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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!!

Ready?

That’s the question of the week, I guess. The donor cell collection happened on Thursday and Friday last week, and we heard this morning that there are enough viable cells for transplant. We are moving forward as planned, with admission on Thursday at 7:30 a.m. Between now and then, I have some things to check off my list (I am my father’s son):
1. Mow the lawn.
2. Finish cleaning up the pruned branches/limbs from the plum tree and move them to the firewood stack.
3. Yet another blood draw tomorrow.
4. Pack. Weird, isn’t it? What do you pack for 4-6 weeks in the hospital?
5. Spend quality time with Jen and Darby.
6. Pray.
I have a feeling that some of the things on my list won’t get done.

People and places of recent months:




1st Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day! We hope you all experienced a great day of being appreciated by friends and family. How did you spend your time?

We laid low for most of the day. Darby was feeling better, though not quite ready to spend time in the sun with daddy as he washed the car and mowed the lawn. So, she enjoyed her time with mommy, cooking up a big meal for Todd. Thanks to our wonderful next door neighbor, Eileen, Jen received a few good recipes to help celebrate Todd and his love for food. Later, we enjoyed some family time and took a few pictures to remember the day.

With the help of some caladryl lotion and Todd’s mad styling skills, a new hairdo was born. Awesome, huh?!?!?

Thank you daddy for all you do. You’re a great daddy and a wonderful husband, with lots of love to give. We are so thankful for you!

Family

Our first out-of-state family trip occurred this month. We all flew to Phoenix for a week to visit Todd’s family. I believe this was the first time his side of the family had all been together in a very long time. It was great to see everyone. Darby did very well on the airplane and of course, flirted with surrounding passengers. In addition to her first flight, she experienced her first bath (in a real bathtub because we don’t have one), her first experience of all her cousins, and her first swim.
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Although the local Phoenix residents would tell you the weather was pretty mild, we out-of-towners thought it was pretty HOT! A visit to the community pool was a must, and Darby loved it! She was too distracted by her goofy cousins playing and splashing next to her to thoroughly enjoy the water herself.

Lots of pictures were taken – Todd had to buy an additional memory card to hold them all. 🙂 Here are a few shots we enjoyed!

I’ve been waiting…

…for Round 2 to come, but haven’t heard from my oncologist. Labs on Monday last week showed that my neutrophils were at 1,000, which is the minimum that Dr. Carroll wanted before starting Round 2. I know my results because my PCP (that’s primary care physician for you non-HMO folks) happened to see that they were done when I was in his office a couple hours later to check out my ear infection. My medical group has a fancy computer system that stores all my information, so he was able to look them up while I was there. My oncologist, however, has not called me to tell me the results or when I should return for more labs.

Meanwhile, we’ve been busy, mostly fighting off colds. Jen had a sore throat and cough for almost two weeks, and I got it too. About a week into my sore throat, I got a nasty case of pinkeye. Not being able to open your eyes in the morning because of dried eye goop was so nasty. This happened on a Friday/Saturday, and by the time we realized what it was, no doctor’s offices were open. Fortunately, Jen knows a doctor from work, and he was kind enough to prescribe antibacterial ointment for me on Saturday. It worked great, and by Tuesday my eyes were cleared up, though I continued using the ointment as prescribed for a full week. Thank you, Dr. X!

I also came down with an ear infection a few days later, as I mentioned in the beginning of this post. I haven’t had an ear infection in a long time, so I wasn’t used to the pain. I woke up at 2:00 a.m., and couldn’t go back to sleep until Jen gave me a megadose of motrin. I am such a baby when I’m sick! Speaking of baby, Darby didn’t get our cold! Anyway, after a week of amoxicillin, my ear infection has cleared up and my cold seems to be gone.

We both started feeling better just in time for my grandparents’ arrival late last week. They were on a driving tour of the southwestern U.S., starting from their home in Colorado down to Phoenix for a couple of weeks to visit my Dad and Stephanie, Jodie and David and their girls (my nieces) Brooke, Kelley, and Abbey Rhyan, and my uncle and aunt and their family. After that, they drove up to Sacramento to see us, and this morning they continued on to Danville to visit Karis and John and Abby Rose (my other niece).

We had a great time relaxing with them, soaking up the fantastic weather, lounging on the patio playing euchre, planting our garden, and cooking tasty desserts. Great Gram (or GG, we’ve decided) used some of the lemons from our tree to make lemon juice and lemon meringue pie.

Mmmmmm pie.


Darby took time out of her nap schedule to take this photo for us.

The afternoon euchre game.


Grandpa supervised while I fixed a sprinkler valve.

That fitting over there!


We enjoyed our time with the grandparents/great-grandparents, and they had fun with Darby too.

Darby has sprouted into the 80th percentile for height, though coming in lean as she’s in the 38th percentile for weight. She received her second set of shots this week. Thankfully, Todd was off and accompanied Jen to the pediatrician’s office to hold Darby down while Jen was distracted by the pediatrician’s recommendations for starting solids.

Developmentally, she has found her tongue with Todd’s help, squeals all the time with occasional turn-taking with both mommy and daddy, rolls when she wants to (apparently, the most convenient time to try out this new skill is during her nap) and is becoming so much more alert. We’re continuing to enjoy her and we love the little surprises she brings to us each day. For example, great eye contact, cute smiles with a scrunched up nose, giggles, and little sucklings on our cheeks with oodles of drool!!! Yummy 🙂

Finally, in the spirit of spring, here are a couple of flower photos.

Calla lilies in the back yard.


Some red flower, also in the back yard.

Appointment update and a new toy.

Another trip to the oncologist was in order yesterday. Todd got labs drawn and then underwent a detailed dressing change for his PICC line. The transplant coordinators approached Jen and Darby in the waiting room and Todd in the infusion center to introduce themselves as a part of the transplant team. They asked if we’d like a binder to review for the up and coming adventure. Todd responded, “Sure. I’ll compare it to the one I already have.” Dr. Carroll met with us an hour later to report yet another treatment hold. Jen asked whether the delay in chemo cycles was a good or a bad thing. Dr. Carroll said that it’s not quite as simple as good or bad. Obviously the chemo is working, because the lymphocyte count has gone down and platelets have been increasing. On the other hand, Todd’s marrow is slow in generating new cells to restore his immune system. He thought that this was due to cumulative effects of multiple fludarabine treatments and possibly the transplant almost three years ago. It could also be because of marrow suppression from leukemia cells. Today, Todd’s neutrophil count was at 700, still not high enough for Round 2. Dr. Carroll gave us a choice: keep the PICC line in, or have it taken out and a new one put in when we’re finally ready for treatment again. Since the PICC line hasn’t really provided any benefit while I’m not getting treatment, I opted to have it removed. After another day or two of precaution while the insertion site heals, I’ll be back to regular activities and allowed to get in the gym for some exercise. While the PICC is in, I’m not supposed to engage in repetitive motion exercises using my arm because the line actually moves a little bit and can irritate the vein (phlebitis). Cardio and other exercises not involving my arm are ok, but the dressing would likely need to be changed more frequently because of sweat.

On the transplant front, we still haven’t decided what to do, but we did have more discussion with Dr. Carroll about the protocol he would recommend. He said that he wouldn’t do another non-myeloablative low-dose transplant like the one I had at Stanford, but he isn’t recommending a full high-dose ablative transplant either. His recommendation is a “reduced intensity” transplant, which is somewhere in between the low and high-dose approaches. There are noteworthy differences compared to the protocol I was on at Stanford. First, the process starts with 5 days of chemotherapy – fludarabine and Campath, and one other drug I don’t remember. These drugs have two effects: 1) further suppression of my immune system and 2) reduction of disease presence. The benefit to this approach over the low-dose transplant is that there is a lower risk of graft rejection because of the amount of immune system suppression. The second big change is the hospital stay: Most patients are in the hospital for somewhere between 3 to 4 weeks. The thought of such a lengthy hospital stay is depressing, but that is tempered by the knowledge that I’ll be close to home and more able to have visits from friends. All in all, I’ll be following up with Dr. Miklos at Stanford to get his thoughts on this approach before we make a decision.

In non-medical news, we bought a new gadget – a Flip video camera. The goal was to be able to capture short non-cell-phone video clips of Darby to share with friends and family who aren’t local, without breaking the bank to buy a full-featured camcorder. For the price point, we’re happy with the Flip so far. We tried out our new camera on Darby…we think it’s pretty cool to be able to capture these precious moments, though Darby isn’t always cooperating when it’s on. She gets fixated on the camera and of course, doesn’t “perform” as she should…there are many grandparents out there that would appreciate a little live action! 🙂 We’ll be tinkering with it over the next few weeks and no doubt will have some more videos for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

Prayer requests:
Peace in our decision to move forward
Wisdom for our doctors to make appropriate decisions regarding donor criteria and selection

Precious moments

Darby update: Words can not express how incredibly precious this time with Darby has been. Can you believe she’s 3 months old already?

I'm a little blurry, but still so cute, huh???


Credit for this 3-month photo goes to DeAnna Gallardo – thanks, Dee!

Mom, is the bow really necessary?

She’s looking less like an infant and more like a baby and continues to amaze me with the new developmental milestones being hit almost daily. She is frequently checking out her hands in front of her face (cross-eyed and all), hands are constantly in her mouth with drool all over (I expect this to get worse :-)), responding to mommy’s voice from across the room, attending to objects further away, “talking” to mommy and daddy with cute little vowel sounds, staying awake longer between naps (1.5 hours occasionally), and sleeping like a maniac at night (9-10 hours). On Sunday, she voluntarily reached for a hanging toy right before my eyes. It was incredible! It was one thing to study these expected behaviors in grad school, but a completely different story to actually witness them in person, and with my own child. I’m so full of joy. Thank you Lord for this little blessing. She most likely will be one of the things you will have brought into our lives to make the chemo and upcoming transplant more tolerable and possibly enjoyable???

Todd update: For the last 3 weeks we’ve gone in on Tuesday for Todd to draw labs, wait for results on Wednesday, only to find out that he would receive no chemo for the week as a result of low counts. To give you an idea of “low”, Todd’s neutrophils: 700 (Dr. wants them to be at least 1,000 to start chemo), white blood cells: 1,900, and platelets: 96k. We have the same regimen this week and will know at least by Wednesday whether or not chemo will begin on Thursday/Friday.

Two weeks ago we were a tad disappointed to “gear” up for chemo emotionally and physically only to get the low count report from the nurse. So, instead of wasting a perfectly good 4-day weekend (Todd had the Presidential holidays back to back) at home, we took it as an opportunity to take Darby on her first road trip down to Lancaster to visit Jen’s parents. Bob (Jen’s dad) was celebrating his 66th year and retiring from 30 or so years as an engineer. A surprise was just what he needed!!! We thought it’d be funny to drop Darby off at their doorstep and plan to have Bob open the door. His reaction was classic.

Gotcha Grandpa!

We had lots of fun hanging with family: Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Jim, and Aunt Amy. We also enjoyed visiting great friends in the area, and introduced Darby to them for the first time.

Uncle Jim brought his special toy to show Todd. Of course there was major drooling, and handling of this large piece of metal. “OH BROTHER” was all I could say!

Me man. Me check out gun.

Late Tuesday evening update from Todd: Lab results from today’s appointment are in: white count 2,100, platelets 101k, neutrophils 600. It’s safe to say there won’t be chemo this week. Oddly (or not), my sodium level is low, despite my afternoon snack of sunflower seeds and beef jerky on Monday. Clearly I need more salt in my diet! Back on topic: according to my online account with my health care provider, I have an appointment on Monday for more labs and to see the doctor. This is news to me. I guess they figured I wasn’t doing anything that afternoon.