Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Neuropathy is one ANNOYING side effect from myeloma treatments! How to cope...

What Is Neuropathy And How To Live With It?        
 
Peripheral neuropathy is a common side effect from the myeloma drug bortezomib, and is often one of the most debilitating. Symptoms are usually seen almost immediately when beginning treatment, sometimes within the first few cycles, or when a cumulative dose is reached. Because I have been on near continuous bortezomib therapy for the past three years, I struggle with neuropathy. I don’t have pain, but in my left foot, I have almost no feeling. I can feel pressure, but that’s about it. In my right foot, I have about fifty percent feeling. At night, the numbness can at times be uncomfortable. I also feel quite a bit of weakness in my left leg, which is quite a switch from my pre-myeloma body when I was a runner and had very strong legs.

So let’s talk about neuropathy, what is it, and what to do about it.

What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy is damage to nerves of the peripheral nervous system. It causes pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness, typically in hands and feet. Additionally, motor skills can be affected with mild to severe weakness in the lower extremities.

For me, I can still do pretty much everything I want to, but I am aware that I am not as physically strong or as coordinated as I once was. Case in point– several months ago, I went on a power walk in my neighborhood. I simply don’t lift my feet up as much as I used to. It’s a subtle change in my walking gait and I don’t even think about it. But on this walk, I tripped over an uneven sidewalk and slammed my face into the pavement. I have a permanent bruise on my cheekbone. It wasn’t the end of the world and I don’t mind some wounds from getting out and doing fun things (it gives me a great story to tell and I appear less boring than I am!), but nonetheless, I need to be well aware of my limitations and be extra cautious. I often go snow skiing with my daughters but I am very careful, I go on easier runs than I used to, and I really avoid falling. My ski boots don’t feel that “great” on my feat but keeping them extra warm, wearing good cushioned socks, and staying hydrated helps immensely.

Some patients have such intense pain that nothing helps but pain killers and a walker. If you have these symptoms, talk with your doctor about your options for relief.

Is neuropathy permanent?
For those discontinuing bortezomib, neuropathy often resolves itself within three months, though it can take longer. Since I’m staying on the drug for the foreseeable future, I don’t anticipate mine going away any time soon. Instead, I need to learn to live with it.

What can be done to prevent neuropathy?
While there are no ways to stop neuropathy from happening, getting proper sleep, managing stress, eating healthy foods, staying hydrated, and exercising helps. For me, the worse thing I can do is be sedentary. Stimulating my feet helps a lot, as does getting around and moving. I never walk around barefoot, though, not even in the house. One day, I noticed my foot was bleeding. I had no idea how (or when) that happened. So always having something on my feet is really important. For example, I always have fuzzy socks or slippers on at home. Good cushioned shoes help, too, though I must admit that I live in flip-flops and sandals over the summer. As long as I’m not barefoot, my feet seem relatively happy. Last summer, I broke my rule when we were in Sirmione, Italy. The lake looked so beautiful and it was so hot outside that I had to get in. I took my sandals off and started walking on the beach. The tiny rocks felt like needles and I almost passed out from the pain. Thank goodness my daughter was nearby and she rushed my shoes back to me. I couldn’t get them on fast enough. Never again! I purchased some water shoes for our upcoming trip to the Honduras in Belize because even in the ocean, I need foot protection. It might not look as cute but who cares? Comfort first!

I also have my fiancé rub my feet and I love getting pedis simply because it helps stimulate my nerves. This helps diminish the intense numbness I experience, especially at night. I absolutely love peppermint essential oil for its nerve-stimulating effects (plus it smells dreamy). I put about a tablespoon of fractionated coconut oil in my palm, add maybe six drops of peppermint oil and rub it on my feet and calves. Oh my gosh, it is amazing.
foot ball rollers
I also have a “foot ball” that I usually use at night. The night numbness is so much more livable when I use this routine.

I am a huge fan of yoga. For me, it’s 90-minutes of Bikram yoga in a 105-degree temperature room. It is very stimulating for my entire body, numb feet and calves included. I walk, hike, ski and most everything else I like to do. True, not everyone can do this. For some, the pain is too intense and if this is you, make sure you discuss this with your doctor. Perhaps physical therapy is also an option.

Besides stopping bortezomib, are there other options?
I have read that the weekly administration of subcutaneous bortezomib, rather than the standard twice per week treatment schedules, helps with neuropathy’s frequency and neurotoxicity. Discuss with your doctor about perhaps reducing your dose if your side effects are too painful may be an option too.

What about medications for peripheral neuropathy?
There are topical gels that can help, though you’ll ne need a prescription for some. Topical menthol can also be effective. Pain killers can be used for intense pain. Additionally, there are prescription medications for managing the symptoms of neuropathy. Discuss them with your doctor.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Teaching Our Children About Sex (parenting tales from Mormon-ville)

Sex and Mormonism. In all honesty, it's taught as "no, it's bad, it's of Satan, do not do anything to arouse sexual feelings or thoughts." Yes, sex is bad bad bad bad bad. Until you get married. Then have a great and healthy sex life! And, really, since most normal kids are horny and want sex, this means that Mormons tend to get married really super young so they can have "legal" sex. And then the babies come fast and, well, young adults are stuck... already married and parents all so they could have legal sex.

And many of these young adults (no, I don't have a statistic) have really unhealthy sex lives and views on sex because their entire lives have been one Big Lesson about sex is bad. Until it's not. And, truth is, you can't turn off that message "just like that" just because you say "I do."

What is most tragic in all this is that these people then have children and they perpetuate that message of sex being a BIG NO. And many parents have no idea how to have realistic conversations with their children about sex, and how to have a lifelong healthy sex life. How I escaped this whole concept despite the fact that I grew up in a very conservative Mormon household is one big question. But I'm grateful that this ridiculous concept never penetrated (pun intended) my soul or psyche.

Such is the story of my latest Divorced Moms column. As a mom of daughters, it is my goal to raise my children to have healthy attitudes towards sex. Sex is a huge responsibility and it's a life lesson to learn to manage sex in a positive way. It does make me cringe, though, when the time comes to talk birth control, condoms, STDs and pregnancies. At what point do you cross from condoning and encouraging sex at a young age versus being realistic and keeping them safe and protected? Ah, now that is the million dollar question! Anyway, my story and musings are right here. Enjoy!

Teaching Our Children Healthy Attitudes About Sex
by Lizzy Smith                      
January 26, 2015
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Fotolia_69988112_XS.jpgLast week, I went for tea with two friends, Karen and Christy. I told them about a conversation I recently had with my friend, Jane. Jane has a 14-year old son, Henry, who is cute, outgoing, and very popular with the girls at his school. Jane and Henry have a very close relationship and no topic is off limits, including sex. Not long ago, Henry told his mom that he was at a party where a 16-year old girl took her top off and invited him to touch her boobies. Henry ran off because he didn't know what to do. Jane told me that it is just a matter of time before her son starts having sex. "I wish he would wait and I tell him all the time that he is too young, and that sex is reserved for love and commitment. But I also know it's going to happen, and probably soon. But he cannot get a girl pregnant so I have a box of condoms ready for him. Ugh!"
I asked Jane when she's going to give him those condoms. "I don't know. At what point am I condoning and encouraging sex at the age of 14, versus making sure there aren't STDs and a pregnancy? But the answer is, soon."

I asked Karen and Christy they're thoughts were on the topic. All three of us have daughters the same age. I gave them this scenario: Our daughter comes home and says "I'm going to have sex with my boyfriend, Mom." ...or... instead of one of our daughters telling us they're about ready to have sex, we just know in our gut that it's going to happen soon. Grounding her and never letting her out of the house again isn't realistic. So, when do we take her to the doctor and get her on birth control? When do we give her condoms and beg her to use them so she doesn't come home with herpes? And while our daughters are all 14 years old now, what happens if they are older, like 16, which, in my opinion, is a more typical time to start exploring sex?

Without missing a beat, Christy, who is very conservative Mormon, said that there would be no birth control for her daughters, no matter what. "If they are going to have sex, then they'll get pregnant and need to put the baby up for adoption. It's natural consequences and I am not going to shield them from it."

I was speechless. It took me several moments to recover. "You would rather have your daughter come home pregnant than put her on birth control?" I asked.

"Yes!" Just like that. I thought she was joking until I realized she wasn't.

Keep reading...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Anger: an important part of the healing process

One of my favorite readers, Curtis, just submitted a new guest post for my column on Divorced Moms. It offers an interesting and important perspective on one of my "favorite" emotions: anger. While no one ought to stay mired in anger, it is an important part of the healing process, whether one is coping with divorce, cancer or pretty much anything challenging in life. And boy oh boy, have I had my share of anger. Sometimes, though I feel I've "healed" as much as possible, I still feel surges of anger at times. Perfectly normal, and it's ok. For example, this past week I've been angry over how I feel. I have been battling a horrific cold and experienced such extreme fatigue that I just wanted to wimper. I would feel far more anger if I had the energy. Last Friday, I probably slept 20 hours. Saturday, probably 18 hours and I wanted to sleep far more. I had a great day on Sunday, but then Monday rolled around and it was MLK and my children were home. Instead of going skiing like we planned, I stayed on the couch sleeping until 2pm when I dragged our behinds out of the house, picked up William and we went to see Selma. It was a terrific movie. And when it was over, I went right back to bed.

I was angry that I am tired and fatigued. I am tired of planning every activity with the thought in the back of my mind: how will I be feeling? And then I remind myself that I am alive, I have amazing family, two children that are healthy and amazing, and I am in love with a man who treats me so incredibly well. I am surrounded by peace, kindness, love and stability. And when one knows what unstable looks like and has lived with psychological and verbal abuse at the hands of an alcoholic, trust me, the comparison is stark and lovely. To escape horror and find beauty is amazing and until you've lived it and escaped and found something better, you have no idea. So, yes, anger is important. It helps us leave terrible situations, it helps us learn, and, yes, heal. That powerful emotion, anger. It's not always such a bad thing. No, not at all.

So without further ado, enjoy Curtis' musings on Anger. Here goes!

The Upside Of Anger. A Guy's Perspective On Using Anger To Heal
by Lizzy Smith and guest writer Curtis                    
January 23, 2015
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Fotolia_58472347_XS.jpgAnger as part of the healing process 
Anger is a natural stage so embrace it and experience it, within limits. Have you heard of the five stages of grief? Another fancy name for it is the Kübler-Ross model. Essentially it is the five emotional stages that one goes through when there is a death or an impending death. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Since the end of a serious relationship, especially a marriage, is like the death of the other person (as they are gone)-- death of the relationship, hopes, dreams, plans and more-- professionals have used this model to understand and address the emotions after and during a separation or divorce. Woo hoo! A free pass to be angry and do stuff! Not exactly.

There is a lot of misplaced rage and envy. "Why me," "it's not fair," and "(insert) is to blame."  Anger should be experienced so as to release pent up emotion, evaluate the anger and the cause in order to heal, and there are many other benefits of experiencing anger. I learned that anger tells you when your boundaries are being crossed, even if you are not aware of the boundary crossing at the time. So embrace the dark side, but in a positive and not deranged way. Since many people are not exceptionally rational or in control of their emotions at the time of their split or divorce, you need to be aware of the anger and its dangers. If you are starting to get too angry, speak to a person that cares about you or, if necessary, speak to a professional. This is where the "angry friend" is a great help.  Someone who has been treated likewise or is just angry at every thing and the world.  Such a friend will lament with you, listen, agree and curse the world.

Male or female - it does not seem to matter. Usually the person that ends the divorce seems angrier. I have no studies or scientific data on this, it just appears to be the case from my own observations. It kind of makes sense in that if you end the relationship, you are angry and presumably unhappy. That said, once the relationship is over and the dust settles you would expect these people to be happier, wouldn't you?  I am not sure if this is the case. Many times ongoing issues involving children or finances seem to cause the wound to fester.

While both genders are generally angry, there seems to be that there are some that are dangerous.  Men seem to be more dangerous to their ex and children physically and women more dangerous psychologically, especially to their children. How many times have we seen in the news or heard about men attempting or harming their ex or their children?  Thank goodness not very much, but too much to not be concerned. Now women have become more physically violent, but not to the same extent (yet).  How many times have we seen mothers who act to vent or punish the father but do so through the children, who are neither able to deal with this nor should they have to. Sometimes mothers take on a victim role so completely that she needs to convince her children to reject their father. Then some people, regardless of gender, just want to win (regardless of motive).  In these and other circumstances the anger is out of control.

Both parties really need help to address the issues for the person out of control and to know how to deal with the issues for the person who is out of control with angry behavior. Further and utmost importance is your and your children's physical safety and wellbeing psychologically. Again, the children did not ask that you marry or the divorce and the effects of such behaviour on them needs to be considered by all.

Keep reading... 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cheating. Three Real Couples Who've Given Monogamy The Middle Finger. My latest via Divorced Moms

Over the past few months, it seems I've become surrounded by the topic of "cheating" inside a marriage. And because of it, I think about it endlessly. I can only speak for me when I say that I just can't fathom being in a marriage where my husband cheats. Trust, honesty and fidelity is a make or break for me. And I thought that there is simply no other way. But there are couples who have found that "other way" and here are three examples. I don't endorse them but it has given me food for thought. Here goes...

Cheating. 3 Real Couples Who've Given Monogamy The Middle Finger
by Lizzy Smith                    
January 20, 2015
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Here are three real scenarios from couples I know well. And they have turned everything I thought about fidelity on its head.

1. The Open Marriage
Kim and Troy have been married for 25 years and have two children. If one was an outsider looking in, they are the perfect couple. They are both beautiful people, have a beautiful home with a shiny pool in the back yard, two dogs and a cat, two perfect careers, two nice cars and a boat. They are fun to be with, always up for an adventure or a night out. They laugh and are affectionate with each other.

But Kim confided in me that they have been going through a rough patch for years. Troy has been fantasizing about being with other women and wanting her to be with other partners, men or women. They are both bored and have been considering divorce for a few years. Troy cheated on Kim throughout their four year relationship prior to marriage and to this day, she thinks that maybe Troy has cheated on her after their wedding, too. Every time he texts or picks up a call, she wonders.
Finally, at Troy's encouragement, she slept with a friend of Troy's. They filmed it and texted it to Troy. And instead of it destroying their trust and relationship, it has revitalized it. She says they have sex all the time now, they are open with each other in ways they never have, and she actually trusts Troy because she feels, at last, he's honest. Brutally honest, not always easy to hear. But at last, she doesn't wonder anymore.

I asked Kim if she felt guilty about having the one-time sexual tryst with Troy. No, she said, because she did it for Troy and the outcome has been good for them. She was on the verge of a divorce and, time will tell, it has perhaps saved their marriage. I asked if she would do it again. Probably not. What will she do if Troy has an affair, or many affairs? She's not sure she cares that much, as long as it's "just sex." And what if it isn't? What if one of those "just sex" women become something more? Kim says that she and Troy are strong, they have been together so long, and that no woman will end their marriage. She's that sure of it. And she, the jealous type, is all of a sudden, more sure of herself than ever, and not feeling so jealous anymore. She feels... at peace.

Kim has decided that she will sacrifice her monogamous marriage in order to have honesty, transparency and openness in their relationship. Honesty and almost any cost. The rules of their marriage have now changed. Will this lead to long-term happiness? Time will tell.

2. The Known Cheater (And Looking The Other Way)
When Lori met Sam, he was already married. She helped break up his marriage and it was an ugly split. Sam's wife fought hard to keep her guy but, ultimately, she failed. A year after their divorce was final, Lori got her wish-- Sam married her amidst great fanfare and a huge wedding. It's been 15 years and they have three sons.

Keep reading... 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Getting a Colonoscopy and the importance of cancer screenings

My latest via Divorced Moms. I am fighting a horrific cold, bronchitis infection and now have full on laryngitis. I was going wedding dress shopping this afternoon. Now I am rescheduling that appointment. I have literally been sleeping all day. I just got off the couch at 1:30 this afternoon. I hate feeling like this, especially on a Friday. Oh well, hopefully it ends soon. Have a fabulous weekend, dear readers.

Lizzy

Why This Mom Got Her First Colonoscopy And You Should Too
by Lizzy Smith                    
January 16, 2015
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Mandy and I were great friends. We grew up together in high school and we both loved to ski. She had a season ski locker at Mammoth Mountain (California), we both had season ski passes, and we spent countless days driving up to Mammoth to hit the slopes, check out the cute guys, and then going to parties and barbeques afterwards with many of the ski instructors we knew. For my high school graduation, my mom took me, Mandy, and two other friends to Hawaii. That's where this photo was taken. Mandy is wearing the white dress, me in the green and white one. It was very fun.

Fast forward to January 2012 when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. I told very few people I had cancer. I didn't want to see fear or pity in anyone's eyes. I was going to beat my cancer, I was on a mission, and no one was going to rattle that resolve. Just weeks later, Mandy took the opposite approach. I was perusing Facebook and there she was, announcing that she had just been diagnosed with Stage IV color cancer that had spread to her lung and hip. After the shock wore off and I wiped away a few tears, I called her. I told her that I, too, had just been diagnosed with cancer and we could support each other during chemo and whatever else we needed to endure.

Over the next two years, Mandy and I would text each other. One day, she asked if I would like to plan a fun trip with our daughters for the upcoming Spring, like Disneyworld or the Bahamas. I was all in. But that trip never happened. She past away in June 2014 at the age of 43, leaving behind a husband and two young daughters. Her advice: get a colonoscopy.

Since then, I've always had that in the back of my head. Colonoscopy. But I wasn't 50 years old yet. I didn't have risk factors (though I had no risk factors for myeloma either and I got it anyway). And who wants to have that painful and awful test. But since getting cancer, I'm the most paranoid person on the planet when it comes to health. If I feel sick to my tummy, is it stomach cancer? A headache, brain cancer? A nagging cough, lung cancer? So I finally took the plunge and scheduled it. And while I was at it, I scheduled my mammogram, annual pap, and a skin cancer screening. I would have added a complete blood count panel (a simple blood test) but since I get those every other week as part of my maintenance therapy, I was covered there.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why this Mormon mom wears (gasp) tank tops

I am so done with this absurd, over-the-top obsession with "modesty" (modesty as defined by Mormons), that I have to write a blog post devoted to the topic. (Yep, according to devout Mormons, what I'm wearing in the above photo is immodest and I'm a brazen hussy.) In the Mormon faith, if you take out temple endowments, one is supposed to wear garments, an under-the-clothes version of underwear that is similar to a T-shirt with sleeves and panties that go down almost to the knees. To cover up those garments, a devout Mormon will wear clothes that don't include tank tops or shorts/skirts above the knee.

But the Mormon church isn't stopping there. Even if one does not wear garments, they are preaching to the youth in the church that they should dress as if they are wearing garments, starting as young as a baby. That means no sundresses or, well, shorts above the knee.

Like the dress in this photo? BAD! Throw a T-shirt under it and THEN the child can wear it. (eek)

Apparently if one (well, mostly women, because modesty is somehow placed at the feet of girls and women) dresses covered enough to satisfy the Mormon Modesty Police, then men won't have naughty thoughts, and there won't be rape, unmarried pregnancies, infidelity and everything else.

What makes me White Hot Mad is that one of the reasons young children are being taught that they should cover up is to help boys and men control their thoughts. After all, men have such horrible thoughts all day long that the only way they can stay pure and good is if we girls and women don't show shoulders and knees. Because, as we all know, as long as we cover those scandalous body parts, men are great all of a sudden, thoughts are pure, everyone is modest, everyone in the world is happy, and, well, there you have it.

Following the logic? Yah, me either. It's so ridiculous that I can't even handle it. And my 14-year old daughter gets this message in church and extra curricular activities endlessly and I am so incredibly OVER IT.

Here are some facts: Boys and men have sexual thoughts all day long. For boys in puberty, they are getting erections and aroused non stop. It is normal and nothing at all to be ashamed of. And if I had a son, I would tell him that if he wasn't having sexual thoughts all day long, we'll get him therapy. The next fact is that we must train boys (and men) to control their behavior. Because even if he is aroused, he can't grope a girl, masturbate in public, or try to have sex with a girl against her will. It really is that simple. Boys are going to get aroused by shoulders, kneecaps, a hot girl, an unattractive girl, a smile, eyes, the shape of a neckline, toes and, well, a lamp post.

That's right-- the girl wearing these shoes will turn on scores of men so let's stop wearing flipflops and painting toes, too, you know-- to help the guys out.

What makes the Mormon church's teachings interesting, however, is that they say that impure thoughts are just as bad as impure behavior (really now). So control your thoughts. And girls need to help those boys to control their thoughts. And if a boy does have impure thoughts, let's find a girl to blame it on. (Oh if it were only that simple.)

Wow. Dangerous, if you ask me. What The Hell. What is really sad is that some people believe this. And the result is that our daughters and sons are developing some really unhealthy attitudes towards bodies, sex, and behavior.

The latest is written by a blogger, Veronica Partridge, who writes that she won't be wearing leggings anymore because her husband gets turned on by women wearing leggings and yoga pants in public. Seriously, in case you don't believe me, here is a snippet:
If it is difficult for my husband who loves, honors, and respects me to keep his eyes focused ahead, then how much more difficult could it be for a man that may not have the same self-control? Sure, if a man wants to look, they are going to look, but why entice them? Is it possible that the thin, form-fitting yoga pants or leggings could make a married (or sinlge) man look at a woman in a way he should only look at his wife.
And at that moment, I made a personal vow to myself and to my husband. I will no longer wear thin, form-fitting yoga pants or leggings in public. The only time I feel (for myself) it is acceptable to wear them, is if I am in the comfort of my own home or if I am wearing a shirt long enough to cover my rear end. I also want to set the best example of how to dress for my daughter. I want her to know, her value is not in the way her body looks or how she dresses, but in the character and personality God has given her. I have been following the vow I made to myself for the past couple of weeks  now and though it may be difficult to find an outfit at times, my conscience is clear and I feel I am honoring God and my husband in the way I dress.

To Veronica, I gotta ask: What are you going to do when a man tells you that your hair really turns him on. Or your eyes. Or that top you're wearing. Or toes (lots of men have toe fetishes, you know, and there is an entire cottage industry devoted to toe fetishes).

If every day I looked in the mirror and asked myself what I'm wearing that could possible turn some guy on, and then try and try and try to keep modifying my outfit, well, that would be one very frustrating endeavor. Sheesh-- let's just throw on a burqa and be done with it.

Better!

Oh, wait, women fully covered get raped, too. And men still have a desire to have sex with, and impregnate, burqa-wearing women. Why is that? Because sex and a sexual desire is natural, covered or not.

But let's go back to leggings. I wear leggings all the dang time. In fact, I'm wearing leggings in the photo below, and so is my daughter. I think they are cute and stylish, go with everything, and they are so comfy. And, really, they're about as sexy as, well, a pair of jeans or most other item of clothing.



Regardless, we don't teach our daughters that they are responsible for the behavior of others. In my humble opinion, we teach our children that they communicate to the world who they are by how they present themselves. I'm not a fan of allowing kids to dress like hookers, and trust me, I've seen some pretty shocking girls dressed in ways that I would never allow. Like butt cheeks hanging out of shorts, having the ability to see panties from the front of a girls' shorts, and boobs hanging out everywhere. But modesty and dressing tastesfully has far more to do with not wearing leggings, showing a shoulder, or a kneecap. Modesty and tastefulness has to do with how you present yourself, how you behave, dressing appropriately for the occasion, hair color and style, accessories... It's a package. So if you really want to "go there," then be modest in all you do.

But modesty aside, just know that men are going to be finding all kinds of women attractive and a turn-on all day long for all kinds of reasons. And, really, it's not my (or my daughters') responsibility to obsess over how we can curtail it. Now if a guy gropes me or wips out his penis and starts fondling himself in front of me, I'm calling the authorities!

If one more well-meaning Mormon church leader tells my daughters that they need to cover up because of boys, I'm calling him or her out on it. This has to stop.

Monday, January 12, 2015

One less thing to feel guilty about. It's not my fault I got cancer, some experts say

Liz Lizette Smith Nielsen's photo.

So It’s Not My Fault I Got Myeloma? Thank goodness (I guess)       

 
Whether one has cancer or not, it seems everyone is interested in cancer research, findings and news. And that’s because pretty much everyone is terrified of the C word. And the latest Big Cancer News is the findings by a pair of researchers from Johns Hopkins University published last week in the journal Science. In that study, they found that sometimes, the reason one gets cancer is due to faulty genes inherited from one’s parents (one more thing to blame our parents for!) and sometimes to behaviors like smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. But in most cases, it comes down to something else – stem cells. Further, they found a very high correlation between the differences in risk for 31 kinds of cancer and the frequency with which different types of stem cells made copies of themselves.

In an article in the LA Times, Scientists explain how stem cells and ‘bad luck’ cause cancer, it says:
Researchers have long recognized that when cells copy themselves, they sometimes make small errors in the billions of chemical letters that make up their DNA. Many of these mistakes are inconsequential, but others can cause cells to grow out of control. That is the beginning of cancer.
The odds of making a copying mistake are believed to be the same for all cells. But some kinds of cells copy themselves much more often than others. Tomasetti and Vogelstein hypothesized that the more frequently a type of cell made copies of itself, the greater the odds that it would develop cancer.
Upon diagnosis, I did some serious soul searching. What had I done to get cancer? Did I eat too much sugar (I love cookies!)? What about stress? Working too much? Too many x-rays and radiation? I didn’t smoke but I did drink alcohol in excess when I was in college… What about inhaling fumes while sitting in rush hour traffic? Coloring my hair too often or getting Brazilian blowouts (formaldehyde used to keep hair straight and shiny)? What about getting pregnant in the months leading up to diagnosis? Did the rapidly dividing cells from two failed back-to-back pregnancies help those faulty myeloma cells to grow uncontrollably? Because when I got the results back from my biopsy, I had over 90-percent myeloma cells in there. What did I do to create such a mess inside my own body? I exercised, ate right, and tried to take care of myself. I was horrified, angry, and guilty that I had caused my cancer in some way.

After reading the results of this study, however, I can let go of the guilt and anger. Apparently, if the study is accurate, many cancers are caused by simply “bad luck.” There’s not much that we patients can do to prevent many cancers. What is in our control is getting cancer screenings often so if cancer is found, we can get treated quickly. Taking care of our bodies does matter immensely because we will be better able to tolerate such treatments should, God forbid, we need them. And then pray (or cross fingers) for luck to be on our side.

Since those of us with cancer have already beaten the “luck odds” of getting sick, we can also hope, pray and work for better treatments and cures. One way we can do that? Participate in a clinical trial.

To read my original article on Myeloma Crowd, click here.