BY LIZZY SMITH One lesson I've learned late in life is that I need to learn to ask for help when I need it. I cannot do this battle alone and I have so many amazing family and friends who are ready, willing and eager to pitch in... if they only knew that I needed anything. When I was diagnosed with myeloma in January 2012, I spent ridiculous amounts of energy portraying The Perfect Life, though behind closed doors it was in shambles. At diagnosis, that house of cards came crashing down and I stopped trying to be Super Lizzy. I needed help. Talk about humbling. I allowed my parents to drive to San Diego, pack up the kids and me, and drive us and our cat to 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. 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 friend, Jenny, visited me in the hospital and brought me lunch (a respite from hospital food!) and beautiful pajamas. I've had many visitors and they've been a huge emotional pick-me-up. 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. xo Emmy
about the author
Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.