Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lizzy's Myeloma Journey: Treatment, Recovery, Play. Repeat

I had a rather tough auto stem cell transplant (SCT) this past December 2015. It was my third since diagnosis (the first two were tandem SCTs in 2012). You can read about my third SCT journey in these articles published on the Myeloma Crowd (

It was a really hard November and December. I got married and literally, the very next day, found myself in the ER. The "sickness" journey began. I was not happy.

Fast forward to yesterday. It was my post SCT follow-up appointment with Dr. A (day +60). I was dreading it. I did not want to go to the doctor and hear how the transplant and my re-staging tests went. I wanted to continue my life of near-normalcy, to forget I had cancer. But there I was, feeling all kinds of sick and nervous. Dr. A and my PA, Mary, walked in. Just by the looks on their faces, I wanted to throw up. They looked sad. But... the news was....

Fantastic! Stringent Complete Remission. A better-than-expected response. We learned that I am still very receptive to existing treatments. Time to celebrate! My mom was crying, my dad had tears in his eyes. And then I felt... fear. I remembered feeling this way after my first tandems were over. What do you mean I wasn't going to be in clinic nearly every day being monitored? There was something empowering about being in treatment. And now... just maintenance? Getting markers done every three months? That wasn't enough! It took months to settle into "life" without all those appointments and meds but when I did, I started really LIVING. I did not know what "life" without daily cancer treatments would look like for me but discovering it rocked. I finished up my divorce, started dating again, began writing my story on this blog, got my own Divorced Moms column, met Jenny and helped her launch the Myeloma Crowd web site ( to help us fund clinical trials that will help cure our shared disease, and started traveling like Crazy Woman. I hiked, went skiing, visited museums-- and dragged my daughters along with me. We started having a lot of fun! I got remarried...

And then I relapsed.

When I had to start treatment again, I was angry. I resented my doctor (surely this was his fault!). I hated the fact that I was bald again and without eyelashes. I skipped my birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas because I was in the hospital throwing up almost every single day for two months. I was cranky. One day I called up Dr. A's office and said that I was "this close" to not showing up for Melphalan and transplant. I did d-Pace and that was enough. I was over it. Dr. A talked me off that cliff and I ended up completing the very awful regiment.

And then Jen, my nurse, offered up a really important pep talk: "We take control of your life when you're doing a stem cell transplant. But remember that it does end, you get better, and then you get to start living again. It will happen, it's just a few months."

She was right. It did end. I did start feeling better. And now I'm in remission! Fear? Yes. But the world is, once again, my oyster. Now what? (Besides weekly Velcade injections and dex as part of a maintenance routine.)

This morning I was in the shower and broke out into a huge smile. I got butterflies. Life was MINE! Traveling Lizzy was back. In a few hours, Hubby and I are flying to Florida for a much-needed vacay. Last night, my best friend, Julie, talked me into buying plane tickets and meeting up with her in Las Vegas in a few weeks. Why not? We are both taking our oldest daughters and while they're at a Justin Bieber concert, we're hitting up a spa, then finding a great bar and knocking back a few drinks. In early April, I am gathering up William and the girls and we are going to Costa Rica for a week. Zika virus? Small risk but, I suppose, I'd rather get sick from Zika because I went on a great vacation than staying home waiting for cancer to hit again. I'm planning summer trips to Mt. Rushmore and New Orleans. While in Louisiana, we'll check out some great voodoo shops and cemeteries and gorge on Cajun food.

Yes, life is looking normal. Make that better than normal.

I'm eating again, refound my "taste" for coffee (during chemo, I couldn't fathom drinking it-- the smell alone made me gag), and I've gained some of my weight back. I am cooking and baking and cleaning.

I am finally exercising again. For the first time in four months, I went to the Rec Center and went for a walk/run and did some major stretching afterwards. I am really sore! But, truly, it felt fantastic. When we get back from Florida, as part of Muscles for Myeloma (join us!), I am working out every day (except weekends). I think I will also start back up with Bikram yoga. It is time.

After all, myeloma is a journey, not (yet) a destination. Right now, it's time to start living again--living Big and Grand. I intend to enjoy every minute of it. It beats the alternative.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Got anxiety? Here are ways to FIGHT It & PREVAIL!

I just got back from my oncology visit. This was a HUGELY important appointment because it was my "official" follow-up post stem cell transplant. Last week, I did a 24-hour collection test, a bone marrow biopsy, and labs. The results were back. Did the highly intensive therapy work? Was it worth all the pain I endured, 25 days in a hospital, and losing my hair again? You want to talk ANXIETY? Today was it! I was nervous and full of DREAD. I did NOT want to even think about myeloma, stem cell transplant, or what might be in store for me now.

Dr. A and my PA, Mary, entered my exam room. My parents were with me. They are my "good luck" charms. They've been with me every single step of this Myeloma Journey and I needed them on this day, too. They were, thank God!

...And then I got the news. Stringent Complete Remission. A REMARKABLE and unexpectedly fabulous response. I was so relieved. My mom was crying. My dad was tearing up. Happy dance! I still say this with TREMENDOUS caution because myeloma is one sneaky disease. I have great respect of how terribly smart and wiley those cancer cells are. But for now, I celebrate. I take this journey one step at a time, one day at a time.

What's in my future? Weekly Velcade injections, weekly evil Dexamethasone, and acyclovir so I don't get shingles. Every three months we'll do myeloma markers and monitor me very closely. And pray. Lots of praying, eating well, exercising, having FUN, and controlling anxiety. And guess what? My hair is growing back (in a few more weeks, I'll have Barack Obama hair!). My eyelashes are back (they're still short but I have some!!!), my eyebrows have stopped thinning out (I thought for sure I'd lose them all but I didn't, yay!), and I went for a walk/run yesterday and it didn't feel horrible! The healing process is actually amazing, beautiful and filled with hope. Please, Lord, let this continue for a very long time. Let me be strong and resilient. Help me WIN and thrive and be grateful Every Single Day.

And here is my Divorced Moms column. How do I manage tremendous anxiety that life on Myeloma Road brings me (and, trust me, divorce and cancer have made me an expert on this topic)? Read here...

Breathe & Be Calm. 10 Ways To Combat Anxiety
by Lizzy Smith                    
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February 25, 2016
635344815452432593Fotolia_62516798_XS.jpgBefore my cancer diagnosis in January 2012, I had experienced just two anxiety attacks in my entire 44 years of life. One was sitting in horrific traffic in Yekaterinburg, Russia on my way to see a judge about adopting my daughter. The other was right before moving out of my condo to get married. Both attacks were truly frightening-- I would double over, unable to breathe, my heart pounding, palms sweating, wanting to die. But in general, I was able to handle tremendous amounts of stress really well, juggling all kinds of tasks without really dropping anything. I was pretty amazing, I thought. 
And then life threw me quite the curveball: multiple myeloma. And then life threw me a few more curveballs, one after the next. Calling the police to have my then-husband, who was drunk and screaming at me, removed from our home. Filing for a legal separation. Quitting my job. Moving two states away with my children and our cat and into my parents' basement. Major chemo and treatment. And a horrific divorce during which my husband called me every awful name he could find in the dictionary. Bam! Bam! Bam! Anxiety was my new "favorite" emotion. I had terrible insomnia. I was afraid to sleep without the TV on. I dreaded text messages (it was usually another awful accusation from my ex). I would stand in line at Costco and break out into a sweat for no reason, heart pounding.
Time has made coping with bouts of anxiety a bit easier simply because I recognize them for what they are. And most of the time, simple techniques help calm me tremendously. Here are my go-to stress busters:
  1. Exercising: During exercise endorphins are released, which is a natural mood enhancer. I enjoy walking, hiking, skiing and yoga most but just about anything that increases my heart rate helps. (Honestly, few things make me happier than Bikram yoga. During a session, I learn to breathe and get time to meditate. It is a slice of peace and heaven. So calming.)
  2. Eating Right: There is something incredibly empowering by treating my body right. I may not be able to control cancer or relationships, but I can control what I put in my mouth. I try cutting down on anything processed and gorge on fresh fruits and veggies, wild fish, and whole grains. I have discovered new ingredients that I didn't even know existed. Cooking is also incredibly calming to me. The smells and tastes are great distractions and my body simply feels better when I give it nutritionally dense, delicious food. And when my body feels better, so does my brain.
  3. Drinking a lot (and I'm not talking alcohol!): I feel horrible when I'm dehydrated. Water with fresh lemon is my favorite beverage. So is coffee, though too much caffeine is a huge no-no for treating anxiety. Still, the smell of coffee brings me huge joy so this is something that I rarely deprive myself of.

Keep reading...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A classic tale of what NOT to do once you split from your wife

My latest via Divorced Moms. My ex gave me so much writing material that I feel I should send him a thank you note. (Not really) Anyway, marriage can be amazing or it can be Hell. In my case, marriage to my ex was hell.

6 Stupid Things My Ex Did After We Split
by Lizzy Smith                    
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February 21, 2016
635372692743065457Fotolia_59449312_XS.jpgMy ex husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic) is quite a stupid man. He portrays himself as brilliant, smart, honest, kind, and soft-spoken when you first meet him. But after time, his complete stupidity comes out. You see, anyone can pretend to be any kind of person for a time. But sooner or later, the real "you" comes out and, in Rob's case, it's not pretty. The REAL Rob the Great is an alcoholic, liar, screaming, abusive bully who is really quite stupid. He was stupid during our marriage and he was really stupid once we split. His mistakes made our divorce go in my direction. I won literally everything I wanted (and was entitled to) because he behaved so stupidly. And, ladies, if you are in the midst of a divorce (or a court battle), you can learn from his mistakes.

1. He Lied
When Rob and I split, I had just been diagnosed with cancer. I went on medical leave and entered heavy-duty treatment which included massive amounts of chemotherapy and two back-to-back stem cell transplants. I was incredibly sick. Rob proceeded to file documents with the court that accused me of being a liar, faking my cancer diagnosis, and being lazy. He demanded that I go back to work immediately. He lied about my income stream, my living situation, and tried to portray me as someone who was perfectly healthy and who was simply trying to gain sympathy with the court. The more he lied to the court, the more I looked forward to a trial before a judge. I was totally honest in every sentence of every document I filed. I was also totally honest with my attorney. I was confident because I had nothing to hide and I didn't need to try to keep my stories straight, like Rob did. I was transparent and, if I was deposed or got on the stand, I would not be committing perjury. I could prove every single one of his lies and it strengthened me and emboldened me. When it came to negotiating our financial settlement, I did not budge one tiny bit. My attorney reminded me that if I divorce went all the way to court, I would need to travel back to San Diego and take the stand. I relished the opportunity-- I had seen Rob try to speak before a judge and he sounded like a bumbling idiot. I knew that things would not go well for him. This confidence left me in a prime position to get every single penny I deserved. I wanted to go to court; Rob didn't, simple as that. And as a result, Rob caved. He lost in a very big way (as he should have). He owed me a lot of money and I got every cent I was due.

Lesson: Never lie in court documents. It might be really tempting but honesty is always best, especially when it comes to anything related to court.

2. He Picked Alcohol
Rob's alcoholism was the single reason for our horrific marriage. It ended our relationship and it ended his prior marriage, too. After I left Rob, one would think he would finally take responsibility for his addiction and behavior and attempt to truly get well. This would have meant therapy and a lot of time spent in a 12-step program, like AA. Instead of taking care of himself, he drank more than ever, which left just enough time to work, date, and drink some more. Take care of other responsibilities? When one is drunk off his ass every night, that's impossible.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Want to breed contempt with your kids? Be a bitch of a mom

Here's my latest via Divorced Moms. I seriously cannot handle another woman bitching about their children IN THEIR PRESENCE. And here you go, a Lizzy "rant of the day."

Belittling Our Children. A Wise Idea or Stupid Parenting?
by Lizzy Smith                    
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February 16, 2016
A few years ago, I was sitting in church and the speaker, a young mom, gave a talk about one of her children's inability to keep a clean room, pick up after herself or generally listen to any parental instructions.
This behavior was driving mom insane. Her other young child was having a problem with lying about everything and she couldn't trust him. Her other klutzy child recently spilled Cheerios all over the kitchen floor and she just wanted to SCREAM at her.
She tried to make these stories sound funny. Hahahaha. Others in the congregation joined her in laughing. I was stunned. Looking around the chapel, I was clearly not the only one uncomfortable. Her children were sitting with their father and several other siblings a few pews from me. They weren't laughing-- they looked totally humiliated. I was baffled at how she could use her young children as a public example of everything wrong in her life. Was this breeding love and trust among her kids or... hatred maybe? Distrust, anger.

This woman, I've noticed all too frequently over the years, is not the only one who finds it perfectly acceptable to badmouth her children in front of them. I mean, I think every single one of us moms have needed an opportunity to vent frustrations BUT, I would hope, we try to do it in private.

Another friend has a son and she is so verbally mean to him that I'm left speechless. She puts him down,saying things like, "Maybe if you were responsible enough to get your homework turned in, you wouldn't be failing." and "I was responsible when I was a teen; you are the most irresponsible child I've ever known." When she's really mean, she laughs it off. Her son isn't laughing with her. Having known this friend for years, I know she doesn't realize what she is doing. Her son is sullen and quiet much of the time and who can blame him. He is likely afraid of opening his mouth at all because his mother might find another reason to chastise him in front of company.

One mother I know (she happens to be a family member of my ex-husband's), totally humiliated her son at a family gathering. We were all sitting around the table for a St. Patrick's day dinner at Rob's parent's house. Mom, who'd happened to have a few too many drinks and, Lord knows, probably many pills, too, called "Sonny" stupid, inconsiderate, lazy and, basically, worthless. I wanted to crawl under the table, it was embarrassing for everyone there.

Actually, I wanted to fly across the table and choke her. Later that afternoon, Rob's mom came to me and tried to apologize for Mom. "Sonny is a good boy, I don't want you to think badly of him," she said. Badly of Sonny? How about I think Mom is a horrible tyrant who should learn to keep her Big Fat Mouth shut. I said nothing. Many months later we were all on vacation and Mom told my father that Sonny had recently hit her. She was distraught, crying to my dad that she didn't know what to do. When my dad told me the story, I wasn't surprised a bit. Sonny was a very big, powerful boy. This was a really bad scenario.

One thing that I heave learned from my own children is this: They deserve as much respect, consideration and trust from us as we expect from them. They watch how we behave and they imitate us. Keep reading... 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

You go bald and see how it feels. It's like being naked

My latest via Divorced Moms. Have an amazing Valentine's weekend!


Bald and Naked. The Power and Beauty of Vulnerability

By Lizzy Smith                     

liz9.jpgOne of the bright spots of my cancer diagnosis is that, over the years, I have met the most amazing people. Cancer warriors generally rock because it changes you and your entire life focus in an instant, and that’s usually a good thing. One such person I met during my journey is Pat who blogged at I took a lot of comfort in Pat’s writings because he gave knowledge, hope and cheer. Pat was often interviewed and during one, he teared up and said that he was on bonus time and that every day was a gift. He no longer feared things he once did—like walking down dark allies or airplane turbulence. No more sweating the small stuff. I am sad to report that Pat lost his battle with myeloma earlier this week due to complications from chemo. His powerful life and lessons remain.

Like Pat, I, too, fear life less these days. Pre diagnosis, turbulence terrified me, I hated birthdays because I was getting older and a step closer to death, heights made my palms sweat, and I approached life with an abundance of caution. I stayed in my dysfunctional and abusive marriage too long because I was afraid to leave it. I never did open my cupcake shop or doggy daycare center because… you guessed it, fear. Fear of failure. Fear that I would become more dependent on my husband, a man I grew to loathe more each day. I obsessed with the number of increasing grey hairs and wrinkles, realizing that I was getting older, which meant that employers would like me less, if I left my husband it would be harder to attract a date, and what if I didn’t have enough money to retire. Fear literally ruled everything I did.

And then cancer. Just like that, changed from fearful to fearless. True, I feared cancer, to an extent, except I knew in my gut I would beat it. I no longer was afraid of my husband. I left him, nothing was worth living another day with a tyrant. I didn’t fear the divorce. I stood in truth and courage and I looked forward to my day in court. I had a birthday (actually, I’ve had four more birthdays since cancer) and I celebrated each one joyfully (including the birthday I spent in the hospital). I might be getting older, I told myself, but, yay, I was still alive. On a flight to Copenhagen, we hit horrible turbulence. I didn’t even flinch. When I started dating again, I was just ME. I didn’t try to hide who I was, not my illness or my past, nothing. I was proud of my warrior status. I thought I was kind and honest and thoughtful. I was hardworking and loyal, sarcastic and demanding of myself and others. It was all there, like it or leave it, I was done pretending anything.

Liberating it felt. And it was good. Make that terrific.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

It's a cat fight! Are (many) single Mormon women really this stupid?

I haven't written a Mormon rant in a long time! But I can't resist this one...

As way of background, I was born and raised in the LDS/Mormon church. I am not a practicing Mormon and I think that, culturally, Mormonism can be really strange. Living in Mormon Mecca (Utah) is beyond "off" and sometimes I just have to write about it.

So... it's the ultimate cat fight!

I was recently in a private Facebook group of single Mormon women who are dating (I have since left this group). I stayed for as long as I did because I found it horrifyingly entertaining. Sort of like watching a train wreck. Grown Mormon women saying and doing the dumbest things imaginable (like allowing a man one women met online spend the night in her home and then get angry that he tried to get naughty with her. Hello, Dumbass, be happy he didn't slit your throat in the middle of the night. She then wondered if she should contact his bishop and tell on him. Oh.My.Gosh. Sure, tattle on a guy who did nothing illegal and expect a bishop to do what? Ground him for a week? Take his car away for the weekend?)

So anyway, the latest is from a woman named "Amanda." She has used the group to endlessly warn other women about her soon-to-be ex-husband. Their divorce isn't final yet and she is white hot mad that he is on dating sites already. (Just so you all know, I think that women who date men who have recently split from their wives are nuts. I don't think that anyone should be dating before a divorce is finally and, usually, beyond that. I wrote about this topic on Divorced Moms here and here. But I digress.)

First, Amanda asked the group how she could get her ex excommunicated from the Mormon church. She felt that he needed punishment for... generally not being a good husband (um, you're totally innocent here?). There were no allegations of child abuse or theft or murder. I responded that I was against any form of narc-ing to an ecclesiastical leader and that behavior was incredibly childish. (I don't even let my children tattle.) Oh, the vitriol I got back from Amanda. "Did I ask your opinion? I have every right to do what I want to. Who are you? Like I'd ever want to be friends with someone like you. You don't even know me so why don't you shut up!" It went on and on and on. Um, didn't you go on a forum and ask a question? Anyway, for every person who disagreed with Amanda, she responded numerous times lambasting the poster and then defending herself. Overall, however, a majority of the Mormon women thought it perfectly ok to find men's bishops and tell on them in an attempt to have their temple recommend taken away and perhaps get ex-communicated. (I do not believe in ex-communicating anyone from a religion and narc-ing is seriously a huge big NO in my world.)

She then wrote another post about all the things her ex did. He took a dog they had just adopted from an animal shelter back to the shelter. She went into his house after separation and he called the police on her because she should not have been there. But her side was that there was no restraining order and they were still married so why not? (Ok, scary psycho stalker, what are you doing hanging out in someone else's home?). She said that her ex would call her a control freak because she refused to put up him, and that she had anger issues because she defended herself. (Amanda was sounding more unstable and psychotic the more she wrote.)

I started feeling sorry for her ex.

A new post from Amanda was to express her fury at Mormon women who were supportive of her ex attending an LDS singles dance. She reminded all of us that dating a man who was legally married was against church standards. She threw out a lot of God and "brethren" words (in an attempt, obviously, to look super spiritual and religious when, in fact, she looked crazier and crazier by the word). Many women defended her, some did not. The responses from Amanda to those who disagreed were comical. These grown women literally started calling each other names, including the N word, f-ing biotch, f-ing idiot, and that's just for starters.

As it turns out, this is Amanda's fourth marriage, she knew the guy for just a few weeks before marrying him, and their marriage lasted just a few months. Seriously, does she not bare any responsibility for getting in this mess? Apparently not. She felt the spirit and the guy was a good priesthood holder (except he lied).

Mormonism breeds this craziness. It encourages narc-ing on each other to bishops (in the guise of helping each other out), getting married fast (so you don't have sex outside of marriage), and this ridiculous idea that you aren't whole on your own and, in fact, cannot enter the highest kingdom of heaven without a good Mormon spouse with whom you've been sealed to in the temple. Women get all kinds of crazy competitive to try and out-righteous each other in order to attract that amazing Mormon guy. The women act like 13-year olds. It is the ultimate cat fight and it's not pretty. The men are not a lot better.

And such is the dating scene in Mormonville.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Want to make a great first impression? Here's how!

My latest via Divorced Moms. Enjoy!

Make A Great Impression On Him. 10 Things Men Love
by Lizzy Smith                    
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February 08, 2016
I know some pretty awesome guys that ladies tend to love. Basically, they're handsome, fit, successful, smart, and emotionally stable. I asked them what traits or behaviors they loved most when it came to a date. Here were their ten (mostly universal) answers.

1. Smart

"James" is definitely what most women consider a catch-- a very difficult catch. He's had loads of beautiful and amazing girlfriends and he's broken many hearts along Dating Lane. He finally married "Yolanda." What made Yolanda wife material? Without hesitating, he answered that she is the smartest girl he's ever dated. Yolanda does not have a doctorate degree, I observed, nor has the cured a disease, or advised world leaders on how to finally achieve peace. But, says James, she knows a little about everything. She is well-read, intellectually savvy, and can hold a conversation on just about any meaty topic. "I could talk to her for hours," James said. "It was incredibly sexy."

Lesson: You don't need to be more educated than the next girl, but it's not a bad idea to know a few things happening in the world around you. It makes holding a conversation a lot easier, and that is typically a good thing.

2. Adventurous

"Sam" opines that many women he's dated are too concerned about ruining her hair or makeup, making a fool of herself, or generally "letting go" that they are no longer fun. "I finally met 'Abby' and she was the most adventurous woman I have met," he said. "Abby will go swimming in the ocean with me. let me teach her how to surf, she is a better snowboarder than me, and will eat almost anything that she hasn't tried before. She is fun and I've done many new things because of her, like go to a ballet, visited museums, and traveled to several national parks." I couldn't wait for our next date because she was always up for trying something different or new. She's now my girlfriend and we are really happy together."

Lesson: Many men care less about physical perfection and far more about a woman who is confident and interesting. Pitch the idea that your eye makeup might smudge and go have fun. If he's not suggesting it, you should set it up-- like go horseback riding, take a nature hike, or even walk homeless dogs.

Keep reading...

Sunday, February 7, 2016

On cancer and hair loss (it sucks)

I'm the second one from the left. Me with short hair. This was about a year post SCT.


This is me just weeks after the first photo was taken. I got back from a trip to Long Beach, California and got hair extensions put in. Finally, I felt like ME again.
When I was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2012, I spent about a year bald and wearing wigs. It took so long to regrow because I had two (tandem) stem cell transplants. Prior to illness, I always had long hair and, in preparation of losing my hair to chemo, I cut it above my shoulders, and then I went to a salon and had it shaved off entirely just a few weeks later. Not long thereafter, I also lost all my eyebrows and eyelashes. The latter was harder than hair loss. For eyebrows, I tried pasting on falsies; I looked like Groucho Marx. I then drew them in with a pencil, which looked far better. Since it was summer, I carried around my trusty eyebrow pencil and a small mirror and touched them up multiple times per day because in the heat, they tended to melt and smudge.

For eyelashes, I tried gluing on fake ones but they hurt my eyes and I gave up. Big huge sunglasses ruled the day. I was obsessed with touching my eyelids and brows every morning to see if they had stared growing back. Happy day when they did. Just when my hair started growing back, it was time for my second transplant and I shaved it all off again. It took longer for my hair to start re-growing the second time around. As one of my nurses said, "Fool me once and I'll regrow, fool me twice, I'll take twice as long." Let's see... my second transplant was in September 2012 and by Christmas, I had dark brown fuzz. Three months. By the time we left on for Copenhagen six months later, I could no longer wear a wig. I had too much hair and the wig would just fall off my head at the slightest touch. I can't say I knew what to do with short curly hair but I tried (and I also went to a salon twice per week for help). By September, so a year post transplant, I had long enough hair for hair extensions, so just like that, from short to long hair.

This is my hair just weeks before it all fell out and what didn't fall out, I had a nurse shave off. I was very sad.
Within six months, my hair was as long as my extensions so I was finally back to normal. That is until I had my third stem cell transplant in December. This time, I was in the hospital for so long that I could not plan for shaving my hair. One day I woke up in my hospital room and I had a big knot in the back of my hair. I tried to run my fingers through it and it all came out. One huge ginormous clump of hair, gone, just like that. I called my nurse who brought in a shaver and we got rid of the rest. Sigh. I was bald again. All the healing and hair growth and normalcy... gone. Just like that.

While death -vs- life (and hair loss) is an easy choice, it is nonetheless super traumatic (at least for me). Because my hair had come to symbolize how far I had come on my myeloma journey. For every inch it grew, it was evidence of healing. Even when my hair was a curly mess in the summer humidity, I never got mad at my hair for not cooperating. After all, it was HAIR. Glorious, beautiful hair. But now, I needed to find beany caps, hats and new wigs again (I gave my old wigs to my daughter). And I had to explain to my daughters that mommy was once again bald. Not only that, my new husband would, for the first time, see his wife with no hair. Looking in the mirror was now a daily reminder that I was SICK. This was all surreal.

One of my trusty and comfy hats. Sometimes, I don't feel like wearing a wig and this is a decent alternative.

One of my wigs. I don't wear this one very often, though. Somehow it doesn't fit as snug as another wig I have and I'm paranoid one of my nieces or nephews will pull it off.
It wasn't long before I noticed my eyelashes thinning. It's been 45 days post transplant and I have about four eyelashes per eye. I don't even attempt false eyelashes this time. Instead, I put on dark eyeliner and call it a day. I hate the way my eyes look-- tired and strange. But what can I do about it? NOTHING. And yesterday, I noticed that my eyebrows are starting to fall out. WTH-- shouldn't I be done with this by now? They should be GROWING, not FALLING OUT. Apparently, however, this is normal. So I take out my fat eyebrow pencil and get to work, filling in the gaps of where there is some eyebrow hair and where there isn't.

Today, I noticed the hair on my head is starting to grow back. It's dark and soft and I am excited. Each day, there might be just a little more. And I think I am confident enough this time around to rock a very short hairstyle when there's enough to comfortably cover my scalp. We are heading to Costa Rica on April 1 (if the Zika virus doesn't force us to cancel the trip and go elsewhere). I am hoping that by then, I have enough hair to go wig-less.

In the meantime, I am trying to promote healthy hair growth. I rub organic fractionated coconut oil on my scalp every morning so it doesn't get too dry and flaky. I rub essential oils, too, to encourage hair to grow faster. I got permission to use Rogaine for women. I purchased a box at Target yesterday, though I haven't used it yet. Does it work? The jury is out-- some say yes, others say no. And I pray every single night that, in addition to letting me live, my hair and eyelashes and eyebrows will come back soon. I want to look normal again. I want to heal. I want to be the Old Lizzy, not this sick Myeloma Lizzy.

The joys and pains of this myeloma journey. Somehow between all the horribleness, all we survivors can do it celebrate each win, and enjoy every great moment. One day at a time.

Hugs, Lizzy

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My tips for combating cabin fever

I have major cabin fever. It wouldn't be so awful if I didn't start the season off by spending some 25 days in a hospital, for a big chunk of that time not able to leave my room at all. And though I'm no longer sick, these days, it's just cold, Every Single Day. For those of you that feel the same way, here are ideas for not losing your mind this winter.

21 Ways to Kick Winter Cabin Fever in the Arse
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February 03, 2016
635564964265067469Fotolia_68330514_XS.jpgThis is the time of year when cabin fever can set in Big Time. With much of the country experiencing heaving snowstorms, rain and cold temps, staying safe and warm often means staying indoors. The lack of fresh air, natural vitamin D, and sunlight can wreak havoc on one emotionally. So what's a girl to do? Here are 20 ideas to help perk you up, keep you healthy, and encourage you to get moving:
  1. Take a class: Cooking classes rock, cake decorating classes can be found at many hobby shops (like Michael's), or start taking piano or French lessons. Go to your local college and see if you can audit a class that sounds interesting (like a current evens class). Learning something new is a great distraction and keeping mentally occupied is good.
  2. Bake/cook. Try a new recipe with ingredients you've never heard of, let alone tasted. Awakening your taste buds is manna for the soul. Comfort food, like mac & cheese, soups, breads and cookies are great options. If you have children around, involve them. Some of the greatest times my girls and I have together involve the kitchen, eating cookie dough or tasting our soups along the way.
  3. Take an afternoon nap. When the weather is really cold and dismal, sleeping under warm cozy blankets is luxurious. (Just make sure you're not sleeping too much or too often, as this can be a sign of depression setting in.)

Monday, February 1, 2016

A guy shares why he started dating again immediately post split

My latest via Divorced Moms. Men who just split from their wives and are already dating again? I've written about this before. but I'm totally against it and you can read why by clicking here. But in this article, we get a guy's perspective. Very interesting, I think. Enjoy!

Important Lessons From A Guy Who Dated Immediately Post Split
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February 02, 2016
635654363551459870Fotolia_78223063_XS.jpgI’ve been vocal about how wrong I think it is to date a guy who just split from his wife. If you do, you’re getting a guy who has not yet dealt with the end of his marriage, you could be making matters worse for him during his divorce, and you’re inserting yourself into the relationship between he and his ex (never a good idea). But I recently met a guy named “Ken” who, since the end of his marriage, dates a lot of women. And he got on dating web sites the very night of his separation and had his first date the following day. He didn’t miss a beat and defends this decision, saying it was perfectly fine. So I asked many questions because he offers up important insight for the ladies in the dating game. Here goes…
Ken's Story
I was miserable in my marriage and by the time my wife and I separated, I was more than ready to date. For years during my marriage I was lonely and now that I was single, I was excited. I was ready to find companionship and get some physical affection. I was starving to death and I was ready for the buffet that the dating sites provided. I deserved to have fun and there was no reason to wait. My life was just getting started! 
I made out with the first woman I went out with. We met at a restaurant and I thought she was beautiful. Honestly, she was average but after I was thrown crumbs from my wife for years and hardly got any sex, any woman would have been hot and turned me on. We went to a movie and afterwards, I drove her back to her car and we made out like crazy. I was like a high school boy, I could not keep my hands off of her. I went home and got back on my dating site to see who had winked at me or emailed me. There were four more women, score! And I thought men had a harder time finding women on dating sites. Thankfully those rumors weren’t true. I emailed them all back and within a few days, I had four dates lined up, one per night. Then I texted my date from hours earlier to tell her I had a great time and couldn’t wait to see her again. She texted me right back and asked if I was busy the next night. I already had another date lined up but I told her that I had plans with my kids. I suggested that we could maybe meet up later. I was off to a great start.
The next night repeated almost just like my date from the night before. After we made out in front of her car, I promised her I'd call later. Then I got in my car, drove a few blocks away and called Lady #1 and asked if she wanted company. She didn't hesitate. She gave me her address and I was at her front door within 30 minutes. She opened a bottle of wine and we pretended to watch TV, cuddling up on the couch. In no time, we were having sex. I couldn’t believe my luck.