Monday, June 5, 2017

Banner Days, Weeks, Months and Years!

We haven't posted anything here in almost four years. Part of that was getting busy with Tammy's recovery and the after-affects of her illness. Much of the reason was that there were no major milestones that hadn't happened the first time around.

Tammy's health really has gotten steadily better over the time since our last post. She outgained herself in the growth of her numbers from the first time. As we stated in the last post in August of 2013, she was able to go back to church in about half the time. She has experienced relatively little adversity since the very first stages of her recovery. But her progress has been slow and steady, and although we posted on Facebook, we didn't take the time to do so here.

If this is your only contact with us, I apologize for not keeping you up to date. We appreciate all the prayers that have been lifted up in her/our behalf.

Let me catch you up on our lives since August 2013.

Tammy's first battle with Leukemia, originating in the fall of 2008, set us back financially. We had almost dug out of that hole when her Leukemia returned with a vengeance. We rushed her back to the hospital with no regard to the financial cost. But, as you can imagine, it was a major blow. We ended up having to file bankruptcy later that fall.

However, before you feel sorry for us, we should tell you that the bankruptcy was a blessing. Through that process, we discovered that our basement was filled with mold because of water damage that we had ignored during her first bout with this terrible disease. Had we not had to file bankruptcy, we wouldn't have moved out of our house, and she might not be with us today.

We have some very dear friends, Neal and Jodi, who allowed us to move into their finished basement for almost a year. They welcomed us as if we were family. Eventually we found a place of our own, and our landlords are wonderful Christian people as well. They treat us like family too (you might be picking up a theme here).

Tammy never felt sorry for herself during this journey. She always looked at it as an opportunity to share God's love for her. She doesn't have the stamina to work full-time anymore. Being on her feet for more than a couple of hours leaves her fatigued. As she likes to say, "There's a nap for that."

But that doesn't keep her from having an impact on others. For the past three years, she has done exactly that as a mentor in the KU Cancer Center's Bone-Marrow Transplant Mentorship Program. Three days a week she volunteers at the cancer center, encouraging new patients. Because she's a volunteer, she can share her faith. Her sweet smile is a blessing to everyone, doctors and nurses included.

Our family grew by one in September of 2015 when our first grandchild was born. Coraline June was born to our daughter, Julie, and her husband, Erich. Yes, being grandparents is as amazing as you've heard! They live in Louisville, which is too far away, but we manage to see them 3-4 times a year. Here is a picture of us with Cora from this past March.

Our family will grow by one more next month as our son, David Lee, gets married to a beautiful young lady who loves the Lord! We can't wait to officially welcome Rebekah into the family, but she's already "one of us." Here's a picture of Tammy with David and Rebekah taken last month.

The main reason we're posting now is recently reaching a couple of major milestones. First of all, Tammy celebrated her fifth "birthday" on May 16. Though there is never a guarantee, the doctors told us that if she lived for five years after her transplant, she was pretty much in the clear. The picture of her with David and Rebekah was taken that night. I think it's safe to say that she is not only surviving; she's thriving!

Then last Thursday we found out the identity of her second donor. The first time we found out fairly quickly, but this time we had almost given up that we would ever be able to thank him personally. On her fifth anniversary of her transplant we tried to reach out one last time. Last week we got an email with the identity of Warren from North Carolina. Last Friday night, Tammy got to spend an hour on the phone with this humble man. He said he had been praying for her without knowing anything about her. He didn't want to contact her because he didn't want to appear that he was fishing for compliments.

We are forever grateful to Warren for his willingness to step up and save Tammy. He didn't know her, but he answered the call to save a life. Here's his picture, so you can have a face to go with your prayers of thanksgiving.

I asked Warren if I could share information about him, and he responded, "I'm glad I was in the position to do it and that our Lord chose me." He wanted other people to know that they could save a life as well, and he strongly encourages you to register with the National Marrow Donor Program ( We agree!

Thanks for letting us ramble. We still thank God for you regularly for your willingness to be a part of our prayer family (there's that theme again). We hope that God will use you in a mighty way to spread His Word!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Paying it Backward

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up

It's been about three months since we posted anything. Tammy continues to do exceptionally well. We're now about 15 months post-transplant, and Tammy's condition is a steady climb, much faster than anyone had a right to expect. We thank you for your prayers.
There’s a popular way of saying thanks these days called “paying it forward.” That means that you repay someone who did something nice for you by doing something nice for someone else. It’s a great practice and we love doing that ourselves.

Through the years, many people have helped us move. We want to say thanks, but we really don’t want to force them out of their homes just so we can help them move. It kind of defeats the purpose. So we love to help other people move. We get to do that several times a year. About a year ago, God blessed us with a truck with plenty of room. Now we get to carry a lot of stuff to the next location.

Last Friday, we had an opportunity to help a family we barely knew. Our mailman, Keith, has become our friend. He visits with us almost every time he stops by the house. Tammy puts out a bottle of water in a baggie of ice (with a Scripture verse on it) every day, and Keith really appreciates it. We have enjoyed hearing about the progress of his family selling their home and finding another one.

Last week, Keith knocked on our door and told us that he, his wife and five daughters—with one on the way—were moving Friday. It was a party wrapped in a move. There were about 30 people there—family, close friends and us. People kept asking us how we knew the family and we said, “Keith delivers our mail.” It left everyone with a puzzled look on their face, but we had a blast.

But last Saturday, we got a chance to pay it backward to a group of people who have had a huge impact on our lives over the past five years. The University of Kansas Hospital BMT Unit celebrated its 35th anniversary with a very nice reception. Four of the five doctors were there, plus many nurses, staff members and recovered patients. It was a celebration intended for the patients, but we took it as an opportunity to say thank you.
There were plenty of hugs, tears and laughs. It felt like a homecoming or a family reunion. At times there was a line of people waiting to greet Tammy. Each time the person would get to the front of the line, their expression was just like Carol’s in this picture. (Carol is one of the night nurses whose job it was to keep me calm when things were the toughest.)

It was an emotional evening for us, one we had looked forward to for a month after we found out about it. Saying thank you to those special people was wonderful. You see, they may have started as “healthcare providers,” but we now count it a privilege to call them friends.

Here are a few other pictures from Saturday night. For more, visit us on Facebook.

Tammy with Dr. Aljitawi and his wife, Hala.

Tammy with nurses Robin and Kodee


 Tammy with transplant coordinators Beth and Jodi.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Blessed Day

Jeremiah 17:7
"But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him."

We went back to the clinic today to get the results of the tests done two weeks ago. Dr. McGuirk came into the room with a big smile on his face and rattled off a long list of results that were all good!

We had a really good visit, and we laughed a lot as we always do. Tammy asked if she could start teaching Sunday School again, and he said she could, with some precautions. Tammy asked if she could start gardening, but that's still a few months away. We remembered that it was at this point the first time that she was allowed to return to church, so we're way ahead of schedule.

Finally, we asked him about our missions trip to Poland that we plan to take in July. He said he sees no reason why Tammy can't go. He's definitely the most conservative of the doctors in the BMT program, but he said she should be just fine on this trip.

Dr. McGuirk is the lead doctor in the BMT program. He is a believer, who acknowledges that the skills he has are from God. Before Tammy went back in the hospital for her second bone-marrow transplant last spring, we asked if we could pray for him as he led us on this latest challenge. He quickly agreed. He told us that he prays for God's leading every day and thanks Him for the ability to care for His people.

We had an opportunity to have some fun today. Tammy made peanut butter cookies and banana bread for them. And I had a chance to get a baseball signed by most of the St. Louis Cardinals for Dr. McGuirk. He grew up in St. Louis and is a huge Cardinals fan. We have fun banter back-and-forth, though it's mostly one-sided these days because the Royals are so bad. It was fun to see his face when we gave it to him. It choked him up a bit.

We are so blessed to have received such great care at the University of Kansas Hospital and Clinic (even though we're proud to be K-Staters!). The doctors are skilled, yet compassionate; the nurses are wonderful; and the staff is always encouraging. It can be scary to be going through the healing process with Leukemia, but these amazing people make it easy.

We also are blessed to have so many of you praying for us. We ask that you continue to pray.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Attacking Year 2!

Jeremiah 49:14
I have heard a message from the Lord; an envoy was sent to the nations to say, 'Assemble yourselves to attack it! Rise up for battle!'

Oh, by the way, one more thing. In case you were wondering, Tammy is not resting on her laurels of recovery. She is in “attack mode.”

For proof, see the attached picture!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Another Birthday

1 Thessalonians 1:3
"We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

Most people don't like birthdays. Tammy likes them so much that she has now has three every year. Of course, when you look the same as you did 30 years ago, why should birthdays bother you? The first picture is of Tammy hugging our newborn son, David Lee, in October of 1983. The second photo was taken earlier this spring.

Tammy came into this world on July 24, 1959. She gained a new birthday when she got her first bone-marrow transplant on April 1, 2009. Her "clock" started all over again, and she was coming up on her third birthday last spring when the Leukemia returned.

She had another transplant May 16, 2012, one year ago today.

So today is her first birthday the third time around. We celebrated with more tests to make sure everything is progressing as it appears it is. Before the tests, however, we stopped by the BMT Unit at KU Medical Center. Tammy made cookies and we delivered them to the staff in the unit.

I knew that as much as Tammy would be inspired to return to the unit on her feet, the nurses would be more inspired to see how well she is doing. Many tears were shed as she told them about her progress. One of the nurses told her how much seeing her lifted her spirits. "This reminds us of why we do what we do," she said.

We left the unit and stopped by the office of two of the nurse practioners. They were expecting us and they met us at the door. Two more nurses called and told them to hold onto us until they could come by. There is a picture permanently burned in my mind of those four wonderful caregivers with wide-eyed awe looking at Tammy and commenting how good she looks.

We won't get the results of today's tests for a couple of weeks, but everything continues to look good. We continue to covet your prayers. We know God's Hand has been in this whole journey.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

It is finished, and it is just beginning!

Mark 16:5-7
"As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. 'Don’t be alarmed,' he said. 'You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, "He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you."’

Our favorite day of the year, hands down, is Easter. We enjoy Christmas because it's the start of the journey. We enjoy celebrating each other's birthdays, as well as those of our family members. We enjoy Thanksgiving for the food, football and family, and the chance to thank God for His blessings. But Easter is the best. Besides the beginning of Spring, it is the celebration of the new life offered to us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.

Jesus' last words on the Cross before He died were "It is finished." There is so much rolled into that expression. His earthly teaching, His carrying our burdens to be buried forever, His victory over death itself, all were wrapped up in that expression. He had accomplished what He was brought on the earth to do. It all was finished. My sin is paid for, once and for all.

Today was a special Easter for us. We remember that three years ago, the first time Tammy got to attend church after her first bone-marrow transplant was Easter in Louisville, with Julie and her new boyfriend (soon to be her husband). David Lee came with us, so we were able to celebrate as a family once again.

Then last Easter, Tammy once again was in the hospital on Easter. The doctors told us she probably wouldn't make it until this Easter. We knew that God could change that, and we trusted that He would. But we also knew that He could choose to bring her home and that our last Easter with Tammy could have been spent in the hospital.

We are so blessed that not only is she still around, but she's doing amazingly well. We were at church today, and nobody had to come up and say, "It's good to see you here." She's been in church since just after the first of the year. Our focus was not on the fact that she was able to attend. Instead, our focus was completely on the celebration of Jesus Christ's resurrection.

We hope you have special plans today to celebrate the greatest gift ever, the gift of eternal life because of His sacrifice for you. And while His mission on Earth, and His victory over death, is finished once and for all, our celebration will continue forever! Our life with Him is just beginning!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Year Ago...

Leviticus 25:11
"The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you."

It was a Saturday morning, March 24, 2012. I had a meeting at 9 a.m. As I pulled into the parking lot a couple of minutes before 9, Tammy called me, in tears. The day before, we had spent the day at the KUMC Cancer Clinic because she just didn't feel right. She had no energy, to the point where she was holding onto furniture. They did a bunch of tests and found that her counts were very low. They did another bone-marrow biopsy, just to make sure it was only a virus. We were not prepared for the call the next morning.

Tammy answered the phone to the tearful voice of one of the doctors. He said, "Tammy, I need you to get straight to the hospital. Your Leukemia has returned, and it is acute." She called me to tell me the news. I called the person I was supposed to meet and told him that I wouldn't be meeting him. I drove straight home and helped her pack quickly. Then we drove the familiar drive back to KUMC.

It was the start of another long battle, one that looked far more ominous than the first. She was in the hospital for four weeks that time, then home for two weeks before heading back for four more weeks and another bone-marrow transplant. Before she went back in, the doctor told us that she had a 25 percent chance of surviving a year.

I'll never forget her reaction. She smiled, and said, "Somebody has to make up the 25 percent." The doctor paused for a second, then said, "And I think you will be part of that 25 percent, because of your toughness and your faith."

The past year has gone remarkably fast. Tammy's recovery has exceeded all expectations. Her counts at six months were better than what they were at a year in 2009. She's back in church and she's doing exceptionally well.

Our faith is strong. We don't think, "Why did Tammy have to go through this...twice?" We know God has a perfect plan. And we know that He knew that Tammy would bring Him glory with her reaction.

We thank you for your ongoing prayers (please continue them). We thank you for the cards and letters, visits, and countless hugs. You guys are our family, and we are thrilled to be part of God's family with you.

Here is a picture I took about a week ago. You can see that she looks beautiful, but you also probably know that I think she'll always be the prettiest girl at the ball.

Oh, and you might be wondering why we chose the verse we did. Today is Tammy's brother Jim's 50th birthday. We are celebrating his "Year of Jubilee" today. Happy birthday, Jim.