families-- big time. But I also think that giving children these kinds of stories which help romanticize marriage, leaves them totally unprepared for what marriage really is. Sometimes it's amazing, sometimes it's super fun, romantic and fabulous. And sometimes it sucks beyond belief. Even if you're married to a great guy, there will be times in your marriage when you don't like each other and when you wish that you were one of those divorced people.

I wanted to call this (well meaning) woman and give her a piece of my mind but I couldn't figure out how to do that without sounding like a total bitch. So I have decided to keep my mouth shut and simply counter her story with the Lizzy version of reality so that hopefully my daughter doesn't think that dating and marriage is One Big Happy Experience.

I told my daughter this: "Her story is insane. If you are in love after three weeks, go snowboarding together. You don't start planning a wedding! If after a year, you're still in love, buy Eurail passes and go backpacking thru Europe for the summer. If you're young and in love, be in love! Date. For years if you meet when you're 19 years old. But to get married and embark on a home and family at that young age is very sad because you're still a child yourself. You have the rest of your life to be married, don't rush into it, especially after three weeks."

My little lecture opened up a great Mommy-Daughter talk about boyfriends, relationships and marriage.

Obviously, the age in which one marries is an individual choice and depends when the right guy and opportunity presents itself. If my daughters end up marrying at a young age (which so many girls do in our Utah community), then I will support them and smile a lot for the photos. But I will be crying inside. To think of kids already saddled with mortgages, children and huge responsibilities at the age of 20 is heartbreaking. They should be exploring life, the world, developing their own views and opinions, and growing into the person they will become. Studies show that the brain doesn't even fully develop until something like 25 years old. Ugh.

But more importantly, and since I'm a divorced mom, I can attest that marriage isn't always happiness. Marriage is complex, tough and joyful. And so while I am powerless to make my daughters' choices for them (and I won't even try), I will at least do my best to teach them a realistic version of what marriage is (and isn't). Because marriage is a whole lot more than romance, pretty dresses, a fabulous cake, honeymoon, and new dishes for the marital condo.

And so here are my Marriage Talking Points for my daughters:

Marriage won't automatically make you happy

If you think marriage is one grand experience, think again. It is (hopefully) fun and you will feel like you have each other's backs. Hopefully you'll be a great partnership so you can weather life's storms better. Companionship is important and, if you marry the right guy, this should be a given. Hanging with your best friend forever and creating life should be fabulous. But marriage can also be a horrible experience. Marriage is about compromise and putting up with each other. If you marry the wrong guy, it can have horrific consequences. You need to be a happy person on your own first or you are putting incredible amount of pressure on the institution and your spouse. And it's not fair.

Keep reading...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Is your child a bully? If so, you must work to STOP IT NOW

What is (almost) worse than finding out your child is being bullied? Finding out your child is the bully and, perhaps, even the ringleader. If this is your child, you MUST address it quickly and decisively because that is just NOT ok. And child bullies grow up to become teen bullies and adult bullies. Nip that in the bud. Here is my latest via Divorced Moms.

Help, My Child Is A Bully. 10 Steps To Ending It NOW
by Lizzy Smith                    
June 12, 2015
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Fotolia_22362804_XS.jpgI have nightmares about my children becoming the victims of a bully. But what does a mom do when she finds out that her child is doing the bullying?

Years ago when my daughter was three years old and in pre school, one of her teachers told me that she targeted a boy in her class, "James," and bit him. Hard. I was horrified. Apparently she wasn't very nice to James and it was going on for some time. The teacher felt she was managing it ok until my daughter resorted to violence. I drove the whole way home in near silence. I was too angry to speak and trying to decide how to handle it. I had an epiphany.

First, the conversation. "Did you bite James?"


"Why?" I asked.

"I don't know," she responded.

"Do you think that's a good choice?"


At this point, I'm wondering if this entire exchange is over her head.

"What is your favorite toy?" I asked. It took her a few minutes to pick out an electronic game. "You are giving it to James tomorrow."

She didn't like that and cried for a solid hour. The next day, I was there when she handed her beloved toy to James and apologized. It never happened again.

If there's one thing I absolutely want tolerate from my children is bullying. If I find out they are the target, it won't be pretty for the offenders, I can assure you that. But if I find out my daughters are dishing it out, it won't be any better for them.

So what's a mom to do if we find out our child is perpetuating bullying?

1. Lead By Example
First, make sure that you are kind to those around you. I've known quite a few women, in the workplace, church, neighborhood and various social circles, who are incredibly mean to one another. You'd think as adults, we would know better but this is apparently not the case. So if you don't want your child to mistreat others, make sure you're not doing it either. Talking behind one another's backs (especially when in earshot of our kids) is a no. Ganging up on others? Again, another no. General cattiness? Do your best to STOP. I'm not saying I like everyone around me, in fact I really don't. But in those really extreme cases (like you find out a "friend" is sleeping with another friend's husband), keep that information away from your children. Pattern good behavior in front of your children.

2. Define Bullying
There may be a chance that your child isn't aware that they are a bully. Explain what bullying is, why it is hurtful, and how to stop it. Teach them how to stand up for another child, even if it's difficult.

3. Talk To Your Child
Have a long talk with your children to find out why the bullying is going on. Is he the ringleader of the bullying or a follower? Is your child afraid to stick up for the other child? You must find out the reasons why your child is bullying, regardless of their age. The better you can understand, the better chance you have of ending it. If there are a group of children bullying another child, ask to speak to their parents. Together, you can perhaps come up with solutions.

4. Set Expectations (A "Zero Tolerance" policy is a great idea)
You must do your best to nip this behavior in the bud. Let them know you won't tolerate the behavior and it must end immediately. Point out the real consequences on victim's lives.

Keep reading...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Which multiple myeloma patient are you? The victim, survivor or warrior (there's a HUGE difference!)

This article is for multiple myeloma or cancer patients (or anyone struggling with a debilitating illness or life challenge). From the Myeloma Crowd (www.myelomacrowd.org).

 boxing woman

Which Multiple Myeloma Patient Are You? Victim, Survivor or Warrior 

by Lizzy Smith for www.myelomacrowd.org

There are three types of people who emerge after a multiple myeloma diagnosis (or any debilitating life's challenge):

1. The Victim
A victim is the innocent person of someone or something else. It is the person in the car crash who stopped at the light just like they were supposed to, or the one who endured the beatings of a spouse, who was frauded out of their retirement savings, or gets cancer. I am the victim of multiple myeloma. I was the victim of an alcoholic husband, too, which had all kinds of consequences when I was diagnosed. I couldn’t live with him, I had to take the children out of that environment and move them away from their beloved dad. I had to leave my home, dogs, job, town I loved, and all pretense of independence. Being a victim is real and heartbreaking. But sitting in victimhood mentality is equally heartbreaking because we continue to be the passive, innocent person taking no action to move forward. It leaves us stuck in nothingness, depression, sadness– with no way out and dwelling on it.

Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull (a fantastic book– if you haven’t read it, you must!) wrote: “If it’s never our fault, we can’t take responsibility for it. If we can’t take responsibility for it, we’ll always be its victim.”

I certainly don’t take responsibility for getting cancer. I did all the “right” things to stay healthy. I also don’t take responsibility for my ex-husband’s alcoholism– he was that way before we met — nor do I take the responsibility for his inappropriate behavior or actions. I do, however, take responsibility for marrying the guy and not leaving sooner. I take responsibility for responding in ways that weren’t good or right. And I do take responsibility by leaving the relationship, healing and putting on my boxing gloves during the divorce. I do take responsibility for scraping myself out of bed during cancer treatments and living a really full, meaningful, fun and amazing life. It would be easy to wallow in self-pity but I have consciously decided not to. I took a lot of responsibility for taking care of my mental and physical body so I increased the odds of making it through two stem cell transplants in the best way possible. Post transplants, I have taken an even bigger responsibility for my health so I can recover and be healthy and emotionally (and physically) strong.

Victimhood is powerless and emasculating. It is not a pretty place to be or stay. But there are powerful emotions that we victims feel that helps us stay a victim. For one, victims get lots of attention from others (you poor thing!). We don’t have to take some responsibility for our actions in some circumstances. We don’t have to force ourselves off the couch and work to move out of being victimhood. Plus, there’s something that feels oddly good about validating how we have a right to wallow. Poor, helpless us.

I recently met a woman who is a fellow multiple myeloma patient. She is in remission and her treatments have gone really well. But nearly every day she complains. She cries all the time. She’s tired and sad. Her employer is getting fed up with her behavior. Her co-workers are liking her less and less. Her children aren’t calling often enough and they don’t want to be around her. She may need anti depressants but she can’t call a therapist because she can’t stop crying. It really seems as if it is far better to share with the world her plight than to be thankful for remission, for living, and for the many friends who support her. She asks how on much longer she will live. Wait a minute, I wanted to scream, aren’t you in remission? Who’s to say how much longer any of us will live, including those without cancer?  I gotta say, as someone who struggles with her same disease, I’m really tired of hearing it. One day, I sent her an email about Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative (MCR). We really need us fellow myeloma survivors to band together and help cure our disease (you can read more here). All we are asking for, at this point, is for those of us to start a team. It costs no money and takes about 10 minutes. She never responded. How many times do I hear from those who are suffering through cancer treatments and their real (and hard!) lifetime of after-effects who want to do nothing in helping themselves recover? It is utterly frustrating.

So if you are stuck in being a victim, try this: Spend the entire weekend at home. Cry. Punch your pillow or walls. Eat an entire batch of cookie dough (actually, this sounds kind of good right now). Write out a list of how life sucks. I’ll bet you can maybe come up with 100 reasons. Don’t shower. Scream at your children. After a few days, do you feel better? Probably not. You probably don’t look or smell better either. Has your situation changed a bit? No. It might be worse, though.

2. The Survivor
I once read from a fellow myeloma patient that they never used the word “warrior” when describing cancer. They are a survivor. True, I believe we earn the right to call ourselves Survivor the minute we are diagnosed. And we will be Survivors the rest of our lives. But yet when I hear this word, it conjures up the person who has awful things happen to them and they manage not to bury themselves under covers and never get out of bed. Actually, this is the best we can sometimes do. Survivors do what must be done and press on. Survivors are resilient, but it feels as though when life throws curveballs, it’s a duck, cover and fight approach, and wait for the next challenge to come.
Repeat. Yes, I survived my divorce. I survived my marriage (barely). I survived cancer. But simply surviving wasn’t good enough for me. It still felt powerless, and that is not an emotion I enjoy.

3. The Warrior
And then there’s the warrior. Warriors put on battle gear and go to work. Warriors take risks. It’s not easy but it’s empowering, and that is an amazing emotion. To conquer. When I was going through a horrific divorce and chemo and stem cell transplants at the same time, I could easily have been the powerless victim. Or just survived the experiences. But I chose to fight.

My ex thought that my physical weakness brought on by the cancer and drugs would mean he could slam me in our divorce. He thought wrong. Cancer thought it could kill me. Neither had any idea what a formidable opponent Lizzy would be. I thrived post chemo. I healed. It wasn’t easy. I forced myself to walk, hike and even run. There were days that fatigue was so intense that I had a hard time rolling over in bed from one side to the next. But I dragged myself to the shower, put on my wig, and kicked a**.

I got court filings from the ex accusing me of faking cancer and demanding I go back to work. I stayed strong. Refusing to be bullied any longer was amazing.

When I met a fellow myeloma warrior, Jenny, who also lives near me, we didn’t meet up for endless lunches and wallow in cancer self pity. We launched a web site (www.myelomacrowd.org), started a fundraising campaign to cure our disease, and started hitting up magazines, newspapers and TV stations to share our powerful story.

I purchased plane tickets and love exploring the world. I hiked a really hard mountain and posted photos on Twitter (@lizzysmilez1) to let other cancer survivors know that it was possible to push ourselves and LIVE. I share my journey on my personal blog (www.lizzysmilez.blogspot.com).
Each day, we have the choice on how we are going to respond to life’s challenges. If you have clinical depression, then you need professional help that I can’t possibly address. But for everyone else, I can assure you that feeling POWERFUL is far better than feeling emasculated. It’s not always easy, it takes work. But it’s worth it. Plus it can be really, super, exhilarating, phenomenally fun.

To read the article on www.myelomacrowd.org, click here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

On Mormon services and eye rolling when you can't argue facts

Recently a questioned was asked if a Mormon could affect change from within. Most answers were no, that anyone who dare challenge anything beyond correlated church materials would meet with total rejection by the general membership. In my experience, this is true. It's so disappointing.

On Sunday, I went off to Sunday School. First, I want to say that my Sunday School teacher rocks. She is perhaps one of the more respecting people when it comes to one asking tough questions. She does her best to thoughtfully give the church's stance mixed with her own. With that said, the topic of Priesthood came up. And I am SO TIRED of hearing someone say that men and women are equal but different, that men get the Priesthood and women get to create by having babies. I have no idea how anyone can make this claim without realizing its total absurdity. Last time I checked, men and women biologically create children together. While women do carry that seed for about nine months, in a perfect world, the rest of it is a partnership. And not all women have babies and having those babies is contingent on having a man somewhere. Priesthood can be held without a spouse. Just ask any young boy who gets the Priesthood in Mormonism. Second, the equivalent of Motherhood is Fatherhood. Priesthood is an entirely different thing altogether. I had to raise my hand and say this out loud. As I did, I looked over to see two women rolling their eyes while I spoke and giving each other "that look." I couldn't be silent. I stopped mid-sentence and said, "You ladies are so funny over there rolling your eyes," hahahaha. They stopped. Seriously, is this stupid, immature behavior or what.

I then went on to explain that no one, man or woman, should EVER be given spiritual dominion over another-- we are each responsible completely for our own choices, prayers, and answers to prayers. That each family also needed to decide who leads the family and who follows and that gender-specific leading creates all sorts of really warped consequences. And the potential for abuse is mind-bogging.

One of the eye rollers had to leave. But that didn't stop the other eye roller from finding another class attendee to do some more eye rolling with. I looked at her long enough for her to realize I was watching her. She smiled at me, I stayed stoic. How I had the strength to keep my mouth shut is truly a miracle. After our class was done and I was on my way out, I said to her again, "You are so funny!" She tried to give me a hug, I simply patted her arm.

So when you can't answer facts and it's not polite to call names (like one can do on Facebook using such really boring taunts like Feminist, Apostate, Anti, Man-hater), you make faces at each other. Or at least you do if you are a child. Oh wait, did I forget to tell you that this is the behavior of adult women? Right, totally disturbing, rude, condescending. Well, you get it.

Enough rant.

So can a Mormon stand up for better ideals, behavior and necessary change? Only if you have a really thick skin because challenging ridiculous ideals that have no basis in doctrine doesn't sit so well in this culture. And that's the truth.

On finding my personal POWER and kicking ass

I am so tired of complainers and those that wallow in self pity. I mean, I'm utterly SICK OF IT. Not to be confused with those who are in the midst of sickness and grief. But there then enters in a healing phase. One can either heal and conquer or cry and moan. I truly believe I have the "right" to wallow. I chose to never do that. I hope I never will. Call me names and that I don't understand because blah blah blah. TRUST ME, I UNDERSTAND. Life has thrown me some sucky stuff. I GET IT. Now dry up those tears, take a shower, and go have a fabulous day. If you simply can't, go see a therapist so that soon you will be doing just that. And this is the latest via Divorced Moms.

Which Divorced Mom Are You? Victim, Survivor or Warrior?
by Lizzy Smith                   
June 09, 2015
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Fotolia_80820970_XS.jpgThere are three types of people who emerge after something really hard happens in life, like a divorce, custody battle, job loss, illness, or the like:

1. Victim
A victim is the innocent person of someone or something else. It is the person in the car crash who stopped at the light, or the one who endured the beatings of a spouse, or who was frauded out of their retirement savings. I've been a victim. I was the victim of an alcoholic's explosive behavior. I am the victim of cancer. Being a victim is real and heartbreaking. But sitting in victimhood mentality is equally heartbreaking because we continue to be the passive, innocent person taking no action to move forward. It leaves us stuck.
Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull (a fantastic book-- if you haven't read it, you must!) wrote: "If it's never our fault, we can't take responsibility for it. If we can't take responsibility for it, we'll always be its victim."

I certainly don't take responsibility for getting cancer. I did all the "right" things to stay healthy. I also don't take responsibility for my ex-husband's alcoholism-- he was that way before we met -- nor do I take the responsibility for his inappropriate behavior or actions. I do, however, take responsibility for marrying the guy and not leaving sooner. I take responsibility for responding in ways that weren't good or right. And I did take responsibility for leaving the relationship, healing and putting on my boxing gloves during the divorce, refusing to be his punching bag any longer, and moving forward. I did take responsibility for scraping myself out of bed during cancer treatments and living a really full, meaningful, fun and amazing life. It would be easy to wallow in self-pity but I have consciously decided not to.

Victimhood is powerless and emasculating. It is not a pretty place to be or stay. But there are powerful emotions that we victims feel that helps us stay a victim. For one, victims get lots of attention from others (you poor thing!). We don't have to take some responsibility for our actions in some circumstances. We don't have to force ourselves off the couch and work to move out of being a victim. Plus, there's something that feels oddly good about validating how we were right and innocent and the other person was horrible and wrong.

I recently met a woman who is a fellow multiple myeloma patient. She is in remission and her treatments have gone really well. But nearly every day she complains. She cries all the time. Her bones ache. Her children aren't calling often enough. She may need anti depressants but she can't call a therapist because she can't stop crying. It really seems as if it's far better to share with the world her plight than to be thankful for remission, for living, and for the many friends who support her. I gotta say, as someone who struggles with her same disease, I'm really tired of hearing it. One day, I sent her an email. I am working on a revolutionary project that may actually lead to a cure of myeloma. I am not a doctor, but I am helping spread the word about several oncologists who are developing powerful new therapies and to garner support so that their important work can continue. Would she be willing to start a team? It would cost her zero dollars and take about 10 minutes. She never responded. How many times do I hear from those who are suffering through painful divorces, horrible custody battles, financial hardships, or cancer treatments who want to do nothing in helping themselves recover. It is utterly frustrating.

So if you are stuck in being a victim, try this: Spend the entire weekend at home. Cry. Punch your pillow or walls. Eat an entire batch of raw cookie dough. Write out a list of how life sucks. I'll bet you can maybe come up with 100 reasons. Don't shower. Scream at your children. After a few days, do you feel better? Probably not. You probably don't look or smell better either.

2. Survivor
I once read from a fellow myeloma patient that they never used the word "warrior" when describing cancer. They are a survivor. When I hear this word, it conjures up the person who has awful things happen to them and they manage not to bury themselves under covers and never get out of bed. They plod through what they must and press on. Survivors are resilient, but it feels as though when life throws curveballs, they duck, cover and fight when they must, and wait for the next challenge. Yes, I survived my divorce. I survived my marriage (barely). I survived cancer. But simply surviving wasn't good enough for me. It still felt powerless, and that is not an emotion I enjoy.

3. Warrior
And then there's the warrior. Warriors put on battle gear and go to work. They take risks. It's not easy but it's empowering, and that is an amazing emotion. To conquer. When I was going through a horrific divorce and chemo and stem cell transplants at the same time, I could easily have been the powerless victim. Or just survived the experiences. But I chose to fight.

Keep reading...

Saturday, June 6, 2015

There they are! Finding my priorities while sitting on a cruise ship

My latest via Divorced Moms. Have a fabulous weekend. My girls are out of school for the summer so we are celebrating. It's looking like a daytrip to Park City is in order.

The First Step To A Happy Life? It's The Priorities, Baby
by Lizzy Smith                    
June 04, 2015
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“Remember who you are!” As a teen, my dad would almost always call out these words of wisdom to me as I headed out the door. No doubt he hoped that I would remember my values as I made choices throughout the day. The problem was, I hadn’t made any decisions on who I was or what I wanted in life. The values my dad spoke of were his values (and the church’s values). They were handed to me prepackaged and I was expected to agree and do my best to obey. But the rebellious soul I am, I simply saw those expectations as rules, rules that I needed to break, one at a time. Snap snap snap.

I went off to college and broke all the endless rules at Brigham Young University until I got caught and kicked out of school. I transferred colleges, graduated and entered the workforce. All of a sudden, the only solid rules I had were my employers’ and they were paying me to go along/get along. It was in my own best interest to assimilate into the adult world and I did, climbing the corporate ladder quickly and successfully. I also started living the expectations of an adult—getting married, becoming a mom, buying a house, paying credit cards, and acquiring. Acquiring all kinds of stuff—dogs, more shoes than I can count, furniture, artwork, a vacation house, an extra car… buy, buy, buy and then take care of all the stuff I bought and work harder than ever to make enough money to pay for all that stuff.

If someone had asked me back then what my life priorities were, I would have rambled off the typical “being a great mom, a great employee, loving my family, and taking care of my health.” Truth was I had no idea really what my life’s goals were. I had never written them down, or seriously challenged myself to think hard, come up with great answers, and then ensure that my life was matching those priorities. I made sure I had a 401k for retirement and hoped that my home would be paid off by age 67 the age of social security, and managed my vacation days carefully each year. It was truly a purposeless life.

And then I got cancer. Talk about a game-changer.

Fast forward three years later. It was Spring Break and we were on a cruise. I was sitting out at the pool, reading a magazine, and all of a sudden I had an epiphany. I took out a pen and wrote on the back of my magazine the things that really mattered in my life beyond children, family, and health. Here they are:
  1. Be an interesting person. In addition to being as kind and thoughtful as I know how to be (that’s a given), I want to learn, grow and experience and share my stories with others. I want to continue adding to my depth as a person. The world is fascinating and I want to uncover it as much as possible. If I can't experience it, I'll learn from others or read it from a book.
  2. Stay surrounded by interesting, amazing people. Boring doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t necessarily mean my closest friends need to be educated or wealthy or the best at anything, just interesting. A positive, fascinating, valuable addition to my world. I long stopped keeping people around simply because I didn’t know how to walk away. Life is too short to spend it surrounded by people who are evil, annoying, or simply not awesome.
  3. Make the world a little better. If I hit the lottery, I would travel the globe visiting one orphanage after the next in developing countries. I would donate shoes, clothes and medicines and hold children that need affection and comfort. But I can’t afford to do that and I am still required to visit doctor’s offices twice per week. But I can make a difference in the divorced world, the abuse survivors’ world, and the cancer world. I can write articles and be an advocate, raise funds to find a cure for myeloma (my cancer), visit with other cancer fighters, and lend a listening ear. I can be a great friend. I can love my children endlessly and be the best mom I can. I can love and support my parents. I can be a great partner to my fiancĂ©. I can try to leave the world a better place than I found it.
With these three points in hand, I now can prioritize my life. Laundry, paying bills, caring for my children, and heading to doctor visits are not negotiable. But beyond that, during those really busy days, or when someone asks something of me, if it doesn’t somehow loop back to my priorities list, it has become really easy to say no.

Keep reading...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Should this myeloma warrior back in remission get another stem cell transplant? If only I had a crystal ball...


To Transplant (Again) Or Not? The Million Dollar Question     

BY LIZZY SMITH for www.myelomacrowd.org

In mid February, I was getting ready to head out for the evening. My phone rang. It was Mary, my PA from Huntsman Cancer Institute where I’ve been treated since my 2012 diagnosis.

“I’m sorry to have this conversation with you over the phone,” she said. “But I’m looking over your latest labs and it looks like there is disease progression. You are no longer in remission.”

The banality of bad news. It’s so ordinary and comes without warning.

With shaking hands, I took copious notes of some lab numbers that I can’t remember. Oddly enough, it took just a few hours before I calmed down. I literally talked myself off that cliff as I reminded myself that myeloma is a journey not a destination. I had survived tandem stem cell transplants and got two and a half years of remission. I kicked cancer in its a** once and I could do it again. I went to clinic the next day to pick up that horrid 24-hour urine collection jug and had a bone marrow biopsy (not my favorite test, to be sure, especially since I never get sedated for it). Days later, it was time for an appointment with my oncologist to go over the facts and plan.

Sure enough, Dr. A confirmed, I was out of remission and I was to start the triple-drug combo done in the ASPIRE trial: Carfilzomib twice per week, 40 mg of Dex once per week (double the dose that I had been on, yuck), and daily Revlimid. Three weeks of this regimen with a week off. My fiancĂ©, Bill, and I were getting ready to head on our trip to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay just a week later. They cautioned me against going: it was important that I follow the drugs exactly as was done in the trial and if I went on the trip, I would be “off” that schedule by some five days. Perhaps it would make no difference but then again, it could.

I thought about this advice for about 10 minutes. I wanted to go on the trip. It was too late to cancel and traveling is my passion. While I don’t necessarily recommend anyone follow my example, I made the decision to proceed with the trip. Should other myeloma warriors do the same? I would never advise either way. Our journeys are our own, each is intensely personal, and there are no hard answers in myeloma. We just have to listen to great doctors and eventually just press forward with a decision that we make. And so I did.
I started my new treatment combo that very day and boarded a plane as scheduled bound for Buenos Aires just hours after my second Carfilzomib infusion appointment. Bill and I had a fabulous vacation and when we were in Montevideo, Uruguay I randomly told him that I felt I was already back in remission. Why, he asked? I didn’t know, I just “felt” it.

My new treatments have, overall, been going well. The side effects are less intense than my prior combo of Thalidomide-Dex-Velcade. I experience less fatigue and my chemo brain seems to (slightly) have ebbed. I hate the extra day I spend in clinic (dang, cancer can be so time consuming!). On the days I take Carfilzomib, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with mind-blowing leg and foot cramps that make me cry out in my sleep. And thanks to the double-dose of Dex, even with two Ambiens, I still can’t sleep more than two hours. The day after Dex, I am indescribbly tired. Still, I don’t complain much (after all, I’m alive!). I cope by knowing that on Mondays, I can watch TV and write articles almost all night long. I take luxury baths in lavender oil and Epsom salts and read. I diffuse more lavender and lemon oils in my bedroom and binge on Netflix’s House of Cards and Dr. Phil re-runs on the OWN network. On Tuesdays, I’m a mental waste. I go to clinic and that’s pretty much it. I told Bill that we either go out to eat every Tuesday or he can cook and clean because I just can’t. I need lots of leg and foot massages with peppermint oil and, well, there you have it. I’m too tired on Tuesdays to even be cranky. My daughters know that if they need homework help, they aren’t getting it from me. Thank goodness my parents are here to pick up the slack. I don’t know what I would do without my support structure. I am so lucky and blessed.

A few days ago, I had my follow-up doctor’s appointment. After just two months of this new treatment combo, guess what? I’m back in remission! I love that word. Let me repeat it:


Now the BIG QUESTION: To transplant (again) or not. Studies seem to say that if I do another stem cell transplant while I’m young(er) and healthy and in full remission, I might stay in remission longer. On the flip side, as many of us myeloma warriors know, transplants are HARD. And there are so many new drugs and treatments that I haven’t used yet, and many more in the pipeline. Can I avoid the dreaded transplant for another decade or a few years or maybe forever?

I told Dr. A that I didn’t want to think about anything for two months, then we will meet, come up with a plan, and then I’ll get a few more opinions. Even if I agree to a plan, I have many months before I’m committed. If I had to decide NOW (and I don’t), I would decline the transplant and stick with meds. But in a few months, who knows if I’ll change my mind. Back when I did my first transplant, I decided to decline the second. I was already in remission, after all, and my third and fourth opinion doctors said that they wouldn’t do tandem transplants on me. And then, without warning, I changed my mind and did the second. I just made that decision on gut instinct and went with it. Who knows how it’ll happen this time around.

Until then, I’ll enjoy the remission. I’ll enjoy life. With my children almost done with school for the year, we are heading on a road trip to Seattle and Canada. That sounds lovely.

And this is advice that I am comfortable giving other myeloma survivors: LIVE!