Saturday, March 31, 2012

Good Choices

Ephesians 1:3-6
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

The Final Four is today. Every year, Tammy and I enjoy watching the tournament together. Even though Tammy is not as big a fan as I am, she enjoys filling out a bracket and following her choices through the tournament. She’s always good for some upsets, but she usually fades in the end.

Not this year. She picked two No. 15 seeds to win over No. 2 seeds, and got both of them right. She picked Lehigh to beat Duke and Norfolk State to beat Missouri. I used to think she picked teams based on nicknames, but I think I finally figured out her system. If she likes a team, or has a friend who likes a team, she picks them. It worked this year. She doesn’t like Missouri anymore because they’re leaving the Big 12. She doesn’t like Duke anymore because I got her a “Beat Duke” T-shirt in Chapel Hill last year. With that system, she did very well.

She picked seven of the Elite Eight (she had our favorite team, Kansas State, beating Syracuse). She nailed three of the Final Four (she had North Carolina beating Kansas). She had Ohio State winning the championship game (beating Louisville), because of our friends, the Smiths. Our son-in-law graduated from Louisville. (Before you think she likes the Smiths more than our own son-in-law, she does take seeding into account to a certain extent.)

As I continue to lament how I could have finished so far behind her in our pool, when I’m the one who follows college basketball so closely, I started to think about choices. The second-best choice I ever made in my life was to ask Tammy to be my wife. It has been nearly 31 years of amazing times. We’ve faced difficulties, as all couples do, from health issues for both of us to some tough financial times, and many other things. But God has delivered us through them, we believe, because we have placed our trust in Him.

That brings me to the greatest choice I ever made. That was to accept Jesus as my Savior. I chose Him as my Savior because He first chose to offer Himself as a sacrifice for me. I know I have sinned, and I also know that I cannot have a relationship with God without someone standing in the gap on my behalf. Jesus died on the cross so that I could be forgiven of my sins and spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

We’re hopeful, and confident, that’s a long way off for Tammy. The doctors are pleased with her progress so far. She finished the chemo today and now it’s rebuilding time. We won’t know anything, other than daily blood counts until next weekend. Those counts reveal quite a bit to the doctors, but they’re just numbers to us. We just have to trust that they’ll let us know if there’s anything to be concerned about, as they have done all along.

I’m very thankful that you have chosen to go on this ride with us once again. We treasure your friendship and love, and mostly your prayers. I’m also very thankful that Tammy can look past my flaws, and love and trust me. Mostly I’m thankful to God for choosing to make a way for me to be “holy and blameless in His sight.”

Friday, March 30, 2012

Following the Path

Before I turn in for the evening, I wanted to send a quick update.

Tammy is resting comfortably most of the time. She doesn't have a lot of energy, but that's to be expected. Tomorrow is the final day of chemo and then "the fun begins," according to one of the nurses.

The doctor came in and said that Tammy is right where she needs to be. After the chemo is done, they'll start to rebuild her immune system. That should take 2-3 weeks, and then she should be ready to come home. Sometime in there we might see a "booster" does of bone marrow from Jim. Hopefully that will be all it takes, but the possibility remains that she'll need a new transplant. We'll keep you posted as we find out things.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow because I'll get to spend more time during the day with Tammy. We'll try to write something together.

Keep the prayers going.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Good Update, Keep Praying

Psalm 141:1-2
"I call to you, LORD, come quickly to me; hear me when I call to you. May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice."

We finally got the final results from last Friday's bone-marrow biopsy. As expected, there is an infiltration of Tammy's cells in her DNA. Fifty percent of her cells were her own, and 50 percent were her donor's. Two months ago, her DNA showed 100 percent donor cells, so the doctor's guess of her cells overpowering Jim's turned out to be true. It proves that the Leukemia is hard-charging and needed to be dealt with, which is why she's on the chemo again.

The doctor was happy with Tammy's progress when he came in today. He was actually pleased that she only had 30 percent of her cells showing signs of Leukemia with that much of her DNA now made up of her cells.

He was also pleased with how she has responded to the chemo this time. She hasn't gotten sick yet and, other than fatigue, she feels pretty good. The chemo will be completed Saturday and then the rebuilding starts. The next big step is another biopsy after day 14 (probably April 7) to make sure the Leukemia is gone. If it is, they'll proceed with the next treatment. They're leaving their options open, but that still may include another transplant. We won't know that for a while.

Tammy got to speak with David Lee today via Skype. Speaking with her kids really perks her up. It reminds me of how much God must like to hear from us. He loves us more than we can imagine, so it brings Him great joy when we stop by and say "hello." Next time you do, please ask Him again to bless Tammy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

One Plate of Spaghetti

Ecclesiastes 4:11
If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

I love spaghetti, especially the way Tammy makes it. She browns about a pound and a half of beef, then adds some spaghetti sauce. She also cooks Italian sausage and adds it in with the meat sauce, and pours all that on the spaghetti noodles. I can put away half the batch by myself in one sitting. When I know we’re having spaghetti for dinner, I look forward to it all day.

I had spaghetti for dinner tonight, just the way Tammy makes it. I’m actually a pretty decent cook, so it was pretty tasty—almost as good as Tammy’s. But I didn’t really look forward to it, and I didn't really enjoy it, because I ate alone. It sucks.

I haven’t written too many selfish posts in the three-plus years we’ve had this blog. I want every prayer lifted up to be for Tammy and her recovery. But I’m asking for prayers for me, and for our kids and our extended family.

It’s hard to be alone. I have never lived alone in my life. As a life-long diabetic, it’s not a good idea. I don’t like it. Our house isn’t real big, but it’s way too big for just me. I don’t want to be here, as I’m sure you can understand. Coming home to an empty house is no fun at all. Three years ago, David Lee was here while Tammy was in the hospital, so we had each other to share frustrations, fears, jokes, good news, etc. The cats just don’t seem to understand.

I’m not asking for anything other than prayers. I have plenty of food and the ability to cook it. Please pray that I can deal with the loneliness in a productive manner. Also, please pray that I can keep up my energy as I try to keep working, keep the house clean, do the laundry and keep busy with any of the other things that make up a normal day, while still finding time to be with my favorite person in the world.

While you’re at it, please pray for our kids. They’re doing well, but I know they wish they weren’t 5,000-plus miles away. I’m thankful that they have each other (and Erich) so they can comfort each other when they’re down. And finally, please pray for our extended family. Tammy’s parents, my Mom, her brothers, my brother and all of our families are burdened with Tammy’s condition.

The opportunity to pray to the Creator of the universe is a wonderful gift. We continue to covet your prayers. Thanks for letting me act a little selfish for a little while.

A Quick Update

I stopped by the hospital between appointments today. Tammy is very tired today, but that is normal for this stage of the chemo. Other than the fatigue, she feels very good, which is better than the last time.

The doctors are still pleased with her progress and still are sticking to the plan they have had since last week. We're still waiting for some more test results to determine a firm plan, but so far nothing has caused them to change their minds.

I get to go shopping for her tonight. She actually asked for some things, which she never does. I can't wait.

Please keep praying. She is doing as well as she is because God is blessing her richly. We believe He is honoring the prayers of hundreds, if not thousands, of people on her behalf.

She's still open to visitors, though the restrictions are more critical with each passing day. Please call first, as we said, and do not be offended if she just isn't up to it. She knows you're there for her, and that helps.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Source of Joy

2 Corinthians 9:7
"...God loves a cheerful giver."

This verse often is used for sermons or illustrations for tithing, because, in context, that's what Paul is discussing.

But I want to talk about it in a different way. I'm at the hospital now and I continue to be amazed at how much Tammy can give, even when she's not doing well herself. I've been here for a little more than an hour tonight (my second visit of the day), and I've lost count of how many different nurses and aides have been in to check on her. I know for a fact that many of them come in to Tammy's room to get cheered up.

I've seen Tammy be almost asleep when someone comes in, but she'll perk up and ask how that person is doing. She'll remember things about nurses who took care of her three years ago. It's fun to watch those nurses tell the newer nurses about Tammy and how much joy she brings to everyone.

I used to have a boss who had a theory on dealing with people that he called "more a person, less a person." His theory was that every encounter you had with a person would either leave the other person feeling "more a person" or "less a person" because of the way you treated them. Thank the toll taker for taking your $2.50 and he'll feel better about himself. Smile at the cashier at the gas station and her day will go better.

Tammy has a giving spirit. Those of you who know her know that. She approaches every encounter with the "more a person" approach. She gets great joy about giving of herself in every situation. And as the lucky schmoe who's married to her, I get to be the recipient of her joy more than anybody.

She continues to do well. The chemo doesn't seem to be affecting her as much this time, and she still looks great. If you want to visit her, we still ask that you call or text her (913-908-4795) to make sure she's up to it. If she is, I guarantee you'll leave feeling "more a person."

It's her gift.

Monday, March 26, 2012

An Inspiration

Psalm 86:2-3
"Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long."

Over the past three-plus years, I've written about a lot of things. Most of them have to do with Tammy's condition. A few of them have been about her faith and how she inspires others. This is one of those.

Earlier today on Facebook, the following exchange took place:

One of my cousins wrote: "There is no doubt in my mind that God is so proud of you Tammy. You shine no matter what is going on. Your SALT and LIGHT are contagious. You add JOY and INSPIRATION to everyone you know. I love you Tammy!"

A young lady from our church then wrote: "I love and miss you too, Tammy."

A friend from our church in Manhattan (we moved from there 22 years ago!) added: "I agree and I think the enemy wants to take you out for that very reason. You are a great threat to him!"

Tammy's response was this: "Maybe, but Satan has been defeated, so I will not be fooled. Try, he may, but I KNOW full well that Jesus, the Lord of Hosts, has His Hosts here to protect me. I am covered with His blood, no matter what shape my blood is in. I am not afraid! I will not let my guard down and I am staying strong and amazingly courageous." Then she quoted I Corinthians 16:13-14. "Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Do everything in love."

I've said for some time that Tammy is my hero. Her faith is amazing. I love her more than I can express. I thank you for praying for her.

A Few More Restrictions

Joshua 1:9
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Tammy is doing okay today. She's starting to feel the effects of the chemo, which is expected.

She's now on a neutropenic diet, with the restrictions that go with it. This means she must avoid anything growing (plants, herbs, etc.). She can still have visitors, but they're going to be much more careful with who they allow in. If you've had a cough or a cold or anything like that in the past couple of weeks, stay away. If you've been around small children or someone with the symptoms above, stay away. It's not that she doesn't want to see you; her immune system is being depleted and she is at a much higher risk of picking up something.

If you "qualify," you can come to visit her. We ask that you call her first (913-908-4795) to make sure she's up to it. She welcomes cards (use our home address: 6926 Eby Ave, Merriam, KS 66204) or emails ( or Facebook messages.

I'm sorry to be so abrupt, but I'm sure you understand how we need to protect her. The best thing you can possibly do is to pray for her. We appreciate the prayers being lifted up on her behalf.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hanging In There

Revelation 3:8
"I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."

These words, written to the church in Philadelphia, were the main part of the text in this morning's message at our church. It could not have been more appropriate and needed. We accused Brian of rewriting his sermon last night to give us just what we needed. God definitely used Brian to minister to me and to so many close friends who are so overcome with this news. The whole service was a blessing.

I continue to be very proud of Tammy. Though her strength is fading (as part of her treatment), she has kept God's word and has not denied His name. She continues to hold on to the promise He has for her, whether or not that means healing. She literally is okay with whatever happens.

As of this morning, her counts continued to drop, because the chemo was started yesterday with the specific purpose of killing her polluted cells in a controlled way so her body can build back good ones. We really won't know the next step after this treatment (for the next week) until midweek, when they get the rest of the results from her biopsy last Friday.

The doctors and nurses at KU Med Center are wonderful. They are taking very good care of Tammy, and haven't even asked if we're going to be rooting for KU this afternoon against North Carolina. (We might have to do so.)

Thank you for your prayers. We'll post any time there's an update.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Major Setback

Philippians 4:6
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

We have some bad news that we want to share with you. We are not devastated, because this, too, is in God’s plan. But we definitely are set back a bit and are relying on Him for strength.

For the past week, Tammy has been feeling fatigue, and it’s been getting stronger each day. She woke up yesterday feeling very weak, so she called the cancer clinic. They told her to come in and get some lab work done. The counts were very low, actually lower than when she was diagnosed with the precursor to Leukemia in the fall of 2008. They did a bone-marrow biopsy and we got the bad news this morning.

Tammy now has Acute Leukemia, which means that 30 percent of her blood is inhabited by Leukemia. Anything above 20 percent is considered Acute. There are still plenty of tests to do to see if her bone marrow is hers or the donor’s, because that will determine the treatment once her Leukemia is in remission again. The first treatment is to give her chemotherapy for a week to wipe out the Leukemia. This will drop her white counts to zero, just like three years ago. It will take approximately two weeks for the counts to recover to the point where she may be released from the hospital, though that could take longer. Her recovery will be less predictable than the first time. We’ll have to wait and see.

Once the Leukemia is in remission, they’ll try to figure out why it came back. If they determine that her bone marrow is hers, it means whatever caused the disease in the first place was knocked down with the chemo three years ago, but not knocked out. Depending on what they find, they could look at a booster dose of the donor’s cells, or find another donor. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, though the doctor we saw today said he favors finding another donor.

The chemotherapy treatment will be different from what she received three years ago. It’s more focused on the Acute Leukemia, and may kill the Mylodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) cells. The MDS cells were what she had before, which is what led to Leukemia.

There is not a lot of disease in her body. Even though she crossed the threshold of Acute Leukemia, it’s still not wide-spread. The goal now is to take care of it so they can determine the treatment that best fits.

Once again, we covet your prayers. If you remember three years ago, we were carried on a pillow of prayers, so our journey was one of comfort and grace. We ask you to take her to the Throne of God once again. As much as you love her, I love her even more. As much as I love her, God loves her infinitely more.