Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tomorrow, It's Only a Day Away

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build."

With apologies to Annie, tomorrow may always be a day away, but it's going to be a great day for us! After months of anticipation, and more than a week of preparation, tomorrow is the day for Tammy's bone-marrow transplant. We are very excited for what the future holds.

It's amazing how everything has fit together during this treatment. The combination of medicines, all with their own purpose, has been delivered to Tammy's body to prepare it for the transplant. She's been on an almost-constant drip of a variety of treatments since Monday afternoon. The doctors have been terrific. They have so much knowledge. They have not been surprised by anything so far.

God has not been surprised by anything either. Things the doctors are "estimating" are completely in His plan and under His control. He has infinite knowledge. It's very comforting.

Tammy is doing very well today. She has no fever and is not sick to her stomach. With all of her bone-marrow cells destroyed, she has no energy. But she looks good. She's ready for the recovery period to start.

She has received dozens of cards and phone calls wishing her well. They mean a lot to her. Please keep them coming. And most of all, please keep praying.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Day Minus-2 and Going Strong

Jeremiah 29:11
"'For 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 two days from the transplant day. Tammy has one more day of the rabbit protein, the treatment that has caused her the most difficulty so far. Even though it's normal, it's still tough to handle. She's extremely tired, plus sometimes nauseous. After tomorrow, she'll be on the up-swing.

She'll get her transplant Wednesday evening and start the recovery process. Our prayer is that the new bone-marrow cells will adapt to her body seamlessly and starting growing new blood cells quickly. We are so thankful our donor has been so generous to provide life to Tammy. Without him, Tammy would have gotten continuously worse. We ask God, the ultimate giver of life, to bless him richly.

We don't know anything about the donor, other than the fact that he is 37 years old. We don't know where he lives, whether he's married or has kids, what he does for a living, or anything else about him. The cool thing, is God knows who he is and how to bless him. He knew before the beginning of time that Tammy would need this transplant and that he would be a perfect match. He placed it on this person's heart to be a bone-marrow donor.

God's plan is perfect. He knows everything about us, everything that will happen to us, and the way we'll react to it. We have tried to react to every difficulty with grace and peace. It has been difficult for both of us. It's certainly been difficult for Tammy to endure the sickness. It's also been difficult for me to see the woman of my dreams suffer. But we both know that God loves her more than I do, and that He has a plan for her.

Remember that Tammy's prayer for years has been "to be used in a mighty way"? Recently, one of the nurses I had just met told me "Your faith will get you guys through this." That proves to me that Tammy has been a great witness through all of this. Even when she's barely able to hold her head up, she's ministering to the staff. That's mighty.

We ask that you join us in praying for the donor, for the new bone-marrow cells, for a smooth transition, and for a quick and complete recovery. God bless you.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Blessing of Friends

Luke 5:17-19
"One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus."

First, a quick update on Tammy. She finished her first batch of chemotherapy this morning. We found out after we posted yesterday that she'll have more starting tomorrow, just a different kind. Today she had the rabbit protein. After the first chemo weakens the existing bone marrow, the rabbit protein goes in and "kicks butt" on the remaining bone marrow, according to the nurse. All this is in preparation for the transplant next Wednesday.

She had a spike in her temperature today, but that is very normal. She was feeling some chills and nausea. Hopefully that won't last too long.

This morning, several friends from church came to the house to help us get ready for Tammy to come home. They moved one freezer that no longer works, moved another one to a place we could use it, vacuumed the whole house with a heavy-duty vacuum cleaner (don't worry Sam; we won't tell Melissa how deft you are with the vacuum), replaced the kitchen sick that had grown some mold, cleaned out the fireplace and completely cleaned out the garage. I tried to thank them, but they considered it a privilege to help. It's not the first time many of them had helped. They insisted that I let them know when we need more help.

It's humbling to accept help like this, because I want to provide our family's needs. But I was reminded that my attention needs to be on Tammy, helping her get through this. If our friends can help us with some of the projects around the house, I can spend more time at the hospital. Just like the man in the story above, whose friends lowered him through a hole in the roof to see Jesus, my friends helped me do things I couldn't do on my own.

Whose mat are you lowering? You might not recognize it, but when you help a friend, you are bringing them closer to Jesus. Thanks, friends.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Chemo is Almost Done

Psalm 91:9
"If you make the Most High your dwelling— even the LORD, who is my refuge--then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent."

Tammy has had a little rougher day today. For the first time, she's been sick to her stomach. She's more tired today than in the past. It's dinner time and she is trying to eat when it doesn't taste good. That's a result of the chemotherapy.

Fortunately, her last chemo treatment will be at 2 a.m. Saturday. She's had treatments every six hours since Tuesday morning. The next medicine will cause her to lose her sense of taste all together.

We knew this would be a long road. She has been relatively free of symptoms so far, so we can't complain about a little bit of nausea or a lack of appetite. If you know Tammy, you know that she's not complaining.

The next medicine is derived from rabbits, so she's probably going to be craving carrots and doing math problems--you know, rabbits like to multiply. The side effects of that medicine are a potentially high fever and body aches.

With the likely fever, she might not want visitors. If you want to visit, please call first (913-588-4104). Please don't be offended if she's not up to it. If she doesn't answer try later. Please don't come without calling.

We appreciate the cards, calls and visits. She tells me about phone calls she got and/or visitors who dropped by. You really lift her spirit. She told Julie tonight on the phone that the prayers of people around the country not only comfort her but inspire her to keep battling to get through this. Keep those prayers going.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another Day Down, Still Doing Well

Philippians 4:11
"...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."

Tammy is completing her third day in the hospital and everything continues to go smoothly. She still feels good (with the exception of the obvious fatigue). We're one week from the transplant itself.

Many people have called me and asked how she's "really doing." Well, she's really doing well. I took the attached photo tonight. You can see that she's smiling (nothing new there). She's not enjoying this, but she's content that she is in God's will.

Please continue to pray.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Made It To the First Mile Marker

Exodus 15:11
"Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?"

Tammy's chemotherapy began at 8 a.m. today, and although it's just the first day of a long process, the doctor was pleased with the progress. So far she has not felt any sickness. We know that there's far more treatment in front of her than behind her, so we ask for your continued prayers. Here's a list.

Please pray for the team of doctors and nurses as they care for Tammy and the other patients going through this. They are highly trained, and we ask God to allow them to use their skills to benefit their patients.

Please pray for Tammy to avoid the sick feeling for as long as possible, which almost always accompanies chemotherapy. Advancements in medicine make that possible, but prayers are far stronger than any medication.

Please pray that the chemotherapy will kill the bad cells, but not the good ones. The biggest risk is probably "over-kill." Most patients who have difficulties do so because of the side effects of the chemo.

Please pray for rest for Tammy. Even though she is in bed resting most of the time, it's not a restful situation.

Please pray for our family, as we try to adjust to everyday life without Tammy by our side. We can visit her and speak with her on the phone, but not having her with us is hard. Please pray especially for Julie in Louisville, as she can't even see her Mom.

Please pray for each other. So many of you have shared your concern for Tammy with us. We want everyone to be at peace with God's will. He is in control. He knows what's best for her.

Finally, please pray that God will be glorified by this situation. He already has been glorified to this point. The best is yet to come.

Monday, March 23, 2009

We're Here

Psalm 23:2-3
"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul."

Tammy was admitted this morning to KU Med Center to get the bone-marrow transplant process started. She was very calm. I think the nurses were a little puzzled as they went through the check-in process. Tammy answered all their questions and just smiled at them. I think she was supposed to be stressed out.

She is in room 4104, in the BMT unit. Her phone number is 913-588-4104. I'm sure she would love calls or visits. If you do plan to visit, please remember that you cannot be sick in any way; they won't let you in if you are coughing, sneezing or anything like that. The area must be kept germ-free.

As she gets the chemotherapy this week, she might be pretty sick. Please call before coming to see her, and understand if she is not feeling well enough for visitors.

You may send cards to Tamara Smale, c/o University of Kansas Hospital, Room 4104, 3901 Rainbow Blvd., Kansas City, KS 66160.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Job 1:20
"At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship."

In honor of Tammy losing her hair as a result of the chemotherapy, we had a "hair-raising" party on our front porch this afternoon. We trimmed Tammy's hair so it would be more manageable as it begins to thin and fall out. David Lee, David and Lynn (Tammy's father) shaved their heads. At first, we all got mohawks (including Tammy) for a group picture, and then the two Davids shaved it off. Tammy trimmed hers and Lynn kept the mohawk. (He's the coolest 73-year-old around.)

Anyone want to join us?

Fear Not

Isaiah 41:10
"Fear not for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am YOUR God. I will strengthen you and help you."

It's the night before Tammy goes into the hospital, and we're leaning heavily on this verse and the sentiment it carries. We are not afraid of what lies ahead, but we can't help but be a little apprehensive. We're about to embark on a process that has a 1-in-5 chance of ending her life. We're choosing to focus on the 4-in-5 chance of survival, but we know the risks are there.

Friday was Tammy's last day of work, and many of her friends stopped by her desk to say good-bye. She kept reminding them that it was "until we meet again" instead of "it's been nice knowing you." But there still were plenty of tears. Friends and loved ones are scared, and Tammy has been using the opportunities to witness about her confidence in the Lord's plan. She is not afraid. Here's how she describes it.

Fear can cripple love, shatter hope, corrode faith, destroy peace, kill friendships, suppress memories, silence courage, and invade the soul and defeat the spirit, but only if we let it. Fear is a choice, as is faith. Faith can enable love, restore hope, overcome fear, bolster peace, enhance friendships, sweeten memories, awaken courage, and invade the soul and strengthen the spirit.

Sometimes it is very hard to rely on our faith. It does not make us bad Christians; it merely reflects the fact that we are humans. God knows where we struggle. He knows that our emotions make it tough to completely release everything to Him. But we must remember that He is the Creator of the universe and He holds everything together in His creation.

Today in church we sang a song called "Center." Here are the words: "You're the center of the universe, Everything was made in You, Jesus. Breath of every living thing, Everyone was made for You. You hold everything together; You hold everything together. Oh, Christ, Be the center of our lives, Be the place we fix our eyes, Be the center of our lives. We lift of eyes to Heaven. We wrap our lives around Your life. We lift our eyes to Heaven, to You."

We want Christ to be the center of everything we do. Practically, we would like Him to "hold everything together" inside Tammy's body as she receives the transplant. We're asking Him to guide the new cells to their new home without allowing rejection. We're asking him to keep her from developing life-threatening side effects. We're asking Him to carry her through this whole process. And we're asking Him to comfort you as you think about Tammy and our family.

You are a very important part of our lives. We have been buoyed by your prayers and well-wishes. We have relied on you, both physically and emotionally. We are very thankful for all of you.

We'll update more regularly once things start to happen more frequently. Please keep praying.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Relying on His Strength

Philippians 4:13
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

We’ve been working on this blog for about four months. Practically all of the entries have been joint efforts, where David and Tammy talk about what they want to write, and then David writes it. A couple of times David has written something just from him.

This morning, Tammy had an email exchange with a close friend at work, who told her she was “scared” for what lies ahead for Tammy. She knows God is in control, but she is concerned for Tammy.

What follows is Tammy’s response.

“I think I understand how you feel. I would feel the same way if it were you. I really feel a peace about this. I often do a little ‘self check’ about being scared. Honestly, what would scare me is if I could not have the transplant. It is my only hope.

“Even though I don't feel ‘sick’ now, I know I can’t go on like this. I have a gut feeling that I will not ever be any better without the transplant. It is worth it to me now to go through it.

“Last October, when I first found out about it, it was hard to understand that it was neccessary, but I do now. I have prayed for years to God to ‘use me in a mighty way.’ I think this is it. God did not make me sick; He is not punishing me; He loves me. But He has been preparing me to be strong and tough and ‘right brained’ about this for Him.

“He is supplying me with strength and a peace for this. I really am not afraid or worried. I would prefer that it all goes smoothly and quickly, and I would absolutey love it to have a remarkable recovery in record time. God knows I will give Him all the glory for it; so maybe that is the plan! Wouldn’t that be great?

“I have two six-page consent forms I need to sign and return. They are lists of the treatment plan and all the possible reactions, consequences and side effects of all the procedures and medicine/chemo/radiation. I have literally placed my hands on them and prayed ‘Lord, this is yours to take now. I will sign it all even though these big words are somewhat intimidating. You made me; You know me and I know You will make all the drugs and plans work perfectly for me.’

“I really don’t have to know everything about it. God knows and that is all that matters to me; He is in control. I feel like I am riding a tandem bike with the Lord. I just have to pedal; He drives and sees where we are heading. I don’t have to know the exact plan; I simply need to have faith and trust in Him, and keep on ‘pedaling.’

“We all have tough times and it is often hard to imagine going thru someone else’s tough times. I don’t expect anyone else to completely understand all this; but I know praising the Lord in these tough times is ‘a sacrifice of praise,’ and He will honor it. As long as I can praise Him and give Him all the glory, I will not fail. I will be fine.”

Tammy is still on schedule to go into KU Medical Center Monday for the chemotherapy treatment. If everything goes according to schedule, the transplant will happen by blood transfusion the following week. Please continue to pray that His will is done and that it goes smoothly.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What If?

Micah 6:8
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Last night, David had the opportunity to attend a meeting of church leaders from around our city as we got updates on the plans for "What If?"--a city-wide cooperation of churches to show the community what can happen when the Church works together.

It started last year with three churches. They shared pulpits, gathered together for a large corporate worship service at Shawnee Mission Park, and then served together at several inner-city ministries. The theme was "What if the church: believed together, prayed together, served together?"

Tammy was part of it last year. She rolled up her sleeves and sweated along with 900+ volunteers on serve day. She won't be able to participate this year, at least not physically. She will, however, participate in her prayers. Her passion for missions, both foreign and local missions, will keep this event at the top of her prayer list.

If you have followed this blog for a while, you will remember that this whole journey started with her prayer several years ago: "Use me in a mighty way." We believe God is doing that. We believe she is influencing hundreds of people through her testimony of faith, praise and prayer, in spite of an obstacle that easily could knock her off her knees. We know people around the country are reading this blog and praying for her. We have been told that her response has strengthened the faith of others.

That's how "What If?" started. Our church wants to be used in a mighty way. Leaders from our church went to another church and asked if they could walk through the building and pray for that ministry. That started a spirit of cooperation that brought in another church and the three churches planned and worked together on an inspiring event.

Not satisfied, the leaders of the three churches have invited other churches to join, and this year "What If?" will involve leaders and members of 12 different churches throughout the metro area. There will be several thousand volunteers working on serve day.

The theme will remain the same, based on the Scripture verse of Micah 6:8. The three sermons will be on What if the church: acted justly, loved mercy, walked humbly? The 12 churches will be broken into clusters of three that will share pulpits. Then we'll all serve together on May 30, with the group worship service June 3.

Thousands of people serving side-by-side with fellow believers from different denominations and backgrounds, all in the name of Christ.

That's being used in a mighty way.

Friday, March 6, 2009

We're On!!!

Proverbs 15:30
"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones."

Boy do we have good news that will bring health to the bones!

We received word this morning that the second match has agreed to donate and has passed his physical! Tammy will go into the hospital March 23 to begin her four-week stay. The transplant will happen March 31 or April 1.

Please pray that Tammy can stay healthy for these next two weeks. We have been able to keep her healthy to this point, and that helps her chances for a successful transplant. She's on an antibiotic now to fight off any infection that may arise.

We have been carried by your prayers, and this is certainly an answer to those prayers. We know God answers every prayer, just not always in the way we ask. This time, He has answered our prayer exactly the way we asked, and we are grateful for that.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Delay, But Still in His Plan

Isaiah 25:1
"O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago."

We just found out that the No. 1 choice for a donor has declined. We don't know anything more about her, except that she was a 20-year-old female. We continue to wish God's blessings for her.

Fortunately we have multiple matches. (We know of one person who has waited for six months and still does not have a match.) We're now on to choice No. 2, a 37-year-old male. The bone-marrow registry will contact him and see if he's willing to be a donor. If so, he will go through the testing to see if he is healthy enough to donate.

This will delay that process for at least two weeks, making the new target date for admission to the hospital March 23. We know that God has a perfect plan. While this did not fit our plan, we have to remember that March 9 was only determined a month ago as the right time based on what we knew then. Whenever the actual date is will be right in God's eyes. That is our hope, and our peace.

Tammy is getting pretty tired, more easily and more often. Please pray for energy for her. She's continuing to work every day her appointment schedule will allow. We're not sure how long that will continue. Please pray for energy for her.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

New Month, No Change

Psalm 46:1-3
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."

It's been a week since we've posted, but that's because there's been nothing new to report. We're still waiting for confirmation of the date for admission to the hospital. It looks less likely now that Tammy will go in March 9, as that's a week from tomorrow. Even if the donor agrees, he/she will still have to have all the testing done in a short amount of time. Hopefully it won't be delayed too long.

One thing we have been reminded of through this journey is how nothing is certain in this world, other than the love of God. We were cruising along last fall when Tammy was diagnosed with this disease. The next few months were fast-paced, and there were new experiences almost on a daily basis. We almost fell into a "routine" of daily change, and then that changed. It's difficult to wait, but we're reminded of the adage: "Don't pray for patience; God will teach it to you."

Yesterday, we were surprised with 6 inches of snow in Kansas City. We were expecting 1-3 inches, and usually the weather guys have a tendency to exaggerate so it doesn't seem as bad when it hits. When we woke up, we already had 3 inches, and it just kept snowing. It didn't quit until after noon. Two days earlier, it hit 70, which made the 20s seem a lot colder. Of course, this Thursday, it's supposed to be 70 again.

Nothing is certain, except the love of God. He loves us when things are going our way, when it feels like 70. He loves us when life seems to be against us, when it feels cold and snowy. We've certainly had our share of "snow days" recently, but God has been constant. He has manifested His love through His people, at our church, in our family and at work. We have said it before, but it remains true: we are being carried on a pillow of prayers. Thank you so much.

We expect to hear something this week, either a definite date or at least "it won't be next week." We'll post again when we know something. In the meantime, depend on God for all your needs. We are.