BY LIZZY SMITH
On Saturday, Salt Lake City’s Muscles for Myeloma Team participated in a 5k. It was a beautiful day and I finished the race! I started off with thousands of others and thought… what if I try to run this thing? I did. And then I walked. For me, it ended up being a run-walk combo. Before getting multiple myeloma, I ran five miles a day. So not being able to run three miles without walking was disappointing. Did I deserve the medal they were handing out post-race? The answer was YES! For heaven’s sake, I completed my third stem cell transplant (yes, THREE) just a few months ago. I was moving and improving, hooray for all of us who do our best. I may still be weak but each day, I’m getting stronger. One day at a time, one step at a time.
Leading up to Saturday’s race was about two months of Muscles for Myeloma where I joined my fellow myeloma warriors and supporters from around the country as we vowed to get moving and get fit. Since I was eight weeks from getting discharged from the hospital, just getting to the fitness center was a big goal for me. But I did it most every day, walking the track with my dad, then going to Florida and walking along the beach with my husband. And as the weather improved, power walking through the tulips at the lovely Thanksgiving Point gardens nearby.
On Friday night (the day prior to the race), I hosted dinner at my house for our Muscles for Myeloma team, neighbors, and family. It was fabulous getting together with people I love and admire.
Here’s what I learned from this experience:
- Local businesses rock! Over the past month, I stopped by restaurants, carwashes and bakeries and asked for donations to use as door prizes at my dinner. I was so touched by their generosity. I gathered up some 45 gift cards and more from the likes of: Harley Davidson Timpanogos in Lindon (they donated a backpack stuffed with goodies), Paradise Bakery (100 cookies for the buffet table), Kneaders, Cubby’s, Mr Hotshine Carwash, Avenue Bakery in American Fork, Culvers and Zaxby’s.
- Small donations add up. Every person who came to my dinner Friday night made a monetary donation, which totaled over $500 that went straight to the Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative (www.myelomacrowd.org/mcri). These funds are supporting two important clinical trials that just may be our cure!
- “By the yard it’s hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch.” This is one of my dad’s favorite sayings and it is true! Even if you’re not feeling strong or well, try to get a little exercise every day. When I started out, a mile was HARD! But I am improving and can easily walk/run over three miles. I will continue my quest to do a little more and be a little better every day (or at least most days).
- Myeloma warriors are amazing people (and so are those that support us). Cancer is really horrible, but cancer survivors are amazing and I am blessed to meet so many new friends who inspire me.
- Empowerment is possible. Even as a cancer survivor, feeling powerful is possible. I feel it every time I exercise, or raise funds for myeloma research, or learn more about my disease so I’m better able to defeat it. I am not one to sit on the sidelines, I need to do something! And getting involved with the Myeloma Crowd gives me a purpose in life.
- Life can still be awesome, even if one has cancer. I live life in ways that I never did when I was healthy. Each day is a blessing. Each bit of good news is something I celebrate. And as new drugs are approved, new combos are tested, and progress is made, I feel hope.
While the initial Muscles for Myeloma campaign has ended, the program is staying open indefinitely due to popular demand. We have some myeloma friends who are joining summer and fall events and have suggested that fitness is never over. We agree! So far, we've raised over $20,000 for the MCRI! Now before we rest on our laurels, let’s keep moving. Let’s keep focused on staying as healthy as possible, combating this disease each day, and finding strength and hope through each other.
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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.