Saturday, January 31, 2009
Caryn Brown and Lana Davis manned Station 3 all day.
Tammy and David Lee visited with friend Rob Johns.
Tammy and Brooke Reaves shared a hug, a common practice for the day.
The sign-up room was a busy all day.
Many times there was a line of people waiting to get tested. This photo was taken at 1:15 p.m.
Tammy's and David's childhood friend, Jim Seals, brought his three kids to get tested. Gerianne Hughs instructed people how to do the test.
"From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another."
We had a huge blessing today as 131 people came to the bone-marrow drive and were tested to see if they could be a match! There were many others who either didn't qualify or who already were in the registry who came just to visit. It was almost like a wedding reception as people from all different parts of our past and present mixed together for one cause. We feel tremendously blessed and honored that so many people came out for this event.
We got to the church at about 9:15 and there were people there already. We finally shut things down a little before 3 p.m. when the last person left, and there never was much of a lull. Tammy was pretty tired after the event, because we couldn't keep her from getting up and greeting people. She had a good, long nap when she got home.
We want to thank many people. Gerianne Hughs organized the event, with the help of our small group, many of whom volunteered their time all day to help people with the process. LaGail Chism of the National Marrow Donor Program processed more than 130 applications and tests. We want to thank everybody who showed up and got tested, or at least tried. We thank all of you for your prayers.
(Tammy was on an Internet radio show today. When the show is archived on the web we'll post the link to the podcast.)
Friday, January 30, 2009
"The gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace."
Okay, that might be slightly out of context, but you try looking up Scripture passages about media. It's tough.
Tammy's bone-marrow drive tomorrow is still getting attention from the local media. A radio station here in Kansas City is going to do extensive coverage of it tomorrow, including having David and Tammy on the air.
Log on to www.bizzbuzzlive.com at 10 a.m. and click on the "listen live" link. Shortly after 10 a.m., Paul Crosetti, the state executive director for Farmers Insurance for Missouri, will be on the air talking about the drive and telling people how Farmers has gotten the word out to agents in Kansas and Missouri and encouraged them to participate.
At 10:40, David and Tammy will be on (until about 11) talking about the drive and Tammy's illness. Even though it's a secular radio show, David and Tammy were told they would be able to talk about their faith and how it has impacted their journey. We encourage you to listen.
We're expecting a big crowd, and we're looking forward to seeing a lot of our friends, neighbors, family and co-workers. Please bathe the event in prayer.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
"Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them. Let the desert and its towns raise their voices; let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy; let them shout from the mountaintops. Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands."
Tammy's story appeared on the news tonight on the local Fox affiliate. Here's a link to the story: http://www.fox4kc.com/lifestyle/health/wdaf-story-health-marrow-012809,0,652112.story
Our prayer is that people will be inspired by this, to not only be tested to see if they're a match, but to "be used in a mighty way." Tammy's faith came through in the story, as she described her desire for our bone-marrow drive this Saturday to find matches for many people.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
"I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer."
As we're preparing for the bone-marrow drive at our church on Saturday, we are praying for all the people who will come, that those who want to come will be able to. While we're praying that one of the people will be a match for Tammy, if that's not the case, maybe many of the people who are tested will be a match for others who are in desparate need of a match.
As we pray for the whole process of going to the doctor and all the tests and procedures, we know that when we go to the Lord in prayer, it's like being a little child wiggling our finger for a parent to be closer to us so we can talk right in their ear. We know that any time we pray, Jesus is listening very closely to us, as if His face was right next to ours.
We know He answers our prayers, many times before we have the courage or the initiative to ask. We have so many prayers connected with this bone-marrow drive. We have been blessed by all your support on this journey, and we pray that you will be blessed by the results of the bone-marrow drive. Maybe someone you know or love will have their match found at this drive.
We told you yesterday about an opportunity Tammy would have to be interviewed by the medical reporter for the local Fox affiliate. Meryl Lin McKean came to our home today and interviewed Tammy and Gerianne (Tammy's "wingman") about the bone-marrow drive. She asked Tammy a lot of questions about her background, including her missions trips. She asked questions that opened up opportunities to say things like "my strength is in Jesus" and "I've prayed to God to be used in a mighty way."
Gerianne was able to talk about why she chose to organize the bone-marrow drive. She talked about seeing something in Tammy that she wanted when they first met. And she was able to talk about Tammy's giving spirit. The general flow of the interview was that Tammy always has been a giving person and the drive is an opportunity to give back to her.
The story will air during the 9 p.m. newscast Wednesday night on Channel 4. At the same time, the story will be posted on their web site (www.fox4kc.com), with additional information that won't be on the air. If you're outside the KC area, you can see the report by going to the web site. It will be a bookmark on our computer.
Monday, January 26, 2009
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"
Tammy went back to the hematologist today as he saw some elevated numbers he couldn't explain from a blood test 9 days ago. Today, the numbers were most of the way back down, so he was not planning on changing his approach to treatment.
The "blast" cells (the cells that become white or red cells, or platelets) showed up in her blood, which is not a good thing. Blast cells are supposed to reside in the bone marrow until they transform into regular cells. The fact that they're in the blood can mean that the leukemia is progressing.
If the numbers go back up, the doctor would reconsider being more aggressive with treatment. We will continue to go for weekly blood tests, and he will monitor things closely. Tammy is still tired, which is her only consistent symptom. We are progressing in the bone-marrow search, so please pray that a match can be found soon.
If you are in the Kansas City area, we invite you to join us at the bone-marrow drive at our church (Cedar Ridge Christian Church, 8835 Lackman, Lenexa, KS) this Saturday from 10-2. Our good friend Gerianne--Tammy's wingman--has done a great job of organizing it, and we are expecting a big crowd. The local media is even getting involved. One major radio station will be talking about it later in the week, and the local Fox affiliate will be sending their medical reporter to our house tomorrow to interview Tammy. She even encouraged Tammy to talk about her missions experience.
Tammy is looking at this as an invitation to share her faith on the local news as she talks about how God has used her through missions and now through this journey. It's another answer to prayer--to "be used in a mighty way." We'll put up another post tomorrow night regarding what night the segment will air. For those of you outside of KC, we'll find out if they will put the story on their web site.
Please continue to pray. God has blessed us with grace to accept each piece of news we have received. It's been tough, but He has been faithful to support us every step. We thank you for the many prayers that are being uplifted.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
It's been a week since we've posted anything here, mostly because nothing has changed. We're still waiting for a match. We feel kind of like the guy in "Twas the Night Before Christmas," because we're settling in for a long winter's nap. This process will take weeks, if not months.
Tammy's condition is about the same. She's still very tired all the time. It takes all her energy to work, but she's been brave and going to work every day. She sleeps through most evenings, but does find the energy to go to Bible study on Wednesday nights. Her faith is so important to her, as is the case for our entire family. It's worth it to be even more tired to have an opportunity to study His Word with fellow believers.
She will have her third transfusion tomorrow. Her hemoglobin continues to drop, and it was 7.7 at her last test. The doctor wants her to have a transfusion any time it drops below 8.0 (normal is 12-15). It's a half-day process, then she comes home and crashes.
She completed her first round of shots. The medicine is low-grade chemotherapy, so they have to wait a month between doses so it doesn't kill all her bone-marrow cells. She felt like it helped, but she's wondering now if that was just wishful thinking. We have an appointment with the doctor next Monday, so we'll see if there are any changes in the critical numbers. We continue to ask for your prayers as we deal with the daily changes to her body caused by this terrible disease.
Just a reminder, if you're in the Kansas City area. Our church is hosting a bone-marrow drive Saturday, Jan. 31, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Cedar Ridge Christian Church is at 8835 Lackman, Lenexa, KS. The National Marrow Donor Program will be there to conduct the tests. The normal cost of the tests is $52, but through community matching funds, it will be reduced to $25 (ethnic minorities generally are free). If you're in the area, stop by and get tested.
Thanks for your continued prayers. We appreciate them greatly. As we've said before, we feel like we're being carried on a pillow of prayers.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."
We have shared before about how God has blessed us through this journey. We decided to share some specifics. It's dangerous, because when we mention some of the people, we'll exclude others. But we thought you needed to know how blessed we are.
In no particular order, here are a few examples. Our friend Jim, in the midst of his own trials in his family, has let us borrow his car. It's a nice car that rides real smooth, so Tammy doesn't have to drive the milkshake machine on wheels. It's very strenuous to drive our little Toyota, and when energy is at such a premium, not having to fight the car makes a huge difference. His generosity is greatly appreciated.
David's DM, Ty, has a great knack for keeping things in perspective. When David is stressed about things going awry in the office, or the paycheck being lower than expected, Ty knows how to calm him down. He has become far more than a mentor or a supervisor in the three-plus years that David has worked with him. He is a close friend.
Our pastor, Brian, also has a humble way of encouraging. He has a great expression: "What's good is God; the rest is me." While we cannot possibly deny that God is the source of all good, we know that He has used Brian to encourage us and lift our spirits. His common sense advice when things look darkest has uncommon value to us. He is a gift to our family.
Our friend, Gerianne--Tammy's "wingman"--is the one who has organized the bone-marrow drive. That drive may or may not find the match for Tammy. But the energy Gerianne (pictured with Tammy) has put behind the drive, and all she has done to be there for Tammy at work and for both of us with her friendship, shows a love that is priceless.
We could go on. Every day, God blesses us in a new way, constantly reminding us that He is in control, that He loves us more than we can comprehend, and that He "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20)
We hope you have this same peace and blessing through whatever trials you have in your life.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
"...I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
We are full of hope that God will find a donor so Tammy can have a bone-marrow transplant. It is our prayer that His plan includes complete healing.
We are honored that a good friend--our "wingman"--is spear-heading a bone-marrow drive at Cedar Ridge Christian Church, 8835 Lackman Rd., Lenexa, KS, between 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31. Representatives from the National Marrow Donor Program will be there to conduct the tests, and through "community matching funds" will reduce the cost to $25 per person, rather than the normal $52 for a test (ethnic minorities generally are free).
This is a non-invasive test. A simple swab of the cheek will generate the necessary sample for the test. If a match is found, the donor will have blood drawn, the bone marrow will be sifted out, and the blood will be returned to the donor.
A bone-marrow transplant is the only curative treatment for myelodysplasia, the pre-cursor to leukemia. There are 3 million people in the national registry, but there is always a need for more donors.
Tammy is committed to fighting the disease, but she is completely at peace with whatever God brings her. She looks at this battle as a way to bring hope to others--to be "used in a mighty way." A bone-marrow drive in her honor will mean a lot more names added to the national donor registry, whether or not a match is found for her.
If you would like to be tested but can't attend the bone-marrow drive on the 31st, go to www.marrow.org to order your test kit. You never know whose life you might save.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
What is a missions trip? To us, it's a trip to a place away from home, outside your comfort zone, where the focus is on leading people to Jesus Christ. We have had the opportunity to go together on two missions trips to Poland. By the previous definition, this is our third missions trip.
While we are home in Kansas City, we certainly are headed down an unfamiliar and uncomfortable path toward leukemia. Tammy's diagnosis--myelodysplasia--means that without treatment she is not likely to survive more than a year. It's not leukemia yet, but without a bone-marrow transplant, it will be. The chances of survival once that happens are lessened considerably.
We're outside our comfort zone. Though our faith in Jesus Christ is strong, we wish we didn't have to go through this. Tammy is not looking forward to the treatment, the time away from work, the likely sickness that will come with the chemotherapy and/or radiation, or the possibility of not surviving this disease. David is not looking forward to watching Tammy suffer. He's not looking forward to the 100 days after the transplant, when every germ is potentially very harmful. But we know that God will not put us through anything we can't handle--with His help.
Which leads us to the third point. We can--and will--use this journey to lead people toward Christ. He certainly is the One who brings people to a saving knowledge of Him, but He uses Christians to point people in that direction. Our family is looking at this as an opportunity to show people how faith in Jesus Christ can calm any storm.
When we went on our missions trips, our purpose was to witness about Christ and His love. We wanted to make an impact for Him. We found out that the people we met on our trips, especially the young people, made a bigger impact on us than we did on them. (Many of them are in the picture of our blog team from last summer's trip.) We wanted to be transparent, so they could see Jesus in us.
As we have traveled this path--a short one so far--people have told us that we have made an impact in their lives as they see our reaction to difficult news. Many people, especially some young people, have made a bigger impact on us. But through this, people are seeing Jesus.
We know of several bone-marrow drives that are being started because of Tammy's illness. It thrills us that many more people will have a bone-marrow match through this process. Our church has been a huge help to us already, and we know that our church family will only become more vital to our success.
Our friend Keith, who has led both of our trips to Poland, preached at our church this morning. He talked about his passion--which we share--for foreign missions. It brought tears to our eyes as he passionately asked the congregation to "go." We won't be able to go to Poland physically this summer, because of Tammy's illness and (hopefully) her recovery. But our goal is to see our entire church family get involved. In the meantime, we'll support the teams behind the scenes. And we'll continue on our "trip," to help lead more people to Christ.
Remember what we wrote a couple of weeks ago: Philippians 1:21-23. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far." Tammy does not want to die, but she knows that Heaven awaits.
Please pray for us. Some people have doubted the seriousness of Tammy's condition, because we haven't panicked. That's only because of the grace of God. This will be a long, arduous trek. The risks are great, and physical survival is far from guaranteed. But as Tammy has told many people, she'll be fine either way.
If you have any questions about our situation, or what you can do to help, do not hesitate to contact us. Send an email to DavidDSmale@gmail.com. We love you and thank you for your prayers.
Friday, January 9, 2009
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
We had "one of those days" today. Except it was one of those great days that makes you wonder why God is blessing you so much. We won't bore you with all the details, but let us give you some examples.
Many people offered to help us financially (in different ways) during this difficult time. We know this will be a costly struggle, and we have been trying to not let those worries cloud our vision as we focus on getting Tammy back to health. These offers mean a great deal to us.
We found out today that Tammy's co-workers will be allowed to donate unused vacation time when Tammy runs out of available leave. Disability only covers part of her income, so if she can get enough time donated she'll be able to stay on full salary. Several of her co-workers have told her they are willing to help in this way.
Several people began the process to organize bone-marrow drives in different parts of the country. There is a cost to being tested for many people (ethnic minorities are free), but a bone-marrow drive can pool the resources and save some of the costs. Also, some of the efforts are to raise money so that people who want to be tested but can't afford it will be able to do so.
If you want to look into being tested, and therefore added to the international bone-marrow donor registry, go to www.marrow.org. You can find out how to order a testing kit, and can find out if there are any bone-marrow drives in your community. Sometimes it takes a crisis to recognize a need, but we now know that there is a big need for potential donors. If we can be a conduit to raising the number of potential donors, we would be honored.
You may remember a post we made on December 18, when the seriousness of the issues facing us came into much clearer focus. It was on that day that we met with the transplant team at KU Med Center, and they gave us much more detail than we had received previously. We referenced the verses listed above and asked for your prayers so we could remember God's promises. The blessings He flooded us with today were answers to those prayers.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."
"We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield."
We're in waiting mode. KU Medical Center has started the process to find a bone-marrow donor match. It is a long process, with multiple tests needed. (There are 3 million people in the registry, and it would take a while to call all of them.) Seriously, it takes time for the computer to cull through the records to find matches in all the necessary markers.
We met with the hematologist today. He started the process to put Tammy on preventative medicine while we wait to find a transplant donor. The medicine is designed to spur the bone marrow to make new blood cells. It works half the time, but there are no side effects if the medicine doesn't work. Thirty percent of the time, the patient's blood levels return to normal levels. That's our prayer.
We still have peace about the situation. Without Tammy's brothers being a match, the process will be much more drawn out. But it doesn't have to be an ordeal. We're hopeful that she can continue to feel well up until the day the transplant is done. Then, we hope for a smooth 100 days during the transplant and follow-up.
Monday, January 5, 2009
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body."
We received news today that neither of Tammy's brothers is a match as a possible donor for a bone-marrow transplant. A sibling match reduces the risks and increases the chances of a successful transplant.
So we are heading down another uncharted path for our family. We meet with the hematologist tomorrow morning (regularly scheduled appointment) to determine if it's time to go on some preventative drugs. In the meantime, the hospital has started the search of the world-wide donor pool to find a match. This can take between six weeks and three months.
We are perplexed, but not in despair. We know the same God who created the world has Tammy in His care. He is the great physician, and He will guide the hands and the minds of the doctors here on earth who are taking care of her.
If you are interested in being tested to become a bone-marrow donor, you can go to www.marrow.org and follow the instructions. There is a cost (between $50-$75 generally), but many times employers or civic organizations will sponsor drives to add people to the donor list. The web site will let you know if there are any ongoing drives in which you can participate. If it is possible, we would appreciate it if you would be tested. You may not be a match for Tammy, but you might be for someone else who needs it.
We ask for your continued prayers.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
"Therefore go and make discaiples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Today after church, Julie left home to return to Louisville, Kentucky, where she now lives while working in the missions department of Southeast Christian Church. It was a wonderful two weeks with her here. She brought two precious young ladies who were visiting Louisville from Poland. Our house was full of people, full of laughter, full of love.
It was very hard to watch her drive away, but we knew she had to leave. She has work to do, spreading the Word of God to a world in waiting.
Friday night, our family was videotaped as we talked about why we "Go!" for part of a sermon series at church. It was so encouraging to listen to each other talk about how God has placed the passion for missions in our hearts.
David Lee talked about feeling like he had finally found his purpose when he first went to Poland a year and a half ago. He had wondered why God had given him certain passions without an outlet to use them. He has found that outlet in Poland.
Julie talked about the development of her faith as she surrendered her desires to the Lord's plans. A life-long goal to be a music teacher changed with her exposure to missions. She still uses music, but now has expanded her "classroom."
Tammy talked about having a passion to share Christ that first manifested itself in her teaching. She has been teaching Sunday school for more than 30 years, and she recognizes that she may never see the results, in this life at least. But she knows she has had an impact, both in the U.S. and now in Poland.
David shared how a missions trip, and the follow-up a few years later, convinced him that missions is less about "going" and more about "serving" wherever you go.
We believe this journey is a "missions trip." We are on a journey with the Lord. We can be used as His witnesses, if we allow Him to use us. We don't know the outcome. We don't know how He will use us. We know there will be difficulties. We know there will be hardship. But as we were reminded in church today, God uses imperfect people to do humanly impossible things to accomplish His perfect will. We're just along for the ride.
God bless you all.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Psalm 40:1-5 "I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rockand gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare."
As we've written previously, the Lord is teaching us patience in a new way through this journey. We now are trying (not real successfully) to wait patiently to find out if either of Tammy's brothers is a match. She and they got tested on the 23rd, but we still haven't heard the results. They should come any day.
In the meantime, we're enjoying another day away from work. We're relaxing with family, watching football and eating. What else do you do on New Year's Day?
Our new song in 2009 is the same song we had in 2008, even before we learned of Tammy's illness--"a hymn of praise to our God."
We'll update as soon as we hear about the matches. We pray for you as you prepare to serve the Lord in 2009.