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 www.anniversaryideas.co.uk, 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.