In my prior life (pre-myeloma diagnosis, pre-divorce, and living in San Diego) and was nearly obsessed with portraying my life as fabulous. Great husband (wrong—he was a seriously mean abusive drunk), great job (wrong, I worked way too many hours in a job I hated), beautiful home… And, therefore, in my deepest moments of fear and need, I never for a second thought of asking for …. Help. How could I? I was drowning emotionally and, as organized as I was, I could never make life work quite right.
…And then it all changed in a second. I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, and the house of cards came crashing down. To an extent. For the first time, I no longer pretended to have a perfect family and home. Rob the Great (Alcoholic’s) fishing buddy stopped by the house to check on me and he knew Rob had moved out. “Buddy” was devastated that we were splitting.
“Is there anything that can be done to save your marriage?” he asked. He was literally in tears.
“No. He is an alcoholic. He is mean, abusive and explosive. He is a liar and a sneak and I’m done defending him or helping him preserve his Rob the Great brand. He is not great. He was a monster. He is not a good man.”
There. I was starting to be honest—my life was a disaster.
I allowed my parents to drive to San Diego, help me pack up the kids and some clothes and move us and our cat, Princess, into their home in Utah so I could begin treatment. And I accepted their endless help with taking me to appointments, taking care of my children, and everything in between.
But I didn’t want anyone else to know about my health. I told everyone I had a blood disorder and I was going to be JUST FINE. I lost my hair. No one knew because I had great wigs, which actually made me look better than before. I lost weight—a lot of it, like from 138 pounds at diagnosis to 119. I was finally skinny! (actually too thin) I went to great lengths to (again) portray “better than reality.”
Why was that?
Fear that someone might think something negative of me? Fear that people would feel pity? Terrified that in my sick state, that some well-meaning person might say something really tacky and it would rattle my resolve to not die? My need for privacy?
Whatever my reasons (and I still don’t fully understand them), I deprived myself, my family and my children from getting far more help than we did. I would WISH that someone would take my children somewhere fun for the day. It was so hard for me (though I did it anyway, it took every ounce of energy I had) to do it. There were nights that dropped off meals would have been a Godsend. Or help with taking my children to school (my mornings were really hard. It took me a few hours to feel normal so dressing and driving early in the mornings was torture). I know I would have had that help if I had asked. If I had been honest. And if I had been humble enough to accept with gratitude (not guilt) the kindness and generosity of others.
Part of my reason for writing and blogging was to start overcoming my need to portray perfection. It helped, though sometimes it’s really hard. My blog and articles are brutally honest and I am far from perfect.
But since relapsing with my illness and getting back into treatment (yes, I will beat this again), I have had to take this a step further. I have, unfortunately, been in the hospital some 18 days since November 2. When I got out of my first 5-day hospital stint, my friend, Irene, asked if she could make my family homemade true Mexican flan. Old Lizzy would have said, “Oh I’m fine, we are doing great. Don’t worry about it.” And if she had done it anyway, I would have said “Thanks a million” and felt too guilty that someone took their time to serve me. Emerging Lizzy said, “No one has ever made me flan before and I’d love it!” She brought it over and I devoured most of it myself, sent a thank you, and felt touched.
My parents and husband one evening were having a tough time with picking my youngest daughter up from school. My friend Katherine sent me a text asking if there was anything she could do, please ask. So I texted her if she could pick up Siena every day from school that entire week. Of course. And she did and it helped everyone. Stress reliever for everyone.
My husband has been a rock star through all of this. I always felt that these were my children, my responsibility, and I wanted to burden others as little as possible in raising them. But, you know what, I cannot. It is physically impossible for me to manage anything, feed anyone, driving anyone anywhere, or do laundry. I told William that he could take the girls to my parents’ home and they could manage it. “Why? This is their home, I’m their stepdad and I’ve got it.” And he has. Seamlessly he has managed school drop-offs and pickups, has cooked breakfast and dinner at home for them every night, managed tutors, and cheer practices—you name it. And he’s also visited with me for hours each day. On one of his visits, I apologized, “I’m so sorry that I can’t help.” I was in tears. I felt so guilty. “I love doing this. Besides, we are partners. Together we’ve got this. You take care of you and get well. I’ve got the home.”
My parents have picked up the slack and either my mom or dad stays at the hospital with me every night. It’s actually been extremely bonding. And while I miss my daughters like crazy, they are in good hands. Make that great. Learning to lean on and fully trust others has been a huge lesson learned in this crazy journey of mine.
I’ve had so many countless requests to help out. I am surrounded by true friends, like the ones who would, if they must, carry me to a bathroom. Who knew?
Last night, my daughters came to visit and my 15-year old and I took selfies of us from my hospital bed and then William took photos of us hugging. The next morning I woke up horrified that she had posted them on Facebook. My initial reaction NO! No one can know I’m sick! And then more horrors, my husband had shared on his page. Oh.my.gosh. I quickly wrote an announcement that I had been admitted to the hospital with a wicked pneumonia and I was getting great care and even better IV drugs and I hoped to be going home soon.
More well wishes, prayers, and offers of help. I was literally overwhelmed and so deeply touched.
As a result of the Facebook exchange, one of my best friends on the planet, Emmy, sent me a beautiful text, which I’ll leave you with:
People care about you. It’s hard when you’re sick and just trying to get better. Some withdraw for many reasons, but other people are blessed by being able to pray for you or serve you in any way they can. Hopefully these messages will cheer you and give you strength and encouragement when you need it. Love you and we’ll talk when you are feeling better.