BY LIZZY SMITH Dear Santa, I know my children have bamboozled you with their wants. But so far, I've been silent. I've been a very good girl this past year. I've worked hard, survived a lot, and have tried to be really nice to everyone around me. What I want most is for the world to be a better place. That seems like a broad request, but I've narrowed it down to just eight things I want, most of them not costing a thing. 1. A cure for cancer Cancer kills and destroys everything in its path, except the spirit of us resilient survivors. I ask that the medical community continues making progress towards finding better treatments and cures. And I pray even harder that cancer warriors participate in clinical trials, because that's the only way progress is ever made. 2. Early cancer screenings to increase When it comes to cancer, early detection is key. It gives us our best odds of beating it and surviving. As such, this past year, I've had full on cancer screenings and I want others to do the same. I lead by example and this year, I got... -A mammogram. It's an easy exam and painless. If one is over 40 or has a history of breast cancer, she should talk to her doctor but I highly recommend getting one. -A pap smear and exam -A colonoscopy. I'm not yet 50 and I don't have a family history of colon cancer, but since I beat the odds by getting multiple myeloma, I figured that I can't be too cautious. Plus my friend, Mandy, died of colon cancer just six months ago at the age of 44. Her advice was to get a colonoscopy. So I did. I gotta say, it was easy-peasy. The worst part was the prep-- 24 hours of swallowing laxatives and drinking icky stuff. For the exam itself, they give me a little IV cocktail, I took a nap, and when I woke, it was over. Painless. -A skin cancer screening. Every inch of my body was examined for any worrisome signs. -A complete blood work panel to review for any signs of trouble. So far, all clear! I want everyone to heed my advice to get cancer screenings, age appropriate, and be aware of changes to her body. 3. For my neuropathy to go away Today I got a massage and realized that I have very little feeling in my left foot and about half the feeling in my right. I don't have any pain. I ask that the essential oils I use every day (a combo of peppermint and fractionated coconut oil) continue helping stimulate my foot nerves and keeping the neuropathy manageable. 4. The ability to think clearly and make wise decisions Chemo brain is real. Trust me, I know! I have trouble remembering names and events. Even my trusty calendar on my smartphone isn't a cure for my fuzzy memory. A doctor told me to stop taking Ambien STAT because it makes one forgetful. I've done that. May my chemo brain start to ebb and, when it doesn't, may those around me cut me a lot of slack. 5. To continue surviving and thriving in my "new normal" Surviving and, dare I say, thriving, with cancer is possible. It doesn't mean a thrive every day, but it means that, overall, I thrive. I hope that my experiences can help others do the same. A lot of time it's simply pressing forward when I don't feel like it. Other times, it's exercise, good nutrition, and a great support group. Whatever combo I need, I ask that I continue this journey with the best attitude and health I can muster. 6. To find the perfect pair of skinny jeans I have four pairs of skinny jeans and, truthfully, I love them all. But I'm still not sure I've found the "perfect" pair. So I keep trying them on and one day, I'll realize I've found The One! May that day come soon. Hey, even us cancer warriors want great clothes (or at least this one does). 7. To visit to the Holy Lands At the top of my Bucket List is a trip to the Holy Lands. I feel this overpowering draw to go there and I'm not sure I can ignore it much longer. May I find the funds and time to hop on a plane bound for Tel Aviv. 8. To raise happy, inquisitive children This is maybe my biggest, and most important, challenge. Overall, my children are happy. They are survivors of an alcoholic home and a non-existent father. Yet they are kind, sweet, trusting, and loving girls. I love them as intensely as I know how, and I try to make their world as broad as possible. I take them everywhere with me-- on trips, skiing, museums, ballets, hikes in the canyons, horseback riding... I read them newspaper articles and talk to them about current events. I want them to understand that the world is a big, complex and diverse place, and that not everyone lives the same way or has the same values we do. May they have an appreciation of that diversity and, more importantly, will they some day, some how, make the world a better place. 9. For 2015 to be a year of new experiences, love, joy and learning Much Love, Lizzy
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.