Bone Marrow Drive at Butler University


(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:

Making the Next Month Count


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.

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

The Blog Post I Never Wanted to Write


I don’t have a smooth introduction into this. We have had a difficult time facing this reality, let alone writing about it. So, bear with me as these words stubbornly flow from my fingertips.

About four months ago, we learned that Andrew’s cancer has returned. We both lived in a state of shock and depression for a while after we were hit with this news. We’ve taken the past few months to cope with this and what it means for us. Family and close friends were told, but otherwise, we’ve intentionally kept things very quiet and private between us. Truth is, we’ve enjoyed normalcy. We’ve enjoyed having conversations with friends and strangers that didn’t center around cancer. We’ve enjoyed our leap of faith in buying our first home together, truly believing in the core of our hearts that we had beaten this disease and were free to move on with our lives. We’ve enjoyed feeling like two twenty-four year olds. We’ve enjoyed living without wondering. Andrew and I want to hold onto that as long as we can, but we know things are about to get more rocky in our lives. We have so cherished and valued the support and prayers of the community that has wrapped itself around us and we know we will desperately need that yet again.

Andrew will have to undergo a bone marrow transplant. This is an intense procedure. It has great risks, but potentially, great reward. This could be a cure. It could be an answer to prayer. It scares the heck out of me, but it’s our best option at this point. Thankfully, we have a donor. That was a huge victory in and of itself. Andrew will be out of commission for quite awhile and we would so appreciate your prayers over our next year or so. There will be some very tough days, days full of vomit and frustration. Pillowcases covered in thin, wispy hairs that have fallen off of Andrew’s head due to intense radiation and chemotherapy. Stacks of books and a Netflix queue full of movies and shows recommended by friends and family. This will be our life for the months to come. But who is ready to fearlessly face this thing head on? Andrew, of course. Sure, we both went through sadness and confusion for awhile, but Andrew has handled the idea of this next phase like he always does- like a warrior. Cancer really picked the wrong guy to latch onto. We are about to kick its butt to kingdom come. For good.

So friends, with a heavy heart from a worried wife, I ask for prayers. Prayers of praise and thankfulness, first and foremost, for God has a beautiful plan for all of this. We thought He had finished this chapter of our lives, but He has something else in mind. We welcome that, accept it, and pray for the courage to live it out as Christ sees fit. We’re so thankful for modern medicine and that something like a bone marrow transplant even exists. What a miracle. Andrew and I ask for prayers for patience, comfort, and bravery as we face the months ahead. Patience for the months to go by smoothly and quickly; (and for all of the Butler games we’re going to have to miss this season! ;) ; comfort as we truly do not understand why this is happening in our lives, but trust in the will of the Lord; and bravery as this is just plain scary. It’s terrifying to think of “what if,” but we pray for valor and boldness to be triumphant over this.

“Grace carried me here and by grace I’ll carry on.” 

One Year Since the Deep Sleep


A year ago today, I was called and urged to get to the emergency room. I was told Andrew had collapsed and he didn’t have a pulse. I waited for the phone call back saying they had gotten that pulse back. I waited…I waited…I waited. About twenty minutes later, I screamed out in both anguish and relief; Andrew’s heart began to beat. On the paramedic’s last cleared attempt to shock him back to life, it began to beat. A year ago today, I stood in front of doctor after doctor telling me they weren’t sure he was going to make it. I was told that Andrew wouldn’t be “Andrew” even if he did miraculously wake up. I was preparing to become a widow at the age of twenty-three.

A year has come and gone. It has had its ups and downs. We bought our very own house together and tackled a flooded basement a few months into said home ownership. We traveled to Cabo and I let the sunshine beat down on my face while Andrew covered himself in towels from head to toe to avoid sunburn. We have laughed, we have dreamed, and we have strengthened our marriage. But we have also still encountered hardships. Once a cancer patient, always a cancer patient. Checkups, maintenance chemo, scans…it all feels never ending sometimes. We get frustrated. We gawk at the amount of miles and gas spent to and from multiple hospitals. We feel overwhelmed at the longevity and permanency of its place in our lives. But then I think back to where I was one year ago today, where Andrew was a year ago today. I also think back to walking through the halls of the ICU & seeing sick patients and grieving families. Did they all have the same miraculous outcome as we did? No, they didn’t. Did they get to leave one week later, laughing while trying to get the hang of a steering a wheelchair with a loved one in tow? Not all of them. Do they get to look back, one year later, and think of how far they have come? No. But we did get this miraculous second chance at life. Andrew and I did laugh as I clumsily pushed him through the hallways of the ICU, making every nurse in sight nervous to entrust this tiny woman to support this humungous man. And one year later, we are sitting here thinking back to how far we have come in 365 days. Thank You, Jesus.

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

A Bulldog’s Battle


A lot of you have already had the opportunity to read the incredible story CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander posted just a few days ago. It is by far the most in-depth look an outsider looking in will ever read on the past year and a half for me and Andrew. It is hard to read- even for me. I lived those horrific moments, but it still brought tears flowing from my eyes and a heaving from my chest as I remembered those days. I am so blessed Andrew is alive. I am so blessed I have so many more years of memories to come with my husband. I am so blessed that I am not a widow at the age of twenty-three.

Below is Matt Norlander’s story. It is lengthy, but well worth the read. So grab some tissues and take a few minutes out of your day to be reminded of God’s goodness and sovereignty.

A Bulldog’s Battle by Matt Norlander of CBS Sports

Our Fearless Resolution


It’s not breaking news that the year of 2014 was a rough one for the Smiths. It was brutal. It was relentless. It kicked our butts over and over again. We counted down the days leading up to 2014 in Lithuania- confused and waiting to hear results of a scan on Andrew’s chest. On January 2nd, we sat at our kitchen table with the General Manager of his basketball team telling us in broken English that there was a large tumor in Andrew’s chest and things were very serious. 36 hours later, we were on an emergency flight home. A week later, we received a heartbreaking, dream-crushing cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy treatments began a few days after that. We have spent a lot of our days in the hospital- some days in agony, some riddled with impatience, and some with only one of us conscious. I’ll be frank, this year has been terrible, and I have never been happier to see the clock strike midnight and have 365 days behind me.

This year has been one of conscience decision-making. Aside from taking a few days to be filled with tears and give into our sadness here and there, Andrew has been wonderful about choosing to stay positive and has endlessly encouraged me when I failed to do so. I fully admit that there have been some days that I have been stunned with fear of the day to follow. I have wallowed in sadness and the injustice of it all, and I’ve struggled with the idea of moving on from the chaos and madness of this year. How do you pick up the pieces after a year like this? It seemed like every time Andrew and I felt like we could reset and start over something bad would happen. And not just bad, something that would rock us all over again. I hated that this disease began to alter our decision-making and made us second guess planning our future. I remember the exact moment that this hostility flooded my body and anger boiled over towards this illness: Andrew and I talked about the idea of one day having kids and it was followed by a “but, what if…?” He didn’t need to finish his sentence, and we both knew the “what if”. What if treatment didn’t work? What if the cancer came back? What if we created a big, beautiful family and then things went wrong and I had to take care of them and Andrew by myself? What if? It was in this moment I realized that we had given this sickness too much control.

Andrew and I refuse to give this past year and all of its awful counterparts authority over our lives. Ever since that conversation, we have consciously rejected the paralyzing fear over planning a future that might never be. What good is a blessed, God-given life if you’re not going to live it? This disease has been life changing, of course, but we refuse to let it be life crippling. “God sometimes takes us into troubled waters; not to drown us, but to cleanse us.” The Lord didn’t bring this illness into our lives for it to take over and suffocate the goodness, but to mold our hearts and use us to help others. I smile from ear to ear when I read the many messages and cards telling Andrew and I how much we’ve helped others. I don’t smile because I think we did it, because I assure you, it wasn’t us. I smile because I feel a purpose for all of the suffering and heartache this past year. Andrew and I both strongly feel and believe that if only one person breathed a little easier because of sharing Andrew’s beautiful testimony, every minute of this past year was worth it.

So to 2014, good riddance! Thank you for your many lessons, but I’ve never looked forward to a new year more! We cannot wait to dream and live our crazy, beautiful life in this upcoming year. Andrew is doing extremely well and we are not looking backwards! Blessings to you all and we truly wish you the happiest of New Years. I pray that this year will be your best yet! :)

“The doors will be opened to those who are bold enough to knock.” (Tony Gaskins)

“I was facing death, and then He saved me.”


There are no words to describe that heart sinking, gut punching, life changing phone call. “Andrew collapsed at work, Sam. The ambulance is on their way and they’re working on him.” My Andrew? My Andrew that I had just spoken to less than an hour ago? He was fine; this can’t be right. My head spun and my heart shattered. I prayed, I cried, and took off to make it to the emergency room, unsure of what I would find when I got there. In short, that day and the days following were the worst of my life. The emotional and physical tornado that took over our lives has left quite the mark and, admittedly, we’re still trying to work our way through it. That is why it has taken over a month since Andrew’s stint in the hospital to update or post much of anything; we’re still trying to process and figure everything out.

Andrew and I are private people, which may seem odd considering we have this blog. But I even fought this blog and said no to until I could no longer deny that the Lord was calling us to share our testimony through recording this journey. With that being said, we can’t share every detail of those 12 days spent in the ICU. Those were the most private, intimate moments that we’ll ever have between us. But what we do want to share is how much of an absolute miracle Andrew’s life is. And I understand that is hard to comprehend and grasp without having all of the details, but trust me when I say, the fact that Andrew is alive is only possible by the grace of God. The fact that Andrew can walk and talk is a miracle. The fact that Andrew woke up out of his medically-induced coma as my husband, the same man I fell in love with years ago, the same goofy man who laughed with me just hours after awakening, the same man who fights through every single battle with every ounce of strength within him, is an absolute miracle. The fact that Andrew and I are sitting here together, side by side, is a miracle. Our hospital room was frequently flooded with doctors, nurses, medics, ER staff; all of the people that took care of Andrew at his worst. They had all heard how remarkably and inexplicably well he was doing, but they just needed to see it to believe it. There was no way that the man they had resuscitated and worked so vigorously on just days before was sitting up in his hospital bed, smiling and laughing. Several nurses that had been in the medical world for thirty years made a point to note how they had never seen anything like this. And I must say, I never dreamed I would see anything like this. How many people in this world get to see an honest to God miracle? I don’t use that term to negate the exemplary and impeccable care and treatment Andrew received. The medics, nurses, doctors, and specialists worked tirelessly on Andrew, and for that, I could never give them a big enough hug and thank you for. But every single one of them recognized that things should have been worse. Despite their care and despite their efforts, Andrew should not be where he is today. The initial scans looked bad. The circumstances were tough. The fact that he has cancer complicated things. Basically, things were not looking great the first day or two. I did not sleep for those first three days because if things got worse, I needed to be there for him. But if he miraculously moved his head or squeezed my hand, I needed to be able to see that, too. That’s how bad things were; we were at the point where I just needed to see something. Something to show me that he was still there.

In those moments, I prayed to God that Andrew would wake up and, of course, knew that I was going to love whomever came out of that coma endlessly. But I certainly was not the only one praying. Thousands and thousands of people were blanketing Andrew in prayer and I truly, truly believe that he was being prayed over every single second of those days in the ICU. I know, without a doubt, that the Lord heard each and every one of those prayers and gracefully gave my husband another chance at life. Andrew woke up quickly, which is not typically the case; we were preparing ourselves to potentially wait days for him to fully come to. He didn’t make me wait long to let me see that beautiful smile and share in side-splitting laughter. He was there. He was alive. He was Andrew.

Three weeks later, we are snuggled in our cozy home about to make cinnamon rolls and watch the premiere episode of “Houdini.” Andrew is doing wonderfully and every day gets easier and easier. He is starting work again this week and this time, I will be at his side as his company graciously offered me a position since he clearly cannot be trusted to keep breathing on his own ;) . We have hit the reset button on our lives and plan to continue to live every day as fully as possible. The mantra of living every day because you’ll never know when it’ll be your last is a common one, but I truly hope and pray that after reading this, maybe that will sink in a little further in your hearts. I was speaking with Andrew a mere forty minutes before he collapsed and he was completely fine. For days, I feared that was going to be my last conversation with him and that I’d never hear an “I love you” again. Be grateful for those breaths filling your lungs and the “I love you’s” that are spoken from your loved ones mouths. Live each day as purposefully and gracefully as possible and love one another as the Lord has loved you. (John 15:12)

A note from Andrew: Even though I can’t remember everything, I just wanted to thank all of the people that came to visit Samantha and I at the hospital, and for all of the prayers, cards, gifts, and well wishes we have received. I know that Samantha would not have been able to get through the first few days in the hospital without all of your support and I am truly grateful for how well everyone took care of her when I was unable. Things are getting back to normal slowly but surely and that can only be attributed to the many prayers that have been said over the last several weeks. Thank you again and we look forward to continue to report good news.

“The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and then He saved me. Now I can rest again, for the Lord has been so good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord’s presence as I live here on earth!” (Psalm 116:6-9)

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

Photo on 2014-02-14 at 12.29

We have deviated in every which way from our former normal, and each day seems to bring a new variation. From those deviations, we have made progress. Some days it doesn’t feel like progress; it feels like a kick in the gut, but in hindsight we always see growth. We’re currently in the process of that growth revealing itself to us after finding out that there are additional months of treatment that we were unaware of. Frustration, confusion, and exhaustion sometimes mask progress but I believe, with time, the dust will settle and we will see how far we’ve come- spiritually, mentally, and physically.

In January, we had just begun the journey of going through a whirlwind of life experiences and emotions and I was desperate for a constant. I yearned to latch onto something that I knew would allow me to escape. My mind wandered when I tried to read and nothing on TV seemed funny anymore, but I do love to run. In Lithuania, that was how I passed my time every morning and it always allowed my mind to be blank. That sounds weird and not very appealing to some, but I feel that sometimes it’s helpful to shut off your mind and not have to think or worry. So our nurses, as they ALWAYS did, went above and beyond and delivered a treadmill to our (already crammed) hospital room. I was ecstatic.

That evening, I laced up my tennis shoes and began to run. I had not left the hospital in a week and my legs longed to stretch and run for miles. I thought to myself, “This is wonderful. I can run but never have to leave Andrew’s side.” But when I looked over my shoulder, the sight of Andrew lying in his hospital bed, receiving his chemotherapy completely shattered my heart and stopped my feet from running one more step. Tears fled over my cheeks and the incomprehension hit me like a ton of bricks. “How was it possible that Andrew has cancer? This isn’t fair. It’s not fair that I can run freely while he has to sit in a hospital bed getting a drug that completely wipes out his entire body; the body that just weeks ago was healthily running up and down the court.” After that meltdown, I refused to run. For a little while I tried, but with each step I was reminded of the injustice that I could run and Andrew could not. And that was just not something I could handle.

It’s now summer. Together, Andrew and I ride bikes at least three times a week and run daily. Progress. In between the bitter cold of January and the mugginess of June, there were some pretty miserable days; days that masked the progress we were making. In the days that Andrew could not even physically get out of bed, it certainly didn’t feel like we were moving forward. It felt like a life of physical activity and days filled with sunshine and tennis was a lifetime away. But after each of these immobile days, we became stronger. Stronger because we had handled the adversity with as much grace and understanding as we had in us. Stronger because Andrew never complained and wallowed in self-pity of any kind. We were stronger because we were progressing instead of becoming debilitated.

Progress is impossible without change. When that change is forced, it is easy to refuse progress because of the lack of recognition of a potential better life. We can dig in our heels and think that if we refuse to move forward things will stop changing. But life keeps moving whether you choose to participate in the transformation or not; why not choose to make that a positive, progressive life?

“Focus on progression, not perfection.” (Unknown)

Emphatic Answers


Spring is here, and Andrew and I have never breathed the sweet, fresh air in more deeply than now. We, unfortunately, spent four straight weeks in the hospital last month, and it was 28 grueling days of staring out the window as the flowers began to bloom and the sun began to shine. My chest felt heavier just watching Andrew lay in his hospital bed day after day. Needless to say, we have taken a grand total of zero days for granted since receiving Andrew’s discharge notice. I am thrilled to be able to say we have played tennis a handful of times, ran a few laps around Zionsville Park, and taken our dog to sniff up and down nature trails. It may seem trivial to many, but these are activities that were completely out of the question two months ago. We have been blessed to see so much positive progress. It makes the tough days easier and the long hospital stays worth it. We continue to learn life lessons and are humbled daily. Humbled by the love and support from hundreds and hundreds of people. Humbled by the courage and strength from the patients we pass as we walk up and down the hallways of the oncology unit. Humbled by the continuous protection and provision of Christ. The Lord has emphatically answered our prayers; not necessarily in the ways we had imagined, but answered in the perfect ways that only the Lord can provide.

Andrew has been praying for years to gain a testimony that can speak to the hearts of many and lead those to the Lord. Did he EVER think it would come in the form of cancer? I think it’s safe to say no. And yet, the Lord has provided exactly what Andrew has spent the entirety of his blessed life praying for.

Andrew and I have been together for a little over five years, but we’re just now approaching our one-year anniversary as a married couple. We have spent hours praying over our marriage and our single greatest hope and prayer was to be used by the Lord. Those were the words we used but, in hindsight, what I think I was really asking for was to be sent to an overseas country to shine the light of the Lord while Andrew made a career out of doing what he loved. But yet again, God has provided exactly what we asked and prayed for- to be used by Him and to minister to people across the world.

It has been eight weeks since Andrew’s last chemotherapy treatment. The typical amount of time between treatments is two weeks…again, we’re on week eight. This is nothing to be alarmed about and Andrew’s body is just taking a bit longer to recover from this last intensive round of chemo than expected. We love the break, but we are ultimately adding on more time to the end of this treatment and we are more than ready to be done with daily visits to the hospital for chemo. But I think back and realized what we prayed for: a break. Four weeks straight in the hospital can make you go crazy. Luckily, we have an INCREDIBLE nursing staff who planned random dance parties and allowed therapy dogs to visit and that made our stay more than manageable, but it’s not time spent enjoying the winter melt to spring and it’s not fresh air. And Andrew desperately needed both. So, we prayed for a break. We prayed for a time to go on a date or two and feel like a normal, married couple. We prayed for time to scream and be silly at a Pacers game. We prayed for time for Andrew to not-so-subtly break the rules and invite our dog, Charlie, onto the bed after he had not seen him for a month. We are on week eight of this break we prayed for; the Lord provided exactly what we had asked.

As I reflect on our prayers and how faithfully the Lord has provided, a strong lesson has been learned. I realize that sometimes I ask for the Lord to manifest His answers to prayers in the way I feel will be the best solution to those prayers, not necessarily in the perfect way that He has plans to see our prayers to fruition. I’m so thankful to serve a God who knows far better than I and who provides for our every need, even in ways beyond imagination or expectation.

“I’m thankful for my struggle because without it I would not have stumbled across my strength.” (Alex Elle)


A semi-unrelated, sappy, public profession of love:

            Sunday, May 18th is our one-year anniversary. And what a crazy year it has been. We have moved across the world, put up with the madness that is professional basketball, received a cancer diagnosis, and practically had to restart our lives together. Oh, and we learned our beloved dog has epilepsy last night; that was another rough one. All in all, I think it’s safe to say it’s not what we expected. But, you know what? It’s better. We have lived and loved one another through every single line of our wedding vows. I appreciate you, I respect you, I love you, and can’t wait to continue to grow with you, Andrew! Happy One-Year Anniversary! Aren’t you happy we have a blog so that I can publicly brag on how much I love you? ;)