Thursday, April 30, 2009

Resting in His Peace

Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message)
"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life."

This journey is a slow process, and sometimes it's difficult to think of what to write. We know that the improvement, even if things go really well, will be incremental. Big days, like yesterday's new menu item, are few and far between.

So why are we writing today? Because it's April 30. Besides being my Dad's 88th birthday (we miss you, Dad), it's the 30th day of the month. This is our 30th post this month. We couldn't get this close without meeting the goal of a post per day.

Still, there's a message in the verse above. We can make little jokes, because our minds are at peace. We are not worried. We know that God is in control of this situation. We have "let petitions and praises shape our worries into prayers, letting God know our concerns." And we are at peace.

We hope you have an awesome day today. We are. We are resting in the peace provided only by Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Small Victories

Luke 15:23
"Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate."

It's amazing what we celebrate in situations like the one we're in. Tonight, the big celebration is dinner. After more than a month of small portions of Beanie-Weenies and Spaghettios, Tammy ate a regular meal tonight.

I had to do a couple of things when I got home, so it was almost 6 p.m. when I started to make dinner. I told her I was going to make myself a couple of hamburgers and some Tater Tots. Then I said, "What sounds good to you?" She said, "Just put one in for me." She ate a full quarter-pound hamburger and a portion and a half of Tater Tots. I'm not sure why this has us so excited, but it does.

She went to the clinic today and got her blood drawn. Her counts continue to go up. Her hemoglobin is up to 9.4 (normal is 12.0-15.0). Her WBC (white blood count) is up to 4.9 (normal is 8.0-11.0). Her platelets are up to 85 (normal is 150-400). As you can see, these are still a ways from normal, but they're continuing to climb. We celebrate that as well.

We also celebrate how Tammy's journey is impacting our family and friends. Everyone who writes to us (use my email: tells us they are inspired by how she's handled the adversity. Her faith has not wavered and her positive attitude through the most difficult circumstances has encouraged everyone. We've said it in the blog several times before, Tammy's prayer for years has been to be used in a mighty way. Witnessing of God's goodness, even when things don't go our way, is a powerful way to be used in a mighty way.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back on the Rebound

Romans 7:18
"I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out."

It is our desire that Tammy get better quickly. It's easy to get caught up in her rapid improvement and think that everything is going to be easy. That's simply not true.

Tammy is back on the mend after a rough couple of days. She fell asleep Saturday afternoon and woke up with a sore neck. She thought she had just slept wrong. But it didn't get any better. Sunday morning she woke up with a sore throat, so we spent the morning back at the cancer center.

It was determined that she had a virus that later manifested itself in a runny nose and some tummy trouble. The doctor restarted the antibiotic and that seems to have done the trick. She's feeling better today and appears to be back on track. It's not what we wanted, but we must remember that it's very normal to have minor setbacks along this journey.

Do you sometimes get derailed in your walk with God? You're going along fine with few distractions when something suddenly gets in the way. You can't do what you want to do and/or you do what you don't want to do. It's frustrating, but it's very normal.

Paul wrote about this struggle in Romans 7. He concludes the chapter giving God thanks for grace available through Jesus. As you battle your own difficulties, remember that the true source of strength is Jesus Christ alone.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Nearing the Quarter Post

Isaiah 40:29
"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."

It's been four days since we've posted on the blog, and we thought we probably should update. There's really nothing new to report, but that's a good thing. Tammy continues to improve a little bit each day. Her counts continue to go up. This morning, her white blood count was 3.5, her hemoglobin was 9.5. These aren't normal, but they continue to improve.

We've said it before, but we know there is a long road ahead. It's hard to believe that she's been home for less than a week. But there's another milestone that we'll hit tomorrow. We know this will be a 100-day trial before she will be in the clear. Tammy's transplant occurred April 1, which made it Day 0. Tomorrow will be Day +25.

We're not big horse racing fans, but a week before the Kentucky Derby--in honor of our daughter Julie, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky--we're at the quarter post. We've gone down the front straightaway and are completing the first turn. There's lots of bumping and jostling in the first part of the race, things that can knock you off stride. Tammy had the pneumonia coming out of the starting gate, but she quickly recovered and got back on stride. We're now hoping she heads down the back stretch without incident.

It reminds us that this life is not a sprint. Compared to eternity, it's a blink of an eye. But 100 days is a short period of time compared to the 70-80 years of the average human life. It's amazing that God not only knows how our life will turn out, but He knows every detail along the way. Tammy is not a worrier, because she knows that the Creator of the universe, the Most High God, has every situation under His control.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Continued Improvement

John 14:1-3
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

Tammy's first full day at home was eventful, and good. After a good night's sleep--I didn't wake her up at 2 a.m. to check her vitals--she went to the cancer clinic for the first time today. We were told that she would go every day for a while, until the doctors were confident that her blood levels were good enough that she could skip a day. The doctor who saw her today said she could skip tomorrow, then come in for lab work only on Thursday. She won't need a consultation until Monday.

It's hard to not get too excited, but we know that there's still a lot of ground to cover. There's still the risk that the chemo damaged some of her organs. There's also the risk that she might develop an unsafe level of graft versus host disease (GVHD), where the new bone marrow cells attack her organs because they see them as foreign. We want a little, but not too much. So far, everything looks good.

We know that God is in control. We also know that God is good, all the time. He was good when He helped Tammy get over the pneumonia and helped her get out of ICU a couple of weeks back. He was also good when she got very sick and had to go to ICU. He was good when Tammy developed the disease that started us down this long path. We can't base our opinions of God's goodness on our circumstances. That would be applying worldly wisdom to our situations.

God has a perfect plan for us. It may not be what we choose, but we must remember that this is a temporary home for us. If we allow God to rule in our lives, we can look at the most difficult situation as a blessing and as a way to bring Him glory.

Monday, April 20, 2009

She's Home!!!

We'll post a more detailed entry tomorrow, but we wanted you to know that Tammy is home. She arrived home about 4:30 this afternoon. It's just past 10, and she's still awake and alert. The doctors and nurses believe she'll recover more quickly at home.

For the time being, she'll have to go to the cancer clinic for treatments every day, but at least she'll spend the night in her own bed. It is great to have her home.

Thanks so much for your prayers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

(Fe)Male Pattern Baldness

Hebrews 12:2
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Okay, so we're posting again. It's therapeutic for us to write, and many people have said they're blessed by it. So when something comes to mind, we post it.

You've seen the pictures. You know Tammy shaved her head when her hair started falling out. It hasn't grown out at all, but until late last week, it didn't appear to be falling out too much. But it finally started to happen. Now she has nothing resembling hair on top, while the back still has some black dots. I was trying to be gentle as I told her how it looked. One of our favorite nurses was in the room, and she said, "No, honey, you just have male pattern baldness." Tammy just laughed at her.

Tammy is not worried about her appearance. I tell her she's beautiful several times a day. She's the most beautiful person I know. She appreciates me telling her that. But she knows that true beauty is on the inside. She is a much more beautiful person when you consider how she lives her life. She has chosen to follow the verse above to guide her through life. It's hard for me to not fix my eyes on her, because I love her so much. But we are supposed to focus on Christ.

Life throws distractions at us daily. In this circumstance, our distraction is the disease and Tammy's recovery. It is an ongoing, minute-by-minute struggle. We are encouraged by the good news we have received recently, but we know there are a lot of hurdles still to clear. It will be several months, maybe a year, before life returns to normal. In fact, life may never return to the way it was before. Tammy will have to be careful about exposure to the sun. She'll have to watch for symptoms to come back. It would be real easy to focus on her recovery and health maintenance. But this life is only a short-term stay. We have an eternal future ahead. That is why we focus on Christ.

What is your distraction? Should that be plural? What keeps your attention diverted away from Christ? Don't let it win. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter (completer) of your faith.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Chillaxin' at the Hospital

Exodus 33:14
"The LORD replied, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'"

It's Saturday afternoon and we're just chilling and relaxing at the hospital. The doctor who came in this morning said everything continues to look good for a Monday release. Her counts continue to go up. Her white blood count is 1.2 today, still well below normal, but almost to the level it was when the diagnosis was first made last October. It was 0.7 yesterday, so we're seeing the rate of improvement increase each day.

We met with the nurse coordinator yesterday afternoon, and she outlined the next few months for us. Tammy will go to the cancer clinic every day at first to have her levels checked and to get necessary treatments. Eventually the visits will go to every other day, three times a week and twice a week. It will be at least 100 days post-transplant (around July 10) before she can consider going back to work.

There's not much else to tell you now. These last couple of days before her release will be spent building her energy. I'm able to spend more time at the hospital because the house is ready for her return. (That way I won't mess it up.)

We'll update Monday when she returns home, but probably not tomorrow, unless there's something new to report. Have a blessed weekend.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Disappointing But Necessary Delay

Job 42:2
"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted."

The doctor came in this morning and decided he wasn't quite ready to release Tammy. She is showing very normal post-transplant signs, and he wants to make sure they don't progress to something that would be more difficult to handle at home. So she is now scheduled for release on Monday.

It's disappointing, because after scrambling to get everything ready, we were real anxious to have her home with us. But we agree with the decision. As much of a panic as I was in yesterday trying to get prepared, I was more concerned with whether she was ready. My reaction was more for the immediate need, but the underlying thought was concern for her being healthy enough to be home. I have written before that I am a little nervous about our ability to take proper care of her. We are all more comfortable with this decision.

Now I have to be careful not to mess up the house between now and Monday. The cleaning crew did an amazing job. I'm tempted to go stay somewhere else so I don't make a mess.

God teaches us something every day. Today, He is reminding us that we can make all the plans we want, but His plan is the only correct one. Please continue to pray that we will be obedient to Him in this whole process. Thanks.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


James 1:2-3
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."

It is with pure joy that I tell you that Tammy is coming home tomorrow! We knew she was improving and the latest report was that she would be able to come home as early as next Monday. Then one of the doctors on the team came in today and said she was being released tomorrow. Holy cow!

That set in motion a mad scramble to get the house ready. We were planning a final work day Saturday, so everything had to be moved up. Very quickly. But through some Divine intervention--including a "coincidental" insurance appointment I had--everything will be ready before she leaves the hospital.

The verse above is very appropriate for me, because the news did create a trial. In fact, I'm embarrassed to say that I was wondering what the doctor was thinking, releasing her before I was ready. I even let some doubt creep in that God had this in His control as well. If it is so important that our house be sterile, and I couldn't get it done in time for her return, what kind of a plan was that? He must be chuckling at me, because the insurance appointment was with a nurse, who knew all about what needed to be done. She called the person who cleans her house and before I left her house we had an appointment for 8:30 a.m. tomorrow. They will sterilize our house and make it acceptable for a bone-marrow post-transplant patient.

After tomorrow afternoon, you can call Tammy at home (913-262-0740). If you're not sick, haven't been around anybody who's sick, or haven't been around children under 12, you can stop by and visit. Please call first to make sure she's up for visitors. (She can't have plants, so please don't send any.)

This is a day of preparation for a day of celebration. We know there is still a long road ahead of her. There are still risks. But God has shown His mighty Hand. We trust Him to keep her in His care. Thank you so much for your prayers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Big News

Isaiah 12:2
"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

The doctor just came into Tammy's room and told us she will be ready to go home by this weekend or very early next week. This confirmed what we heard from the nurse yesterday as a possibility.

As her counts elevate, the new risk becomes graft-versus-host disease. "Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a common complication of allogeneic bone-marrow transplantation in which functional immune cells in the transplanted marrow recognize the recipient as 'foreign' and mount an immunologic attack." (Wikipedia) The doctor says we want a little GVHD, because that's what helps prevent recurrence of the cancer. We just don't want too much.

Tammy is still tired, but otherwise is feeling really good. She's still cracking jokes, and the nurses say her attitude has been a huge part of her quick recovery. This morning, I noticed that her hair follicles are starting to fall out. She shaved her head a week ago when the hair started falling out in clumps. Now that the little black dots on her head are disappearing sporadically, she looked at herself in the mirror and said, "I think I can see Australia."

We're a little nervous about her coming home. David Lee and I will need to keep the house very clean. We'll need to make sure everything is done perfectly. I've never done anything perfectly in my life. But we also know that God has this whole process in His plans, not just the hospital part of it. He will guide us. We have the pledged help of family and friends to help around the house, including being Tammy's care-giver while I'm at work and David Lee is in school.

We've said all along that we wouldn't be able to get through this without your prayers. We ask that you continue to pray for us, and for the people who will be assisting us once we bring this lovely woman home. We are celebrating the good news today, and we want to celebrate with you. As you ask God to continue to bless her recovery, please don't forget to thank Him for His wonderful care and peace, and the skill He has given the doctors and nurses who have taken care of Tammy. And also please continue to pray for blessings for the donor.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Getting Better

Just a quick update. Tammy is continuing to improve. Her blood counts have started to rise ever so slightly. The doctor is optimistic that she'll be able to come home some time next week, if things continue the way they appear right now.

Please keep praying. She's a long way from recovered, but through your prayers she has progressed a long way so far.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is Risen!!

Matthew 28:5-6
"The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.'"

We celebrate a risen Lord today! Actually, we celebrate a risen Lord every day, but most of the world joins with us today. Many people will go to church today, when they don't make it a part of their Sunday most weeks. For that, we also celebrate.

Julie was talking to some friends in Louisville last week as she was preparing to come home. She said that she would give anything to take her mom's place in this battle. Lying in a hospital bed with cancer is a tough burden. Julie loves her so much that she would gladly trade places with Tammy and take on her burden.

What a perfect example of what Christ did for us. We all carry a burden of our own sin ("...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."--Romans 3:23). He knew long before we were born that we would need someone to carry that burden for us. Without a substitute, we must pay for our own sins by spending eternity in Hell. Jesus loves us so much that He gave up His life for us.

There are so many great analogies for paying someone else's debt, like the judge who passes judgment, then takes off his robe to pay the fine for the accused, or even the good Samaritan. But we're living one right now, with all of us wishing we could take Tammy's place.

Our prayer for you this blessed Easter day (it's 12:40, so it's officially Easter) is that you would recognize and appreciate the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ in your life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Ray of Sunshine from Across the Pond

1 Samuel 20:4
"Jonathan said to David, 'Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you.'"

There are very few examples of friendship any better than Jonathan and David in the Old Testament. Circumstances pulled them apart, but their love for each other drew them even closer.

Most of you who know us know that Tammy and I spent a week in Poland each of the last two summers working at an arts camp in Zakosciele. We made so many wonderful friends at FishArt, but the circumstances of Tammy's illness will not allow us to be with those friends this summer. It's one of the hardest parts of this battle.

Among all the friends we made in Poland, few touched our hearts like Sylwia. Sylwia is 16 (she might be 17 by now) and she comes every year to several of the camps. We have been able to keep in touch with many of the kids, especially those who were part of our blog team, like Sylwia. We keep in touch through email, Facebook and even Skype.

This afternoon, we got the chance to talk with and see Sylwia through Skype and web cameras. Sylwia got to see us bald. We laughed at each other and we mostly enjoyed her sweet smile and giggle.

As we go through this long journey, our spirits have been lifted so many times by family and friends. Sometimes it's a card, sometimes a phone call. Occassionally it's a video chat through the computer.

Tammy is still pretty tired, but that's normal. Her blood counts are still at or near zero. They'll start to climb in a few days and she'll start to feel better. Other than the fatigue, she feels pretty good. We are thankful for every good day.

As we draw close to Easter, we are thankful for so many things: a successful transplant, the many displays of love from so many people, and most of all the salvation we receive through the sacrifice of Jesus. We hope you feel blessed too.

Quick Update

It's 12:30 a.m., and we just got home from the hospital. After a long day of work and meetings, I finally got to the hospital around 9:30. At 10:30 Julie showed up. It was the best medicine Tammy could get. She was very excited all day. We tried not to stay too long, but there were several who wanted to see her.

David Lee, Hannah and Tim (our niece and nephew) met at my Mom's house to head to the airport to get Julie. While they were there, they took a slight detour to find Ian, another nephew who had flown in from California for the weekend. No one by Hannah and Tim and their sister Rachael knew he was coming. It will come as quite a surprise when Ray and Jill get up in the morning to find Ian asleep on the couch. I'm sure it will be a celebration.

Ian got to see Tammy as well. It's been since Christmas, so it was really good for all of us to see him.

We'll do another update tomorrow when we're all more awake. Tammy continues to improve daily. It's a long, slow process, but each day of progress is a blessing. Thanks for your prayers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Watching Out For Our Toes

Matthew 6:11
"Give us today our daily bread."

For our entire married lives together, we have felt like we've lived right on the edge of the cliff with our toes hanging over. It has made us completely dependent on God, for which we are thankful. Whether it's my numerous health issues or our finances, we've never felt "in the clear."

We don't know how it would feel, so we're not saying that we wish we could feel that way, but we certainly know what it's like to depend on God for sustenance. We've never felt more like that than we do now.

After years of working in the not-for-profit world, sometimes not by design, we're now relying on income from a new business. No one has to tell you that the economy has been tough, and we've struggled. But God constantly reminds us that He's got everything under control.

When we found out that Tammy was sick and was headed for some long-term time away from work and big-time medical expenses, we knew things would get tougher, both emotionally and financially. But through the generosity of many friends and family members, we have managed to stay afloat. Sometimes it's just when things appear darkest that a ray of light shows up. Whether it's anonymous gifts of cash, bags of groceries or the loan of a car, we have been blessed by God through you.

Today, I was talking to Julie on the phone. We were discussing the idea of living on the cliff. I told her that right now it seems like our toes are the only thing on the cliff. Yet, we know that God will provide for us. It's almost exciting to see what method or which person He will use next. As I was talking to her, I noticed an unopened envelope on the table. It didn't have an address on it, which meant that someone just put it in our mailbox. I opened it to find gift cards for a local grocery store totaling $250. I gasped and Julie asked what was wrong. I told her what I found, and she said, "Wow, God's really watching out for our toes!"

We thank you so much for everything you are doing for our family. We talk often about your prayers, and they still are the most important thing you can offer. But the gifts, whether anonymous or not, are appreciated greatly. You are a blessing. We can't thank everyone in person, and can't thank you at all for the anonymous gifts. But God knows how you've blessed us. Your reward awaits you in Heaven. ("Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does..."--Ephesians 6:7-8)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bald is Beautiful!

Song of Solomon 1:15
"How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes are doves."

I've always thought Tammy was the most beautiful woman I knew. Today, it was proven.

I got to the hospital after a meeting, just in time to meet with the doctor. He was very pleased with Tammy's progress and encouraged her to keep doing what she was doing to stay healthy. He wants her to eat and drink and move around.

We were laughing at my bald head (I shaved it again this morning) and she said, "It would be funny if I didn't lose my hair." As she said this, she ran her fingers through her hair and came out with a handful of hair. She started crying. It was the realization that she would change, that she had cancer, that her life will be different for months and even years to come. She's been so strong all along, and she just released her emotions. I told her she would be beautiful without hair, but she was still hurting.

The nurse came in and suggested that she have her hair cut short so she wouldn't have to keep seeing the handfuls of hair. She agreed and one of the aids cut her hair.

I was right! She is beautiful without hair! Her beauty was so much more than her hair. Her eyes are still beautiful. Without her hair getting in the way, her facial features stand out even more.

We had one of the nurses take this picture of both of us. (She even makes me look better.)

She's still picking up the mirror quite often just to come to grips with how she looks. She's still amazed at the "new look." As one of her dearest friends said in a text message, "Tammy can really rock the bald look."

On another subject, she is ready for a few visitors. Her parents came by today, as did our senior pastor. Tammy was receptive to that. She is still tired, so she can't be flooded, and she's also limited to two at a time.

If you would like to visit, please call first. It's probably better to try her cell phone (913-908-4795), because it's within easy reach. Just as before, you can't come if you're sick or have been around small children. Please call first and if she doesn't answer, don't come unannounced. Thanks for your understanding.

The nurses are also impressed with the volume of mail she receives every day. They know she is loved by a lot of people. We appreciate those cards very much. Mostly, we appreciate your prayers.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Big-Time Progress

Philippians 3:13-14
"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

We know it's only one day, and that some down days will come, but we are celebrating a very good day today. Tammy is completely off the oxygen, and still has a saturation level of 96 percent. Her pneumonia is not gone, but it's totally under control. The doctor stopped by today with the intention of changing some meds, but changed his mind after seeing how well she was doing.

She looks really good, as you can see in the picture (taken tonight). Her face has good color and her eyes have good expression. She's able to get out of bed and move around. I was blown away by how good she looked when I got to her room tonight. I'm sure she's tired of hearing it after three hours, but I'm not tired of saying it.

The nurses tell us that she's still headed for some days of feeling pretty bad. Her white blood count has reached its nadir (lowest point). She won't feel like eating. She won't feel like walking around. She won't feel like doing anything. (It's interesting, the chemotherapy first caused her to ralph, then caused her to nadir. Our guess is that it will cause her to run for President next.)

Every time I go to the hospital I see another stack of cards from many of you. I can't tell you how good that makes both of us feel. Thank you so much for the attention, and mostly for your prayers.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

One More Thing

Tammy is back on the BMT unit, but she's probably not ready for visitors. She's very weak. If you want to visit, please call first (913-588-4109). If she doesn't answer, she's either asleep or too weak to talk on the phone. Please understand that she's not ready.

You may send her cards at: Tamara Smale, c/0 Kansas University Hospital, Room 4109, Kansas City, KS 66160.


Miracles of Different Sizes

Psalm 77:14
"You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples."

It's kind of strange to think about miracles of different sizes, because a miracle is something that could not have happened without Divine intervention. How can it be more miraculous than God intervening in a situation? But give me a few minutes to explain.

We have big news from KU Med Center! Tammy was released from ICU today! She was feeling well enough this morning for me to go to church. I really wanted to be there, and she encouraged me to go. After church, I stopped by the house to exchange dirty clothes for clean ones. I couldn't stand not knowing how she was doing, so I called the ICU nurses' station. Jared, a wonderful young nurse, answered and told me that the doctors were confident enough in her condition to release her to the BMT unit once again. Her oxygen requirement had diminished and her lungs were clearing up.

David Lee chastised me for being amazed. He reminded me that Tammy is a strong woman, and even more, that God is in control. We prayed for her to be released soon. Why are we surprised when He answers our prayers the way we want? We know that His will is preiminent, but sometimes He uses our feeble faith to glorify Himself when He answers our prayers in the way we ask. We thank you for lifting her up.

She's certainly not out of the woods. The pneumonia is still there, even though it's getting better. And she's still four days away from the lowest point on the post-transplant scale. Her blood counts will be near zero this Thursday, and she'll feel pretty bad. But it is such a relief to have her back on this floor. Her care in ICU was nothing short of phenomenal, but it's good to be "home" in the bone-marrow transplant unit.

But that's not the big miracle we celebrate today. The sermon today reminded us that the biggest miracle we received today is forgiveness. Tammy is the perfect wife for me, the perfect mom for David and Julie, the perfect daughter for Lynn and Carleen, the perfect sister for Mike and Jim, and the perfect friend for hundreds of people around the country. But she's not perfect. (We're not even going to talk about me.) She sins and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

But through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, her sins are forgiven, my sins are forgiven, your sins are forgiven. We often quote Ephesians 3:20-21 to talk about what God can do for us in this life. ("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.") When we ask God to save us from a situation in which we're uncomfortable, He provides so much more. He saves us from the minutae of this life, but He also saves us into a permanent, eternal relationship with Him.

Talk about a miracle!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

He Never Lets Go

Psalm 23:4
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

It would not be a stretch to say that we felt like we were walking in the valley of the shadow of death the last couple of days. I wasn't sure she was going to make it through the night Thursday night. She was better Friday, but still not where I was comfortable leaving for more than the required time from 7-8:30 a.m. and p.m.

This morning she showed signs of being more alert. She still has pneumonia and is running a fever more than not. But she woke me up to tell me it was time to leave the area. I went to my Mom's house and slept for about three hours, then ate breakfast and showered. When I got back just before noon, she was talking and smiling.

She's still not out of the woods, big picture or small. She'll probably stay in ICU for another couple of days so they can get the pneumonia under control. The results of the bronchoscopy yesterday were inconclusive, so they're continuing to treat the pnuemonia as a general type. As long as she's on a high rate of oxygen, she'll stay here. From a long-term basis, she won't be out of the woods for another three months or so.

But we feel like she's survived this crisis and is on the mend. Please keep up the prayers. We can feel them.

For the past three days, the same song has been running through my head (I'm glad I like it). Matt Redman sings a song called, "You Never Let Go." Here are the words:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
Your perfect love is casting out fear.
And even when I'm caught in the middle of the storms of this life,
I won't turn back, I know you are near.

And I will fear no evil,
For my God is with me.
And if my God is with me,
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go,
Through the calms and through the storm.
Oh no, You never let go,
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go,
Lord, You never let go of me.

And I can see a light that is coming
For a heart that holds on,
A glorious light beyond all compare.
And there will be an end to these troubles,
But until that day comes,
We'll live to know You here on the earth.

And I will fear no evil,
For my God is with me.
And if my God is with me,
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

Oh no, You never let go,
Through the calms and through the storm.
Oh no, You never let go,
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go,
Lord, You never let go of me.

Yes I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on.
And there will be an end to these troubles, but until that day comes,
Still I will praise You, still I will praise You.

If you'd like to listen to the song, click play:

That has been a constant comfort for us. We hope it is for you as well.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Too Many Terms to Understand

Psalm 139:6
"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."

Tammy is resting now. She just finished the bronchoscopy, a "technique of visualizing the inside of the airwaves for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. An instrument (bronchoscope) is inserted into the airways, usually through the nose or mouth, or occasionally through a tracheostomy. This allows the practitioner to examine the patient's airways for abnormalities such as foreign bodies, bleeding, tumors or inflammation." (Thanks Wikipedia.) They cultured the stuff inside her lungs. She came through it fine. It might take a couple of days to get the results, but they're pretty sure it's pneumonia. They're treating her with heavy antibiotics.

We've learned far more "medicine" than we ever planned to learn. As a life-long diabetic with other physical problems, I thought I had a good working knowledge of the human body. I've learned a lot more in the past five months, especially the past two weeks at KU Med Center.

We've been very impressed with everyone here. (They are taking good care of us, even though we're Wildcats.) The doctors are prepared for every situation. While the pneumonia was not expected, it did not catch them off-guard. They have handled the whole process very well, with confidence and yet with grace.

The nurses are competing to see who can be the sweetest and most caring. I have a newfound appreciation for the medical field. They are very thorough and detailed, without forgetting the subject of their care is a human being who is hurting and whose family is hurting with her. They encourage us both to ask questions. They have chosen an honorable profession, and we thank them for their care. Thanks for praying for them. We have been and will continue to as well.

Thanks again for all your prayers.

A Peaceful Rest After a Rough Night

Lamentations 3:22-24
"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'"

Waiting is very tough right now. Tammy had a rough night. We got to ICU about midnight. By the time she was settled in it was around 12:30. She woke up with intense chest pains, probably from the pneumonia. It got bad enough that they did some cardiac tests to make sure she wasn't having heart problems. They came back negative.

After sleeping for a couple of hours, she started throwing up and kept that up for quite a while. Because she couldn't use her oxygen mask her O2 levels dropped to near 50 percent. They had her alternate between the mask and throwing up. She finally got through that and has been in and out of sleep since then.

They closed ICU to visitors from 7-8:30. When I got back, she was resting peacefully. She responds when I talk to her, but keeps her eyes closed most of the time. I'm glad she's able to rest. She needs the rest to withstand this latest trial.

The nurse said they'll do the endoscopy (tube down her breathing passage to look at her lungs) around 2 p.m., not because she needs to improve first, but that's when it's available. They're fully expecting to find that it's pneumonia, so they're treating it as such already.

I don't know how anybody gets through a time like this without faith, family and friends. We have both felt the prayers of many people, and that is a great comfort. We know that God knew this would happen and it's all in His plan. It's a little scary, to be honest, to completely turn it over to Him, because His plan may not be our plan. But He is the Lord of our lives, and we decided many years ago to trust Him regardless of the situation. That's more important now than ever.

We also feel the love of family and friends (you all blend together). The numerous calls have been great, and the concern we know is out there lets us know that we're not going through this alone.

Our kids are okay. Julie is having a harder time with it because she's far away. But their faith is their strength as well. Please keep them in your prayers.

I'll update as new information becomes available. You are very special to us.

A Quick Update

Tammy is in ICU, resting comfortably. The ICU doctor is pretty convinced that it's pneumonia, and he is fairly confident that with antibiotics and IV fluids she'll be okay tonight. It's a long road, but things look better than they did two hours ago.

We'll update again in the morning.

We have felt the power of your prayers on her behalf. Thank you very much.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pray Without Ceasing

2 Chronicles 6:40
"Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place."

Please pray for Tammy. She has taken a turn for the worse. She has probably developed pneumonia because her oxygen level is around 80 percent without assistance. She is on oxygen now and a couple of heavy-duty antibiotics to treat the pneumonia. In the morning, she'll have a procedure to find out if it's pneumonia or bleeding in her lungs.

She had a fever of 104 earlier today, but they were able to break it. This evening it's back up and so far they haven't been able to break it.

She's headed for ICU tonight and will remain there for possibly the next couple of days. The doctor says it's not critical yet, but quite serious.

Please lift her up in your prayers.

A Life-Long Love Story

1 Chronicles 16:34
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."

We're now counting up, which is a great feeling. Transplant day was Day 0 and now we're into positive numbers. We're far from over the hurdles, but every time the number goes up we're that much closer to recovery.

If you ask her, she'll tell you she's fine. She's not a complainer. She's weak, but she feels pretty good considering all she's been through. Please continue to pray for her, that she can get the energy to get up and around quickly and often. It's important that she not stay in bed, because that increases the risk of pneumonia.

Some of you don't know Tammy. You've been led to this blog by a friend who does. Others have known Tammy for only a short period of time. A few of you have known her for 20 years or more. You've all been short-changed. I have been blessed to know Tammy for 43 years this summer. Her family moved into the area and started attending the church my family attended. We had just finished first grade.

I fell in love with her right away, though I couldn't admit it because my best friend and I had a pact that we could not like girls. But somehow I knew that she was different. At junior choir practice, I would grab her purse and throw it into the boy's bathroom, knowing she wouldn't go in and get it. It was an unsophisticated way of courting, but at least I had her attention.

When my family moved to New York after Tammy's and my fourth grade year, my mother said to my father, "It's too bad we can't put Tammy Young in a box and save her for one of our boys." God heard her and "put Tammy in a box" for me. We started dating in the fall of 1979 (the first picture above was from the next spring). In August 1981 we got married, and my life has been better ever since (the second picture was from last summer).

Like all married couples, we have had our disagreements. But they've been minor. We are best friends. As much of a sportsfan as I am, I would rather spend the day with Tammy than go to a game. Our relationship is based on a relationship with the Lord. We love our children and our extended family. And we are hopelessly in love.

Tammy is known by her close friends as "Sweet Tammy." From first-hand experience, I can tell you that the name is absolutely true. She is more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside, and she is quite striking physically. (She doesn't look any different than she did 29 years ago.)

Why am I writing this today? This is a new start for Tammy's blood. She gradually will transition to a new blood type. Her DNA will be the same as her donor's. But she's still Sweet Tammy. She is still the woman I adore and admire. She is still my hero. She's still the same Tammy that many of you have grown to love. Most of all, she's still the same child of God she was before. He created her. He knew she would live almost 50 years before needing a bone-marrow transplant. He knows what's in store for her from here on.

He also knows what today will bring for you. He has your life in His Hands. Our prayer for each one of you is that you can rest in Him through any trials you might encounter. We certainly are.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Transplant is Complete!

Leviticus 17:11
"For the life of a creature is in the blood..."

It took one hour and 10 minutes (7:10-8:20 p.m.), and the transfusion/transplant is complete. Tammy is resting comfortably. She's probably asleep for the night.

We are blown away by the simplicity. The blood arrived in a small bag. They hooked it up to the IV line and hung it on the pole. We watched as it poured through the tube toward her body. We prayed for the cells as they entered her body and began their journey toward her bones. In about a week, it will start to produce blood cells and she'll start to become A+ instead of O+ very gradually.

Because of the generosity and selflessness of a 37-year-old man, Tammy has the opportunity to get well. Even more, because of a faithful and loving God, she has the opportunity to continue to minister.

Thank you for your prayers. Keep them coming.

We're Underway

The blood just arrived. They're hooking up her new bone-marrow cells.

Please pray for a smooth transition. We'll update later on.

Quick Update

We just found out that the transplant has been moved up a few hours. They were able to collect the donor's cells quicker than they thought they would. They will arrive at the hospital after 4 p.m. today. They have to do some preparation to the cells, and the transplant will start at 7 p.m.

Keep praying!

Today is the Day...

Psalm 118:24
"This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."

This is an exciting day for us, because the transplant happens tonight. Tammy and I have written all the entries in the blog so far, but today we were copied on a message Julie sent to some of her friends. We thought it summed it up pretty well. So here it is.

Hey friends! Today is transplant day!

First off, I'd like to say thank you all so much for keeping my family in your prayers! It means a lot to me that you would take time out of your day to lift up my mom to the Healer and Creator God! He knows how this will all pan out and how everything will work! He knows every intricate detail! He has her in His hands and for that I am eternally grateful!

Today, Mom will have the last of the preparation. They will do the transplant around 9 p.m. Kansas time.

I will let you know something tomorrow when I find out how things go. I'm not sure how much communication I will be able to have with Mom, but I'll be in constant contact with my dad and brother in Kansas City.

Please keep her in your prayers! Be praying that the doctors keep up the good work they are doing. Pray that the new bone marrow and blood attaches and is accepted. Pray that immediate healing will occur.

I returned a little over a month ago from Ethiopia, to learn from an organization there (Life In Abundance) on how to reach out to their community. I learned so much more than that! Prayer is such a powerful thing! We use it to talk to the Most High! We add "if it's your will" too flippantly. When we pray, we should expect things to happen! I'm not saying that we will always get our way; I'm saying that praying to the Lord is a huge thing! He is able to do all things! He is able to connect bone marrow to bone. He is able to heal her completely. So why don't we pray with confidence to the Faithful, Comforting, Miraculous, Provider God?

"May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and PEACE as you TRUST in Him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the Power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13.

Thanks for trusting in the Lord with me and lifting my mom up to Him!

Love from Kentucky.