Thursday, February 26, 2015

This myeloma warrior HATES chemo brain. And guess what? It's REAL!!!

From The Myeloma Crowd (www.myelomacrowd.org). I'd go into more details but this says it all.

Don't forget!

And This Is Chemo Brain. We’re Not Making It Up!       

BY LIZZY SMITH

Just a week ago, someone ask me what chemo brain was like. Here’s an example. I’m in my car purchasing drinks for my daughters at the drive-thru at Beans & Brew. The barista tells me the total, I get the money out of my handbag and then I pick up my phone and start calling my best friend.
“Mom! You haven’t paid yet. Are you kidding?” my 14-year old daughter, Morgan, said.
I looked at her confused, then looked at my hand and there it was- the money. I forgot to pay.

Just minutes later, my nine-year old stops me as I’m driving home. “Mom, we are supposed to be going to the orthodontist!” Oh, yes, why am I driving home? We all laugh at crazy mom. Hahahaha.

There are conversations I’ve had with people that I don’t remember. I supposedly promise my children I’ll bring them lunch to school. I don’t remember that either. I put things on my phone calendar but I often forget to look at my calendar.

It’s not so awful that I can’t drive, travel, or enjoy life. But I’ve long stopped trying to hide the fact that I fish for names, can’t remember words, and show up for events on the wrong day. It’s just one more thing to blame on cancer. “Sorry, I have chemo brain!” I’m apt to say. And it’s not like I’m making it up. It’s true. It’s real. And it’s sometimes really annoying. Oh well, I’m alive!

But chemo brain isn’t simply forgetfulness. Heck, we all forget things, even if we don’t have cancer, dementia or Alzheimer’s. But it’s a fuzzy feeling that is often exacerbated by fatigue (thanks, myeloma and meds!). It’s not feeling sharp. When my daughter talks to me too fast and then someone else starts talking to me at the same time, I just can’t do it. I want to put my hands over my ears and scream “STOP!” I feel like 300 people are screaming at me at the same time. Sometimes even trying to remember things takes more energy than I have so I simply don’t. Some days (not all!), I have to really concentrate. Like my bedtime routine takes forever– take meds, put jammies on, wash face, put on lots of essential oils, turn on my electric heating pad, put my children to bed, read to my youngest child, brush teeth, get lunches ready in the morning… I finally made a list so that when chemo brain rages, I don’t have to “think,” I can just “do.” Just go down my trusty To Do list and give my cognitive thinking skills a rest.

So today when I stumble on an article in OncLive (Chemobrain—It’s Real, It’s Complex, and the Science Is Still Evolving), I am relieved. Just in case someone doubts me, I can send them a link and say I’m not making this up!

Apparently, chemo brain is most intense during treatment. However, since many of us myeloma survivors are in long-term treatment, we may not get the “benefit” of going back to baseline of how we were before illness.

But according to the study, some 30-percent of cancer patients also experience other emotional ailments associated with chemo brain, including depression, anxiety and distress during treatment. 30 to 60-percent also have insomnia, and poor concentration and memory.

No kidding! We cancer patients have been saying this all along. Now we have validation.
I found this example in the article very interesting:
In an early study exploring functional changes in the brain due to chemotherapy, [the researcher] asked twin, 60-year-old females, one of whom had been treated with chemotherapy, to perform a series of tasks while undergoing MRI. The resulting images documented areas of hyperactivity in the chemotherapy-treated twin relative to the untreated twin, which the authors interpreted as areas of deficits due to chemotherapy.Findings of several functional brain imaging studies have been reviewed and relative to “controls,” individuals treated with chemotherapy have been found to exhibit functional differences, including both areas of hyper- and hypoactivity during tasks, as well as differences in brain activity while the brain is at rest.In addition, structural differences have been noted as well. [Researchers] compared brain images of women with breast cancer, some of whom received chemotherapy and some did not, and found decreases in volume and density of both white and grey matter in the group treated with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy-related reductions in grey matter have also been correlated with impairment in cognitive abilities.
So what is someone with chemo brain to do? If you’re looking for a magic pill, it doesn’t exist. Exercise and socialization helps. For me, I write myself a lot of notes and try to do better with looking at my calendar many times a day. I tell people I have chemo brain and that’s why I forget stuff. And, well, I move forward in life, enjoy and make apologies when I mess up.
Here’s what the article says about help:
Healthcare professionals are urged to validate patient concerns, provide education, and to assess for contributing factors, including medications, depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue, substance abuse, and sleep disturbance. Although most patients eventually return to pretreatment baseline, a subset report significant impairment in quality of life, independence, and self-confidence. One of the most important things friends, family and caregivers can do is to provide emotional support by listening to the patient’s concerns and validating the existence of chemobrain. It is common for families, coworkers, and friends (and sometimes even healthcare professionals) to not understand that the emotional, physical, or cognitive effects of cancer treatment may linger after treatment has ended.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I might be divorced but I believe in marriage-- and I'm taking the plunge again!

Since I'm getting married in October, I thought this was a great topic over at Divorced Moms. Enjoy!

Why This Divorced Mom Still Believes In
by Lizzy Smith
February 24, 2015
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I learned first-hand that marriage can be one horrific experience. I've said it a million times but I'll say it again: There are worse things than divorce and a bad marriage is one of them. And you never know if that "perfect" couple is happy or even functioning as a couple. I am sure that people thought my ex and I had that perfect marriage and home. They were wrong. And I know several friends who are in horrible marriage and divorce would be a celebration; their "never divorced" status is a tragedy. And in my case, once I earned my "Single" status, it was like I had received a big huge prize.

When my divorce was final, I celebrated by taking my boyfriend to a grand dinner. I was ecstatic. And since then, I've loved being single. I get to decorate my home how I want, go to bed when I feel like it, raise the girls how I believe they should be, pick my own vacations, develop and adhere to a budget that makes sense, and even decide how clean I want the house.
But... I still believe in marriage, big time. Call me an optimist but I believe that fairytales do exist, than true forever love is possible, and that marriages can be an amazing partnership. And as I've embarked in the dating world, I've caught glimpses of great men who, it appears, are capable of becoming terrific companions if all other things had lined up.

In a time where simply living together is acceptable, what makes marriage different? The legality of it all. It's easy to pack up your stuff and move in with a guy. And as committed as you both may be to the relationship, if it doesn't work out, you move on, hopefully without attorneys needed to unwind the legal contract that makes a marriage different. After all, marriage ultimately boils down to a legal contract between two adults, filed with the government. There are protections and responsibilities of both parties when it comes to marriage, and that's where lawyers come in when the contract must be dismantled. With a simple "cohabitation" agreement, this isn't necessary (there are exceptions, of course). And, really, there is something special with saying "this is my husband" as opposed to "this is my boyfriend."

As a cancer survivor, I know all too well that relationships (and my health) are the most important things in life. Developing and cultivating amazing relationships with those I love matters. And that's where marriage comes in. It is one of the most important relationships we can have.

As I summarize it, here are the reasons I still believe in marriage:

1. Forever companionship
There is something permanent about marriage. You work on a marriage more than you usually work on a relationship with a boyfriend. At least I do. If a boyfriend isn't working out, it's a sign to end it. But with a marriage, I work and work and work some more. Because we have already made that commitment that we are both vested in each other. And as two adults work on a relationship, live together, and share life, there is something incredibly special and bonding. Only marriage, for me, has provided that. Sharing illnesses, dreams, vacations, homes-- it all takes on a different level of importance than a simple "boyfriend-girlfriend" status. And, truly, if I'm dating a guy for a very long time and he's not wanting to marry me (or I him), what are we doing? There's reasons why people don't take the plunge and usually they're called "warning signs." I still don't know how long is reasonable to date (or even live together) before a relationship can be determined "dead" or "stagnant"-- each is different. But if a few years have passed and you're not moving forward, that says everything you need to know about the relationship.

2. The public designation
I love saying "my husband." There is something powerful and unique with that word and what it says to society. You are now a team. And if you're in a good, functioning marriage, that "team" is amazing. Legally, my husband makes all kinds of decisions for the two of us, and vice versa. That matters.

Keep reading...

Monday, February 23, 2015

What I want is to see my dad

This is what I just noticed on my daughter's bedroom wall. While I can't change Rob, I can pray that his choices and behavior won't prevent Morgan from loving without boundaries,  knowing that some men are trustworthy and selfless, and not every guy is going to hurt and vanish, that addiction is immoral and evil, and too many things are beyond our control.  But we can learn and do things differently.  Because that's the right thing to do. Period.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Friday musings from Myeloma Road (And the power of NO via Divorced Moms)

Liz Lizette Smith Nielsen's photo.
Well color unhappy. I am sick again. I had a horrible cough/cold/fever about a month ago. I got well. And on Sunday, I got sick again. Horrible cough/cold/fever. I think my head is going to burst. My eyes ache. I am tired, brain-fuzzy, and achy. I am living on cold medicine and Tylenol for my pounding head. I am sleeping, resting, and still trying to drive my children around to the gajillion activities that I over-scheduled them for. William is awesome. He's helping me a ton. Plus he's just being kind, making dinner, surprising Morgan yesterday by taking lunch to her and dropping it off at school for no reason at all. Buying Siena a gardening kit that the two of them will do together. She is ecstatic and in her prayers last night talked about it. My parents are also back from their 17-day trip to the South Pole but my mother is sick, too, and my dad's back is out. Nonetheless I'm trilled they're back and love hearing stories about their trip. Seriously, I don't know what I would do without my support structure, my mom, dad, William, my children, and so many friends (countless friends) that seem to be growing each day. For them, I am so grateful.

Anyway, back to me. Thanks to all the myeloma maintenance drugs I'm on, I'm immune compromised. Which means that if there's a virus in the vicinity, I'm getting it. So today I'm at clinic at Huntsman Cancer Institute awaiting blood work and cultures. Today is typically my Velcade day but I really feel it's time to give my body a rest. I am advocating today when my PA Mary comes in that I take three weeks off of Velcade, still take Thalidomide, and start taking huger doses of Vitamin C. I am just tired, worn out, exhausted and fatigued. It's time to start some serious healing.

Which brings me to a happier topic. William and I leave for Buenos Aires in just 10 days. I am really bummed because we didn't realize that we needed a Visa for Brazil. So while it looks like we are flying from Buenos to Iguazu Falls for three days, we must stay on the Argentina side unless we can somehow get Visas while in Buenos Aires for Argentina, which I am told is possible. This trip is getting pricier by the minute and you know what? I don't even care. I mean, I'm not a wealthy woman swimming in pools of money, but this trip is going to create new memories and experiences to last an eternity.

And on to another similarly related cancer note, I wrote my column on Divorced Moms about the importance of learning to say NO. This is universal, cancer survivor, warrior, single mom, dad, caregiver... We can't do it all, nor should we try. Here's an excerpt.

Happy weekend, Lizzy

Putting Ourselves First. We Moms Need To Say NO More Often
by Lizzy Smith                     
February 19, 2015
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A few weeks ago, I met a fellow cancer warrior, “Mindy”. She was recently diagnosed and, as one can imagine, she’s scared, overwhelmed, and not feeling well. We spent an afternoon talking for two hours. In that conversation, Mindy lamented about all the responsibilities she had in her life. Kids, husband, church, neighbors, friends… Endless. And now all these dang time-intensive treatments that loomed ahead!

Case in point: Mindy is a volunteer for an organization she loves but she doesn’t feel she has the time or energy to stay involved anymore. When she mentioned it to the powers-that-be, the guy kind of blew her off. She was frustrated. I stopped her right there. It was time to learn the word No. Simple, two letter, easy-to-spell, easy to pronounce NO. She needed to call the guy back up and say “I can’t do this anymore.” End of story. No apologies, no excuses, no guilt. If her kids needed something that wasn’t essential, the answer must be NO. If a neighbor asks a favor, the answer is NO. It’s ok. When you’re fighting for your life, finally, we become number one priority. And, really, it should always be this way. If we aren’t taking care of ourselves, what good are we to anyone else?

That means all of us. In a failing marriage, dating again, single, being a mom, an employee, daughter or sister, member of the community, in a church or other volunteer organization… Our needs must always matter. But I think we women forget it all too often and typically we put ourselves last, to our own detriment.

It is illogical why it took me some 44 years to become comfy with saying No. Before getting cancer and marching my sick ass out of an abusive marriage, “No” was only used under dire circumstances. I was, after all, a people pleaser and the word No was terrifying to me. I wanted everyone to like me and to think my life was perfect. I worked really super hard at accomplishing this. Here are some examples:

From my then-boyfriend (now my ex-husband)
“Let’s buy this big huge house.” My answer: Yes. The answer I wanted to give was No, I don’t want that house, it’s too big, too expensive, I love my little condo. With Yes, I am now financially tied to you and I don’t even love you. So we bought a big huge house together. I hated it. Oh well, gotta say YES anyway so I can please this guy I don’t care about. (Stupid, I know.)

“Will you marry me?” My answer: Yes. What I really wanted to say was No! I don’t love you. It’s too soon. But I put on that white dress and said “I do” anyway.

From my former in-laws
“Can you host Thanksgiving dinner for the family this year?” Me: “Of course! And before everyone arrives, I’ll single-handedly clean the house, do all the grocery shopping, and fix every side dish, main dish, and dessert by scratch! When we’re all done, I’ll clean the house until it’s perfect all by myself before going to bed at 1:00 AM.”

From my employer
“I know we promised you that this new job would enable you to leave the office every night by 5:30 but we weren’t exactly honest. We expect you to work about 55 hours per week. Oh, and by the way, can you take on this new video project?” My answer: Sure! Who cares that I have a child who was left alone after soccer practice for almost 45-minutes before I could there. Or that I no longer sleep at night. You need me to do something, of course I will!

From my church
“We need you to help with the Young Women’s program every Wednesday night from 6:30-9:00.” Me: “Sure. I hardly have time to pee but I’ll fit that right in—with a smile on my face.”

I could go on and on but you get my drift. I said yes to everyone and guess who suffered most? Me. I felt the brunt of that awful word in full force. Overwhelmed, stressed out, unhappy, living a life I hated.

When I got sick, I started saying NO often. And guess what? The Earth didn’t fall off its axis. Here are some examples of how that worked.

From my now ex-husband
“Get your ass home or I will cancel your health insurance.” Me: “No.”

“Accept this settlement offer or I’ll cut the children out of my life.” Me: “No, I don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

Keep reading...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The vanishing dad. Telling my girls 10 things so they won't forget him

Morgan Nielsen's photo.
Morgan posted this photo of her and her dad. She was so little then-- just nine years old. She loved to play with the lobsters Rob would get from the ocean during opening lobster weekend. Here we were at San Elijo Beach, California. Rob decided to vanish from the girls' lives during our divorce. I wrote about it in today's Divorced Moms column. Here is the excerpt.

Parenting Broken Hearted Children. Memories of the Vanishing Dad
by Lizzy Smith                    
February 17, 2015
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My nine-year old daughter, Siena, and I just finished reading the book Because of Winn-Dixie. What a beautiful story, we absolutely loved it. Opal, the main character, is abandoned by her mother, who was an alcoholic. Opal doesn't remember much of her and she finally gets the courage to ask her dad to tell her 10 things about her mother. He does and she writes them down and memorizes them so she won't forget them. As we were reading this section of the book, Siena started talking about her dad. "I haven't seen or talked to Daddy in a long time," she said.

"I know," I responded. My ex-husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic) abandoned the two girls when we split because it was all too stressful for him. It broke my heart then and, as I watch them struggle with their feelings of him, it hurts even more now.

A few months ago, 14-year old Morgan texted her dad and Rob didn't bother responding. "Why does he hate me?" she said in tears. "What did I do to him that he doesn't ever even want to talk to me?"
What could I say? I hugged her. "You've done nothing wrong. It's him. We will never understand what goes on in his alcoholic head. I can't change him, no one can. And I am so sorry."

So, like Opal's dad in Because of Winn-Dixie, when Siena asked that I tell her and Morgan ten things about their dad so they don't completely forget him, I did. And here they are:

1. He loved the ocean. There was really nothing that brought Rob joy like going fishing, diving or boating. The ocean was his happy place and perhaps the only time I ever saw him at peace. He took Morgan on a few fishing trips. One such trip was a charter for two nights. It freaked me out because there was a major storm expected and I also knew that Rob would probably be drinking like a fish (pun intended) and I feared for her physical safety. Nonetheless, the two of them went and had a great time. Morgan still talks about that trip. Rob often came home with lobsters that were still alive and the girls would play with them before Rob cleaned them and we ate them for dinner.

But the stories aren't always positive. One evening, I picked up Siena from after-school care and she had a horrible red and bleeding eye. Turns out, she injured it at school and I needed to take her to urgent care immediately. It was awful and scary. I started calling Rob because I needed help with picking up Morgan, getting prescriptions filled, walking the dogs, and getting the children food for dinner. He was supposed to be at an AA meeting. I called him again and again and again and there was no answer. I started getting worried. Where was he? Finally, he showed up at almost 9:30 at night. He wasn't at his AA meeting, he had gone out diving and stopped by his favorite drinking establishment, The San Diego Brewing Company and was quite inebriated, sucking on a mint to hide the smell of alcohol. Oh the mints! It was my sure-fire way to know that he had been drinking.

2. He loved Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knotts and Sea World. Rob is like a big kid. He loves amusement parks and anything that kids generally like. Part of our household budget involved saving money for a yearly Disneyland trip that was really pricey because we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and went all out on food and fun. One year, he secured lunch for us at an exclusive restaurant at the park, Club 33, through his employer, the local utility company. Our lunch for three adults and two children without alcohol was $750. It was crazy. We also had annual passes to Sea World, Knotts and Universal Studios.

3. He loved family Jacuzzi nights. Those evenings when we sat in our Jacuzzi threw my entire schedule off. I had it all down to the minute-- homework, walk dogs, make and eat dinner, help with homework, baths, dry hair, reading time, snack time, tuck kids into bed and read them a story, prayers, clean the kitchen. And when Rob would say, "Get your swimsuits on. It's family Jacuzzi night!" my heart sank because it meant that either homework or bedtime didn't happen, which totally stressed me out. But Rob never worried about things like that and he accused me of being boring, which I suppose I was. He definitely had the pleasure principle down to a science. I often envied his "who cares" attitude in life. The house is a mess. Who cares? The kids need help with homework. Who cares? We have a budget to live within. Who cares? I cared about everything, he worried about nothing (except when he would be getting his next drink).

4. He loved the San Diego Brewing Company. I hated that place. It was where Rob went to get drunk with his "friends." The food was disgusting but the girls loved it because the bartender and cocktail waitresses were so nice to them. Siena still talks about it.

Keep reading... 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Divorced Moms column: The perfect gift and fun idea for Valentine's day (or any time)? Yummy, delicious fondue!

My latest via Divorced Moms. Enjoy!

Show "I Love You" With Chocolate Fondue (Yum!)
by Lizzy Smith                    
February 12, 2015
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Over the weekend, I was racking my brain for a fun, unique way to show my love on Valentine's day. And then I had an epiphany-- something delicious, interactive, different fun. My gosh, there it was in front of me, chocolate fondue! Seriously, I'm not a big fondue girl. I love it but I never make it or think about it. But I stumbled upon the cutest fondue set on Amazon, and I thought why not? Talk about creative!
  • For my daughters, it's a fun, interactive way to enjoy desert
  • For my guy, what is sexier than feeding each other chocolate drenched strawberries?
  • For my girlfriend who just had a painful breakup, it's a great way to show her (and her children) that I'm thinking of her
And the fondue set isn't just for Valentine's day-- I can use it any time. So I placed my order and got my set yesterday. While I had alone time, I tried it out and it was amazingly delicious and I can't wait to surprise the people in my life with fondue over the weekend. And the next time I throw a dinner party, guess what we are having for dessert?

Liz's Chocolate Fondue Recipe
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Ingredients
-1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 cup of whipping cream
-1/4 cup of sugar
-2 bags of chocolate chips, 12 oz (you can opt for milk chocolate chips, dark or semi-sweet). I always buy Guittard Chocolate Chips because I find the quality second to none. (Plus my good friend's family owns the chocolate company!) For this recipe, I went for milk chocolate chips
-orange essential oil or vanilla or other flavoring/liqueur (I only by Doterra essential oils because you can ingest them. If you buy essential oils, make sure you can ingest them because you can't always do so-- quality matters!)

In a saucepan, combine the cocoa powder and water over low heat. Stir frequently until combined and just barely warm (about two minutes). Stir in the whipping cream and sugar; turn up your stovetop to medium high (about seven). Stir frequently until it simmers (do not boil). Add the chocolate chips and stir until they melt and is thoroughly mixed together. Add a few drops of orange essential oil, liqueur of your choice, or vanilla. You can also stir in peanut butter, which gives it a really different taste.
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Add to your mini crockpot or mini fondue set to keep warm. For dippers, try bananas, strawberries, apples, oranges, pineapple, mango, brownies, pound cake, sugar cookies, marshmallows. You can also add nuts, like cashews or walnuts.

So this is how my Valentine's weekend is planned out.

Keep reading

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Meeting fellow Utah myeloma warriors. Cancer sucks but we survivors and amazing

myelomabreakfast

Meeting Fellow Myeloma Warriors. I Hate Cancer, But I Love My Fellow Survivors

BY LIZZY SMITH for www.myelomacrowd.org

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter (@lizzysmilez1), and my blog (www.lizzysmilez.blogspot.com), my myeloma journey has brought amazing people into my life. I’ve said this a million times before, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone. Except… well, it’s put me on a whole new road in life. Before cancer, I worked a lot, had a failing marriage, was trying to raise two young children, had two dogs, two homes, and I was so busy I didn’t enjoy much of anything. I was on auto pilot: wake up early, get dogs fed, get dressed, get kids ready for school, make them breakfast, wonder where my drunk husband was, drop off kids at school, go to work (but first battle an hour of traffic), work work work, rush home (more traffic), feed and walk dogs, make dinner, do dishes, help kids with homework, try to spend time with my children, try to ignore my screaming drunk husband, get kids to bed, clean the house, pay bills, rent out our vacation home, try to get to bed before midnight, sleep. Wake up the next morning. Repeat. Yuck.

And then I got cancer and my world changed. So did my focus in life. These days, life is about health, my children, my loved ones, and experiencing life. I want to make a difference in the world and find joy and meaning. And I’m doing just that (or at least I’m trying).

So thanks to Facebook, few weeks ago, several of us in a myeloma group realized that we were all in the Salt Lake City area. We decided to meet up for breakfast, which took place last Friday in American Fork, Utah. At our breakfast was me, plus four other myeloma warriors, one dad of a patient, and an identical twin sister who donated her stem cells to her sister for a stem cell transplant. And this myeloma diagnosis that tends to affect older African American men? I wasn’t seeing it. All five of us myeloma warriors were women in our forties. Lucky us I suppose. There was…

-Me: Diagnosed at age 44 in January 2012, had tandem auto stem cell transplants, currently in stringent remission (knock on wood), and on indefinite maintenance therapy of Velcade-Dex-Thalidomide.

-Jenny: Diagnosed at age 43, had tandem auto stem cell transplants, currently in stringent remission, and not currently on maintenance therapy.

-Heidi: Diagnosed in her forties, had a single auto stem cell transplant, and is currently in remission.

-Jessica: Randomly discovered she has smoldering myeloma and has not yet had any treatment. She is being closely monitored.

-Michelle: Diagnosed just a month after her wedding in 2014. She just finished up a syngeneic stem cell transplant (her identical twin sister donated her stem cells, which is like getting your own stem cells back, only better because there are no myeloma sleeper cells lurking in there).

Also in attendance was Michelle’s dad (her primary caregiver) and her twin sister/donor who was visiting from Arizona.

A few take-aways from our breakfast:

– It is interesting to chat with myeloma patients who are still on some kind of medication. All of us have short-term memory issues. We would chatting mid-sentence and search for words and simply forget what we were talking about. Chemo brain- it’s real! It’s that “foggy” sensation, not feeling sharp, and simply forgetful. Kind of comical (if there is such a thing in the cancer world).

-Cancer brought out strength in all of us that we didn’t realize we had. Yep, there in our reserves of strength lies more mojo than we ever thought possible.

-Each of our paths to diagnosis is — searching for the right word here — “uncanny”. In Jessica’s case, who has smoldering myeloma, it was caught by “accident.” Because she is aware that she must be monitored, this should hopefully bode well for her overall health. As we know, myeloma attacks bone and organs. Treating it before there are complicating factors matters. I pray Jessica never needs treatment but thank goodness she’s under medical care to watch carefully. For the rest of us, it was almost like God (or if you’re not spiritual, a higher power) helped prepare us for the tough journey ahead.

-We had amazing support from those around us. How quickly we realize who are friends and loved ones are. And without our caregivers and supporters, fighting this disease is far harder.

-While the myeloma journey can be really difficult, there is healing– physical and emotional. Things can get better. I look at Michelle who is just barely out of transplant and doesn’t feel all that great. I reminded her that her hair will grow back, she will feel better, and that she will find joy, meaning and even fun on the other side. As a newly married, soon she can take a great honeymoon to celebrate how far she’s come. I will never forget starting my myeloma journey. I felt horrible and I talked to a myeloma survivor one day on the phone who happened to be skiing and was driving down from the slopes during our conversation. I couldn’t fathom ever skiing again. My ribs were sore, I had no energy, and my upcoming treatment protocol took up a ridiculous amount of time. A year later, I was skiing. Heidi, who was at our breakfast, had her transplant some seven months ago. She’s been skiing three times so far this season. Life will never be the same for any of us, but it can be amazing, wonderful, and ok in our “new normal.”

I hope that these messages were hopeful for our smoldering guest, Jessica. I hope she never progresses but it’s amazing, and helpful, to know that we are not alone in this battle.

So would I wish this cancer journey on anyone? Of course not. But here we are, making the best of it, supporting each other, and discovering a purpose in the midst of it all.