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Smith 2012!

Wow, I can’t believe it is December!  I don’t know about you, but 2012 has flown by for us! We’ve had our fair share of busyness this year and we are hoping it will slow down, although we don’t see that happening in the near future. We look back and wonder what we’ve done this year, and why it has gone by so fast.  Here is what we’ve been up to…

January:  Our very own “Mimi” spent some good quality time with Darby while she continued to look for a job.  We were so happy and sad for her to rejoin the work force in January after spending so much precious time with Darby. We miss you Mimi!! 🙂

_MG_1395 Todd was invited to be on the board at The Greenhouse,  a non-profit, 501c3 organization located in the Gardenland Northgate neighborhood of Sacramento, California.  They offer after-school tutoring, mentoring, spiritual development, and leadership development for under-resourced youth. He’s kept busy, but has really enjoyed every minute of it. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Greenhouse, check it out at www.thegreenhousecenter.org.  Jen was asked to be on the vision team (kinda like a board of deacons) at our church, Sanctuary Covenant.  They have been really busy preparing for a move to Clunie Hall in East Sacramento come January 2013.  We’re super excited and look forward to what God has in store!!

During this month, Darby was officially potty trained.  Diapers during naps and bedtime, but throughout the day panties all the way!!  Such a big girl!!

February: Todd and a bunch of guys went to a family owned cabin in Kings Canyon for a Men’s Weekend.  As you can imagine, there was a lot of eating, gas, and guns. He had a blast! _MG_1697

March: SHINGLES came back around for a second time with a vengeance.  Poor Todd was out of commission for a few days, though in pain for several weeks. I’ll spare you the pictures 🙂

April:  Our efforts to began Urban Homesteading (partially joking here :-)) started with plans for our front yard garden and the purchase of 3 baby chicks. Boy, have we learned and laughed a lot over the last year.  Ask us and we’ll give you plenty of stories:-)_MG_1897

Meet Laverne (top) and Shirley ( bottom), and well, I don’t think we ever named the black chick in the middle.  It died within 48 hours.  We then picked up, Squiggie, at the local pet supply store…What a spaz!!!

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May:  Baby chicks were getting bigger and Darby enjoyed loving on them:-)

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Here is a before picture of the front yard after a few bomb treatments to kill the grass.

Yard before

And the front yard after (minus the plants :-))….

Garden 2

June:  Before we could go on a trip to CO for a church training conference, we had to get the chickens out of the house ASAP.  Not only were they growing at phenomenal rates, but they smelled and were getting their dander all over the kitchen table each morning.  You can imagine how eager Jen was for the chickens to be out of the brooder!! 🙂 Todd found chicken coop plans, “The Taj Mahal” to be exact and built it just in time.  What amazing skills!!!Chicken coop

While down  in So. Cal to visit Jen’s family, we made a trip to Manhattan Beach for Darby’s first taste of the glorious sea air, warm sand, and cold ocean waters.  She LOVED it!!!

Darby at beach

July: We had so much to learn about gardening on a much larger scale compared to our 5′ x 20′ garden in our back side yard the year before.  At this point, there were gads of produce coming out from every nook and cranny we were giving it away, and meeting new neighbors in the process.  It was awesome!!

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Garden in July

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Oh, and we learned one of many lessons when raising chickens that month….One being, when they start flying over things, it’s a good time to clip the wings.  When you don’t, one chicken can fly over the next door neighbor’s fence and be attacked/killed by hunting labs.  Hence starting over with baby chicks in the house once again, ugh!  Now we have 5 chickens.  We’ll have eggs coming out of our ears next spring!!!  Meet Zora (looks like Zorro), Wilma, and Cocoa (from left to right).

baby chicks second attempt

August: Our little Miss Helper was expressing her independence in lots of charming (a tad of sarcasm) and fun ways:) She decided that thumb-sucking was no longer necessary and dropped it all together.  Not sure if the conversations about seeing Dr. Joel (the dentist) had anything to do with it. 🙂Little Miss Helper

watermelon

September:  While Darby was living it up with Nana and Baba in Sac, Todd and Jen took a trip to see our good friends, Kevin and Linda Swanson in New Jersey.  We walked our tails off all over NY!  What a neat time!  What very special friends!!

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About mid-September, one of the two chickens of laying age, laid her first egg.  It was a pretty neat experience and in our personal opinion, tasted far superior to store bought eggs.  Now, if Laverne would follow suit, that would be great. 🙂

October:  Family photos in October.  Our friend Amy was having some mini photo sessions and we jumped at the chance.  Jen’s parents were planning on being in town the same weekend, so it worked out so well. Thanks Amy! We love them!

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Toward the end of October, we enjoyed picking pumpkins from our garden and carving funny faces on them with fun friends, Brit, Sophia, and Ezra.  We love you guys! 🙂

Fall Fun

November: Wow!  A lot happened in November….Darby turned 3 years old on Thanksgiving Day!  A fun breakfast and present hunt was scheduled that morning, followed by lots of Thanksgiving preparation in the kitchen.  We had all the fixings, of course, though later that evening Darby was upset to find we were having pie instead of strawberry cupcakes and candles 🙂

rain boots surprise

Bike surprise

The day after Thanksgiving, we planned the 2012 Turkey Baster Olympics.  What the heck is that you may ask? See our post on it http://wp.me/p2uRh-lE

The day after that we had Darby’s birthday party with a few close friends.  Strawberry cupcakes, candles as well as lots of sugary toppings were on the menu.  Darby was happy!

Darby's 3

December: This month has been a whirlwind.  Jen picked up some extra shifts at work, continued helping out with preparations for Sanctuary’s move to Clunie Hall, and a long list of to-dos for IVF preparation as well (These details will be in the post to follow). Todd has been busy with several large projects at work, Greenhouse board activities/ to dos, and construction projects for church and Greenhouse.

All in all, we’ve had a great year, and we are so thankful for God’s provision in our lives in so many ways… a year of limited thoughts about cancer, our health, our sweet little girl, our church family, our family and friends, etc.

We end this year seeking to learn more about how to slow down in this fast pace culture, to enjoy the simple ways of living, and to remember daily why we are here and what we’ve been created for, so that we can share the freedom we have in Christ with others.

Merry Christmas!!

T+199: I’m female?

Sorry for the delay, folks. We got the T+180 bone marrow biopsy results two weeks ago, but then hopped on a plane to Mile High country to visit family. We’re heading to the arid Southwest in a few days for more family fun, so this post will be mostly about my health. Don’t worry, there are plenty of photos to be downloaded and posted and stories to be told once we get some down time. Here’s one photo to tide you over until then.

Darby's first corn on the cob - yummy!


The biopsy results are pretty good. No CLL cells were detected through the microscope or through flow cytometry. The donor chimerism analysis results are also positive, though a little confusing. It turns out that the chimerism analysis is done two ways: through chromosomal analysis and DNA analysis. The chromosomal analysis showed 100% female cells, which are from the donor. The DNA analysis is a more sensitive test, and it showed 93.8% donor cells. That’s still a good number even though it’s slightly down from the 96% at T+80. Dr. Carroll’s hypothesis is that there are still some CLL cells in the marrow that aren’t detected through the microscope or flow cytometry. Over time, the chimerism results will trend toward 100% donor because of the graft vs. leukemia effect. This means that the donor cells recognize the leukemia cells as foreign and attack and kill them. The donor cells become stronger as the immunosuppression drug dosage is reduced. Ultimately, this is how a stem cell transplant is successful.

For now, I’ll be seeing Dr. Carroll every two weeks. If no GVHD symptoms occur, he’ll decrease my dosage of cyclosporine every two weeks as well. I’m currently scheduled to return to work on November 1, though he said it’s possible that I could be back sooner if I don’t have any GVHD or other complications as the immunosuppression drug dosage is reduced.

Prayer requests:
1. We remain hopeful for a continued successful recovery.
2. We have financially survived the past year through a combination of state disability benefits and my vacation and sick leave hours from work. The state disability benefits will end in mid-August, and my remaining vacation hours will be used up in the first week of September. My employer has a program that allows fellow employees to donate their vacation hours to employees who have exhausted their leave balances and are on an unpaid leave of absence. We are praying for God’s provision to bridge the gap until I am able to return to work. This is a faith exercise for us.

T+70: Day of rest

On Thursday during his biweekly doctor’s visit, we were informed that Todd’s CMV results were negative, for the second week in a row, and he was finally granted a day off. YEAH!!!!! Friday and Sunday would be days off with infusion center visits every other day, for now. On Monday, the doctor will determine if Todd can continue with this visiting schedule.

Friday’s plans apparently did not include sleeping in and cuddling with his wife. Instead, Todd partook in two breakfast meals. One “light” meal, ‘the french toast special’ (which included french toast, eggs, and two sausage) at a men’s Friday morning group, and the other with Jen and Darby at The Orphan. He was a little full after the avocado scramble and half of Jen’s Raspberry Lemon Poppyseed pancakes. Yummy!! I’m glad his appetite was back in full force!!!

Even though the CMV could come back at any time, we’re very thankful for the day of fun and rest, and look forward to many more. We praise God for all he has done and continues to do in our lives, no matter how big or small!

Here are a few pictures to enjoy!

Darby has entered into the new phase…climbing. This is a photo taken right after she managed to climb out of her pack ‘n play during her hour of playtime. Doesn’t she look so proud?

Here are a few of our daily activities with Darby:

In these two pictures, you can see how much rain we’ve received. The river is up very high, and moving quickly, and the neighborhood park has become a lake for geese to stop by and visit:-)

And….my favorite of the bunch!!!!!

11 months old

Darby is now 11 months old! She has been such a joy these last 2 months especially, and her developing personality has been so fun to watch. What a very verbal and expressive little girl we have on our hands! Her favorite food is cheese, her favorite toy is the shape sorter from Grammie and Papa, and her favorite activity is grabbing on to Mommy’s fingers while we both walk around the house.

Since she was 6 months old, we’ve been using American Sign Language for many of the basic commands (i.e. please, more, food, water, etc.). I can not describe the feelings of watching Darby use her very first sign, “more.” It was incredible. She continues to grow in her ability to communicate daily. Each night, Darby demonstrates “Night night” by tapping the side of her head multiple times with her hand to each person in the room. “Night night” to Gram, “Night night” to daddy, etc. She then leans over and lets you kiss her on the head. It’s really cute! Her comprehension has also increased. Watch out for your nose, as she often reaches for it when asked where “nose” is located, and your toes as she tries to tickle them. Watching her learn how to talk has been super fun too. She yells out “Dah” when the dog next door barks, and “Da Da” when Todd walks into the room, and “Bah Bah” after we say bye bye.

We ventured out to the pumpkin patch last week to enjoy this awesome weather and to expose Darby to some real fall fun. It was so fun to observe her experience the world around her such as the hay ride, pumpkins, and animals. Of course, once left to explore the pumpkins, she was much more orally fascinated by the leaves and grass on the ground. 🙂

We love her so much and can’t express our gratitude for this precious gift. She has brought smiles to our faces when we’ve been really sad, and has provided quite the distraction from the mundane hospital routine. Thank you Lord, for this bundle of energy and joy. We never imagined raising a child would be this much work and so rewarding. We ask for Your strength, patience, love, and wisdom to guide her as she grows.

Here are a few pictures:

T+30

So, it’s been a week since the last post and not a lot has happened. Gram made me a wicked Martha Stewart chocolate cake for my birthday last weekend, which left you saying a lot more than, “Got milk?” I really needed an entire cow! Thanks Gram!!! She and I are neck ‘n neck in scrabble and I’m very proud that I’m actually able to keep up with her. She’s a whiz at finding the triple word score squares and jacking her score up by 30 points at times. Ugh!

We’ve really been enjoying our time with the grandparents. What a gift! Not only have we had them here to help out and support us, we’ve had the amazing opportunity to spend time with them and Darby with her great-grandparents for the last month. That really doesn’t happen for many people. I’m grateful for this blessing God’s given us to enjoy.

I believe they’ve enjoyed their time as well, especially as they witness Darby developing before their very eyes. She has been VERY active in the last month, and even more so in the last two weeks. She took her first steps the other day and continues to push her physical limits. Last night she proceeded to push a chair around the dining room, her high chair in circles, and eventually grabbed on to mommy’s fingers for a final stroll around the house. She’s also getting quite the personality. Yes, Little Miss Independent wants to brush her own teeth, read her own books , and move on her own. And, if she doesn’t like what you’re doing, she’ll be sure to tell you. I decided to let Darby and daddy have some alone time, and she didn’t appreciate it. I captured a photo I’m sure will be viewed on her wedding slide show some day.

Todd is doing well. On Friday he received a bone marrow biopsy. Apparently on day +30, it is common to do this procedure to obtain a more accurate reading of chimerism:
The state in which donor cells have durably engrafted in the recipient. Full donor chimerism implies that 100% of bone marrow and blood cells are of donor origin, while mixed or partial chimerism means that recipient cells are also present. (I just got this definition off of a bone marrow transplant glossary page…thought is was helpful with some of the terminology that at times is difficult to explain. http://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/education/bone_marrow_transplant_glossary/) We will receive the results of this test this Thursday. Tomorrow, a test to determine if the CMV virus is still present in Todd’s blood will be completed. I believe that is just a blood draw. If the test is negative, they will stop the gancyclovir (an IV anti-viral drug Todd has been receiving for almost 3 weeks now), and if it is positive I imagine they will schedule another 2-3 weeks. He continues to receive the neupogen shots to increase his white blood cell count. The percentage of neutrophils (the important and good white blood cells) in Todd’s blood has increased which is great news, though also reflects how effective the neupogen shots have been. He has been scheduled for a daily 9am appointment in the infusion center for the entire month of October, including weekend days. Todd’s tired, and tired of being tired, but he’s doing well. All things medically “look good,” per Dr. Carroll. I look forward to being present at Thursday’s appointment to catch up on the details Todd doesn’t bother to ask. 🙂

T+19 & 10 months old

Wow! Last night was incredible. Approximately 20 individuals showed up to help deep clean the inside and the outside of our house. I, of course, had my 4 page list of cleaning details arranged by each room and in the order it should be completed. 🙂 What a team we had. After I sent Todd a picture of our help eating pizza, he texted back, “I’m very thankful! What’s for dinner?” I love that he was more concerned about the food than the cleaning. I wouldn’t expect anything less. Someone is feeling better, huh??

I can’t thank you all enough for coming out to support us in a very real, and tangible way. It was a load that was taken off my shoulders. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you Lord, for providing the right and willing people. There was some talk about rotating this event on a monthly basis for the people who were willing to jump in to help. I nominate Kym D. to be next. She received the most flak last night for personally being held responsible for any illness that Todd might come down with once he’s home. Her duties consisted of de-bugging, de-dusting, and de-funking our bedroom, especially Todd’s side. As you can imagine, there was a lot to do! 🙂 She was amazing and very thorough. Love you Kym!

Bummer news is that Todd won’t be coming home today or tomorrow:-( He has one more day of an antibiotic which lasts until midnight tomorrow night, and we’re still awaiting authorization from his insurance company for a medication he must have before going home. Interestingly enough, this specific antifungal medication is about $3500. We will gladly wait for insurance approval.:-)

Todd’s counts have dropped (wbc: 2.6), though this is completely normal. They’ve stopped giving the neupogen shots for now, but will more than likely start them up again if/when he needs it. He still isn’t at a level where he’d need a blood transfusion. That’s great. He’s definitely has a little cabin fever, and is starting to get a little lonely. We’re hoping discharge will happen by Friday. As you can imagine we’re all very ready!!!

Darby is 10 months old today! It seems as though each day she grows more and more…her face changes (less baby and more girl), her legs are longer and her pants are shorter, she’s more talkative, and more mobile. She is beginning to stand unassisted for only a few seconds, though on occasion has attempted to run with a faceplant immediately following. Lots of babbling, laughing, and squealing. She’s also understanding a lot more: bird, dance, bounce, daddy, ball, water, sleepy, blankie, kisses, etc. What a personality! My parents informed me that she is “another Jennifer.” I wasn’t sure what that meant so my mother clarified, “Well, she knows what she wants, when she wants it, and is pretty good about verbalizing it.” What can I say? She might look like Todd, but she acts like me?

T+1:What a ride!

Quick update tonight as it is pretty late, and I’m really exhausted. He moved out of the ICU back into his old room on the BMT unit. An MRI of his head with contrast was completed around 2pm and came back negative. The neurologist said there was nothing abnormal, though believed his seizure was the result of high cyclosporine (immunosuppressant) levels in his system. They have changed the rate Todd will receive this medication, and he will continue on antiseizure meds. Because these medications make him very sleepy, he retains very little of what’s occurring during the day. For example, he recalled very little of this morning, the transfer, visitors, etc. My hope is that he begins to have more clarity as time goes by. Tonight I shared with him the details of yesterday’s events. He was amazed and shocked, and doesn’t remember any of it. Thank goodness! I wish I could erase those images from my mind as well.

Thanks to Virginia who was a trooper and an incredible support last night as she allowed me to go home to get rest while she stayed and kept a detailed eye on Todd and his care. I was very appreciative for the 6 hours of sleep, and felt well rested this morning. Thanks V! AND, thank you to all of you who have been supporting us every moment of the day. We feel incredibly thankful for God’s provision during all of this, and have some very cool stories which have His name written all of them 🙂

I’ll leave you with a picture of Todd and Darby cuddling tonight. He hadn’t seen her since the morning before, and he was grateful to get a little snuggle with his princess before bedtime 🙂