What Can I Do?

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I have had countless wonderful people ask me that question. “What can I do for you?” To be honest, my response is always “I don’t know.” At this point in my life, I don’t know what I need and what I think I need one day will vary wildly to the next. One second I feel like I need to be surrounded by a hundred people so I can’t hear myself think and then the next second I need to be in complete silence and solitude. There are really only a few things I do know for sure right now: 1) I need Jesus- every hour of every day. That has never been more clear to me than now. 2) I miss my husband- every hour of every day. There simply aren’t words to describe the pain and heartache felt in his absence. 3) I’m an absolute mess. 4) It’s totally okay that I’m a mess. Grief must coexist with grace; for yourself and for others. 5) I have found happiness in very little, but anytime someone tells me they have signed up for Be the Match, I cry tears of happiness.

A few days ago, I was sitting in our closet with tears streaming down my face. I was picking out one of Andrew’s t-shirts for a friend to have made into a pillow for me. “I don’t want this to be a pillow. I want Andrew to be wearing this!” I screamed. I cried out, “Why? What is the point?” And then my phone went off. I glanced down through my tears and see a text from Chase Stigall. It read: “Moving forward with the match. Giving blood tomorrow. Could be the best match with an infant boy.” Cue the second round of waterworks…A baby boy. Can you imagine the relief of that sweet baby’s parents? Can you imagine this glimmer of hope in what I know to be a very dark, bleak time? Reality is, without this donor match, this innocent, sick baby boy dies. He dies before his life really even begins. He dies before his parents get to throw him his first birthday party. Without Be the Match, this child dies. Without willing, incredible donors like Chase Stigall, this child dies.

So what can you do for me? You can sign up for Be the Match. Seriously. That’s what you can do for me. That is what helps. The article below was written by Matt Norlander of CBS Sports. He also wrote, “A Bulldog’s Battle” the fantastic, detailed piece written last year on Andrew’s terrifying brush with death when he went without a heartbeat for 22 minutes. The CBS article below will give you the information you need and why it is so important to me, to Andrew, and to all of the cancer patients out there waiting for their match.

Please, help us continue on Andrew’s legacy. It’s too important not to.
Matt Norlander’s story: CBS Sports: Be the Match-Project 44

Or sign up here:
join.bethematch.org/Andrew1
Or text “ANDREW” to 38470

Do for one what you wish you could do for millions.”

My Most Courageous Husband

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Tomorrow will mark three months. Three months. It seems like such a short, fleeting amount of time, and yet it has proven to be the longest days of my life. How has it already been three months? How have I not seen my sweet husband’s face or heard his laugh or looked into his eyes for three months? How is it possible that Andrew isn’t here? So many questions flood my mind; questions of disbelief in this new reality, questions in anger at this vicious disease, questions of faith at the lack of his healing. I won’t sit here, lie to you,  and tell you that I have consistently, without wavering said, “Ok, God. This is fine. I’m okay with it.” I’m not. I’m not okay with life without my husband. I’m not okay with being a widow at the age of 24. I’m not okay with the daily heartache felt by all of his friends and family because of his absence. I’m not okay with any of this. I’m just not okay at all. And yet, I am reminded of Paul’s words in the book of Thessalonians that say, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” Friends, I am grieving deeply every day, but I do not grieve without certainty and hope in Christ. For as deep and dark as a place that I have found myself in for the past three months, I cannot imagine the depth and pain of those who don’t have the assurance that they will see their loved ones again, basking in the glory of Christ for eternity. I selfishly grieve because it will likely be many years before I see Andrew again, (and trust me, that absolutely destroys me) but because of who Christ is and what He did on the cross, I do not have to grieve in never seeing my husband again. I will. I will see Andrew again and he will be whole, healthy, and complete. I admit, most days, this thought alone is what gets me through to the next day.

Andrew and I were so blessed with being named the United States Basketball Writer’s Association’s Most Courageous Award recipients this year. This was truly an incredible gesture from the USBWA and an honor to accept down in Houston at the Final Four. It is still beyond comprehension to me that anyone in their right mind would say that I am as strong and courageous as Andrew. I assure you I am not; nobody is.

There is this part from one of our favorite movies that says, “You know Pete was never a real fighter. But that’s why he married you. That’s why he loves you. Because you’re the fighter, and you need that. One person in a relationship has got to punch.” Andrew would always, without fail, pause the movie and say to me, “That’s you! You’re our fighter. You’ve got our punch!” and then give me a kiss and press play. What Andrew didn’t seem to realize is that just because I was always the one swinging the punches doesn’t mean he was any less of a fighter because he was the one in my corner teaching me how. Andrew taught me to be brave. He is still teaching me to be brave. I couldn’t have spoken at halftime at Hinkle just days after Andrew passed away without his encouraging voice in my head the whole time. I couldn’t have given an acceptance speech for this Most Courageous Award had he not shown me how to be strong and graceful each and every day. I have had many people ask me for a video of my time down in Houston and their presentation of this award. I don’t have a video, but I had a dear friend find the audio for it which is linked HERE. I do want to insert in my speech in this post; not because it was great, (it was quite muddled through many tears, actually) but because I had the true, great honor in describing just a small handful of ways that Andrew taught me how to be courageous. And as a proud wife, I want the entire world to know how amazing and incredible this man is and how bravely he lived his life…

“Andrew’s impact on me and my life is immeasurable. There aren’t enough pages to fill, blog posts to write, or hours in the day to list off the ways in which he changed me and how I live my life. And from looking around this room and to be standing in front of all of you accepting this award on his behalf, it’s quite clear that I am not the only one who felt his lasting impact. I’m not the only one he taught to be brave.
For Andrew, courage was…

  1. Disregarding the odds and statistics told to us by every doctor. He disregarded them and fought this vicious disease with 100% of himself every single day.
  2. Courage was receiving chemotherapy in the morning, vomiting profusely at lunch time, and returning to work with a smile on his face that afternoon. Most of the time his coworkers had no idea what he had endured just hours before.
  3. Courage was making every nurse and doctor laugh and feel appreciated; even as they simultaneously administered painful procedures and treatments.
  4. Courage was fighting two illnesses- one, his own very public battle with cancer and two, my private battle slipping into depression when we learned of Andrew’s rediagnosis in May. When everything should have been about him and his health, he made mine his top priority.
  5. Courage was sitting and receiving 12 hours of chemo and blood transfusions and then rushing to make it to the final hour a Bone Marrow Registry drive he orchestrated at Butler University to shake the hands and thank those who joined the registry.
  6. Courage was deciding to continue to receive harsh chemotherapy drugs even after being told there was a 95% chance it would prematurely end his life. Courage was a 5% chance being enough to justify suffering for more time with his wife.
  7. Courage was spending his final hours of coherency talking about his love for Jesus Christ, Butler basketball, his marriage, and helping others.

So I challenge you all today to live your life with as much love and purpose as Andrew packed into his 25 short years of existence. There wasn’t a single day in the past 7 years that I didn’t feel loved, appreciated, respected, and adored. Can your loved ones say the same? Do you leave your wife every morning ensuring she knows that she is the woman of your dreams? Does your husband know without a shadow of a doubt that he is the absolute best friend, provider and protector for you and your family? Do your kids know that your entire universe revolves around their happiness? Be present with the ones you love. Love fully, love deeply, love unconditionally. Just like Andrew did. There also wasn’t a single day that went by in the past 7 years that I wasn’t awe-inspired by Andrew’s drive, determination, and passion for life and helping others. That manifested in being a leader for his teams on and off the court, in truly being a husband that selflessly served his wife and taking his responsibilities as the head of our household and marriage seriously, and ultimately raising awareness for the Bone Marrow Registry which is in desperate need for donors. You see, it didn’t sit well with us that people are dying every single day (roughly 264 people, every day) because their match, their cure isn’t on the registry. It didn’t sit well with us that children were losing their parents, that parents were outliving their children, that wives were losing their husbands and we could be doing something about it.

Butler University has partnered with Be the Match (which is the National Bone Marrow Registry) and continued on Andrew’s impactful legacy and fight by creating Project44. The goal? To save 44 lives in honor of Andrew. For every 430 new registry members, 1 will be called to save a life. In honor of my husband who proudly wore #44 for the Butler Bulldogs, we want to save 44 lives by recruiting a minimum of 18, 920 registry members. To join the registry, you swab your cheek. To actually donate, it’s typically as simple of a process as giving blood. So if you or anyone you know between the ages of 18-44 have any questions or would like to join the registry, please contact me. Or simply text “Andrew” to 38470 or visit: join.BeTheMatch.org/Andrew1.

Again, I humbly thank you for this award. This is truly one of the most significant moments in my life. I know Andrew is up in Heaven smiling down on us today and begging me to stop making everything all about him! So from the both of us, thank you.”

“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” (CS Lewis)

One Month Later

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Photo taken December 2015

Today marks one month since the love of my life left my side and took his place amongst the angels. There aren’t words to describe the past month; the pain is ever-present and the sadness never leaves. January 12th was by far the hardest day of my life, but the subsequent days have certainly left me feeling simultaneously numb and ripped to shreds. I cannot possibly describe the agony in having the love of your life pass away in your arms at the age of 25. I won’t try to describe it because that would require reliving that day and that is something I do in my head enough- every single day, in fact. There are so many impossible parts of grief and absolutely no way to prepare for losing your spouse. I am forever aware of his absence and the silence is deafening. I still instinctually wander towards the “Big and Tall” sections of stores and catch myself scouring the shoe racks for a size 17. I do so many things to only be reminded that I heartbreakingly don’t need to anymore. And the waves of grief…they wash over me and hardly let me come up for air. It feels much like I would imagine drowning feels like- a piercing blow to the chest, lungs feeling both as if they’re combusting and collapsing, a gasp for air, for relief. I feel like I’m suffocating. I feel like I’m dying. And then I realize it’s because so much of me did die that day. Andrew and I used to sing along to a song called “Home.” The chorus sings, “Home is wherever I’m with you…” We’d sing and smile at one another as those words resonated between us. We spent so much time in hospitals and we were desperate to be in our home in Irvington, but at the end of the day, if I was sharing a bed with Andrew- be it in our own or a hospital bed like the one pictured above- I was home. Home was wherever I was with him. And now, I am left feeling homeless. My home is now in ashes. I try and think of his perspective, though (as I often do). Home for Andrew was wherever I was. I’m still here. I’m still breathing. Albeit barely, but I am still breathing. Where I am, he will forever be. He will always have a home in me.

The most tragic and difficult moment was holding Andrew in my arms as he died. There is not a single person on this earth that should ever feel that pain and heartache. But as he took his last breath here on earth, I know that his next was breathed in Heaven in the arms of our Savior. As a devoted wife and caregiver, it is so hard to think of Andrew being better off in anyone else’s arms but mine. But, I’ve had to realize and accept that in the arms of our heavenly Father is the safest, most comforting place to be. In His arms, not mine. Andrew loved me so dearly, to the innermost core of his heart. I love that I can say that with so much confidence; he made sure I knew it every single day. He loved me a lifetime’s worth in our seven years together. And while I am so terribly sad that seven years’ worth will have to last me a lifetime, I’m so lucky and so blessed to have been loved that much. Life with Andrew was a glimpse of Heaven; it was beautiful, joyous, and unparalleled. I am devastated that my glimpse has departed from me, but I’m so happy that Andrew now lives in the constant state of perfection that is Heaven. I know I only got a taste of it, but it gives me so much to look forward to. I cannot wait for the day that Andrew greets me at the gates of Heaven, gives me one of his crushing hugs, and says, “I’m so proud of you. You were great, my love. You did great.”

“But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

Celebration Service for Andrew Smith

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A service to celebrate the life of my dear, sweet husband will be held this Sunday, January 17th, at Traders Point Christian Church. Service will begin at 5pm, but doors will open at 4pm. For those unable to attend but would still like to view his memorial, the service will be live streamed at TPCC.org. Flowers may be sent to Traders Point Christian Church or in lieu of such, donations can be made in Andrew’s honor to Be The Match, (donations can be made online here or can be made at the service). We will also have two tables set up at Traders Point to sign up to join the registry in Andrew’s honor. This is a cause so near and dear to our hearts and one swab of the cheek can save someone’s life. We have no idea how many to expect as we are sure that many will want to come and join in the celebration of this wonderful man, but there will be another sanctuary in the church open with a large screen streaming the video for any overflow of the main worship area, as well.

I will write further later, once my mind can stop racing and the pain isn’t as fresh, but I do appreciate all of the kind words and outpour of love and support. Admittedly, I can’t read or watch it all; both because of the incredible amount of things out there but also because it hurts too badly. Many ask “how are you doing?” and the honest answer to that is that I am awful. I’ve lost the love of my life. Every day gets harder because it’s a day more since the last time I’ve seen him or felt his arms around me. Truly, just the worst days of my life. But I am holding onto hope in our Lord and Savior for I know that He is good, no matter what. I don’t believe that God orchestrated this devastation in my life, but I know that He will use it for the Kingdom. I miss my love every single day and I cannot wait for the day that he greets me at the gates of Heaven, ready to give me one of his giant, crushing hugs.

“I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining. I believe in love, even when I’m alone. I believe in God, even when He is silent.” (CS Lewis)

Traders Point Christian Church
6590 S Indianapolis Road
Whitestown, IN 46075

January 2016

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Christmas, 2015

I have been staring at a blank Word document for twenty minutes trying to find the words to say. I can’t bear where we’re at and the situation we are in. I can’t comprehend how we’ve gotten to this place. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that there is nothing left to do for Andrew except tell him how much I love him, hold his hand and be with him for very second we have left together. The doctors tell me death is imminent and that Andrew is going to die from this disease. There are no treatments, no clinical trials…there is nothing left to do. I struggle to grasp what they’ve told me and I spend my nights crying and moaning in pain as I think about losing the one I hold most dear and close to my heart- my husband. He is afraid of death and I am afraid of life. I’m afraid of life without Andrew Smith by my side as my spouse, my protector, my best friend, my everything. My heart breaks into a million pieces thinking of all who would lose so much if he goes- a friend, a son, a brother, a teammate, and an inspiration to us all. We would all lose so much because he has impacted every single person that he has ever come into contact with. His kindness is instantaneous to strangers and his caring nature and ever-gentle heart is felt by every person lucky enough to have any sort of relationship with him. Truly, Andrew exudes and shines the Light of Christ. Andrew is the perfect example of what God has called us to do here on earth; to love one another at every opportunity, to glorify Him in all that we say and do, and to preach the Gospel to the masses. But Andrew doesn’t even need words to do that preaching. The way Andrew lives every single day preaches the Word of God. One quote that Andrew and I have prayed over and try to instill in our lives together is “Be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read.” Andrew and I strive to make our lives preach loudly instead of our lips and he has done that ever so beautifully. I’m so proud of him and there aren’t words to describe the honor I take in being his wife.

What the doctors tell me do not change my prayers. I still pray every waking moment for a miraculous healing. I ask that that is your specific prayers, as well. I ask that we all pray for God to reach down and touch Andrew’s body and rid it of this absolutely vicious disease. I ask that we all pray that God would remove all of the bad and replace it only with good, that He would touch his blood and remove the impurities and terror of this disease. My prayers haven’t changed, but I can admit that my faith has wavered at times. I don’t understand this. I know God is able. I know all God has to do is simply THINK healing over Andrew’s body and it would be done. So my constant prayer is that God will do so and until He intervenes, we will continue to intercede.

So while that is first and foremost my hope and my prayer, I also ask prayers for strength. The pain I feel each and every day makes me ache to my core; I feel it in every bone in my body and in every inch of my shattered heart. This is true heartbreak. Every day is hard and I’ve had to make decisions that no 24-year-old wife has any business making. I mourn for the future that every doctor keeps telling me I will not have with my husband. I grieve for the children Andrew and I didn’t get a chance to bear. I’m scared beyond belief as I have never pictured a future without Andrew. We fell in love in high school; there has never been another life in my mind that didn’t involve waking up to him each and every day. I need strength, but not just today, every single day from here on out if the Lord decides He is ready for Andrew. I need peace. Over the past 6 months, I have felt a constant mantra being spoken to me as I’ve prayed. “The healing is coming,” God has told me countless times. It is, of course, my deepest plea that that healing is of Andrew’s earthly body and that he and I have so many more years together. But I also understand that his promised healing may be Christ making Andrew whole and perfect in Heaven instead of here on earth. And it pains me to even write that sentence because I so selfishly want that healing now, at this very second, WITH ME. I desperately want Andrew to stay with me. So, so desperately. I understand fully why God would want Andrew with Him, but so do I.

I’m sorry to have broken all of your hearts this morning. It is not lost on me how many care so deeply for Andrew. He’s an easy one to love. So again, I ask for prayers for his miraculous healing- and soon. I ask for strength and peace. I ask that you keep Andrew, myself, and our families and friends in your thoughts and prayers during this extremely difficult time. God has granted us miracles before in Andrew’s life, He has saved it once before, and we pray and plead that He does it yet again.

Andrew has this verse underlined in his Bible & I know this is his heart and prayer every day: “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or death.” (Philippians 1: 19-20)

Pleading for Prayers

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I believe in my heart that someday I will be able to update you all with good news on Andrew’s condition, but today is unfortunately not that day. As many of you know, we were discharged from the hospital last Monday but quickly needed to be readmitted just two days later on Wednesday. We tried to bask in the comfort of finally being back in our own home, but I had a gnawing feeling that something just wasn’t quite right. So I called our doctor and told her what I was seeing and feeling and she agreed he needed to come back in for further tests and scans. A day later, the result from those scans and test did not look good.

Andrew’s disease has become extremely aggressive. It has transformed from a lymphoma into leukemia; this means it is no longer a targeted mass that we can treat, it is now running through the veins of his entire body in his blood. I won’t mince words; this is very, very bad news. We are worried. We are scared. We are devastated.

At this point, the transplant has failed. Essentially, this vicious disease has chewed up and spit out every single drug and treatment we have tried in the past two years like it was nothing. So, we potentially have one final treatment option left and that is a clinical study. Our incredible team of doctors is fighting endlessly on our behalf making phone calls to every potential institution that might have a trial for us to be a part of. But at the end of the day, we need a miracle.

So, to the thousands of you who bless us by reading this blog and praying over us, this is what we need prayer for:

  1. Healing: It’s simple, we need a complete, miraculous healing over Andrew’s body. Healing first and foremost from this disease, but also from all of the side effects and setbacks that this sickness and the drugs have caused. His poor, gigantic body has been battered and beaten for two years straight. He needs renewal. He needs rejuvenation. He needs healing.
  2. Strength: I won’t lie, this news has knocked us off of our feet and left us broken hearted. It has rattled our faith. It has made us question the purpose in the past two years. It has left us feeling completely helpless. We have screamed and cried. I can’t eat or sleep. This has cut deep into the innermost parts of my heart and soul and at times, the pain seems absolutely unbearable. We need prayer for strength; both for the journey ahead, but also just for day-to-day functionality.
  3. The perfect treatment option: We need an incredible, beyond powerful drug to help control this disease. There is nothing within current, tested, regulated treatment options that will cure this. We need to find a needle in a haystack. First, we have to find clinical trials that Andrew even qualifies to be a part of. Second, we have to choose the place to go. Lastly, it has to work so that his new donor cells have a fighting chance in beating this thing once and for all.
  4. Wisdom: Once clinical treatment options are found, Andrew and I have to weigh pros and cons and make the decision on where to roll the dice. Can you imagine being faced with a decision that will either save your spouse’s life or waste precious time of it? The burden is heavy and very real. We need prayer that Andrew will be in the right frame of mind to make this decision together and to feel confident that that is where the Lord is leading us. As I mentioned, we have an amazing team of doctors behind us. Our main doctor has been incredibly kind, incredibly empathetic, and incredibly strong. She has made it clear that she is not giving up and that we will be presented with the best options we have. So we are hoping to draw from her confidence, but mostly draw from strength in the Lord and His leading our paths to whatever institution in the States that has a place for us.
  5. Perspective: We struggle to believe that God has pulled us through the last two hellish years to only have it end here. We are trying to stay positive and trying to keep the fight inside of us alive. Admittedly, those things are more difficult to do some days more than others, but we are trying to see the good. The good is that the doctors didn’t come to us and say, “We have absolutely nothing else to do for you.” They said they have one more option. The good is that Andrew’s continued, tumultuous story has brought thousands of people to their knees in prayer and some to Jesus Christ. The good is that TWO people from the many that have added their names to the Bone Marrow Registry in Andrew’s honor have been matched with someone in need of a transplant. One of those two people matched is our dear friend and former teammate Emerson Kampen. We see the good and we are doing our best to focus our thoughts on that instead of the glaring difficult reports that come in every day.

We don’t know why this is happening and why this battle never seems to end for us, but we so deeply, deeply appreciate the outpour of love and prayers covering us. Please continue to lift Andrew up in your prayers. We need a massive army behind us storming the gates of Heaven and praying for each and every step we make in the days to come. We will be treading carefully.

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

Dear Donor

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Dear Donor,

You don’t know me (yet), but I am the 24-year old wife of the 25-year old man you are saving. You don’t know us or our story, but I want you to know that our journey to this day, to this transplant, to you has been long awaited.

All I know about you is your age, your gender, and that you either live or have lived in Europe at some point in your young life. I know that you are a 20-year old male with a beautiful and selfless soul. I know that your priorities are so much greater than mine were when I was 20-years old. I know that, for the past seven days, you have gone out of your way to drive to the hospital to get your Neupogen shots to prepare your body for this donation. I know that you will walk away from the hospital after you’ve donated and wonder if you’ve made a difference, and if your bone marrow will actually change someone’s life. I know that the answer to those questions is a resounding “yes.” I know that all you have been told about Andrew is his age and gender. But what else do you know about us? What do you know about the person that you have disrupted your own life to save? Nothing. All that you know is that someone on this earth is very sick and needs help, but that’s enough for you. You know nothing about me, and I know very little about you, but I love you.

Andrew has been battling for nearly two years now; not just cancer, but he has battled to stay alive. He’s battled through endless chemo treatments, a handful of days in a coma, needles constantly poking and prodding him for blood, days full of vomit, and so many sleepless nights. I don’t tell you these things for sympathy; I tell you these things because I need you to know how hard Andrew has fought to get to this transplant. I tell you this because I need you to know that we don’t take you and this gift for granted. We have struggled and fought so hard for this life, and we thank you for the chance to keep fighting.

Without you, we know Andrew is out of “good” treatment options and all we would be left with would be experimental studies. Without you, we would have to accept that the life that we have dreamt together would never be. Without you, I don’t get to become a mommy and Andrew never gets the chance to be called “daddy.” Without you, we don’t get to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. Without you, we don’t get to take our kids to Hinkle Fieldhouse and reminisce on dad’s incredible, back-to-back Final Four runs until they are sick of hearing that story. Without you, cancer runs its course in Andrew’s body because it doesn’t care about our future and the moments it threatens to steal from us.

So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for your willingness and thank you for being brave. Thank you for swabbing your cheek and getting on the Bone Marrow Registry, not knowing if anything would ever come from it. I find it absolutely incredible to think that when God made you, He knew the marrow running through the cavities of your bones would some day be saving the life of my husband- your 10/10 match. I think of you often and pray for you daily. It is my greatest hope that you truly grasp the gravity of what you’ve done; you have saved Andrew’s life and for that, I owe you everything.

We hope to meet you someday, but until then, know that you are greatly appreciated and deeply, deeply loved.

Samantha Smith

Andrew’s Bone Marrow Transplant is scheduled for tomorrow, November 6th at 11:00am. He is overall doing well, but certainly starting to feel the nasty effects from the week’s worth of chemotherapy. It seems quite unbelievable that we have not only made it to this day after months of trials and tribulations, but that we have made it to what is going to cure him. It will be years before the doctors ever even consider muttering that word, but we both believe in our hearts that tomorrow is the day that he receives what is going to restore his body. What a gift this is. We hope after reading this open letter to our donor that maybe some of you who have not yet gotten onto the Bone Marrow Registry will consider doing so. It’s not just swabbing your cheek and donating your bone marrow. It’s not just being someone’s hero that day. It’s giving someone the chance to live their life; the chance to have children, to grow old with their spouse, to travel, to laugh, to experience everything that we so often take for granted. Thank you for all of your support and prayers. We have never felt more loved. Please continue to be praying over Andrew tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a beautiful day for a transplant; probably one of my most favorite days ever.

https://join.bethematch.org/Andrew

“Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.” (Esther 4:14)

Finally…We’ve Made It

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Friends, as you know, it has been a long journey to get to this day. Originally rediagnosed in May, we had hoped to have met this milestone months ago, but here we are on October 29th, finally being admitted into the hospital to begin the bone marrow transplant process. A lot of life has happened in those few months, a lot of disappointments and frustrations, so you can imagine our sighs of relief as I packed up the Jeep this morning with a month’s worth of clothes, snacks, books, and anything else one could possibly need for an extended stay at the hospital. Are we exhausted? Beyond imaginably so. But, we keep saying to one another, “One last time. Let’s push through this hospital stay so we never have to do this again.” We know that this particular stay will be unlike any others in the past two years, but there’s something about knowing this will be the last one. We know this is going to be awful. We know this is going to be some of our hardest and worst days yet. But we also know that this is going to be the cure. I am downright giddy inside thinking of life without cancer. Nearly our entire marriage has been spent fighting this disease; we cannot wait to be boring and have our biggest stress stem from who is going to choose what’s for dinner that night. We will fight through these upcoming days chasing that dream.

Though not typical for these blog posts to center around being just an update, we felt compelled to do so after so many have asked what can specifically be prayed over. Having said that, this is (loosely) what our impending days entail of and what we could really use prayer for:

Today we are admitted into the hospital for an unknown length of time. They tell us to expect to be here from 4-6 weeks, but all of that is completely based on how Andrew is doing and how his body is responding to the transplant. So we could be in for 3 weeks or we could be in for 8+ weeks; it’s just a matter of when Andrew’s body is ready. This first week in the hospital is solely a week of the most intense chemotherapy possible. The idea is that this chemo will completely wipe everything out of his body to kind of set it at zero. Yes, this is as terrible as it sounds. He will feel completely awful and we expect this to result in the worst days after this has essentially destroyed his body. One week from today, Thursday, November 5th, will be the actual transplant day. On this day, he will receive the stem cells from his wonderful donor. After that, we wait. It is a most delicate process of medicine. For those who are not familiar with a bone marrow transplant, the most simple and straight-forward way of describing it is that they are replacing one person’s (Andrew’s) immune system with another person’s (the donor). From there, the idea is that since Andrew’s immune system is clearly not doing its job, we are replacing it with someone’s that hopefully will. Now, with that runs significant risks. This new immune system could “wake up” in Andrew’s body & recognize that it is not in its own, typical body and attack Andrew instead. We ask for heavy prayer over this. Andrew will be on many medications, but some in particular that allow the immune system to be slowly introduced to its new body, so to speak. This means Andrew’s body will be without much of an immune system for some time which makes him extremely vulnerable. This very real risk becomes that even the slightest infection, cold, virus, things that to you and I with immune systems would have no problem fighting off, could kill him. We ask for heavy prayer over this. This entire process, from chemo to the transplant, absolutely obliterates Andrew’s body and the side effects are brutal. The worst one that he is already encountered is neuropathy. Neuropathy is the dysfunction of the nerves that causes severe pain, weakness, and numbness. Right now, Andrew is numb from his waist down to his knees and then his knees to his toes are in horrific pain constantly. This has wiped out Andrew’s ability to walk on his own; he has been forced to lean on a walker, wheelchairs, and his tiny wife for assistance and stability to walk. For this to happen to someone who has spent all of their life running up and down a basketball court, you can imagine how difficult this has been to adjust to. Typically, this side effect will go away, but it takes months to years for this to resolve. We ask for heavy prayer over this. 

That was the short synopsis of what is to come. Once released from the hospital, he is still bound to the safety of our home without leaving for months. Everything will be very delicate for quite a while. This is the long haul. This isn’t a quick fix, but it is the fix that we have spent years praying for. I thank you for the unending support that we have received. Truly, from the bottom of our hearts, it has meant the absolute world. Every single day, we have some sort of encouragement, be it a card, a text, a phone call, a tweet, etc. It’s been unbelievable. So we thank you, again, for the strength and motivation that you all have given to us. Many have also asked for our address to send cards and encouragements to Andrew, so you will find that below. We love all of the cards and letters, I assure you we read every single one and smile every single time.

804 N Bolton Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46219

This is what the Lord says: ‘I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. I will heal you.'” (2 Kings 20:5)

Bone Marrow Drive at Butler University

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(Photo by ZJBPhotography)

Samantha and I want to use the platform we have been given, and the information we have learned going through the process ourselves, to inform people how important this really is. People, unfortunately, will pass away waiting for someone on the registry, not because there isn’t a way to help them, but simply because the right person is not on the list.

Butler University has meant so much to us over the years, and partnering with them to promote such an important cause that has directly affected our lives so much, is amazing. The community has been behind us the whole way, and this is just one way that we want to give back a little bit. This event is being held at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Tuesday, September 29th, from 4pm-8pm and we would really love to see you out there; students, alumni, fans, everyone! All of the Butler athletic teams are participating so we know we are going to make a huge addition to this registry; please consider coming and being a part of that. You can donate blood, sign up for the bone marrow registry, or both! Thank you, once again, for your continued support and love. And a very special thank you to Butler University. We find so much strength in this army of Bulldogs rallying behind us, supporting us every step of the way.

If you’re unable to join us this Tuesday, this link will still allow you to register in Andrew’s honor: https://join.bethematch.org/Andrew

http://butlersports.com/genrel/2015-Andrew-Smith-Bone-Marrow-Blood-Drive

Making the Next Month Count

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We are about a month away from Andrew’s transplant and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t overwhelmed and terrified. It is surreal to have a date for what seems to be both this impending doom but also this glimmer of hope in what has been a dark past few months. It’s complicated, to say the least. Andrew is such a rock; this isn’t terrifying to him. He, of course, understands the gravity of what is about to take place, but he has such a peace about the future ahead. I, on the other hand, just finished reading a twenty-page document detailing every single possible risk, including fatality. “Don’t read too much into it!” he tells me. Ok, sure, Andrew. I will not worry one bit.

I’m so glad he’s at peace. He’s excited to get going. It gives me great comfort to see his tenacity and readiness for this next battle. He makes me feel like we can do this together and our extensive history should give me no reason to think otherwise. He’s a warrior…but I am a worrier. In my defense, let’s look back at the past eighteen months: cancer, cardiac arrest, coma, cancer again. I feel like it’s fair for me to always panic when it’s been more than an hour since I’ve heard from him. It’s fair to go grocery shopping and breakdown on the car ride home because I pass a funeral home. It’s fair to feel pain. It’s fair to feel strong, but then weak. It’s fair and completely acceptable to deal with things differently than someone else. I’m just so thankful that God placed Andrew by my side, though he copes differently than I, to walk through this journey with me. He inspires me every day, even though I feel like I should be the one pushing him to keep his head up. Andrew is ready for this transplant and though I’m not quite “excited,” his strength and all of your guys’ prayers and support have carried me through some of our toughest days. Thank you all for your love and kindness. You’ll never know how much every single email, message, tweet, etc. has resonated with us and truly touched our lives.

One way we have coped and wrapped our heads around this relapse has been by being proactive about our purpose. We want to spend our final month before this transplant doing good and helping others. We want this next month to count. Though we don’t know why all of this has happened, we trust that it is part of a greater plan bigger than us. We are hoping and believing that part of that plan is the Bone Marrow Registry. We knew nothing about this whole transplant world, but we were especially ignorant about the Bone Marrow Registry and its lack of donors. It broke our hearts to learn how many people pass away because they never received that glorious phone call with someone on the other end saying, “We found a match for you. You can have a bone marrow transplant.” We also had no idea how simple it is to get on the registry and that the process itself is nearly painless for the donor. You fill out a form. You swab your cheek. You’re on the registry and could save someone’s life, just like someone out there is saving Andrew’s. Andrew and I just urge everyone to PLEASE consider joining this registry; there are many out there waiting for a match, and for some, they’ve been waiting years and think it may never come.

Andrew and I will be hosting a couple of Bone Marrow Registry Drives over our next month before his transplant. Our first one is tomorrow, Saturday September 19th, at Lions Park in Zionsville. We are honorary co-chairmen for the St. Vincent Cancer Walk/Run. You can register on their website or onsite if you’d like to support the St. Vincent Cancer Center by walking or running a 5k or 10 miles. Or you can just stop by our booth and hop on this registry. Andrew and I intended to be much more involved with the walk/run, but with his relapse, we had to take a step back. It’s worked out beautifully, though, because we can now host this Bone Marrow Drive and hopefully help save many lives by getting people on this registry! It will take five minutes out of your day; all you have to do is fill out a form and then swab your cheek. So if you are between the ages of 18-44, please consider coming out and seeing Andrew and I! We will be there from 6:30am-11:30am and would love to personally thank you for joining this fight against blood cancers. (Plus there will be a cupcake and nacho food truck, which I know is exactly what everyone wants on a Saturday morning!) We will also be holding a drive at Butler University later on this month, but more details will come after we get through this first one!

If you can’t make it out to see us this Saturday, the link below will allow you to fill out a form online and then they will mail you a kit to swab your cheek. It’s that easy to save someone’s life. Thank you. We love you and feel so loved by all of you.

https://join.bethematch.org/Andrew

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)