Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why this divorced mom & cancer thriver works out (and you should too)

My latest via Divorced Moms. Enjoy! Now go out for a run (or a yoga class)...

Hugs, Lizzy

Why Every Divorced Mom Should Be Working Out 
by Lizzy Smith 
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March 30, 2016
635603886765862135Fotolia_75971798_XS.jpgIn 2012, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (a blood cancer) and immediately left my alcoholic husband. I knew there wasn't a chance in hell that I could ever fight my disease and heal while in an emotionally abusive environment. My daughters and I moved two states away and in with my parents. Never before did I feel the almost primal need to be cared for by my mom and dad. Here I was, 44 years old and I just needed  unconditional love and safety-- a haven. 

I immediately entered treatment, receiving high dose chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants. I also filed for divorce, which turned out to be an extremely high conflict one. In between my stem cell transplants (words cannot describe how hard this treatment is, physically and emotionally), my doctor said I could take a vacation. I almost started crying when he said that. It was a sign that I was still a human, not just a cancer patient and a single mom going through a divorce. I decided to completely cut-off from doctors and attorneys and re-charge. I purchased flex Amtrak tickets and we departed from Salt Lake City in the middle of the night. First stop: Chicago-- an 18-hour trek. I brought along electric blankets and travel pillows. We settled into our seats and slept. When I woke up, I felt tired and “strange,” dizzy. I watched a few movies, read, ate lunch in the dining car, and took long naps.

We arrived in Chicago to sweltering heat and humidity. Intense fatigue and weakness set in. But sitting in our hotel was not an option for me. I was going to push beyond my comfort level and enjoy my trip. For the next 17-days, we toured Chicago, Washington, DC and New York City. And I discovered something really surprising: When I was resting, I felt awful. But when I was up and about, those symptoms nearly vanished. Here I was, just weeks post stem cell transplant and I was walking in extreme heat and humidity (temps were 110-degrees and higher) at least ten miles per day, and enjoying it.

When we got back home, I started preparing for my next transplant. It was also time to start responding to some of the filings my ex had sent along. Big breath. I could no longer ignore life, it was time to face reality again.

The thing is-- I needed to get strong for all kinds of reasons. I needed to heal from my broken marriage, and from the trauma of divorce. I knew I needed to be strong if I was going to beat cancer and win in the divorce process (at the same time, no less!). As hard as it was, that healing meant working out. As weak and as sick as I was, I needed to start somewhere, even if it was one tiny step at a time. One day at a time. Sometimes, a minute at a time. Allowing tears and anger, yes. And then getting up, moving, and kicking fatigue, sadness and side-effects in the ass.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Girls weekend in Vegas & venturing out wigless (in public!)

I had a great weekend and wrote about it in my Divorced Moms column. The biggest news of all? I went out in PUBLIC without a wig! That was really brave (for me).

A Big Girls Weekend Get-Away (And How I’m Not The Same Girl Anymore)
by Lizzy Smith                    
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March 28, 2016
liz towel.jpg

I am a big huge fan of girls-only retreats. Sometimes nothing calms my soul than hanging with my
girlfriends away from home (the farther away, the better). I’ve had friends who, when they get a new guy, dump everyone in their lives as they concentrate on their new relationship. Then they (try) to reappear when things head south. I don’t do that—I make a real effort to ensure that I make my friends I priority regardless of my relationship status.

Such is the long history I’ve had with my best friend, Julie. We met in college and have been “besties” ever since. She knows me better than no one. The best part of our friendship? I can tell her anything and feel safe, loved and accepted. Which doesn’t mean that we are not honest with each other even when things get dicey. We have been close for so long that “we” can withstand painful truth, which is one of the many reasons I love her so much—she will give me advice and her opinion, even if it is hard to hear. Developing that kind of relationship takes time, commitment, love, trust and depth. It does not happen overnight.

This past weekend, I took my oldest daughter to Las Vegas and met up with Julie and her oldest daughter. In the warmth of the Vegas sun, we reconnected, ate (and drank) too much, sent our daughters off to a Justin Beiber concert, went on the rollercoaster at New York, New York, and got some fresh vitamin D while laying out at the pool (yes, I put on lots of sunscreen).

What was most exciting, perhaps, was that I bravely went out in public without my trusty wig on for the first time. I went bald in December, thanks to chemotherapy. It took 45 long days until it started growing back. I currently have a nice soft layer on my scalp but I never head out without one of my three wigs. Until this past weekend. Julie and our daughters convinced me that I look great with my shaved head. My daughter said that I look “fierce.” On day two in Vegas, I went to the lobby to buy a coffee and I did it—no wig! And guess what? No one stared at me or said a word. It felt fantastic, liberating actually.

That afternoon, we headed out to the pool and, again, no wig. I was paranoid not to burn my scalp and wrapped my daughter’s t-shirt around my head. When we took selfies, I lost my bravery. I wrapped one of the hotel’s orange towels around my head before we started snapping away. Truth is, a short buzz-cut girl I am not. I am one with long tresses. I couldn’t let any of my Facebook friends or Instagram followers see this person who was not me.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Mommy Wars: Stay At Home Mom versus Working Mom. Which is best for the kids?

My latest via Divorced Moms. Honestly, I cannot wait for summer-- it's my favorite time of year. I truly love keeping my kids busy, the flexibility of it all, and going fun places. Exploring. I love the sun and the heat. Yesterday it snowed in Utah and was miserable cold. Today, no snow but it is still miserably cold. GET ME OUT OF HERE. Ok, fine, I will! Morgan and I fly to Las Vegas tomorrow night for the weekend, and in nine days, we are going to Costa Rica for Spring Break. I cannot wait to be warm every day and to wear sundresses and flip flops again.

Happy Hump Day!


I Stepped Into the Mommy Wars: Are Kids Better Off At Home?
by Lizzy Smith                    
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March 23, 2016
635707723381011703Fotolia_84429106_XS.jpgWith my daughters’ Spring Break just next week, I’ve started thinking about our summer plans. My gosh it is coming quick—just two more months and they’re done!

Before I got sick with cancer and went on medical leave, I worked full time for Corporate America. This meant that their summer vacation wasn’t mine, so I had to hurry up and sign up my children for al-day camps before the best ones filled up. The cost was staggering but you know what? They loved their summers. Though they couldn’t sleep in (my then-hubby and I had to get to the office early), they got to pick camps based on their interests. One week, it was swim camp, another was skateboarding, then ice skating or crafts… Their favorite (and was the priciest) was a week spent at different theme parks in Southern California: Knott’s Berry Farm, Belmont Park, Sea World, Legoland, and a big waterpark.

Post cancer diagnosis, our lives became very different. For starters, I no longer work a 9-5 job at the office. This gives me loads of flexibility and I can take my laptop on the road and do anything from any location. The first summer, I was left scratching my head on how we would spend our time together. It was awesome as, for the first time in my adult life, I could play with my children. I filled it by taking trips (one was a 17-day trek on Amtrak across the USA with stops in Chicago, Washington DC and New York City; another was several weeks in Los Angeles hanging out with friends who were teachers and had the summer off of work, too), going to the local rec center and hanging out at the pool (them swimming, me reading magazines under a huge tree), and taking day excursions to local museums and venues like the zoo. On the days that I had nothing planned, it drove me bat-crazy to see my children sleep all day and watch TV. I literally couldn’t handle it so I’d drag them back out to a movie, or shopping, or just a drive up the canyon.

So what to do this summer? I started making phone calls to local places that are likely running day camps—a climbing facility, a local kids’ museum, recreation centers, cheer clubs… I am not joking—every single one of these places has camps, but they run for about two hours. That’s it. I am not happy. “That’s not a camp, that’s a class,” I’ve said to many of the employees. “Where are your all day camps?” I get these blank stares and usually a nervous giggle. “You’re in Utah!” one woman said with a glare.

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Parents in Utah don’t have jobs? I have literally never seen more little children in my entire life. What the heck are these parents doing with them all summer? I went on a quest to find out.

Keep reading...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Myeloma weekend in Miami! Thanks Cure Mag for Recognizing Jenny Ahlstrom of Myeloma Crowd!

William and I had an amazing weekend in Miami. I was invited to attend CURE magazines Myeloma Heroes Awards banquet, along with my partner in The Myeloma Crowd (, who I nominated (she won!) as a hero.

The weather in Miami was heavenly-- hot, humid and sunny. We ate dinner at Nobu, walked along the beach, and met up with some of my favorite myeloma peeps that I've known over electronic world, but now I got to hang out with them in person. I love cancer survivors-- they are pretty much universally amazing people. We stayed at the lovely Eden Roc hotel, with a very 1950's hip Mad Men flair. Our room overlooked the beautiful South Beach.

On Thursday night from my hotel room, I was interviewed on the World Hope Broadcast radio program for 20 minutes where I discussed tips on thriving life's curveballs. I can talk about THAT topic forever because I've survived some of life scariest moments simultaneously! And I found a really fabulous life on the other side of survival (well, between treatments, anyway-- myeloma treatments are really awful sometimes).

On Friday, I found out just prior to the awards gala that I was actually introducing Jenny's award. I was totally unprepared but since I can talk about our story and the myeloma world non-stop, it was fun. Talking about Jenny rocks because she is amazing and she really is my hero. She is a pioneer when it comes to showing what we patients can do. We do not need to sit on the sidelines being a patient, being passive, waiting for treatment and a cure. We can GET UP, LIVE and take a very active role in finding new treatments and living better.

After the ceremony dinner was over, I got THE BEST compliment EVER. A doctor walked up to me and said, "I saw you and your husband in the elevator heading down to the beach. You were so cute together and I thought how lucky this couple was to have a nice vacation together and here I was working. You looked so happy and adorable. And then tonight I realize you're here for the same thing I am. You're a patient. I had no idea! You are so vibrant and fun and alive. I have a newly diagnosed patient and I'd love to connect her with you. Would you mind?"

Mind? I'd love it! I love inspiring others when I can to live past challenges. Anyway, we got home last night and my daughter, Morgan, and I chatted for a long time. She melts my heart. While she's getting older and seemingly more independent, she still needs her mum. We missed each other so much that it hurts. I hate leaving my daughters, not even for a day. It was so good to be in the loving embrace of my children, who are my life. THEY are my passion.

Here's Cure magazines recap of this weekend's event. Now let's get busy finding that CURE!

CURE Honors Eight Individuals and One Organization for Support of Those With Multiple Myeloma
In keynote speech, TV and movie actress Marlee Matlin urges resilience.


In her keynote speech, TV and movie actress Marlee Matlin (second from left) spoke about her father's diagnosis with multiple myeloma, dealing with adversity by cultivating a good sense of humor, and more.
In her keynote speech, TV and movie actress Marlee Matlin (second from left) spoke about her father's diagnosis with multiple myeloma, dealing with adversity by cultivating a good sense of humor, and more. When it comes to being deaf in a hearing world, a recipe for success is to simply have “chutzpah,” and the same can be said for those fighting multiple myeloma.

Actress Marlee Matlin’s dad taught her to have that kind of strength in the face of challenges, and then he embodied the philosophy himself after he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the Academy Award winner told an audience of patients with the disease, their loved ones, patient advocates and health professionals during CURE magazine’s inaugural Multiple Myeloma Heroes Awards in Miami March 18. The event, which honored eight people for making heroic contributions in support of those with myeloma, took place during the 20th Annual International Congress on Hematologic Malignancies: Focus on Leukemias, Lymphomas, and Myeloma, hosted by Physicians Education Resource.

Matlin won the Academy Award at age 21 for her leading role in the movie “Children of a Lesser God,” and has appeared in television shows including “Seinfeld,” “The West Wing,” “The L Word,” “Switched at Birth,” “Picket Fences” and “Dancing with the Stars.” As a child who lost her hearing at age 18 months, Matlin received a tremendous amount of support from her parents and siblings, who taught her to deal with adversity by never taking no for an answer and by cultivating a good sense of humor. They lived those ideals, first by rejecting a doctor’s suggestion to send Matlin away to a school for the deaf, and later by creating stories that made her feel comfortable with being different – she had an “accent,” her brother told children who asked, because their parents were foreign spies.

When her father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2003, he lived by the same principles, Matlin recalled. “He lived his life and (the cancer) was just part of who he was. He did not let it define him. He got up every day and proved everyone wrong,” she said. “He lost his 10-year struggle, but his life lessons are in me, just as they are for the heroes here tonight who will never take no for an answer.” Four of the people honored during the event — a doctor, a nurse, the founder of a website and a patient advocate — made their contributions individually, and four did so together, as part of a group that climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for multiple myeloma research. In addition, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) was given a special award for making a difference in the lives of people with the disease. A collaboration between CURE Media Group, Takeda Oncology and MMRF, Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma brought together a 15-person team of patients, doctors, family members and supporters to climb Kilimanjaro’s famed 19,341-foot Uhuru Peak in Tanzania, Africa.

In conquering the world’s highest free-standing mountain, the team raised awareness of myeloma and nearly $250,000, with all proceeds benefiting MMRF efforts to accelerate research for next-generation treatments. During the evening, a documentary about the Kilimanjaro climb debuted, sharing with attendees not only the challenges involved in the climb, but the meaning behind it for participants. In a way, the climb was a metaphor, said Marty Murphy, director of patient education for CURE.

“A cancer patient has a unique and very powerful journey,” he said in the documentary. “It is an incredible uphill challenge, from initial diagnosis through how you get through your day-to-day, with your work, with your loved ones, with your physical situation. It’s such a major journey for a cancer patient.” Erik Lohrmann, vice president of sales, oncology, CURE Media Group, praised all the heroes for engaging in the kind of “team science” that leads to success. “You all move mountains in your tireless efforts every day to raise awareness about this disease and fight for a cure: researchers, drug developers and organizations like MMRF, all working together for the tremendous progress we’ve already made identifying newer treatments and, hopefully, one day, a cure,” he said. “Above all, there’s power in each patient support team: doctors, nurses, advocacy groups, spouses, family members, friends and peers. Time and time again, patients remind us that they could have come this far without their support teams.”

The individual winners were nominated by patients, caregivers and colleagues.

Michael S. Katz, a tireless patient advocate across a broad spectrum of cancers who helped shape the drug-development process, was honored posthumously. A management consultant for more than 30 years, Katz was a loving husband, father and grandfather who lived with multiple myeloma for 25 years and rectal cancer for five years. He served as a long-time board member of the International Myeloma Foundation, chair of the Patient Representatives Committee of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, chair of the National Cancer Institute Director's Consumer Liaison Group, and also served as a patient consultant for the FDA. In 2014, he was honored with the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Partners in Progress Award.

Katz was nominated by myeloma patient Nancy Stewart, who noted that his work on medical committees led to decreases in the amounts of dexamethasone and bisphosphonates prescribed to patients with myeloma, which has improved their quality of life. “He was just a remarkable man,” she said. “He connected with people, taught people about myeloma and let them know that you can live your life even though you have a diagnosis.”

Katz’s son, Jason Katz, was on hand to accept the award. “I wish my hero was here tonight to accept this award,” Jason Katz said. “I’m honored to accept on his behalf. He lived for his family and he lived for patients. It was a patient at a seminar that gave him hope, and he needed to pay that back. I think doing that gave him some extra duration to his life, so I’m especially grateful that this came from a patient. That’s what really matters in all this.” Mary Bohn, RN, OCN, is a nurse at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A nurse for 32 years with an oncology certification for 25 years, Bohn works at her cancer center’s clinic with multiple myeloma and stem cell transplant patients. She speaks at support groups, plans survivor symposia, prepares patient and nurse education and, most importantly, cares for patients, often staying late to make sure their questions and concerns are resolved.

In September 2015, Bohn was the first nurse to receive the Chuck Koval Award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for her service to the myeloma and greater blood cancer community. “Half the myeloma patients in our state know her,” said Lori Jemison, also a nurse, who nominated Bohn for the award. “I’m honored to have witnessed her hard work and compassion, and that I could nominate her for such a prestigious award.” Rafat Abonour, MD, is professor of medicine, pathology and laboratory medicine at Indiana University, where he has worked since 1995. Abonour established and directs the Multiple Myeloma and Plasma Cell Program at Indiana University and has authored or coauthored numerous peer-reviewed initial research articles, book chapters and review articles. Abonour has lectured nationally and internationally and received numerous awards, including the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor an Indiana governor can bestow, in 2010. In addition, he created Miles for Myeloma, a bicycling program that has raised $3 million, so far, for myeloma research. His nominators describe Abanour as a caring and encouraging doctor who supports patients during difficult times. In a videotaped comment, Abanour praised his patients and their families as “the real heroes,” adding that “I love my patients, their families and the word cure.”

Jennifer Ahlstrom is a wife and mother of six from Utah who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2010. Her goal is to keep her favorite job as a mom while helping to find a cure by filling the gaps in the work already being done. To that end, she created the Myeloma Crowd website, Myeloma Crowd Radio, Myeloma Crowd TV, all aimed at educating patients in understandable language. She also launched the Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative (MCRI), which has raised $300,000 to help fund two clinical trials testing immunotherapy techniques in high-risk and standard-risk myeloma patients.

She was nominated by her partner in those ventures, Lizzy Smith, a myeloma patient who has undergone several stem cell transplants. “She’s such a pioneer,” Smith said, and her work shows that “we don’t have to be patients and just wait to be treated and be passive and fearful.”

The remaining four honorees are patients who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Stanley Wagner is a Brooklyn, New York, print production artist who was diagnosed with smoldering myeloma in 2012 that progressed to multiple myeloma in January of 2013. After five cycles of chemotherapy, Wagner has remained in remission. He climbed Kilimanjaro as an affirmation of his appreciation to the MMRF for working toward new treatments for people with multiple myeloma, and to his wife, Pam, for her support. In the past, Wagner has moderated a Facebook multiple myeloma support page and helped to launch a multiple myeloma support group in Brooklyn. Wagner was nominated by Jamie Slater, a colleague whose interest in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro sparked the idea for the Moving Mountains climb. “I nominated Stan because he’s an amazing person,” said Slater, who described him as “the gentlest man ever” and someone with great “strength of character.”

Bob Dickey, Jr., a single father of three boys, was diagnosed with myeloma in 2011 and underwent a stem cell transplant on July 4, 2012. A year later, he climbed Mt. Whitney as his first fundraiser for the MMRF. After a two-year remission, Dickey needed further treatment and joined a trial testing the proteasome inhibitor Ninlaro (ixazomib). A year later, he is near remission again. In addition to participating in fundraising climbs, Dickey enjoys speaking to cancer support groups and newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients.

His nominator, Ryan Cohlhepp of Takeda, noted that, while most of the climbers went back to their lives after walking away from Kilimanjaro, Dickey spent two days at a center for orphans and displaced children in Africa. He added that Dickey’s niece, 8 at the time he was diagnosed, developed a children’s triathlon to raise money for myeloma research. “It speaks to the impact Bob has for changing this world,” Cohlhepp said. “He has truly become an advocate, and he truly is my hero.” Dickey told the audience that “heroes are ordinary people put in extraordinary situations,” and stressed that patients can’t make a difference without help from nurses, doctors, advocates and family members.

Jeff Goad, a 55-year-old Chicago beer sommelier, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma the week before his 50th birthday; he’s been in maintenance remission since 2011. Goad considers the MMRF a trusted resource and, as a marathon runner, has previously used marathons as a means to raise money for the group. Before they climbed Kilimanjaro, Goad and his wife, Ramona Biliunas, hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim as a tribute to multiple myeloma patients. His brother, David Goad, who nominated him, noted that, after diagnosis with myeloma, “some will get busy dying and some will get busy living. I know one who is not just living the cards he was dealt. He’s chosen to embrace what’s possible.”

Jeff Goad thanked his brother for the support. “I’m immensely proud of you and all you’ve done to inspire me over the last six years,” he said. Charles (Chuck) Wakefield, a Texas dentist, was diagnosed with myeloma in December 2003 but currently has no evidence of disease. Always active, he was eager to participate in the Kilimanjaro climb. He also speaks to support groups and treats oral problems in many multiple myeloma and other patients who have undergone bone marrow transplant, preaching the importance of perfect oral hygiene. He was nominated by his oncologist and colleague, Brian Berryman, of Texas Oncology-Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, who has also become a dear friend.

“It’s been a blessing to me to be involved with his life and to be involved with you guys,” Berryman said. “Dr. Wakefield is my hero. My mother (who died of myeloma) was my hero, as are you, myeloma patients and caregivers. There’s nothing I could do to be (equal to) you guys.” The evening’s final award went to the MMRF and was accepted by Sharon Saias, the organization’s vice president of marketing. “We have a staff back at the foundation that is just amazing, people that you don’t see who work so hard for the organization,” Saias said. She particularly praised Alicia O’Neill, director of business development and partnerships for the MMRF, who participated in the Kilimanjaro climb, saying that O’Neill “drives us with her passion and support, and just is an amazing friend to me and colleague.” “I’m so grateful and honored to be accepting this award for MMRF,” Saias continued. “We still need to all remember that it is an incurable disease, and our mission is to find a cure. As our founder says, we won’t take our foot off the pedal until we find that cure.”

The awards ceremony was led by mistress of ceremonies Kathy La Tour, CURE’s editor-at-large. In her keynote speech, with the help of her interpreter Jack Jason, Matlin told stories of obstacles overcome. She recalled being a 13-year-old actress in a theater program for deaf and hearing children and telling the actor Henry Winkler, when he visited, that she wanted to be a Hollywood actor like him. “Henry told me to never back down or give up my dreams,” said Matlin, who is still close friends with Winkler and, in fact, married her husband on Winkler’s lawn. “Eight-and-a-half years later, I was standing on stage with an Academy Award in my hand.”

Matlin described the headlines the next day that claimed she’d won due to “pity,” and the ongoing career that has proved those writers wrong. Finally, she related a Jewish parable passed down through her family, about a man who collects jewels and has a favorite diamond that gets cracked. A craftsman promises to fix it, but brings it back with the crack still there – and a rose also carved in. “Now the diamond has the most exquisite rose with a stem, which makes it more unique, remarkable and perfect,” Matlin said. “Every day, there are people who are facing a diagnosis of cancer, but when you honor heroes, you are little craftsmen creating beautiful roses out of what some people might think is an insurmountable challenge.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Refuse to be a stepmonster. 10 Tips learned the hard way

Tomorrow I'm splurging on eyelash extensions for my oldest daughter and me. She gets rewarded for a great school year thus far and I get rewarded for (you guessed it) surviving my third stem cell transplant and spending 25 days in the hospital during the months of November and December. A fun opportunity for some mommy-daughter bonding. Morgan is so excited, she's been begging me for eyelashes forever and I've said no. Waste of money. But, my favorite motto, "life is too short" has ruled the day. If she wants fillers, she'll need to figure out how to pay for them herself.

Speaking for mommy-daughter bonding, here is my latest column via Divorced Moms.

The Stepmonster. 10 Lessons Learned The Hard Way 
BY LIZZY SMITH                   
March 16, 2016                
Becoming a new stepmom can be a daunting task. The rewards can also be amazing. But as you step into your new duties, despite all your good intentions, expect a bumpy road. To go into it believing otherwise will be your first mistake. Know that, likely, his children may not be nearly as excited and optimistic as you are. You may very well be stepping into a much more chaotic, painful and volatile environment than you (or he) realize. Caution is key, as if a lot of patience, love, kindness and forgiveness.

I've known lots of stepmoms, and stepmonsters. (Trust me, it's far better to be the stepmom.) Over the years, as I've talked and listened, there are some key facts learned in the trenches. Here are my top 10:

1. There may be no winning
You and your guy may be thinking that this whole blended family-thing will be easy-peasy. Careful! This is not the Brady Bunch. Simply put, know that even if you do everything right, his children may not like you very much, and they kind of deserve a big huge pass. As hard as it is to want (and expect) respect from his kids, you may not get it. Likely, the children, regardless of age, are in a world of hurt and adding yourself to the mix may be most unwelcomed.

My biggest advice is to smile a lot. Love his children. Talk to them. Keep an open line of communication. When all else fails, tell them that you struggle, too, and you have no idea how to behave. We moms are not perfect and it’s ok to stop pretending that we are. Be honest. And when you need a “time out,” go for a nice long walk.

Oftentimes things work themselves out over a period of time but it rarely happens instantly. Be patient. Take it one step at a time, one day at a time.

2. Remember, they’re kids (and they were there first)
His children were in the picture before you were. And his primary obligation is to his minor children. If this sounds sucky to you, you should find another guy. As a stepmom, acknowledge that they should come first (especially the younger they are). He has a financial, legal and moral obligation to the children he helped bring into the world. You should do nothing to undermine that.

Keep reading...

Friday, March 11, 2016

I went for the whole enchilada (almost)

I'm going to use this whole "but I endured a stem cell transplant and spent 25 DAYS in the hospital" excuse for all its worth. The latest... Yesterday, I went for a major pick-me-up. I accompanied my mother to a medical facial spa for a consult. She spent no money but I sure did! Her appointment lasted just minutes so I butted in...

"What can you do for me? I just finished up major chemo and I feel awful. My whole face is falling!" I lamented.

Two ladies studied my face. They had to say the whole "You look great [for your age]"-thing but then they started throwing out all kinds of options.

"Surgery around the eyes to tighten them up," said one.

"No surgery," said I. " I doubt I would even get permission from my oncologist."

"Fillers in the cheekbones would get rid of the hollow look," said the other.

Hollow look? Ugh. Thanks, Dexamethasone (steroid) for taking the fat from around my face away. Some people get Fat Face from Dex. I lost my muscle and padding instead (why Dex couldn't have this same affect with my tummy I'll never know).

"What else? Keep going," I said.

"Botox around the eyes," said one.

"Lip filler," said the other.

They mentioned that the Botox I had the month prior in my forehead was awesome. But what about the rest?

Right... What about the rest?

Cost? I can't even go there. But, hey, I endured. I deserved this. Right?

So I ordered up the whole enchilada. Cheek fillers (should last 18-24 months), Botox around the eyes, and fat lips. The injections HURT. Hey, this is no day at the spa getting a massage and pedi, that's for sure. Lots of topical numbing solutions and pricks and holding onto a pillow placed in my lap for dear life.

And when I was done? Well, today I have major frozen face and you know what? I love the feeling! I hate it when my face feels like it's falling and, since I'm getting used to the feeling of not being able to move my facial muscles, I don't like it when it goes away.

I really didn't think my children or William would notice so I decided to stay silent. I picked up Siena from school and she looked at my funny but said nothing. Oh, there's Morgan. "How was your day?" I asked her, kissing her on the forehead.

"Oh, my gosh! You got your lips done!" she said.

"What? No I didn't," I said.

"Yes you did and... what else did you do to your face?" she asked.


William stopped by my parents' house to pick us up for dinner. As we pulled into the restaurant he said, "Don't think for a minute I don't know where you've been," he said.

"Careful what you say. Don't accuse," I responded.

"You look beautiful the way you were," he said.

Right answer! "But I didn't believe you," I said.

He gave me a huge hug, told me he loved me, and I was perfect. Gosh I love that man.

My eyelashes are finally growing back from the awful chemo when I lost them all. I don't think they're quite long enough yet for eyelash extensions. I haven't decided if I'll do them when they are long enough but I might.

Life is too short. Call me vain but whatever! After 25 days in the hospital, fighting myeloma, and surviving my third stem cell transplant, I deserve it.

The ultimate goal in divorce.... peaceful silence. A guest post from Chris

From Divorced Moms this morning. Thanks, Chris! Great to "meet" you.

From A Guy's Perspective: Peaceful Silence
By Lizzy Smith and Chris
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March 11, 2016
635651377545402480Fotolia_76271441_XS.jpgI recently received a comment on my article, Finding Clarity: The Importance of Documenting Your Relationships from a guy named Chris, which we continued via email. His comments were supportive of point-of-view. He acknowledged the differences in our backstories but offered up his perspective on mine, which I love to hear. I especially love getting perspectives from men. So I asked Chris to write a guest post, as I believe he offers up a very different way of taking in a failed relationship.
Recently there were some heated discussions on social media about how best to respond to an abusive ex’s texts and emails. (I always suggest total silence—bullies love to victimize and if we finally stop allowing it to happen, they almost always show their true colors—they are cowards and the behavior stops.) As luck would have it, this is the topic Chris chose to write about. Silence.
In way of introducing Chris… it’s been many years since he and his ex-wife found a peaceful silence between them. Chris says that are no open loops, no unresolved conflicts, no ill will. About two years after their divorce was final, that peaceful silence just came to both of them, busy with their own new separate lives. Here’s that part of his story… Oh, to be so lucky to have a decent man for an ex! And either way, I think his story is an important one to ponder—moving on, being silent, making peace.
Beautiful, peaceful, necessary silence
By Chris
“There’s a time for departure, even when there’s no certain place to go.” (Tennessee Williams)
The most obvious time for departure came for my then-wife, “Emily”, after she’d made plans to leave. She had started planning long before, cutting threads, giving signals. She probably wanted me to leave, but I had no intention of leaving. I didn’t want her to leave, and didn’t think she actually would. We were both unhappy, but happiness and mutual respect meant more to her than it did to me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Should we raise our daughters to be financially strong adults one day? Heck yes!

From Divorced Moms today. Enjoy! (And give the women in your life a huge hug. It's International Women's Day today!)

The Value of Independence. Raising Daughters In Tough Times
by Lizzy Smith                    

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March 08, 2016
635502381947890040Fotolia_70945173_XS.jpgNot that long ago, I sat across a table at a local Beans & Brew, sipping coffee and talking to a friend “Tori” who was giving me the rundown on her marriage. Her husband cheated on her with a single neighbor. She read some of his private emails and got the surprise of her life- her husband was in love with another woman and she knew her. And, she discovered, he was also a porn addict (just about every Mormon woman I know has a husband who is/was a porn addict, whether that is true or not is debatable).

“I don’t love him,” she said almost flippantly. “Sometimes I think I hate him.”

“Does he know this?” I asked.

“Yes. He says he loves me and wants our marriage to work. He ended the affair,” she said. She was so matter-of-fact I couldn’t determine how she really felt about the whole thing. Numb maybe?

“What are you going to do?”

“Oh, I’m staying. I thought about leaving him but no way. It comes down to the fact that I don’t want to work. If I leave him, I’m going to have to get a job and support these kids and I don’t want to,” she said.

Wow. This brought to mind another story of another friend several years back. I’ll call her “Clara.” Clara had a kindergartner, “Timmy” who announced to his teacher one day that his dad was hitting and punching him. He showed the principle the bruises to prove it. Clara got a call that afternoon from a police officer. He informed Clara that they had just interviewed Timmy at school and she had two choices: 1) Move out of her marital home with her son in tow while the investigation took place; 2) Have Timmy taken into protective custody and placed in foster care. Clara rushed home, packed a few suitcases, picked her son up at school and waited for social workers to arrive with papers “allowing” her and Timmy to move out (Clara’s husband was threatening to fight any attempts to move Timmy). When they arrived, one social worker handed Clara a list of women’s shelters she could go to.

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mommy (Dex) Monster is back. The myeloma journey continues

My stem cell transplant was AWFUL. But the cool part of it was an entire 75 days of no treatment once I engrafted. When I finally stopped puking every day, I started getting better fast. And without any chemo-type drugs, I've started feeling pretty close to normal. I honestly don't remember how I really felt pre multiple myeloma but I think I'm semi close to it when I get nice long treatment breaks. Energy level is back, I started working out again, and I feel a greater sense of Lizzy-calm settling in. Nice.

But last week, I started my maintenance therapy of Velcade injection in the tummy and 10 of those awful tiny green pills, otherwise known as Dexamethasone (dex), a steroid. Who knows if this maintenance therapy will even work but my doctor and I decided we would give it a shot (pun intended). I became refractory to Velcade-Dex but "some" studies show that after a long break, your body can be receptive to the combo again. So here we go, I suppose it can't hurt.

I took those tiny pills and that night, took an Ambien and went to sleep. And then it was 3:30 AM and I was wide awake. What the heck? I thought. And thought some more. Why was I awake at such a ridiculous hour? Oh, right, I took all that Dex. (Dex makes the poor taker wired, crazy, unable to sleep, and easily agitated.) I knew it was useless to try and fall back asleep so I tip-toed out of the bedroom so I wouldn't wake up William, taking Princess our cat with me, closed the door, laid on the couch and watched two episodes of The People Versus OJ. I then took a nice long hot bath and started reading the Lisa Rimini book about escaping Scientology (oh, my, lots of parallels with Mormonism!). And then I got dressed, made breakfast for the girls, and the day began.

The thing is, the day after I take Dex, I crash. I am tired and extremely amped up at the same time. Everything and everyone gets on my nerves. We went to the largest Costco in the world on that fateful day (seriously, it's right here in Salt Lake and it rocks) and Siena was hyper, talking non stop, pointing out every single thing in that ginormous store ("Ohhhhh, Mommy, look!) and after a bit, I wanted to jump out of my skin every time she spoke up. It was all I could do not to SCREAM "SHUT UP". I controlled myself but finally told her she needed to stop talking for a few, that she was wigging me out (another pun intended, as I'm wearing one of my newer wigs in the photo above).

We got home and Morgan asked if she could go to a party. I almost chopped her head off. "You can't just ask me at the last minute!" She looked at me like I was crazy. William said, "You can tell you're back on Dex." Uh oh.

I apologized to Morgan and confessed that Mommy Monster was back. "I knew it!" she said. Lovely.

So here's the deal: When I know I'm on Dex and I get more "used" to it, I'm better able to talk myself off Monster Cliff. I know that not everyone around me is being "that" annoying-- I'm just more prone to irritation. And I'm better able to take a deep breath and smile through it, even if I don't feel like it. I think next week I may even take a small Ativan on the day I'm crashing. Yes, it will make me sleepy but it will mellow me out, and I think everyone around me will be far happier, me included.

The smile in the photo above belies the fire raging within. As William and my dad sat in the front seat after our Costco excursion and Siena snapped selfie after selfie, I had to tell myself, "Smile. Be nice." And I really did try.



Saturday, March 5, 2016

Purging my old life, one piece of furniture at a time

Today's Divorced Mom's article.

It's Just Stuff-- And Getting Rid of It Feels... Ok
By Lizzy Smith                    
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March 05, 2016
635386111992301911Fotolia_59783836_XS.jpgWhen I walked out of my abusive marriage and moved from San Diego to Utah, I initially took very few items with me. After all, I had almost zero time to prepare for that move. I literally learned I had cancer and moved days later. Finally, my bad marriage was over-- I was out of there. I threw things the girls and I would need in trash bags and loaded up our Jeep Commander with as much as it could hold. Just the essentials-- my daughters, the cat, winter clothes and toothbrushes, basically.

My then-husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic) threatened to throw everything I left behind in the street if I didn't get my ass back home within days. Who cares that I had chemo appointments, Rob the Great (Alcoholic) had different needs (like drinking all night long). A quick call from my attorney to his nixed his plan-- my items would stay in OUR home until I was good and ready to retrieve them (and had my oncologist's permission to travel).

Some six months later, when I felt a little better after my first stem cell transplant, my dad and I drove to San Diego. I knew that Rob was out of the country so there would be no drama with him. He tried to arrange a date for me to come out when it was convenient for him. But there was not a chance in Hell that in my fragile mental and emotional health that I was going to face my abuser. I could envision it all too well-- a drunk Rob screaming in my face and a call to the police to help. So I waited until he was gone, met up with professional movers, and meticulously had my things packed up. I placed many of my favorite items in our bedrooms in my parents' home-- beds, dressers, artwork, the Kitchen Aid mixer and linens. The rest went into a storage unit.

It's been four years and it's time to purge a whole lot of that furniture. We moved into our new home and we have no need for most of it. So I've started selling things, one at a time. I have to admit, it is really painful. I look at, say, a dresser that I sold yesterday. I originally purchased it to place in my step-daughter's bedroom. Nicky took it out of its original box and spent hours putting it together. After she moved out, the dresser went into the guest room, then my daughter, Morgan's bedroom, and when we moved, Siena inherited it. I loved that dresser-- pale yellow, kind of shabby chic, solid wood. I sold it to a woman who was getting a divorce and whose husband got their dresser. I nearly teared up as we loaded it into her van. "Enjoy it!" I called out to her. "And best of luck in your new life." She would need blessings and support in the months ahead. And for me? I parted with a tangible piece of my past, a memory that was actually a good one, filled with hope for our new family and decorating our new home.

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Why should you journal your relationship? Clarity, my friends

From Divorced Moms a few days ago as I try to catch up.

Finding Clarity: The Importance of Documenting Your Relationships
by Lizzy Smith                    
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March 03, 2016
635702451946097051Fotolia_84150659_XS.jpgHere's one of my biggest pieces of advice to those of you in difficult relationships: Write yourself letters. Keep a journal. Document it. You should never forget or confuse your painful reality.

There were times in my highly abusive marriage that I thought I would explode in anger, sadness and frustration. One day, I started writing myself emails as a reminder that I was living in Hell. I did not want to have another makeup session with my husband and "forget" how horrible things really were.

You see, life can be really confusing when you are living a life of volatility. There are good times and then - bam! - things turn horrible and ugly in an instant. And then there's a period of calm and peace until - bam! - again, another terrible episode. During those "good" times (I use this term loosely because when one is walking on eggshells, nothing is ever good-- you know that life will become ugly and frightening again, you're just not sure when), I needed something I could refer back to that reminded me of my true reality. Something I could read and remember, and could use to smack myself upside the head and say "Lizzy, your Hell is REAL. This whole 'he's being such a great guy right now' is a fallacy."

Sometimes instead of writing myself an email, I'd draw pictures. One night, my husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic) came home drunk, screamed at me, and passed out. It was early, like 7 pm. I sat on the floor not far from our bed, watching him breathe and I loathed him. I took out a piece of paper and drew a picture of a volcano exploding. I wrote notes that said things like: Rob is happy (that was near the bottom of the volcano when the lava was nowhere near the top), and then the smoke coming out of the top (Rob is about ready to scream at me), then spewing volcano with a stick figure of me covering my head in fear. I filed it away so I could pull it out at any time and remind myself that somewhere in that picture of a volcano was Rob's behavior-- either calm or exploding. One thing that was a given-- Rob would cycle through my volcano picture: calm, seething, exploding. Repeat. Because of the uncertainty of when any of this would happen, life was truly scary for me Every.Single.Day. Dreadful, really.

My emails, writings, and diagrams have helped me. There are times even to this day when I will start remembering only our good times and wonder if maybe I overreacted. And then all I need to do is refer back to my trusty file and read and remember. No, Lizzy, you were right. Things were bad, very bad. As tempting as it can be to romanticize a former relationship, this can be extremely dangerous, especially if you are trying to escape, or are escaping, an abusive relationship. You must never, ever forget reality.

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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Is Bald Really More Beautiful?

The first time I lost my hair thanks to a rigorous myeloma treatment protocol, I never went anywhere without wearing a wig. Even in private while at home, I at least wore a beanie cap and if anyone rang the doorbell, I ran and hid until I could get a wig on my head.

This tine around, I have less patience for wigs. I still wear them most of the time but sometimes if it's cold outside, I just wear a thick hat and never take it off. At home, I never wear a wig, just a beany cap because my scalp gets cold. We just flew to Florida and I wore a hat on the plane and a wig everywhere else. Contrast that with my first stint at baldness some four years ago, it was months of new hair growth before I just finally pitched the wig and went with short hair. By then, I had no choice-- my wig would fall right off my head because I had no bald scalp that kept it in place. This time around, I'm not waiting that long.

These days I have some hair on my head. I wrote an article on Myeloma Crowd ( called Myeloma 101: Going Bald During Treatment. One reader said that she lost her hair and bald is beautiful---- she goes out completely natural. Is she right? I decided to snap a couple selfies this morning. This is really brave and raw for me because I'm sharing it with you.



For me, I pick wig. I am not a bald girl. But in four weeks, we are going to Costa Rica and I have decided that by then, no wigs. I'll take a wig with me in case we want to snap some family photos, but other than that, I am going to enjoy feeling the wind on my head. I'll wear hats and be free. If my family can handle seeing the real, natural ME, then why should I care what a bunch of strangers think? Truth is, they'll likely not be thinking about me at all.

Happy Thursday, dear readers!