Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Christmas Filled with Quiet Reflection

Ecclesiastes 5:20
"They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart."

This was a very quiet Christmas for us. First of all, it was the first Christmas we've had in 30 years without either of our kids with us. David and Julie (and Erich) participated in Journey to Bethlehem in Zakosciele, Poland, the site of the PROeM camp. It ran through Sunday night, the 23rd, meaning they would have left on Christmas Eve and traveled all day and making them exhausted Christmas Day. Then, they had to be back for classes to start on Wednesday, Jan. 2, meaning they would have had to fly out on New Year's Eve to make it back in time. It would not have been long enough to make the trip make any sense. They also had a camp this weekend that they were supposed to attend, so it was really too tight.

Then Tammy came down with RSV, which forced her to lay low for two to three weeks. We canceled our trip to Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl because we knew that she wouldn't feel like a car trip that long. We would have left yesterday, and we're glad we didn't, because she still doesn't feel great.

What a blessing that decision was, because on Friday, Dec. 21, I came down with a virus that turned into pneumonia sometime over the weekend. By Christmas Eve, I was so sick I could hardly get out of bed. We had to miss the Christmas Eve service, Christmas Eve at my Mom's with my side of the family, Christmas evening at her parents with Tammy's side of the family, and everything else that goes on during this festive week. We haven't left the house, other than to go to the doctor and to pick up prescriptions.

We're feeling better, and we hope to be back to health soon. But this down time has allowed us to focus on the season a little better than usual. We were "humbled" by our sickness, feeling helpless and weak. We thought a lot about Jesus humbling Himself to be born as a human, and being helpless as a newborn baby. He did this so that we could spend eternity with Him, as long as we accept the free gift He offers. We know that someday, this life will be over, along with its sickness and struggles, and we will see Jesus face-to-face.

As we look back on the adventure of the past year, we celebrate so many things. We celebrate the fact that another donor was found so quickly when Tammy's Leukemia returned. Most people don't survive needing a second transplant because another match cannot be found in time. We celebrate the fact that Tammy has recovered so quickly. Before she went back to the hospital for her second transplant, the doctor told her that she had a 25 percent chance of surviving for a year. Most of that risk has past, and her counts are better at this stage than they were three years ago after a year. We celebrate the fact that Tammy was able to return to church in November, barely six months after her transplant. She's missed the last few Sundays because of the RSV, but we're preparing for her to return shortly. (The picture above was taken on Thanksgiving at Tammy's parents' house. This is us with my Mom. You can see how healthy she looks--and how beautiful!)

We celebrate the fact that so many people have been impacted by this blog. We continue to get emails and letters from people who have been blessed by it. Our goal with this blog was to keep people informed without having to send out countless emails. But our ultimate goal from the beginning has been to bring glory to God by our reaction to His path. If you have been blessed by our writing, then we have done that.

We celebrate the number of prayers that have been lifted up on our behalf, both in the big picture and for day-to-day requests. As we have stated many times, we feel like we're being carried on a "pillow of prayers."

Finally, we celebrate the fact that our God loves us so much. He gave us each other. He gave us so many wonderful friends and family members who are a blessing to us every day. Most important, He gave us His Son, who paid the price for our sins, and makes the journey we're on worthwhile.

We pray that you have a happy and healthy 2013. God bless you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Speedbump

Psalm 150:6
"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD."

This journey has been so much smoother than the first time through, that when things don't go right it seems more drastic. We're in that mode right now as Tammy has been diagnosed with RSV (virus).

She was doing very well. In fact, she had returned to church the last two weeks. That didn't happen the last time until after a year had passed. Her counts were so good, that the doctor had approved a driving trip to Arizona over New Year's. We won't be taking that because of this problem, but we're still confident.

While this can be a dangerous disease, the doctors are confident that she'll recover best by staying at home and getting plenty of rest. Our goal right now is to keep her at home, rather than in the hospital. Keeping her from doing anything is not an issue, as she barely has the energy to get off the couch. But rest is the best thing for her.

She'll miss church for a few weeks, but we know that routine pretty well. We just ask that you pray for complete healing and for comfort, as she's feeling pretty puny right now.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wonderful News!

Colossians 2:6-7
"So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."

We went to the clinic today to get the results from Tammy's 180-day tests, and the results are great. Almost all of the tests came back in the normal range. Even the one that wasn't is improved over the results at Day 100.

Some of these results didn't happen the last time until a year had passed, so we are amazed and thrilled.

We give all the praise and glory to the Great Physician, who has ordained her recovery as a way to bring glory to Himself. If you've been following this blog for a while, you know that Tammy's prayer since childhood is to be used in a mighty way. God has been glorified through this journey because of Tammy's patience and faith.

This news means that we will be able to get our cats back right after the first of the year. We could get them back now, but since she's still on an immunosuppressant until early January, the doctor recommended that we wait a little longer. There are other restrictions being lifted as well, and we look forward to the new freedoms.

We thank you for your prayers, as we believe that God was moved because of them. We pray that you will be blessed.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cool news!

Psalm 10:17
"You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,"

We were talking at dinner tonight that it's been a while since we posted anything here. That's a good thing, because it means that everything is going extremely well. Tammy is driving on her own, and she's spent much of her time this week visiting with a friend from out of town who was here for her Mom's funeral. The family has meant a lot to us for years, as Tammy baby-sat this friend and her three younger brothers. She's now 43 and her youngest brother is 35.

Tammy's counts continue to go up, and the doctors continue to be pleased with her progress. Her hair is coming back in and life really is returning to normal. It's amazing how much God has blessed this journey.

We got some cool news a couple of days ago from our favorite nurse at KU Med Center. She wanted our permission to send a "I Fight Like a Girl" T-shirt to Robin Roberts of Good Morning America. As you probably know, Robin was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome, the pre-cursor to Leukemia that was Tammy's original diagnosis in the fall of 2008. Robin recently had a bone-marrow transplant, and the nurses at KU wanted her to know that she could "fight like a girl"!

We are so thrilled that these shirts have had such an impact. We wanted them to be an encouragement, and it has exceeded our expectations.

The next big milestone for Tammy is day 180, which will be in mid-November. I'm sure we'll write before then. Please continue to pray for Tammy. Even though everything seems to be going perfectly, we know she's one bad germ away from a set-back.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Normal is Awesome!

Jeremiah 32:15 (The Message)
"The God of Israel, says, 'Life is going to return to normal.'"

We got some amazing, normal news today!

We had our appointment at the cancer clinic to get the results of the tests from day 100. To refresh your memory, Tammy had a breathing test, a battery of blood tests, and a bone-marrow biopsy back on August 24, her 100th day, post-transplant. We were pretty confident that the results would be good, because she has felt so good this time around. While the progress hasn't had as many big jumps as the last time, there have been virtually no set-backs.

Three years ago, one of the most important numbers, the CD4D count, which measures the strength of her immune system, was at 136, where above 360 is normal. They were pleased with that result in 2009, because it was a sign of steady progress. Well, today the results showed that her CD4D was 397! That's normal! There were other counts that were in the normal range as well this time that weren't anywhere close in 2009. I could tell you what they all mean, but I'd have to make up a lot of stuff. Let's just say that she's normal in a lot of ways much earlier than we expected.

Never have we been so happy to say that Tammy is normal. I've known that she is extra-ordinary as long as I've known her. (And no one has ever accused me of being normal.) But we are thankful for these results. It solidifies what we believed was happening.

Many of her restrictions have been lifted, much sooner than they were in 2009. She still has to be careful of being around large crowds, and she's not allowed to go back to church just yet (that's a hug-fest waiting to happen). But she's rolling down the tracks toward normality.

Normal never looked so good! Thanks for your continued prayers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy Birthday, and Anniversary!

Nehemiah 8:10
Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

With the passing of day 100 last Friday, Tammy has been released to eat out (with some restrictions). So we decided to celebrate her birthday (July 24) and our anniversary (last Wednesday) by going to Red Lobster for dinner.

The hand-breaded shrimp was delicious. So was the linguini alfredo shrimp. And the coconut shrimp, and the parmesan shrimp and the garlic shrimp scampi (not to mention the mashed potatoes, Caesar salad and the cheddar biscuits). Yes, they're probably re-thinking the all-you-can-eat special right now.

Tammy ate more than she had in a while, too. She had two kinds of shrimp, a roll, french fries and broccoli. Needless to say, we're just chillin' at home now with little chance of going for a walk tonight..

We have so much to celebrate, and not just the commemoration of dates in our lives. We are celebrating that, once again, Tammy seems to have beaten this dreaded disease. When the doctor told us she needed to have another transplant, he said her chances of surviving were about 25 percent. Her response, of course, was, "Well, somebody has to make up the 25 percent." The doctor, and I, believed she would be part of that 25 percent, but the fact that she is, gives me goosebumps.

We're still waiting for the results of the tests she had last Friday, but that's a good sign. We know that if there was anything wrong, we'd hear about it. So we patiently (some times better than others) wait for more good news. In the meantime, her counts go up on a regular basis and she continues to be an inspiration to everyone around her.

Please keep praying. She won't be out of the woods for quite some time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our Baskin-Robbins Anniversary

Psalm 133:1
"How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!"

There are web sites that will tell you what type of gift to buy for someone on their anniversary, depending on the year. We all know that the 25th anniversary is the silver anniversary, and the 50th is the golden anniversary. But do you know what the 31st anniversary is? Well, according to, the proper gift is a timepiece. It's not just a U.K. thing either. Many other web sites say the same thing.

Well, they're wrong! Anyone who has tasted Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream knows about their "31-derful" flavors, and knows that your 31st anniversary is your Baskin-Robbins anniversary. Baskin-Robbins is a nationwide ice cream chain (it went international in the 1970s) that always has 31 flavors available at any one time (one for each day of the month). There have been more than 1,000 different options through the years, but there's always 31 in the store when you walk in.

Today is our 31st wedding anniversary, in case you hadn't figured that out. We are more in love today than we were on August 22, 1981, when we said, "I do." I will do anything for her, and she will do anything for me. I think we do a good job of demonstrating sacrificial and unconditional love. I know that, through the years, I have done things that have tested that, especially the unconditional part. But when we agreed to stay married "for better or for worse" we meant it.

There's a Baskin-Robbins across the street from my office. I see it every time I look out my window. I've been in my new office for two and a half months and I've restrained myself from going in there until today. I got permission from the BMT clinic, so I stopped there on my way home and got a hand-packed pint of three of Tammy's favorite flavors. When the young lady behind the counter asked what I wanted, I told her it had to be something my wife would like. She looked puzzled, so I explained what I was doing. She cried--literally. (She probably cries at Disney movies and supermarket openings too.)

Tammy was moved when I came home with the ice cream. I also got points for creativity. But it was my way of showing her that she is on my mind all the time. She is God's gift to me, and I thank Him daily for that gift.

Friday is day 100, and we'll spend much of the day at the hospital and clinic having tests done to make sure everything is the way it's supposed to be at this stage. We're thankful that she's in such good shape. Her counts continue to go up. These 100 days have gone fast. We also know there's still a long road ahead, and we appreciate your continued prayers. We'll keep going down that road together, just like we have for the past 31-derful years.

Happy Baskin-Robbins Day!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Staying on Course

Philippians 3:12-14
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, 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 went on another long walk today, all the way around the block. We did it in the daylight, when the sun was right on us. It wasn't too hot, but doing it in the daytime is another step of progress.

We walk slowly, because that's the only pace Tammy can manage at this point. She's doing really well considering we're still almost a week away from day 100. But it's a little difficult for me to walk at that slow pace. Although that sounds funny, let me give you a little project to prove the point.

Go outside and walk at your normal pace. Then try to walk 50 percent faster. While you can get winded and can't keep up that pace for very long, it's not hard to maintain your balance. Now try walking 50 percent slower. It's tougher than it sounds. When you walk slowly, you're balancing on one foot far longer than you normally do, unless you're a flamingo. It can cause you to lean one way or another and even lose your balance.

One evening last week, we were walking up and down our street. As we walked past our driveway, Tammy said, "If you want to sit on the porch and wait for me I'll be through in a couple of minutes." Puzzled, I said, "No, I'll keep walking with you. Why did you suggest that?" She told me that I veered off to the right, which I disputed. Then it hit us. I was walking slowly. At that point, I was balancing on my left foot and started to lean to the right. It appeared I was trying to head up the driveway.

Slow progress is tough to maintain without losing your balance. During Tammy's last recovery, she made steady progress, especially when looking back from a distance. But if we remember correctly, there were quite a few days of three steps forward followed by days of two steps back. The end result was a step forward, but it seemed more drastic. This time, it's been much steadier, with very few steps backward and a step forward almost every day. It's been very steady, and slow enough that it's sometimes hard to recognize any progress at all.

Are you trying to recover from something? Are you struggling with an addiction? Are you recovering from a serious illness like Tammy is? Are you trying to rebuild a broken relationship? Progress may be very slow, and even hard to recognize. We want to encourage you to look at it from a distance and see what progress looks like. Slow progress might temporarily cause you to lose your balance and veer off to one side. But the big picture is that if we keep progressing, we'll end up in a better place than when we started.

Isn't that the goal?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Nice Tribute

Psalm 71:21
"You will increase my honor and comfort me once more."

We received word recently that the article appeared on the KU Med Center web site. Several friends who work for the hospital have told us that they saw the article on their intranet site. We haven't been able to find it to paste the link here, but below you'll see the article itself.

We feel quite honored that the hospital feels the way they do about us. Tammy called the clinic today to give one of the nurses an update. She had to leave a message. When the nurse called back, all she wanted to talk about was the article and Tammy's impact on the doctors and nurses at the clinic.

Fight club: BMT patient urges others to be strong

The T-shirts say it all.

"Fight like a girl," demands the women's shirt. The guys' shirt is equally forceful: "I fight like Chuck Norris."

Tammy Smale knows tough. She's fighting her second battle against leukemia with everything she's got, and now the Merriam woman and her family are helping other patients at The University of Kansas Hospital do the same.

Smale received her peripheral blood stem cell transplant, commonly referred to as a stem cell transplant, on May 16. She and others called it her "cell birthday."

Lindsey Miles, RN, her primary day nurse on BMT-Unit 41/42, on that day presented Smale with a handmade poster that read: "Happy Birthday, Tammy, from one tough chick to another!"

The poster was based on Smale's favorite T-shirt, which features an image of Rosie the Riveter and the encouraging slogan to "fight like a girl."

Miles' poster gave Smale's family an idea. They decided every BMT patient deserves a T-shirt on their cell birthday. And over the span of just three weeks they organized a 5K run/walk at Roe Park in Overland Park.

They received enough donations from the June 16 event to buy 200 shirts. Our staff will give them to patients when they receive their stem cell transplants.

David Smale, Tammy's husband, said his family and supporters plan to host the 5K – dubbed "For Shirts and Giggles" – every year to ensure a constant supply of shirts.

(For the men's shirt, tough-guy Chuck Norris was so pleased with the idea that he waived the normal royalties to use his name. "Don't tell anyone this," David Smale said, "but he's really a nice guy.")

BMT staff were amazed at the family's efforts when they showed up Aug. 2 week with boxes of the shirts.

Program Director Joseph McGuirk, DO, said the shirts' positive message will help keep patients upbeat – especially considering what Smale and her family have faced.

"Coming from someone who's walked the walk," McGuirk said, "a gift like this couldn't be more meaningful."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Around the (Block) in Eighty(-Seven) Days

1 Samuel 18:14
"In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him."

With all due respect to Jules Verne, Tammy had a trip worth writing about tonight, as she went all the way around the block in her 87th day post-transplant. She didn't use a steamer, a train or even an elephant. She used her feet, and Tammy (a.k.a. Phileas Fogg) completed her journey in just under 20 minutes, a feverish pace that left her winded, and proud.

She didn't have to risk half her life's fortune, but she did risk exhaustion and possible embarrassment of having to be carried home. But accompanied by her valet (me), she accomplished the goal and returned to the her own Reform Club (our house) to much jubilation (we hugged).

Okay, maybe it's not that big of a deal, but to us it was. Walking around the block has been a goal for a while. The intense heat of the past few weeks has curtailed her activity, but it's cooler now and we made it up to 69th Street, over to Benson, down to 70th, back to Eby and up to our house.

Every step of this journey is both symbolic and literal. A walk around the block is much more than a walk around the block. It's another accomplishment that shows that Tammy is a fighter who is not willing to let a little trouble called Leukemia slow her down.

We continue to covet your prayers. This recovery has been even smoother than the first time, partly because she knows what's coming. But we also believe that the prayers of so many people has played a big role. We believe God still has plans for Tammy. You might remember that her prayer since childhood is to be "used in a mighty way." Her witness remains strong, because she has remained faithful through every step. And now, with an eighth-of-a-mile journey, she once again has quieted the doubters who said the odds were too great.

Take that Jules.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Steady Progress

1 Timothy 4:15
"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress."

We are at day 84 and things continue to go well. There's really nothing new to report, other than the fact that we're finally getting some relief from the heat and dryness. Yesterday was 106, but that's the only day in the past week that it's been that hot. Today just barely reached 100, and this evening it's raining. I don't remember being relieved with the high 90s, but that's certainly the case these days. The rain has brought a cool front with it, and it's pleasant outside.

In spite of that heat, Tammy continues to take walks each evening from stop sign to stop sign. Last night it was two laps. We probably won't walk tonight because of the rain. She has another clinic appointment tomorrow, and we have no reason to believe that anything will be different.

We received some pictures from the event last Thursday. I particularly enjoyed the one to the right, with my great odds (it doesn't suck to be me). The interesting thing about this is that Tammy was supposed to present the T-shirts to Dr. McGuirk and Lindsey, the nurse we became so close to during Tammy's second visit. But as the time went on, more nurses showed up.

The gals in the picture are among those on duty that day who took care of Tammy at one point or another. There are plenty of others who worked evenings or weren't on duty that day, so they weren't in the picture. But we owe all of them a huge thanks for their tender, loving care. It was so much fun to watch as the door to the small meeting room where we were making the presentation kept opening and two more nurses would come in. Tammy definitely was a hit on that unit, and that day proved it.

Enjoy the photos. When we get the link to the story they put on their intranet site we'll post it.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Day We've Waited For

Psalm 27:14
"Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD."

We've anticipated today for more than two months. It has little to do with Tammy's recovery, and everything to do with her story.

Today, we were able to present the first 200 T-shirts to the BMT Unit. You might recall that we decided to have a fundraiser in Tammy's honor, with the end result being donating T-shirts to every patient who goes through the Unit in the next year.

We spoke with the designer of the T-shirt our son, David, gave to Tammy last year (she's wearing it in the accompanying picture), and she re-designed it for us, adding the words "University of Kansas Hospital, BMT Unit" under the image of Rosie the Riveter. Lindsey is holding one of those shirts.

We also knew that we couldn't give the shirts that say "I Fight Like A Girl" to the male patients, even though we know that there's nothing tougher than a girl with a cause. So we contacted Chuck Norris' agent and got his permission to use his image for a T-shirt for the guys. He liked the idea enough that he gave up his royalties on the shirts so we could get them very inexpensively. You can see the end result of that in the picture as well. (Don't tell him I said this because I don't want him coming after me, but he's a really nice guy.)

In the picture you see Lindsey, the nurse who impacted us so much during Tammy's hospital stay; Tammy and me; and Dr. McGuirk, the lead doctor in the BMT system at KUMC. They had a guy from the communications department who took a whole bunch of pictures and wrote a story for the hospital newsletter. We'll post some (good) pictures and the story when we get them.

From a recovery standpoint, the numbers continue to improve. Ever since the scare of a week and a half ago, things have been looking up with each succeeding trip to the clinic.

Last night, when we took our evening walk, we went up and down the street TWICE! I was tired after one lap, because it had been a long day and it was still hot and humid at 10 p.m. But Tammy wanted to go another lap, so we did. I'm so proud of her, not only for what she's accomplished, but for her perseverance and courage during this whole journey.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Praise God!

Just a quick update. I just left the clinic where Tammy is getting some IV fluids.

The doctor came in and said, "Everything looked beautiful. The bone marrow cells are 100 percent donor cells and everything looks fabulous." He said this happens occasionally around day 60-70 (today is day 70), where one or more of the counts drops suddenly and unexpectedly. Yet he said he was scared Monday what they might find (I told him that we were too). But he is very happy with what the biopsy showed. He then said, "You can thank God for this. I certainly am."

Thanks for your prayers!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Amazing Things

Joshua 3:5
Joshua told the people, 'Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.'

God didn't stop doing amazing things after the last chapter of the Bible was written. He continues to do amazing things today.

Take a look outside, whether you're in the throes of a record-setting heat wave, like we are in Kansas City, or you're experiencing winter, like our friends in Australia and Brazil are, you can see the wonders of God's creation. It might be a beautiful flower still in bloom when it's 105 degrees and there hasn't been rain in a month (look in our front yard). It might be the sight of seeing someone's breath (an amazing occurrence in itself) on a chilly morning.

Not good enough? With the Olympics coming up, watch Jamaican Usain Bolt glide down the track at speeds that would warrant a ticket in a school zone. The grace and fluidity of his running could not have happened by accident.

Or watch a young mother holding her baby's head in her hand with his legs not being long enough to reach her elbows. That infant was created through an amazing combination of cells that evolutionists say is random and accidental. Hogwash. It is through divine providence that each of us exists.

Which brings me to the amazing thing I want to discuss tonight. Fifty-three years ago today, God brought into this world the most amazing person I've ever met. Before the beginning of time, He knew that I would need a woman who could be loving, forgiving, patient, tender, tough, and for (my) grins, beautiful. So on July 24, 1959, He brought Tammy Young into the lives of Lynn and Carleen Young to nurture and raise as a Godly woman. Next month, we'll celebrate 31 wonderful years of marriage (out of 31!).

We will continue to laugh together, learn together and love together. We'll miss our children together. We'll serve together. We'll worship together. We thank you for praying for Tammy's recovery with us. Tonight, I just want to you thank God for Tammy with me.

Just a quick update on the recovery front: we didn't hear from the clinic today, and we're taking that as good news. We know they can get the results of a bone-marrow biopsy in a matter of a few hours. Had there been anything seriously wrong, we believe we would have heard by now. We have another appointment in the morning, and we'll post something tomorrow evening with details of what they tell us.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Bump in the Road

Psalm 41:3
"The LORD sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness."

We know Tammy's recovery is a journey, and journeys generally have twists and turns. Up until now, there haven't been many of those, but today, we got a doozy.

Tammy had her regular appointment at the cancer clinic this morning. When she got the lab results, the doctor told her that her platelets had dropped by about half. Last Monday, her count was just over 100,000 (normal is 140,000 to 400,000). A month ago she was very close to the low end of normal, and the counts have been dropping ever-so-slightly ever since. But today, her count was 57,000.

There are a number of reasons that could cause this to happen, ranging from a virus to another recurrence of Leukemia. If it's the latter, there won't be much they can do, so we're definitely praying for the former, or at least something as fixable as a virus.

We're not panicking, because we believe God is in control. But I'm concerned (Tammy is doing just fine). I would ask you to pray for God's intervention, as well as peace for us and for our family. It's during times like these that we feel your prayers the most.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Best Friend

Proverbs 17:17
"A friend loves at all times..."

Back in the 1960s, there was a TV show called The Courtship of Eddie's Father. It was a cute little show about a widowed father (Bill Bixby) and his son, about 6, who was always trying to fix him up. But what I remember the most about it was the theme song. It started with these words: "People let me tell ya 'bout my best friend."

Well, I think about that song a lot, because Tammy is my best friend. All the time I was at the All-Star activities last week I kept thinking, "This is fun, but I wish I was home with Tammy." During this journey, I've called her "a walking miracle," "my hero" and many other things. But the best way I can think to describe her is my best friend.

So, people, let me tell ya 'bout my best friend and her latest progress. Last night, and again tonight, when we went for our evening walk, she not only walked to the stop sign at the downhill end of our street, she then walked to the stop sign at the uphill end of our street. (Sorry for the blurry picture.) Tonight, her pace was especially brisk. Our neighbors across the street are on vacation, so I took their garbage can to the side of the house to make it less obvious. It took me most of the block to catch up to her.

We continue to be amazed by God's grace as He heals her. This is worth repeating. When Tammy received the diagnosis that her Leukemia had returned, our reaction (after the initial shock) was the same as the last time: whatever God chooses to do, He will be glorified. All along we've said that if God chooses to heal her quickly, He'll be glorified by His power. If He chooses to heal her through the normal routine (like He did last time), He will be glorified by her patience. If He chooses to take her home, He'll be glorified by her peace. The statistics said it was likely that this time the third option would be what would happen.

Now it appears more and more likely that He might actually be choosing the first option. We're not in the business of telling God what to do, but we're thrilled that He has chosen to bless her so much so far.

We'll try to keep posting as often as there is something to report. We still appreciate the prayers.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

From the Department of Redundancy Department

Micah 6:8
"He has shown you, O mortal, 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."

We feel a little guilty because we've slowed down our posts. People keep asking us how Tammy is doing and the answer is always the same: a little better than yesterday. Unlike last time, this is a slow, steady climb. Looking back, that was true last time as well, but each day we wondered whether we would take two steps forward or one step back. While that resulted in a steady climb, we both remember it being bumpier. We thought that was normal, so we didn't worry about it.

This time really is a steady climb. She has had virtually no set-backs. The biggest problem has been elevated counts, but those are very treatable. How many times can we say the same thing? So we thought about options.

During one of her doctor visits this week, the doctor gave us permission to kiss each other. While that might not seem big, we haven't been able to kiss each other since March 23 because of her compromised immune system. We're both very affectionate, so that was a huge victory. But on May 15, 2009, we wrote about our first kiss since the first transplant, so that would be redundant.

Then this thought came to mind. This past week, I had the opportunity to cover the MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City. As a huge sports fan, it was a rush to be a part of that. It reminded me of the real all-stars in this journey. Besides Tammy, we can praise the efforts of the doctors and nurses of the KUMC BMT Unit and the Cancer Clinic. We also are very thankful for our parents, who have taken a yeomen's share of the "Tammy-sitting" that is required. We also could thank the other family and friends who have taken turns to spend time with her. That helps her because she has friendly faces to keep her spirits up, and it helps me because I can go to work knowing that she is being taken care of.

But on August 8, 2009, we wrote about all the people who had helped us get through the first 100 days. We did it as the promotional literature for an upcoming (fictitious) movie about Tammy's recovery. So that would be redundant.

As I was doing my daily Bible reading (I'm reading through the Bible in a year in chronological order), I came across the passage above in Micah. It was the key verse during "What If The Church?" in which nearly 40 Kansas City-area churches came together to worship, pray and serve. I read it to Tammy and it reminded us of a perspective we've always known, but sometimes is easy to put aside. That's what we're supposed to be doing during her recovery (as well as the rest of our lives). We're not supposed to try to figure out what's going to happen next. We're not supposed to do anything but follow God's leading.

Our prayer is that we would be able to "act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with (our) God."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

All About the Future

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."

Today I had a really cool opportunity. I got to go to the MLB Futures Game in conjunction with the All-Star Game that is coming to Kansas City Tuesday. I was able to get a credential, so I could go on the field for batting practice before the game and interview some of the up-and-coming players.

There's a tremendous excitement around Kansas City right now, not only about having all the festivities that go with the All-Star Game, but with the young team the Royals have assembled. The major league team is struggling right now, but they're the youngest team in the majors and there's a lot of potential. Earlier this week, the Royals had a starting lineup with seven players who have played in the Futures game, which represents the best young talent in the minor leagues. With two more players in the starting lineup of today's game expected to be called up very soon, there's a possibility their entire lineup could be former Futures players. (I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it's true.)

But that's not the future I want to discuss. The future that gets me excited is about spending more time with Tammy. Her future continues to look bright. She's still exceeding expectations with her recovery. She's still just going to the clinic twice a week, and they continue to be pleased with her counts. At one point, some of her numbers were in the normal range. While they've dropped slightly, they're still ahead of schedule for day 53.

We're obviously praising God for the progress shown. But I also want to give Tammy credit. She is doing exactly what the doctors tell her to do, and she's not doing anything they tell her not to do. One of the things they've told her to do is get some exercise. As you can see from the photo, she's getting out walking. I'm not sure of the significance of slapping the stop sign, except that David Lee is slapping signs as he runs in Poland in Tammy's honor. And this way, she's sure she goes all the way to the sign. She's able to do that, and then walk up the street past our driveway to the neighbor's driveway. Each time she does, she's less winded than she was the day before.

Her progress gives us great hope for the future.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Day of Freedom

Galatians 5:1
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Today is a day of freedom. Every July 4, those of us who live in the United States celebrate our nation's birthday, and the freedoms we have in this country including freedom of worship. As a family, we celebrate the freedom to choose where we wanted Tammy to be treated, and the fact that options like the University of Kansas Hospital exist. As Tammy continues to recover, we are joining in the celebration of the Red, White & Blue. We hope you had a great July 4!

We are sorry that it has been so long since we posted. Many times we planned to post something but we just got too busy, especially with the kids in town. David Lee was here for four weeks before heading back to Poland last Tuesday. Julie was here for almost two weeks before heading back yesterday. It was a blessing to have them here. They took turns taking her to the clinic and spending time with her at home, generally lifting her spirits. So, yeah, we're blaming the kids.

A lot has happened since we last posted. Many of the restrictions that were not lifted until Day 100 last time have already been lifted. She's taking short walks in front of our house. As long as no one is mowing and the sun is not directly overhead, she's allowed to sit on the front porch. And tomorrow is Day 50! (It's also the birthday of our wonderful son-in-law Erich. Interestingly, Day 100 is August 24, Julie's birthday.)

We know that one of the big reasons Tammy is doing so well is the number of prayers that have been lifted up on her behalf. We ask that you continue to lift them up, as there's still a long road ahead.

We also want to give you an update on our T-shirt project. You might remember that we hosted a fun run to raise funds to purchase T-shirts for every patient who goes through the BMT Unit at KUMC over the next year. Tammy's "I Fight Like a Girl" T-shirt was the hit of the unit, and we thought it might inspire every patient to put forth the fight needed to beat the disease. Our goal for the project was to raise $2,600. We've raised $2,000 already in a little more than a month.

But we also knew that not every guy would want to wear a shirt that says "I Fight Like a Girl," even though we all know that girls are tougher. So we came up with an alternative design that every dude would be proud to wear. Late last week we got approval for the design at the right from Chuck Norris himself. He thought enough of the project that he authorized the company that produces the T-shirts to sell them to us at cost. That means the $2,000 will be enough to purchase a T-shirt for every patient that goes through the BMT Unit.

We thank you for the emails requesting updates, and we thank you for the continued prayers. Have a great July 5th (and happy birthday, Erich).

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Family Gathering

2 Samuel 7:28-29
"And now, Master God, being the God you are, speaking sure words as you do, and having just said this wonderful thing to me, please, just one more thing: Bless my family; keep your eye on them always. You've already as much as said that you would, Master God! Oh, may your blessing be on my family permanently!"

When David Lee told us a little more than a week ago that he was going to be able to stay an extra week, we quickly thought of the fact that there would be five days with both of the kids here at the same time. In fact, David said one of the reasons he decided to stay was being able to sit with Tammy with Julie on the other side. We are blessed that our kids really get along great. They are each other's best friend.

Julie got in late Thursday night, and yesterday was a busy day from beginning to end. Finally, this afternoon, all of us were together with no place to go. One of Julie's friends stopped by and we asked her to take our picture.

We hope you have a blessed day.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Reflecting Christ

Matthew 28:19a
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..."

Julie got home from Poland late last night. Today, she and David just kicked back and let Tammy soak up some of each of them. I know it did Tammy a lot of good to have both of them by her side. We'll post some pictures tomorrow.

Tonight, the kids and I had a great opportunity to hear Dr. Tony Evans speak at the "What If The Church?" worship event. Dr. Evans is a well-known speaker and writer, and tonight he spoke about the difference between being a Christian and being a disciple.

Let me try to summarize his words. The difference between a Christian and a disciple is that a Christian knows Christ and follows Him while a disciple reflects Christ and imitates Him. Christ desires for all of us to know Him. It's through that relationship that we gain entry into Heaven when our days on Earth are over. But He wants more than just followers. He wants disciples, people who will demonstrate that relationship to everyone around them.

Dr. Evans asked the congregation, "If you were accused at work of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" There was a lot of "amen-ing" around the auditorium, but it made everyone think about their own situation.

There's only one other person in my office, and my co-worker is a Bible-college student, so that's an easy one for me. But what about my other situations? I'm in a business networking group that meets twice a month with about 60 in attendance on an average Tuesday. I'm in a district with about 30 other insurance agents. I'm on a local board of about 12 people, and I'm often seen in the press box or on the press row at local sporting events. Do those people know that I'm a disciple of Christ? Would they say I'm different from the others in those situations who don't claim a relationship with Christ?

I believe so, because that is my constant goal. I have had people tell me they have been watching me to see if my faith is real. I know in Tammy's most recent work situation, where she was one of a couple hundred employees in the same building, that she was known by her faith. People she didn't know very well came to her before she left for her transplant and told her that her demonstration of faith through her struggle was an inspiration to them.

We've all heard the metaphoric question, "What is the meaning of life?" Tammy's and my answer is always the same: "to bring glory to God." That attitude and goal pervades everything we do, including this blog. If you've been following us for a while, you'll know that Tammy's prayer since childhood has been to "be used in a mighty way." Through this journey, both in 2009 and this year, our goal has been to use the circumstances of her illness to bring others into a closer relationship with Christ. If we reflect Christ--if people look at us and see Christ--we have done what we intended to do.

It is our constant prayer. We want to keep you up to date on how Tammy is doing, and we will take the opportunity to do that when there's something to report. (She continues to improve daily, but there's nothing different to report today.) But we will always try to take each day and look at everything through the lens of our relationship with Him. We hope that's all you see.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our New Favorite Number

Lamentations 3:22-23
"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."

Everyone has a favorite number. For years, mine was 44. My favorite baseball player and overall athlete, Hank Aaron, wore number 44. I also liked Jerry West in the NBA, even though I'm a long-time Knicks fan. And there are plenty of great NFL players who wore number 44, including my favorite player growing up, Donnie Anderson.

But I think my new favorite number is 35. Let me explain. Today is Day 35 in Tammy's post-transplant recovery. And while it just sounds like a number, some big things happened today that were much more delayed the first time through.

First of all, Tammy is now on a twice-a-week clinic visit schedule. We're not sure exactly when that happened last time, but we both think it was around Day 60. But she's now scheduled for Mondays and Thursdays only.

The nurse practitioner who saw her today commented on how good she looked. She asked Tammy if she liked sitting on the front porch and Tammy replied that she loved to sit on our front deck. We remember how much she looked forward to that and how great it was when she finally was released to do that...on Day 100! Abby said that as long as no one was mowing and the sun wasn't directly on her, she could sit on the front porch.

Now hold on. As they say on TV, "But wait, there's more!" It was on David Lee's birthday in 2009, four days after her SIXTH MONTH birthday, that Tammy got her pic line removed. The pic line is the three-prong IV line that they use to draw blood and give her fluids. Well, today, Abby told her that she wouldn't need fluids that much and the pic line really wasn't necessary. So they took it out!

Tammy is still not out of the woods. She's to the point where 50 percent of the people who make it this far survive. But as a friend of mine said today, her attitude has made such a huge difference to this point, we are very confident that she will continue to improve. We ask for your continued prayers as we travel this long, arduous road. We'll keep praying for you too.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Eventful Weekend

1 Samuel 18:14
"In everything (they) did (they) had great success, because the Lord was with (them)." (paraphrased)

When we first came up with the idea of sponsoring a fun run to raise money for the BMT Unit at KU Med Center, we had a goal of $2,600. We knew the chances of actually raising that much in such a short amount of time were very slim. You just don't throw something together that quickly. (We came up with the idea about three weeks ago.)

Well, we haven't hit the goal yet, but we're close. We collected just over $1,000 yesterday, to go with the $675 in cash we received from corporate sponsors. I also know that we have received other donations that I don't have recorded yet, so we're very close to $2,000 in donations. There's still time to donate, in case you're interested. Just send your checks to "For Shirts & Giggles" c/o Farmers Insurance, 9229 Ward Parkway, Suite 380, Kansas City, MO  64114.

David Lee was one of the participants, but he also took some photos before and after the run. I can't wait to see them. He's a really good photographer, so he wants to pick the best ones and make sure they're in focus with the proper lighting. I would have used my phone, selected the ones where I could tell who was in them. Anyway, he'll work on them tomorrow and we'll post them tomorrow evening. We'll also give you an official tally to that point.

In the meantime, we want to thank everyone who participated, sponsored or helped plan the event. We can't wait for next year, when we have time to prepare adequately. Who knows how much we'll raise next year.

Tammy continues to improve daily. It's a long run, much more than a 5K, but she's hitting all the mile markers ahead of the normal pace. Please keep praying for every step of the race.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 30

Psalm 90:12
"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

Those of you who have been following our blog for a few years might remember how we like to commemorate milestones. Often three years ago we noted certain days, usually with something significant in sports. For the rest of you...get used to it.

Today is Day 30 in the post-transplant calendar. (Since May had 31 days, tomorrow will be Tammy's one-month birthday.) Thirty days is a significant number. First of all, she's already beaten about half the statistics, including the 40 percent chance that she wouldn't make it out of the hospital following her second transplant. Every day that passes increases her long-term chances for survival.

I remember in 1980 when George Brett reached 30 games in his hitting streak. Everyone made a big deal of it, because not a lot of guys reach that number. In fact, only 54 players have hit safely in 30 consecutive games (or more) since the first such streak was recorded in 1885. Ten bonus points if you know who did that (answer below).

So 30 days is a big deal. It's amazing how much better Tammy looks than she did even nine days ago when she came home. She's "moving freely about the cabin" whenever she wants. She's pretty much capable of doing everything on her own, though she still must have someone with her 24/7 until Day 100, just in case things turn sour.

By the way, the report on Fox 4 News last night did not get posted on their web site, but the lead story on their "health" page is the fun run. They have the "fighting photo" on there, with info about the run. Here's a link:

We're looking forward to a good turnout tomorrow, and we hope to raise a lot of money for T-shirts. We were able to secure 10 corporate sponsorships of cash, trade or both. We've also secured a special design for the women's T-shirts, similar to the one Tammy has, except it has the hospital name on it. We're close to announcing the T-shirt for male patients. Every dude in the hospital will want to go through the BMT Unit when he sees the shirt he'll get on the day of the transplant.

We'll take some pictures tomorrow, so we'll have some things to post tomorrow evening. We look forward to sharing them with you.

Okay, the answer to the question above? In 1885, Jimmy Wolf of Louisville in the American Association (then a major league) hit safely in 31 straight games the first 30-plus-game hitting streak in major league history. And yes, I had to look it up.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Continued Slow Progress

1 Timothy 4:15
"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress."

We haven't posted in a few days because there hasn't been a lot of news. Tammy has continued to progress, all the while realizing that it's a long, slow road.

We got some good news yesterday. David will be able to stay an extra week in Kansas City. It will allow him to do some fundraising and spend time with friends and family. Mostly, it will allow him to spend extra time with Tammy. Since Julie is coming home for a couple of weeks a week from tonight, they'll be here together for about five days.

David Lee summed it up well. "I can already see Mom's face sitting on the couch with her two kids on either side of her." I can too, and it gives me a warm feeling.

Tonight, on the local Fox affiliate, our friend Meryl Lin McKean did a quick feature on our fun run this Saturday. She showed the "fighting picture" we've posted here and mentioned Tammy and the fun run. If they post the clip on their web site, I'll post it here tomorrow.

We've been receiving a lot of help from family and friends with "Tammy-sitting." Her parents have been carrying a big share of the load, as has my Mom. David Lee and I have been doing a lot of "double duty" as we just love being with her. Already there have been three others from our church, and there's a long list of people who are on the list for the future. It's been a huge blessing for us. For Tammy, it's a comfort to know so many people care about her. For me, it gives me a chance to keep working without worrying about Tammy. I'm not sure we would have survived to this point without this support.

Of course, the biggest boost we get is from the continued prayers. Please keep them up.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Nothing Without Christ

Romans 8:14
"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God."

It was a big day in the Smale Agency office today. We moved into our new location June 1, and today I got my first delivery. To make it even better, it was my new business cards with my new office information on them. I felt like Steve Martin in the comedy "The Jerk" when the new phone books came out. "I'm somebody!"

I was actually headed out the door when the UPS guy showed up, so I rushed back in to open the box and get a glimpse. What a letdown. The first card I pulled out was completely blank, other than the company logo. Quickly, I pulled out a few more and they were all correct. The address, phone number and everything else was just what we had ordered.

But for a split second I panicked. I couldn't use those cards. They didn't tell any of the necessary information. It's as if I no longer had an identity.

It's easy to take our identity from what we do. I once heard a kicker in the NFL tell a story about when he introduced himself to a "seasoned" Christian. The guy asked him, "Who are you?" He first responded with his name. The guy said, "No, who are you?" He then responded with his position and who he played for. Finally when the guy said, "No, what makes you you?" he said, "Oh, I am a child of God."

My identity isn't an insurance agent, a writer, or even Tammy's husband or caregiver. Of the three, I'm most proud of the fact that people associate me with that beautiful lady I love to write about. But my true identity comes from the fact that God loved me so much even before I was born that He sent His only Son to die on the cross, if only for my sins. He makes the same offer to everyone, but if I had been the only one in history to accept it, He still would have offered it.

I am nothing without the identity of a follower of Christ. While I'm on this earth, I fill many roles. The most important of those right now is to help Tammy recover, and it's my joy to fill it. But everything pales in comparison to belonging to Him.

Tammy continues to do well. She went to the clinic again today and had to get fluids once again. But she gets the day off tomorrow, the first time since she was released from the hospital. It's a baby step, but a step of progress nonetheless. We are praising God for every small sign of progress.

Please keep up your prayers. And remember who you are, in Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Doing Everything For God

Colossians 3:23-24
"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Our church started a new sermon series today called "iCreate." It's all about using the gifts that God gave us to create new things. In that way, we're all "artists." Some people are very artistic; ideas and finished products just flow from them. Others may not look at what they do with the gifts God has given them as artistic, but Russell did a very good job of pointing out that everything we do can be creative.

It's interesting that the first example he gave was that of a nurse, who looks at her craft of helping patients get better as a work of art. This is very true. Sometimes it takes creativity to convince someone who feels bad to do the necessary work to get better.

After church, our good friend, Lindsey, who was the first nurse Tammy had when she went in to the hospital for her second transplant, came over for a cookout. There are still a few details to work out for the fun run this Saturday. We picked out--actually we came up with designs--for shirts for both men and women. We recognized that the guys might not want to wear a shirt that says, "I Fight Like a Girl." You'll have to show up Saturday to discover our design (here's a link for the details:

This run has become a labor of love for us. We want to share Tammy's fighting spirit with others facing similar challenges. We know that's necessary to beat the disease. This is a great example of creativity. We are using the experiences we've gained over the last three-plus years to bring attention to the depth of the battle. We are hoping that others will be inspired by Tammy's story, and will commit to fighting.

We know that everyone faces challenges daily. Some are serious, maybe even life-threatening, like the one Tammy is facing now. Others are more annoying than anything. But each challenge takes initiative and creativity. God gives us His Holy Spirit to guide us as we attack these challenges. Our prayer for you is that you would rely on the strength He gives you to accomplish your goals. "Work at it with all your heart.... It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Slow Progress

Not much has changed in the past 48 hours, so we haven't posted anything here. Tammy continues to go to the clinic every day for labs. Each day so far she's also needed some IV fluids. The nice thing is, when she's done, she gets to come home.

She'll go back in the morning, and we'll write a more lengthy blog entry later tomorrow.

We hope you have a blessed Lord's Day.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Waiting on God

James 1:2-6
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."

Tammy has been home for more than 24 hours, and it's hard for me not to get ahead of God. I know the doctors weren't going to release her from the hospital until she was ready. So she must be ready to roll, right? I have to remember that she's still in a very compromised position regarding her immune system. We still have to be very careful with every decision we make. There are no short-cuts.

For example, she and David stopped by my new office on the drive home from the cancer clinic today, where she got fluids because some of her levels were off. I wanted her to come in and see the new digs, but she reminded me that she's limited to home, the clinic and the drive in between. That's it. I'm so thrilled that she's home, that I forget how restricted she is. I want to push her in her recovery. Part of that is good, because she needs to be ambitious, but I can't overdo it. I have to let decide how much is enough.

She'll go to the clinic every day for labs, at least for a while. Eventually that will get cut back to every other day, then every third day. It's a tedious process, but every step of it is necessary. Impatience is not an option.

Our prayer today is not only for continued recovery, but also patience for the process and attention to detail.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


1 Kings 13:15
So the prophet said to him, 'Come home with me and eat.'

We are home! After 23 days in the hospital, we just walked in the door. Making it that much sweeter, David Lee was here when we got home. I know having him around will help Tammy's recovery.

We might post again later, but we might not. We'll have to see how things go.

Thanks for your prayers. Please keep them up!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tomorrow is Probable

Exodus 8:10
'Tomorrow,' Pharaoh said. Moses replied, 'It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the LORD our God.'"

Okay, I may have gone over the edge on this reference, in terms of taking it out of context. But I think it fits. Work with me here.

The doctor came in a little past noon today and decided that one more day in the hospital would be a good idea. While we're disappointed that we can't be home together tonight, we certainly understand his decision, and we agree with it. It just didn't feel quite right to send her home today.

This afternoon, they started giving her oral medicines and completely unhooked her from the IV pole. We walked around the unit holding hands, instead of holding a pole. Tammy has such soft skin. I've always enjoyed holding hands with her. Today, it was more special than ever before.

We would be surprised if he does not let her go home tomorrow. She would have to have a set-back at this point. So I'm going home soon to do some laundry (for some reason she doesn't want to wear a hospital gown on the trip home) and go to the grocery store to get the special food she'll need. I'll be back tomorrow and will look forward to taking her home in the afternoon.

We also got some really good news about our friend Shelley, about whom we had asked you to pray recently. She had a successful double mastectomy yesterday. The doctor is confident he got it all. Her dad sent us the following: "The growth had not invaded any other tissue, both sentinal lymph nodes are clear, and he had enough skin left to close the wound. He felt he was able to have clear margins around the tumor, and will know for sure after five days when the lab results return. She will recover at home for about four weeks, then have seven weeks of radiation and three to four weeks of healing before possible reconstruction."

Thanks for your continued prayers.

Monday, June 4, 2012

'Hope' for Tomorrow

Hebrews 11:1
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

I love this verse, partly because of how we (mis)-interpret the word hope. Using today's vernacular, the best translation for hope may be "wishful thinking." But the hope referred to in this verse is better interpreted "anticipation."

When you look at it that way, the verse says that faith is the assurance of things we anticipate happening. There's no doubt or wishful thinking involved. We know Jesus is coming soon. We anticipate it as a result of our faith. It is with great anticipation, because we know when He does return, He will take us back to Heaven with Him. What a beautiful future that promises.

Tonight, we are "hoping" that Tammy will return home tomorrow. The doctor came in today and said if things continue to progress the way he thinks they will, he will release her tomorrow. We are confident that it will happen soon, whether that's tomorrow or not. We know that there are still some hurdles before that happens. We also know that when it does happen, there will be plenty of hurdles ahead. But after three weeks in the hospital we are ready for her to return home.

I went to Bible study tonight, like I do every Monday night. The plan was for me to go home after that and get some work done. I called her when I got home to see how she was doing. She looked good before I left the hospital around 6 p.m., and she appeared to be ready for a productive evening. But when I called her, she sounded down. I said, "Do you want me to come back to the hospital?" She didn't respond. I said, "Tammy?" She said, "It would be nice to see you again."

I finished the short project I was working on, and headed back to the hospital.  She brings such joy to me, a change of plans was not a problem. She asked me to help her go for another walk--one of the requirements the doctor gave her. She also asked me to just sit here with her. I now look forward to being able to help her walk around our house, to help her get ready for a shower in our bathroom, and to cuddle up in our bed.

That's something to anticipate.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Healing From the Inside Out

Ephesians 3:16-19
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Sometimes we have to work a little to come up with a Scripture reference and/or an illustration for our blog entry. Sometimes they just fall into our laps. Today it was the latter. The analogy was there. It just took a little research, and we found the verse above that fits exactly.

As you know, Tammy has been battling sores in her mouth and her throat for about 10 days. They are very painful, and the mucus that they produce has made it difficult for her to swallow, and sometimes even breathe. But other than swollen cheeks, it was hard to notice without looking inside her mouth.

But there was one exception. A blister formed on her bottom lip that was about an inch wide. When it broke, it scabbed over, a nasty black scab. Tammy was very conscious of it, mostly because it was tender. It also was unsightly. She's still beautiful, even with the scab, but still it bothered her. The temptation was to yank it off. But that would not have been a good idea, because the skin underneath was not ready and another scab would have formed.

When I arrived at the hospital this afternoon, the scab had loosened. It still was hanging on, but it was clear that it was getting closer to falling off. Our friend, Beth, who was Tammy's nurse yesterday and today, kept reminding her to let it fall off. She had to heal "from the inside out." When the skin underneath was ready, it would push it off.

About a half-hour ago, it fell off. It's amazing how much better Tammy feels without that hard scab hanging on her lip. Her lip hurts less. She's not worried about it any more. It's a sign of healing, of cleansing. I'm sure you get where I'm going with this.

We can work hard to make changes in our lives, but it's not until the "skin underneath," or the part of us that makes us who we are, is ready that we have healing. God heals us by changing our "inner being." When the inside is healed, He can inhabit our souls and we "may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

Pretty cool, huh?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

More in Love Every Day

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

On January 1, I made a commitment to read a lengthy passage of Scripture every day with the plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. I've done that before, but this year I'm reading the Bible in chronological order. So in the middle of Genesis, there was a 12-day break as I read through Job. (I found a web site that lays out a plan, so I know what to read each day.)

It's been very interesting to read it this way, because a lot of the things I have read in the past made more sense in order. So far I have not missed a day. It's become such an integral part of my day, I find myself getting up a little earlier so I can read that day's passage.

Today, the assignment was to read all of Song of Solomon. I remember this as being a very passionate book, as a man and a woman go back and forth talking about how much they love each other, even with some interjection of disbelief from friends. Their love is unfailing.

It was another reminder of how much I love Tammy, and why. When the book lists what the man loves about the woman, a lot of it is physical beauty. I know men are visually stimulated, and I have to agree with the man. I was attracted to Tammy first because of her physical beauty, especially her eyes (thus the verse I chose above). But through the 46 years I've known her, and especially the 32 years we were dating and have been married, I have come to appreciate her true beauty--that of her spirit. As strikingly beautiful as she is, she's even more beautiful on the inside.

I look forward to many more days of being able to praise her for her outward and inward beauty. She is an inspiration to me (and others), and I love her even more today than I did yesterday. If you had asked me last night if it was possible to love her even more than I did then, I would have said no. But, sure enough, I do (I love that two-word expression). And as hard as it is to believe, I'll probably love her even more tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, the doctor was just in and he said things continue to get better. She's off all pain medicine now and they're slowing down some of the other meds as well. She was able to eat some solid food today for the first time in about a week. She will continue to try new stuff, with the hope of being able to go home Monday, or more likely Tuesday.

I love that idea!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Next Step

Exodus 12:2
"This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year."

Tammy and I are both resting this evening at the hospital. She's still in recovery mode, though she continues to improve. I moved my office today, and I'm exhausted. I don't have that much stuff, but it took most of the day. I'm sore and tired, but with a sense of accomplishment. I can't wait to start operating in the new digs.

As we sat here and visited, we tried to figure out what to write. I walked by her "information board," where the nurses put the day's stats, and it hit me. Today is June 1, a new month. The transplant is so last month's news. She's now into a new month with its own set of challenges and opportunities. She'll go home EARLY this month, and will begin the at-home portion of the long road to recovery.

We are so blessed that she is doing so well. Her sores are going away. They've taken her completely off the pain medicine drip. She still has the pump available if she experiences sudden pain, but she hasn't used it in a couple of days. Her counts continue to rise. Everything looks good.

We're not out of the woods, so please don't stop praying. We covet your prayers for a complete recovery.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Not Much Change

There's not a lot to report tonight, but things are improving. Her White Blood Count (WBC) went from .5 to 1.1. The higher WBC will mean that the mouth sores soon will evaporate quickly. They've started to heal, and the doctors expect them to improve rapidly.

Tammy is still feeling kind of puny, as she's still feeling the other effects of the chemo, such as nausea. When that flares up, she needs medicines that cause drowsiness.

So as we prepare for a potentially big weekend, we ask that you continue to pray. I think Tammy was a little discouraged today, because she really thought she'd feel a lot better by now. As I was getting ready to leave the hospital, she said, "I'm not sure I can do everything I need to to go home on Monday." I told her that would be okay. She shouldn't go home until she's ready, whenever that is.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Perfect Rx

Proverbs 4:8
"Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you."

The "she" in this passage is referring to wisdom, as Solomon encourages us to seek wisdom at any cost. But, hey, the verse works.

This morning Tammy got the perfect prescription for what ails her. For the first time since just after Christmas when David Lee left to go back to Poland, Tammy got a hug from him. She wasn't feeling particularly good this morning, but this definitely picked her up.

I know her eyes are closed. It's not a mistake in timing. I didn't catch her while she was blinking. Tammy believes the best way to soak up every ounce of hug is with her eyes closed. You can see the joy in her face to have him home.

I have a theory: fathers have sons and little girls; mothers have daughters and little boys. It doesn't matter how old they are. I love David dearly, but he's "my son," where Julie is "Daddy's little girl." It's a different relationship. The same is true with Tammy. She and Julie are very close, but David is her "little boy." (It doesn't have the same positive ring to it, but, trust me, it's true.)

So while she was battling some queasiness this morning, this embrace was the perfect remedy.

Our nurse, Lindsey, asked the doctor to wait to visit Tammy until David and I got there, and I'm glad she did. He was very upbeat today, and it did David and me a lot of good to hear it. Her counts are starting to rise, and he was very confident that the improvement will become more rapid. (However, he was a little disappointed to find out that now David Lee will get the credit.) We're still hopeful that things will continue to improve and she will be able to come home soon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Proverbs 15:17
"Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred."

We certainly have felt the love, and this proverb is true. Even in the midst of difficulty, with the love and support of our family and friends, this journey is a blessing to us.

I have a good update on Tammy. It's slow and incremental, but there's improvement to report. This morning she told the doctor that she's not in a lot of pain. She still has some discomfort, as you would expect with lots of mucus in her throat. But they were able to cut her steady drip of pain medicine in half, and she hasn't complained about any pain.

This morning, the doctor told us he expects to see some marked improvement as early as tomorrow, and by Friday, she should "feel like a new woman." He was very impressed with how well she's done, and he told her he believes her shirt when it says she fights like a girl. It was a different doctor here today than it was over the weekend (there are four who work together), and we joked with this one that if she did feel a lot better by Friday he could claim the credit in their weekly staff meeting. Not that they're competitive or anything.

Another thing that will help her condition is the fact that David Lee gets home this evening. It will be too late tonight for him to come by the hospital, but we'll come together tomorrow. I know Tammy will do better with one of her kids here with her. She is the epitome of a "mom." David will be here for three weeks, so he'll be here when Tammy comes home and for several of the early days of her time there. That will be a huge blessing to me as well.

I've received dozens, if not hundreds, of calls and emails from friends telling us they're praying for us. I feel a little guilty asking for so much prayer. This is the normal course of events for someone going through this. But a second batch of Leukemia is not that common. Mostly, it's my Tammy who's fighting this, so it's the biggest deal in the world. Thanks for indulging me and letting me share our journey with you. Mostly thanks for continuing to pray.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Long Day

2 Corinthians 12:10
"That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

We're wrapping up a long, difficult day. Tammy has been struggling all day long, but she continues to fight. She has her "fight like a girl" T-shirt on today, and she has been living up to it.

The biggest struggle is the mucus that's in her throat. They want to keep it from getting into her lungs, so they're encouraging her to cough it up. It sounds terrible when she does, but she says the pain is lessened. She's on a really heavy dose of medicine, so she's been sleeping more than anything. But she's still cracking jokes to the nurses. They have to listen closely, because they're not expecting to hear sarcasm from a person in her condition.

I'm going to spend the night tonight. She's in great hands here. I can't imagine being in a better hospital. Yes, Jayhawk friends, we are extremely blessed to be at KU Medical Center. They have responded every time there's a problem, and everyone has a positive attitude. But I just can't leave. I know I won't sleep much, but I also know that any time I wake up she'll be just a few feet away.

We continue to be encouraged that this is short-term. Whether it's two or three more days or closer to five, there's an end in sight. We were just talking about something we'll do when we get home. I said, "when you get back to normal." She said, "I don't know what normal is" and winked at me. Same ol' Tammy.

I appreciate all the prayers that are being lifted up on our behalf. I need them too--for strength, endurance and patience. I also appreciate all the comments I've received throughout the day.

Another Hurdle

Romans 15:30
"I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me."

Please keep praying. Tammy has developed other complications, though at this point the doctor and nurses don't think they're life-threatening.

The different meds I wrote about earlier have caused a problem with her now struggling to get enough oxygen. Her oxygen drops when she's sleeping, which is most of the time now, because of the heavier dose of medicine. While she's awake she's okay; she's constantly clearing her throat and getting rid of the mucus. But when she sleeps, she doesn't, and her oxygen levels drop into the low 80s.

The doctor called in a pulmonologist (sp?), who considered taking her up to ICU because he was worried about this going to pneumonia. But they decided the risks of the ICU (other bacteria, etc.) were too great, so they're keeping her in the BMT unit. They've put her on oxygen and are monitoring her more closely. (I'm not leaving her side, either.)

The doctor still says that when her counts come back up in another 4-5 days, the sores will clear up and the mucus will go away. With it, this risk will go away. It's just hard to watch right now.

I'll update as necessary. Send me an email ( if you have any questions, instead of calling, because I want her to rest.


I Just Wanted to Share This

Psalm 113
"Praise the LORD.
   Praise the LORD, you his servants;
   praise the name of the LORD.
2 Let the name of the LORD be praised,
   both now and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
   the name of the LORD is to be praised.
 4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
   his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the LORD our God,
   the One who sits enthroned on high,
6 who stoops down to look
   on the heavens and the earth?
 7 He raises the poor from the dust
   and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
8 he seats them with princes,
   with the princes of his people.
9 He settles the childless woman in her home
   as a happy mother of children.
   Praise the LORD."

Discouraged, But Not in Despair

2 Corinthians 4:8-10
"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."

Today is a tough day. It's not devastating, as the long-term prognosis is still good. But Tammy is in even more pain, maybe the most so far. The doctor was in about an hour ago, and he said that the sores in her
mouth (and throat) will last another four or five days. Tammy teared up a little when she heard that.

I asked him if the continuation of the sores was a sign of worse things to come, and he said no. He continues to say that they're very normal, especially for a patient going through her second bone-marrow transplant. There's always the risk that bacteria could form from the sores and move into her blood stream, but that's unlikely.

So it's just a matter of riding it out for another four or five days. They have changed the pain medicine to something stronger, which will help. But it's also knocked her out pretty good. I'm spending most of my time just watching her sleep.

Please pray that the pain is not too bad. We know this is the normal course of events, but it hurts me so much to watch her in pain.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Now I Know Why

Matthew 26:39
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'

For several weeks--actually for a few years now--I've been telling you how proud I am of Tammy. You know she's my hero.

I've seen her fight through some big-time adversity and still persevere. She's walked every day during this stay in the hospital, even though her energy is drained with the chemo, as well as the medicines to fight the effects of the chemo. I've watched her eat, even though her mouth and her throat are filled with sores that make every movement very painful.

Today I found out how rare she is. I left for a couple of hours this afternoon to attend her Dad's birthday party. When I got back, she told me about a conversation she had with her nurse. She finally decided she couldn't handle eating any more, and she cried a little. It hurts too much and just about everything she eats gives her nausea. She felt like she was giving up, even for a few days until the chemo in her system goes away.

The nurse told her that the staff is amazed at how strong she is. She told her that other people who have been in the same situation as Tammy, with fewer and less severe mouth sores, have given up a lot sooner and been put on feeding tubes while they wait for the chemo to leave their system. She told her that she is an inspiration to other patients and the doctors and nurses.

Because she's so close to being to being rid of the chemo, they're not going to put her on a feeding tube. They're going to let her sustain herself on Jello, Popcycles and ice chips. By Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest, she should be rid of the mouth sores and hopefully she'll be able to eat without pain.

In the meantime, she'll just have to get her "nutrition" from the adulation of everyone who gets to be a part of her recovery.

About the verse I chose tonight: I was thinking about something this morning. I was wondering if I was trying to tell God what to do when I requested that He take away the mouth sores. I've been praying for God's will, but saying, "But I'd really like you to help her feel better quickly." Was I trying to take control from God?

I don't think so. Remember Jesus' words in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew that God's will was that He would die on the cross for my sins, and those of a sinful world. Yet He prayed the prayer above. I know He never sinned, so this prayer must have been okay. I guess my prayer to ask God to do something is not a sin either.

So please keep praying for God's strength and healing. Ask Him to take away Tammy's pain. And please ask Him to help Tammy recover from this hideous disease.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Good Exercise

Proverbs 2:6
"For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding."

Okay, that was another reach, but somehow it fits.

I just got home from the hospital after spending the afternoon and evening with Tammy. I felt the need to add one more post. I'm so proud of her.

By now you know she doesn't feel very well. Even the nurses talk to us about how she's persevering through the tough times. Instead of laying there in a ball, she continues to get up and walk around the room and up and down the halls. Tonight, she took two different trips around the BMT unit.

When we got back to the room, we got out the Bible trivia cards and I read them to her. Although she fell asleep a few times while thinking about the answers, she got through about 15 cards (six questions on each). I didn't keep track of exactly how many she got right, but I know it was more than half.

She is an inspiration to me. And I hope she is to you as well.