Friday, December 25, 2009


Christmas greetings to all our family and friends,

This year was one of God’s sustaining grace. Our family is continually humbled by your constant prayers, encouraging notes, meals and gifts that continue to flood in. 2009 has been a challenge. The Lord called both of my fathers home and I was diagnosed on May 12th with leukemia. I was in the hospital for both the funerals and four weeks later, Steve had an MRI for chronic back pain and discovered he had a tumor on his tailbone, stage 1- lymphoma. It has been living one day at a time since then. We appreciate the small things in life and are thankful for every opportunity we have to tell others how our Lord and Savior is walking with us each step of the way. Steve finished his radiation and chemotherapy just in time for us to move down to Detroit for the next 100 days where I received a bone marrow transplant on Oct. 9th. I have been so blessed to have Steve by my side day and night for the last 7 months encouraging me and praying with me when I felt so overwhelmed and discouraged. My mom moved in with the kids for most of the time, while Steve’s parents and other friends picked up the days she needed to go back to Gaylord. We are so Thankful for the body of Christ as our neighbors, Bible study group, home school families and Steve’s employer continued to support us on a daily basis. We are so thankful to tell everyone that I am home only 52 days after the transplant. I still go to Karmanos once a week for checkups. I am on piles of pills everyday to keep my body from rejecting my donor’s marrow and they are watching me very closely for the next year. There is always a danger of fevers, infections and graph versus host disease (GVHD) which is my old immune system fighting the donor’s stem cells which can cause very serious side effects. So far I have only had a very mild case of GVHD and continue to trust the Lord for my total recovery. Well, this is our 2009 in a nut shell. I get up every day appreciating the simple things in life; laughter, breath, the Lord’s sustaining grace and each of you. If you’d like more specifics, Steve created a blog way back in May with all the scary details and all the praises and victories we saw as we trusted the Lord, one day at a time. The link is

Now on to the biggest blessing in my life: my family. Steve and I missed so much of 2009, but the kids’ activities stayed on course, thanks to so many of you! Cassandra graduated from high school. She was a speaker at the commencement exercises and Steve got to hand her a diploma while I watched via satellite from the hospital. Her open house turned out wonderful and came off without a hitch due to our wonderful Bible study families we have been with for the past 19 years. They planned and coordinated everything for us. Other than me not being there, it was wonderful day for Cassandra. She decided to stay home this fall and attend Lansing Community College because of our situation. She is looking forward to transferring to Spring Arbor University next year.

Caleb had the opportunity to spend many days this summer with his six boy cousins (Steve’s sister’s) both at their home and up at the cottage in Charlevoix. In between cousins’ visits, he also found time to caddy again this year at the Lansing Country Club and work on his golf game. It’s hard to believe Caleb is a junior in High School and the same height as Steve. This fall he was blessed to be taken hunting 3 times by wonderful friends. Of course his first time out he shot an 8 point! He also surprised us and decided to play basketball this year and made the JV team. He has retired from piano and bought an electric guitar this summer and continues to hone his skills.

Callie spent a lot of time this summer helping Grandma while she managed the house. She is now in high school and has played volleyball for the last 3 years. She continues to improve and enjoys it very much. Callie also enjoys taking a few classes at Teenworks and loves the social aspect of it. She would spend all her time with friends if she could. She enjoys movies, parties and definitely loves the teenage years. Callie still loves playing the piano and guitar. A highlight of her year was when one of her best friends surprised her and brought up her other best friend from Indiana to hang out for a weekend!

Although this past year has been challenging from a physical and emotional perspective, we are so thankful for the comfort of Jesus, our great high priest. He continues to sustain us and strengthen us spiritually through this trial. As we celebrate the birth of Christ, we are reminded what He says to us in the book of Revelations 3:20:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

We are thankful that Jesus is a man of his word. Years ago He stood at both Steve and my doors and knocked. He has come in and dined with us, including those challenging days since May. He is ever present and we are thankful for that and for you. May you have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

The Oppers

Monday, November 30, 2009

Marvelous Monday,

This is going to be a short, but wonderful blog post for today. Day +52 since Bonnie’s transplant. We had a great Thanksgiving spending it at home. It was hard heading back to our apartment on Friday evening, but it was a little easier knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, the “light” of anticipating returning home to Lansing in the first part of December. Today was Bonnie’s weekly clinic visit and that little flicker of “light” in the tunnel turned out to be a blast of sunshine when the doctor said to Bonnie, “you can go home”. Four sweet words that stunned us.

Tonight we are packing up everything that has accumulated here in Sterling Heights and will head back home tomorrow (Tuesday). This doesn’t mean that Bonnie is out of the wood of potential complications, but she is doing well enough that they feel Lansing is close enough should anything crop up. We learned today that she can get a different type of mouth sore after 100 days as an example. We will continue to go to Karamanos once each week for Bonnie’s regular clinic visit as they monitor her progress.

Thank you for all of your prayers and praying us home. We are so grateful for the support. Please continue to pray that Bonnie’s recovery proceeds as it has, that she will continue to get stronger and will be protected from viruses and infections as she is very susceptible to this due to a very young (52 day old) immune system. Also pray that Bonnie can learn to say “no” and be content on letting others (the kids and me) serve her. Those of you who know her well know that “no” is not in her vocabulary. She will not be able to clean house, drive, leave the house without a mask, be in a lot of public places, or shop as a few examples. She can’t be around live plants and flowers yet, but she can exercise, do laundry, cook and hopefully get to some more of the books she has on her list to read.

Although God has taught us over these many months to rejoice in ALL circumstances, even the most challenging of circumstances, tonight we are combining the inner joy we have strived to have throughout this journey with the added emotion of happiness. We are looking forward to reuniting with our family and friends.

Steve & Bonnie

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


HAPPY THANKSGIVING! We have a lot to be thankful for as God continues to bless us during trials. Bonnie’s recovery from Bone Marrow Transplant continues to follow a path that encourages the doctors and therefore she did receive final confirmation and approval to return to Lansing for Thanksgiving. We will leave the apartment tomorrow morning and stay until Friday afternoon. Bonnie is so excited to be going home for a visit after being away for 55 days.

Assuming she continues to make progress over the weekend, Bonnie starts next week only one day in the clinic which means she is getting closer to going home permanently. She mentioned in the last blog post that the doctors projected going home to be the “first part” of December. We continue to pray that she doesn’t have any setbacks, as she is still in the critical stage of her recovery. Days 30 through 100 post transplant are critical and various complications can arise in a moment’s notice. Saturday Bonnie will be 50 days post transplant, so she is getting there one day at a time.

Once again we are so thankful for all the support many of you have shown to our family since May 12th. From prayers to encouraging notes/cards to meals, every gesture has been greatly appreciated. We would like to share with you one unique way of kindness being expressed towards our situation. Our cousin Susan has joined The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team in Training and will be running a ½ marathon to raise support and awareness for the LLS. You can learn more about donating to this cause on Susan’s fundraising page.

Please continue to pray for Bonnie’s progress as well as her continued emotional stamina. We hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Steve & Bonnie

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Here we are a week and a half has gone by and no news on my progress. Remember, no news is usually good news! I have been reading the New Testament since I’ve come down for the BMT here in Detroit and I tear up at Paul’s words from various verses in Romans Chapter 1: “ I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you.” “I remember you in my prayers…I pray that now at last by God’s will, the way may open for me to come to you. I long to see you!”

I miss all of you so much and can’t wait to be back home for the rest of my recovery. Thank you for your continued support through prayer, meals , visits and helping the grandparents get our kids where they need to go each week. We couldn’t have done this without you.

My week consists of Monday and Thursday appointments in Karmanos. Those usually are three hours on a good day followed by another hour dealing with and waiting on the pharmacy for new meds or refills. We come home, eat lunch and then go for a walk. Steve has worked so hard to find some wonderful outdoor parks for me to walk in. Each one has its own delights and even wearing a protective medical mask, it’s a breath of fresh air to be outside. Yes, you heard me right; I am walking pain free once again. Praise the Lord.

Every Wednesday we have lunch with our new friends from Karmanos BMT floor. One patient lives in Milford and got to go home because he was within the one hour radius. Steve, I and another BMT patient have to stay in apartments because we’re over an hour from our homes. It gives us a chance to get out of our apartments for a couple of hours. We encourage each other, compare our past treatments and really enjoy getting to know each other’s families.

We were blessed this past week to see Bible study friends, my Mom and the girls came for a few days. We even got to go to a movie with only 8 people in the theatre, which is important, as I need to avoid heavily populated public places. I have to wear the protective mask everywhere I go. My new immune system is like a 44 day only baby. Any germs/virus I pick up will put me right back in the hospital. I have a mild case of graph vs. host disease on my face and neck in the form of a rash. A skin biopsy confirmed that it is GVHD. It itches quite a bit so the doctors have given me some steroid cream and put me on 24 mgs of oral steroid pills a day. When I am on steroids, my new immune system is weakened even further, so I am more susceptible to picking up viruses.

On a positive note, we received some wonderful news at my last doctor’s appointment. If my graph/host rash continues to improve and no other symptoms appear, Steve and I will be able to go home for Thanksgiving! The doctor even said we could spend the night and come back on Friday! Boy do we have a lot to be thankful for. We will have grandparents, my sister and her two kids from Colorado with us. I will have to wear a mask, but it’s worth it!

The doctor said if everything stays as mild as it is, in a couple weeks she would reduce my appointments to once a week and talk about sending me home. So pray with us that this might be the case. I could be home the 2nd week in December! I realize that God’s in control and His timing is always perfect, but Lansing certainly sounds good right now.

So now that you’re all up to date, I will share some pray requests for the week:

-That my current health status doesn’t become worse which would prohibit me from going home for Thanksgiving.

-That my graph/host would stay mild and no new outbreaks would appear over the next 60 days.

-That my spirits would stay positive as I trust God and His timing for everything. One day at a time.

-That my itching on my neck and face would improve drastically. It gets worse at night and it is very hard for me to sleep even with some medication that is supposed to mask it.

-That our kids will be patient with each other, encouraging each other’s gifts, and demonstrating gentleness during this leg of our journey as we are absent from our home.

This Thanksgiving let’s all count our blessings and thank the Lord for His continued faithfulness in every circumstance.

Blessings to you all,


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Once again the time has slipped by us and it has been over a week since the last update. We appreciate your checking back to see the latest with Bonnie’s health. So, here is the latest:

First off is an update on Bonnie’s feet. If you recall, she has not been able to walk since we moved to Sterling Heights on October 31st due to the chemo burns. Our insurance company covered the cost to rent a wheel chair which came in handy to get Bonnie out and about. Our apartment is 3 miles from the Oakland Mall, 6 miles from the Somerset Mall and 10 miles from Lakeside Mall, so Bonnie has been wheeled around in the highest concentration of retail in Michigan. Wearing a protective mask and gloves did bring about a few stares here and there, but it was still worth it for Bonnie. In the last three days Bonnie’s feet have dramatically improved. On Monday she was able to walk into Karmanos’ clinic without too much discomfort to where today there was minimal to no pain. Thank you for your specific prayers on this issue.

Bonnie continues to experience nausea and it can come on without notice. Everything tastes like salt water from the ocean, which contributes to the nausea. Fortunately there is a medication that is fairly responsive in masking the nausea making it somewhat easier to cope with.

A specific prayer request now involves a rash that seems to be spreading on Bonnie’s face and neck. Please pray for the doctors’ wisdom in diagnosing and treating it. There are differing opinions on whether it is from an allergic reaction to one of the meds she is taking or if it is Graft vs Host Disease. The challenge is if she is allergic to one of the meds, it will be extremely difficult in determining which one due to number of meds she is taking. They have checked the stem cell donor’s record and have determined he does not have any allergies to medicines. In the interim, they have started Bonnie on a steroid to see if they can control and slow the rash down. Thus far there hasn’t been any improvement; in fact we think it looks worse.

In the midst of the ongoing drama, we’ve had some nice distractions mixed in. Callie came down with Grandma this past Thursday and stayed until yesterday (Tuesday) and went home with Grandpa and Grandma. On Saturday, Cassandra drove down and stayed through Sunday afternoon. It was nice having the girls here this weekend.

Today we had a wonderful lunch and visit with two of Bonnie’s fellow transplant patients along with their spouses that we got to know during the hospital stay. It was encouraging and therapeutic for Bonnie to hear how they are progressing since their transplant which both were two days prior to Bonnie’s. When you travel the road we have been on, it is easy to bond with others traveling the same road. We are thankful to God for these new friendships and we are also thankful for your longstanding friendships as well.

Steve & Bonnie

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Thank you for your faithfulness in checking for updates. We haven’t been as faithful providing updates since Bonnie was discharged last Wednesday, so this is long overdue.

After being discharged on Wednesday evening, we changed rooms within “Guest Housing” right on the Detroit Medical Center campus where I (Steve) had been staying since October 2nd. We moved from a typical “hotel” style room to a one bedroom suite, which was more like a college dorm. Using the word “suite” does not necessarily mean “sweet”, but it was adjacent to the Karmanos outpatient clinic so we can't complain too much.

On Thursday we had a day off from the clinic, so we had time to drive up to Sterling Heights to sign an open-ended lease on the apartment where we now reside. We also took time to grocery shop to stock the shelves with all the necessities needed. I did the shopping while Bonnie rested in the car.

Bonnie has been instructed to avoid crowed public places for the next several months. She basically has an immune system of an infant that is 25 days old, so she is required to wear a protective mask every time we go out the door. Even alone in the fresh air she has to wear a mask as the wind can stir up various molds and pollens that can easily cause infection.

Thursday night we had a nurse visit our little “suite” to give us instructions on how to self administer an “in-home” daily IV bag of Magnesium mixed with Sodium Chloride that runs for three hours. Combining the IV instructions along with the class/instructions on how to change Bonnie’s central line dressing as well as keeping all her medications straight is quite the challenge. She has three specific meds that are taken at 7:00 a.m., a different one at 8:00 a.m., another kind at 10:00 (actually it is 10 capsules currently, which can increase/decrease depending on her twice weekly blood lab levels), one med at 2:00 p.m., one at 6:00 p.m., and three at 10:00 (one of three being the 10 capsule med again). Including the IV bag of Magnesium from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., as well as all the optional meds for pain and nausea, a degree in Pharmacy is not too far in the distant future.

On Friday, Bonnie had her first visit to the clinic as an outpatient. We were there for six hours or so, as in part, she needed a four hour IV infusion of a special immune booster which is determined by blood labs. Whatever the doctors look for in the “immune” area of the blood labs was lower than they would like to see, thus the booster.

On Friday Bonnie also took a little turn for the worse as it relates to some delayed chemo side effects. The doctors are leaning more towards chemo effects and not Graft v Host Disease, which normally starts showing up after 30 days post transplant (which is this coming Sunday). The side effects are puffy swollen eyes and lips as well as red blotches on her face. This she can deal with. The one thing that has become problematic is the bottom of her feet, which limits her walking because it is so painful. The chemo more or less burned the bottom of her feet, primarily thus far her heels, but it is now spreading to the underside of her toes. Imagine a giant water blister encompassing the entire underside of your foot beneath several layers of skin. The pain is quite unbearable for Bonnie and the pain meds barely touch it.

On Saturday we moved out of the “suite” and into a very well maintained, fully furnished, two bedroom apartment which is only twenty minutes away (non-rush hour) from Karmanos. If we have to be away from our "home" home, we couldn't ask to be in a better spot and are thankful for the friends who have made this available to us as long or as short as we need it.

The foot problem has temporarily ended Bonnie’s walking which is an important aspect of her recovery from the bone marrow transplant. Please pray that her feet will heal and return to normal so she can get out and exercise to continue the progress she has made thus far in the recovery stage of this journey. We did get a wheel chair so she can get outside of the four walls for a change of scenery.

We have had a number of people ask how I (Steve) am doing, so here is an update. I feel great, have a lot of energy to attend to Bonnie’s needs, my hair is growing back and the numbness in my fingers and toes seems to be less. In summary, I feel as close to normal as I have in a long time. Thank you for your continued prayers and interest. We will continue to update you as we have new information.

God bless you all.

Steve & Bonnie

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Discharge day! After a one day delay, Bonnie was given the green light for discharge this afternoon. At the time of this post, Bonnie is receiving an IV supplement of Magnesium. This is a supplement that she receives every day and will continue for months to come. One of the ongoing medications she is taking depletes the Magnesium level in her body and thus the need for IV. This will be administered at “home” on a daily basis over a three hour period.

The rash is stabilized and one of the chief doctors today thought it could be some Graft Versus Host Disease, but a mild case, and said she could be discharged. For now the nausea Bonnie was experience this past weekend is gone. Her feet and hands are starting to get a little sore like they did with her first rounds of chemo, so a potent cream has been subscribed that will penetrate the thick skin on the balls of her hands and feet.

As we transition to the next phase away from the friendly confines of Bone Marrow Transplant unit here on Ten Webber North, please pray that Bonnie will experience God’s incredible peace instead of an overwhelming undercurrent. On the surface it appears there is a lot to grasp in self administering meds and IVs combined with spending time every other day in the clinic as an outpatient, but in reality it is very manageable. Discharge involves meeting with: (a) the Discharge Planner who explains what is going to happen with the in-home IV and the third party company that will provide the supplies and meds; (b) the Social Worker; (c) the Pharmacist who explains all of the oral meds Bonnie will be taking, what they are for and the frequency she will be taking them; (d) the Nurse Practitioner who has been overseeing her care since day one ; and (e) the Nurse assigned to Bonnie today that has all of the discharge papers and instructions to sign, all of the “if you feel this or get that” call immediately or go to the ER.

With all this said, the doctors are very pleased with Bonnie’s progress and said she is doing very well compared to many patients. They attribute much of this to her diligence in walking everyday. The total distance Bonnie walked since being admitted was 52 miles.

Tonight through Friday we will be staying in guest housing right here on the Detroit Medical Center campus and then moving on Saturday to our temporary apartment in Sterling Heights. Our new address beginning Saturday will be:

Bonnie Opper
2968 Parkway Circle
Sterling Heights, MI 48310

We will continue to update the blog as needed and appreciate your faithfulness in checking it for updates. Once again thank you for your prayers, notes/cards, and other ways you have shown our family love and encouragement throughout this trial.

Steve & Bonnie

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Leukemia, lymphoma, treatments and transplants limits one’s planning ability, including last minute plans. What we thought would be a day of transition and discharge from the hospital all changed and were postponed. Yes, we were planning to move Bonnie to outpatient housing today, but in hindsight, we are grateful for cautious doctors.

The rash on Bonnie’s face has gotten a little worse compared to yesterday and the physician on rotation without much debate said “let’s keep her for another day of observation”. In other words, they are concerned about rashes, as that can be a sign of Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) which is essentially Bonnie’s remaining cells fighting the donor’s cells. The doctors wrote an order for a steroid cream that will confirm whether or not what she has is indeed GVHD. If the rash goes away using the cream, this is an indicator that she has GVHD and they will keep her here longer and give her some form of steroid IV. If the rash remains using the cream, it is just a viral issue and they will discharge Bonnie. It seems odd that if the rash goes away “we’ll keep you” and if it stays “you’re free to go”. Bottom line is the doctor’s objective is to minimize the GVHD and keep it out of Bonnie’s GI tract.

It is a little challenging contemplating how to pray for this specific situation, so we are just praying and asking God to do His perfect will that will glorify Himself and at the same time to help us to be content with either outcome. Contentment is easier said than done, yet we know that is what God expects from us no matter the situation we face. We’ve said this more than once, with God there is no such thing as coincidence. Just today I (Steve) read in my daily Bible reading for October 27th, 1 Timothy 6:6-8:

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”

We have very gifted and competent health care professionals that God has provided to care for Bonnie, and in this “we shall be content.”

Steve & Bonnie

Monday, October 26, 2009


It appears as though Bonnie will be discharged tomorrow and we will be entering the next phase of her bone marrow transplant. The discharge is predicated on Bonnie’s ability to swallow a couple of different pills that are a little larger as a replacement to the current IV for of the same medicine. Up until today, Bonnie’s throat has been so severe she has been able to swallow any solid food and it was difficult making sure liquids were going down the right pipe without choking.

The sores in Bonnie’s mouth have healed up well and the remnant left in her throat must be doing the same as she was able to take the medicines this afternoon orally. Assuming her blood numbers continue as they are, there is no reason for her to stay beyond tomorrow, so we will transition to outpatient housing.

We will initially stay in the same facility I (Steve) am staying at right here at the Detroit Medical Center, although we will move into a one-bedroom suite for a little more room. By the end of the week or the first part of next week, we will move to a fully furnished two bedroom apartment in Sterling Heights, which is approximately 20 minutes from the Karmanos Cancer Center.

At the onset of being in outpatient status, Bonnie will most likely be required to go to the clinic three times each week and sometimes it will entail an entire day. A lot of it will depend on how well Bonnie is doing as she gets further out from the transplant day.

Now that the white blood cell count seems to have stabilized and her numbers look good, the WBC are starting to do what they are suppose to do, thus the healing of the mucositis (mouth and throat sores). As Bonnie’s cells continue to die off and the donor’s stem cells continue to produce new cells, Bonnie’s blood type will eventually change to match the donor’s blood type.

Please continue to pray that the Graft Versus Host Disease, which will most likely surface sometime during the first 100 days or so, is minimal. As mentioned previously, the doctors want to see some limited GVHD as this is important in eliminating the genes that are responsible for the leukemia returning. Also pray for Bonnie’s anxiousness as she anticipates leaving the safe confines of the hospital. We have heard and seen many stories of transplant patients who left only to be readmitted a few days later through the ER and ending up back here in the Transplant Unit. It’s very easy to see small changes, like oozing from the eye and small patchy rashes forming on Bonnie’s face combined with the element of the unknown of “what’s next” that creates a level of fear and anxiety.

Our faith and trust continue in the Lord as He is all we need for our security which is the hope we hold onto. It is comforting and reassuring to know that the Psalmist in Psalm 119:71 said “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statues.” We are grateful to God for this trial as He has revealed more of Himself to us and has drawn us nearer to Him, as we traverse through the daily challenges.

Steve & Bonnie

Friday, October 23, 2009


Bonnie’s transplant was two weeks ago today and she continues to make progress in the doctors’ eyes. This is based on primarily her blood counts, which have come back in a significant way. Her white blood cell (WBC) count is currently at 10,300 (on the blog post Tuesday she was at 5200) and her hemoglobin is slowly increasing to 10.1. Last week it dropped below 8.0 which required two units of red blood cells. Thus far she has not needed any additional transfusions. The platelets are usually last to engraft. Normal range again is between 100,000 and 150,000. With the chemo Bonnie’s fell to a low of 19,000, but since the transplant they have steadily multiplied and currently at 268,000.

We have asked the doctors if there is any concern about these counts exceeding the normal range and they have said no. The new stem cells have responded very well to the Neupogen injections that stimulate the bone marrow to create new cells. So from this perspective is why the doctors say that Bonnie is making good progress.

The downside is that the mucositis continues to get worse, but somewhat expected. The doctors indicated that it takes approximately 7 days on average for the mucositis to run its course. It has spread throughout Bonnie’s mouth and down into her throat and esophagus and continues to periodically cause nausea, so please pray that the new WBC (the neutrophils) will start to attack the sores and begin the healing process before it spreads into her intestines. The thought of recurring intestinal issues is a source of anxiety for Bonnie as she knows firsthand what it is like from her initial 58 day stay at Sparrow earlier this year.

The projected date for discharge is now next Tuesday October 27th. This is subject to Bonnie being able to take oral medicines as well as eating solid foods. So that is the goal. She continues to walk a minimum of two miles each day (today it was closer to three).

We are grateful for your faithfulness in praying for Bonnie and can attest to the incredible peace and spiritual strength we have as a result of your prayers. Because of this, as well as a wide circulation of this blog (from England to the West Coast of the U.S.) we are asking you to join with us in praying for a dear friend of ours, Mary Grace, who back in May, at the beginning of Bonnie’s diagnosis, jumped right in and started coordinating meals for our family. Mary Grace had a horrible injury earlier this week involving her eye. Please pray for healing and restoration of her sight in the eye and for an overwhelming peace as well as spiritual strength for her and her family.


Steve & Bonnie

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


After the most miserable night of pain and nausea, we received wonderful news from the doctors this morning that the donor stem cells have engrafted in Bonnie’s bone marrow cavity! This was the next step in the process we have been patiently waiting for. Overnight, her White Blood Cell (WBC) count went from 600 to 5200 which indicates engraftment.

We are rejoicing and thanking God for this news. We are grateful that He created us humans with incredible minds and bodies. Giving us as people the minds to develop medical procedures like a bone marrow transplant using stem cells from a donor along with His creation of a complex stem cell having a protein as part of its makeup that instinctively knows to penetrate the bone and reside in the bone marrow cavity to begin to produce new blood cells. All glory and honor and praise belong to Him alone.

With the WBC count coming back, the mucositis (mouth and throat sores) will slowly start to subside, but for now it is somewhat worse than yesterday, so Bonnie is still uncomfortable and in significant pain. As soon as she can get to where she can take most of the medications orally as opposed to IV form she will be discharged from the hospital and moved to outpatient housing. This could occur as early as this Friday or next Monday. This is about a week earlier than expected.

One thing that has helped in the process is Bonnie’s diligence in walking. In yesterday’s blog post, I speculated that before the evening was over that she would finish the balance of her two mile goal, which she did. Even though the night was long for her, she already got her two miles in today as well.

The nausea continues today and the anti-nausea medication isn’t helping too much in keeping down the little bit of Ensure, Breeze or chicken broth she drinks. Continue to pray that the nausea will subside.

The Graft versus Host Disease (GVHD) is not part of any of the side effects Bonnie is currently experiencing. GVHD will show up in some form typically between 30 and 100 days post transplant. So Bonnie is still very susceptible to complications, but for now we are rejoicing that she is moving towards the next step of outpatient housing. This phase will still require us to stay in the Detroit region for approximately the next 75 or so days. The actual time depends on her progress and the frequency of visits to the outpatient clinic which is part of this hospital.

Thank you for your continued interest in Bonnie’s progress. We appreciate all your prayers.

Steve & Bonnie

Monday, October 19, 2009


Today is Day +10 following Bonnie’s transplant and the storm is coming on shore. The mouth sores (mucositus) started yesterday and is working its way down Bonnie’s throat. She is quite uncomfortable with pain and finds it extremely difficult to talk or swallow anything. The entire GI tract has fast producing cells, and when the white blood cell count is low, there are no new cells being created in the GI tract as part of the body’s way of functioning properly. The result is the painful sores that take over and can potentially span the entire GI tract.

To offset the pain, the clinic uses Morphine or Dilaudid, which Bonnie has been on since yesterday. The Dilaudid (stronger than Morphine) is great for the pain, but the most nauseating narcotic, so that adds to the complications. Ativan is used to counter the nausea, but has side effects similar to Valium.

Bonnie’s WBC counts are reaching the lowest point, along with her hemoglobin and platelets. The hemoglobin was low enough today requiring two transfusions of red blood cells. Low hemoglobin causes excessive fatigue.

Combining the Dilaudid, which in and of itself has fatigue/tiredness as a side effect, along with Ativan and low hemoglobin, creates a recipe for extreme sleepiness. It is difficult however for Bonnie to rest peacefully as the mucositis causes the salivary glands to secrete excess mucus which chokes her and wakes her.

Last night as well as tonight she has spiked a fever of 100.5 which triggers a standard protocol of a chest x-ray, blood cultures plus antibiotics, antiviral and antifungal medicines. The fever could mean infection, but it also could be from Neupogen injections or the beginning stages of engraftment. Because it is uncertain at this juncture, the doctors keep a close eye on Bonnie as she is most vulnerable for infection at this stage in the process due to her low blood cell count.

All said, this is very much the norm for a bone marrow transplant patient. We have seen similar things occur with our neighbor who received his transplant two days before Bonnie. Over the weekend he was very sick, yet already today the doctors see great improvement and indicated that he might be able to move to “outpatient” status by the end of the week. Every case is different, but Bonnie’s has tracked similarly to our neighbor, so there is some possible light at the end of this initial tunnel. Our neighbor’s spouse used the analogy of being at war on the battle field and crawling out of one fox hole of safety through the mine field to another fox hole of safety. It’s a necessary step in the process.

Nutrition is always a key factor and somewhat challenging when you can’t swallow, even with the pain medications. With the mucositis, it can cover the reflux area making it a challenge of knowing for sure that you are getting a supplement drink like Ensure down the right pipe, without filling your lungs. Picture trying to concentrate on getting a drink down the right pipe, while you experience intense pain and barely awake enough to know what you’re doing. That sums up in a nutshell what Bonnie has experienced today.

Sharing this is not meant for you to feel sorry for Bonnie, in fact if she were coherent enough she would probably not approve of the descriptive nature of this post. Those of you who know Bonnie well, know that it’s not like her to bring any attention to herself, but I (Steve) wanted you to have an accurate picture of what she is dealing with so you can know specifically how to pray for her at this point in the journey.

The new stem cells are working their way to the bone marrow cavity and hopefully will engraft soon, which means they will start to produce new blood cells. So in addition to praying for comfort in the midst of the storm, please pray that the donor stem cells will indeed engraft sooner than later and that the white blood cell count will begin to rise quickly which one of the benefits will be the healing of the mucositis.

Bonnie’s attitude continues to remain unwavering and in the middle of the mental and physical fog she still has determination. She realizes the importance of walking and moving about. Yesterday she still walked two miles and today she has gone about 1 ¼ miles holding onto my belt loop to steady herself. It would not surprise me for her to stir and wake later this evening and say that she wants to get the rest of her laps in to reach her goal of two miles. Thus far we have walked approximately 35 ¼ miles since she was admitted on October 2nd.

We face each day confidently knowing that so many are lifting our name up to God, who is so incredibly great and mighty, yet so incredibly personable. It is He who we draw our strength and perseverance from. Please pray that we will be faithful to Him in all things, including this challenge He has allowed us to endure and for the opportunity He has given each of us for spiritual growth. Thank you again for all your prayers.

Steve & Bonnie

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Today is Day +8 following Bonnie’s transplant. A week and a day have passed and thus far she is doing very well in the eyes of the BMT team of doctors and nurses. We are starting to see signs of the pending storm that is approaching; more fatigue, headaches and some mild irritation beginning in her mouth.

Being on a floor where all the patients are in some stage of the BMT process, you quickly begin to gauge and benchmark yourself to the status of the others. We know who is new, waiting for their transplant day, and more importantly know who has already had their transplant and when it occurred. There are two patients and their families we have gotten to know fairly well and have regular conversations with them. Both of them had their transplants two days prior to Bonnie’s so we can see where they are at condition wise to ascertain in some aspects how Bonnie is faring.

Yesterday (Friday) Bonnie’s white blood cell (WBC) count actually went up a little (artificially) from 1.1 (1100) on Thursday to 1.6, but have fallen to .7 (700) today. Her hemoglobin has dropped to 8.8 and when it falls below 8.0 will require red blood cells transfused. Her platelets have dropped to 22 (normal is 100 to 150). All of these lowering numbers are expected and with it come the side effects. They started Neupogen injections on Thursday to start the stimulation process of the new stem cells that are residing in the bone marrow cavity.

I (Steve) have been asked a few times about the chemo killing off Bonnie’s WBC without affecting the new stem cells, so those of you who are interested in my best attempt at a common layman explanation, feel free to read on. Say you have a yard full of weeds that you want to kill and replace with new grass. You apply weed killer to your entire yard to poison and kill the weeds. After waiting a few days for the weed killer to be absorbed by the weeds, you overseed your lawn with new grass seed. The weeds continue to die out and overtime they have been eliminated. At the same time the new grass seed germinates, takes root and begins to grow. Likewise, Bonnie’s WBC are like the weeds and the donor’s stem cells are like the new grass seed. I’m sure a BMT specialist would cringe at the explanation and inform me that I’ve taken too much liberty in simplifying something so complex.

We continue to trust God and lay all of this at His feet asking Him to use us in His plans to glorify Himself through all of this, no matter the outcome. Please continue to pray that Bonnie will persevere and have endurance throughout this stage of the process. Thank you all for your faithfulness in keeping us in your prayers. We have been truly blessed by all of you.

Steve & Bonnie

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Day +5 since Bonnie’s bone marrow transplant (BMT) and thus far everything is going as well as the BMT team expects and anticipates. Bonnie’s counts continue to decline. As a refresher, the normal range for white blood cells (WBC) is 4200 to 12,000. Today Bonnie’s count is 1500. The normal minimum baseline for hemoglobin is around 12, and Bonnie’s has dropped to 9.6. Normal platelet range is 100,000 to 150,000, and Bonnie is currently at 84,000.

Bonnie has a severely compromised immune system that has been suppressed and is once again neutropenic, which means the WBCs that are neutrophils are non-existent so she has nothing to fight infection. This is however, what the BMT wants to see as the donor stem cells are grafted into the bone marrow cavity. If Bonnie did have a strong immune system, it would fight these new cells.

Those of you following this blog since May, may remember that when Bonnie was previously neutropenic , she was put on a neutropenic diet which prohibited most fresh fruits and raw vegetables, including salads. The good news here at Karmanos though, is the recent adoption of a “non-restricted” diet due to extensive clinical studies completed at MD Anderson Cancer Clinic in Houston which showed no significant difference in infection rates between leukemia patients following and not following the restricted diet. Because of this, Bonnie is able to eat salads, tomatoes on sandwiches, and fresh fruit.

Fatigue continues to be the major issue for Bonnie, which is normal in these conditions of being neutropenic and a declining hemoglobin count. She still walked 2 miles yesterday (not all at once) which is encouraging. She is experiencing numbness in her toes and feet, and up into her calf, which is uncomfortable when she crawls back into bed.

Please pray that the fatigue will be manageable and not limited her ability to walk, which is so critically important. Also pray that all the other side effects that we are waiting to appear will be limited, particularly mouth sores, which can get quite severe and in many occasions creep all the way down the throat to the esophagus. They can get severe enough that it limits or prohibits the ability to eat resulting in a food bag IV. This is the first thing the doctors ask about and check on as they do their daily rounds. Bonnie had a few mouth sores with the previous rounds of chemo and they are extremely painful, so we are praying that they will be limited to non-existent.

Another day in the life of Bonnie living at Karmanos. She continues to be resiliently and incredibly strong emotionally through this process which is an answer to many prayers. That’s not to say she doesn’t have any moments when her emotions are challenged. She does have those times when it’s hard, and with the frailty of our human nature it’s to be expected. Yet we continue to look to Christ who is our Rock who says in Isaiah 51:12 “I, even I, am He who comforts you.” There is no trial that we will ever face that God can’t comfort us.

Steve & Bonnie

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Just a quick update on how Bonnie is faring with the chemo and transplant. The Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) unit has a calendar that is based on Transplant Day as Day 0. Today is considered Day +2. Thus far Bonnie’s key blood components (white blood cells, platelets and hemoglobin) remain at normal levels, but are starting to drop. One of the medications she is on causes her magnesium to be very low resulting in the need for magnesium supplement IVs.

Bonnie is very fatigued due in part from the chemo and not sleeping well. It is difficult for her to get more than two hours of sleep at a time due to nursing shift changes, checking of vital signs, and hanging new IVs. We discussed with the team today how we could structure the schedule such that she might get uninterrupted sleep from midnight to 5:00 a.m.

Right now Bonnie is walking about 2 miles each day. The daily goal set by the team is 10 laps which is approximately ¾ of a mile. It is important for Bonnie to keep walking, particularly when the going gets tough. The walking can be a preventative against pneumonia and other complications. The nurses’ motto is one more lap closer to home.

Both the nurses and the doctors say it is good to be bored, but right now the waiting is somewhat monotonous, yet there remains an element of uncertainty waiting for the storm to hit that is on the horizon. We’ve never been in a hurricane before, but in some respects it must be like living along the Gulf of Mexico somewhere, knowing there is a Category 4 or 5 hurricane 2 to 3 days out, tracking a path that will undoubtedly impact you. It’s just that we don’t know and we’re sitting there wondering how much of an impact it will have on us. Will it be the eye of the storm that passes over us or will we only experience some of the torrential rains on the peripheral of the storm?

So, pray for rest, for patience and for peace as we wait for the weather change to come into focus and be clearer. Thanks!

Steve & Bonnie

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday (Bonus posting!)

Since this blog started on May 13th, there hasn’t been an occurrence where there were two posts in one day, so this is a first. We share this post with excitement as the bone marrow transplant occurred this evening at 7:15. We are so very thankful for the willingness of the 49 year old male who made this sacrifice for a completely unknown person, Bonnie. We hope that someday we will be able to thank him personally for this incredible act of kindness.

Our BMT doctor was here tonight to administer the transplant and she shared with us that for an unrelated donor, they have established a minimum of 5 million stem cells as the baseline threshold for the grafting, although they are thrilled when that number is higher. While the infusion was occurring, a representative from the lab came to the room with the actual count of the stem cells, which were 3 times the baseline or 15 million cells. This means our donor has incredibly healthy bone marrow. Wow!

Please see our post from earlier today for some of the issues that most likely will occur following the transplant. Specific ways to pray are outlined in the post as well. We are celebrating tonight and glad that this chapter of the book is complete, but recognize the plot that follows is just beginning to unfold and will be revealed in the weeks to come.

Thank you again for your prayers! We repeat this over and over, but it’s overwhelming to us the amount of peace as well as stamina and endurance we have felt through this ordeal. God answers prayer.

Good Night!

Steve & Bonnie

Today is Transplant Day. At the present time, the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) is scheduled sometime between 5:30 6:00 PM this evening, so please continue to pray that Bonnie’s body will accept the stem cells with only minor Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD), which is where the donor’s marrow (stem cells) attacks Bonnie’s organs and tissues. GVHD can be very severe to mild and a little unsettling to contemplate and think about.

Obviously we don’t want severe GVHD, but the doctors do want to see some minor GVHD, which means the new marrow is attacking any of the remaining tissues/cells that will cause the leukemia to return. In situations like Bonnie’s, where the donor is a non-relative, there is a 60% chance for chronic GVHD which occurs 100 days after the transplant. Acute GVHD normally occurs within the first 100 days; however the percentages of getting Acute GVHD are lower today due to better DNA testing in identifying a donor who matches eight specific genes.

Bonnie thus far is managing the side effects of the chemo very well, with the exception of some nausea (which has been manageable with medications) and fatigue (caused by both the chemo and the anti-nausea meds). Please continue to pray for her physical stamina and emotional strength as they both feed off each other.

Back in May, I (Steve) recall writing in a particular post that with God there are no coincidences. As I was doing my “read through the Bible in a year” which is broken into daily segments, today being the 282nd day of the year, I don’t believe it to be a coincidence that today’s New Testament passage was Philippians chapter 4 as we anticipate Bonnie’s BMT. This is a passage that many of you reading this blog will be familiar with, particularly verses 4 through 13:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

As I read this text this morning, it was a good reminder and refresher that these verses capture, to a certain extent, the essence of what our attitude should be, not just today as we anticipate Bonnie’s BMT, but in all situations we face. We can rejoice because we know that God is near and that His abundant peace can snuff out any anxiousness that creeps into our attitude and mind. If we fill our minds with thoughts of God’s character, His truth, His purity, His loveliness, His goodness and His virtues, it will help to promote praiseworthy thoughts which in turn will foster the growth and nourishment of an inner joy resulting in a calming peach in the midst of the life’s storms. Then we can experience contentment in “whatever state we are in”. We CAN do all things through Christ who strengths us.

Please pray that this will be our focus throughout the day as we anticipate the BMT, as well as the weeks to come. Thank you for all your care, concerns and support you have expressed to us one way or another.

Steve & Bonnie

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


The daily regiment continues for Bonnie here at Karmanos as we anticipate the bone marrow transplant on Friday. Today is day four of the chemo with one more day to go. Bonnie’s key blood numbers remain stable, which is normal during the chemo process. The doctors say that her numbers may not plummet until after the transplant has occurred. The chemo has caused nausea, but can be manageable with medication. Her appetite is thus far okay and she has enough energy to walk about 30 laps per day around the floor. Sixteen laps equal a mile, so she is doing well. A day will come however, when she will be pushing it to get in 10 laps, which is the goal the staff has for every patient here on the BMT floor.

Today they started an immune suppressant IV which is preparing Bonnie’s body to not reject the transplant. The anti-seizure meds give Bonnie a little vertigo type feeling, plus tiredness, but necessary as the chemo is putting Bonnie below the body’s normal level to fight seizures.

Each day slowly drags by for Bonnie and she struggles with discouragement creeping in, but she never questions why God has allowed this to happen. It is hard for her emotionally when we are walking laps to see other patients who are in different stages of their respective transplants. Some barely make it out of their rooms, while others use a walker slowly trying to find enough energy to make it around the loop once. Combining this with the emotions of feeling isolated in a strange city away from family and friends can become emotionally draining for Bonnie, which in turn can affect her physically. It’s easy for me to say to Bonnie that every case affects each person differently and expect that this should give her some level of comfort. Our normal human nature is for fear of the unknown to creep in and consume our thoughts.

If we truly believe God is in control of this trial Bonnie is enduring, then we need to fear Him and not the unknown before us. He knows the unknown and the unseen. Psalm 114:7a says “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD”. We need to take pleasure in trembling or fearing God by running to Him and not away from Him. In a small hyperbolic comparison, it reminds me of the fear (and respect) I have of the water when I’m sailing. There is nothing like the exhilaration of riding on the crest of the wave watching the powerful rolling waves coming behind it. I’m not scared, but there is however, a healthy fear knowing that the waves and wind can overpower and capsize the boat, but at the same time there is a calming peace that brings pleasure to the experience knowing that the keel and rudder combined with the proper heading or course will keep me safe.

Fearing God and drawing near to Him and following the course He has charted for us is what He wants from us. Please continue to pray the specifics we outlined in our previous blog post and add to that list that we will fear God and experience an inner joy and peace as we wait patiently for the unknown and unseen ahead of us in the next few weeks.

Thanks again for your interest and coming along on this journey with us.

Steve & Bonnie

Saturday, October 3, 2009


As we reflect on the week that was and contemplate what lies ahead for Bonnie, we are comforted knowing that so many are praying for us and our family. Even though we know what to expect with an extended stay in a hospital room, there remains a level of anxiety of coming to an unfamiliar place in an unfamiliar town.

Bonnie was admitted yesterday afternoon to the Karmanos Cancer Center which leases space within the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) and Harper Hospital. The Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) unit is located on 10 Webber North. Bonnie’s room is in a little alcove corner at the end of the hall, away from a lot of noisy corridors and overlooks the front of the Detroit Medical Center with views of the Ambassador Bridge to Canada and portions of downtown Detroit.

Some of the amenities that we were accustomed to at Sparrow Hospital, such as warm blankets, an open kitchen pantry, an atrium with large windows, and comfortable furniture in the room are not part of the amenities here at Karmanos. We are, however, thankful for other amenities such as a HEPA air filtration system that does air changes every six minutes which means Bonnie doesn’t need to wear a mask when she walks laps nor are visitors required to wear masks. There are fewer rooms in the BMT wing so the nurse to patient ratio is less than Sparrow. (To all our wonderful Sparrow nurses reading this, we have a great appreciation for the workload you endured, including administering the chemo. Here at Karmanos they have a separate chemo nurse that handles that portion. We were truly blessed for the care you provided to Bonnie! Thank you!)

On Thursday, we had to come down here to outpatient surgery for Bonnie to have a triple lumen central line placed. The surgery went well, however Bonnie was and continues to be sore, particularly the movement of her right shoulder. This central line is quite a bit different from the ones she had a Sparrow, particularly the size of the line, which is much larger and made up of a material composition that interacts with her body such that it somewhat fuses with her tissue, providing durability and longevity.

As mentioned in our previous post, Bonnie starts the chemo portion of the regiment today, which runs through Wednesday. During this time she will continue to feel good and have energy, so she is trying to adapt to the new environment and establish a routine the best she can. Our kids have been asked a few times what address cards and notes can be sent to so here it is:

Bonnie Opper
c/o Karmanos Cancer Center
10 Webber North
3990 John R
Detroit, MI 48201

So, this will be Bonnie’s home away from home for the next 4 to 6 weeks based on typical BMT averages. Once her key blood element numbers have come up and she is stable, she will be discharged and then we will move to outpatient housing for another 6 to 8 weeks (again based on BMT averages). Outpatient housing can either be here on the DMC campus where Bonnie can walk to for follow up treatments or within a 45 to 60 minute radius of the DMC. We are grateful for having an opportunity and option to stay in a fully furnished two bedroom apartment in Sterling Heights, which is about 25 minutes from the DMC campus. It all depends on how well Bonnie is feeling at the time, but regardless, God will provide what we need. It’s comforting to know that God knew our needs before this trial began back in May and He has been providing for us ever since. Deuteronomy 11:14-15 reinforces that which we have been experiencing along the journey:

He (God) will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.

We can’t begin to express the depth of our thankfulness for all of your prayers. As Bonnie receives the chemo for the next 5 days in preparation for the transplant next Friday, please pray with us that her body will respond to the chemo as the doctors expect it to with minimal side effects. Also pray that she will not experience any seizures from one of the chemotherapies. Our bodies all have a seizure threshold and one of the chemos lowers Bonnie below the normal threshold so in anticipation of this she is required to take a significant amount of anti-seizure medication to counter the risk. Continue to pray that Bonnie’s body will accept the transplanted stem cells from the donor and that our donor (and his family, if he has one) will be blessed by God in a special way.


Steve & Bonnie

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wednesday (9/30/09)

I know we sound like a broken record, as multiple times in this blog we have expressed our gratitude for your care and concern about our ongoing medical situation, particularly Bonnie’s. I (Steve) only need some hair (which is slowly coming in and quite noticeable with a magnifying glass), less sensitive fingertips and the removal of my “infusa-port” (in five months….ugh!) and I’ll be back to normal. Thank you for all your prayers specific to my situation.

Now for Bonnie. Yesterday we had a final consultation prior to her being admitted on Friday afternoon. She saw the oncology dentist, her physician and the pharmacist (who did an excellent job of explaining in a simplistic way the various chemo and meds and what can be expected). We were surprised and caught off-guard by one item that quickly modified our schedule today (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday). Bonnie also has an implanted “infusa-port” that has been used for the IVs she has received since the initial 58 day tour at Sparrow Hospital. Unfortunately many of the “infusa-ports” have a smaller tube that restricts the volume of flow of blood product or other meds which can be pushed through so Karmanos has a special catheter (triple lumen) that is surgically placed. We also learned that this has to be done as an “outpatient” prior to being admitted in order for insurance to cover the procedure. The result is that we have to drive back to Detroit tomorrow (Thursday) morning for an 11:30 surgery, and then drive back to Lansing tomorrow night to turn back around on Friday for the formal admission. God is still teaching us to trust in Him no matter the situation, no matter His timing.

After being admitted on Friday, Bonnie will undergo five days of two different chemotherapies which will completely wipe out her bone marrow. This treatment is harsher than what she has already received, but necessary in order for the transplant. The actual transplant will occur a week from this Friday and will only take approximately 20 to 30 minutes for the stem cells to be transfused into her blood. The physical challenges will start to come into play the week following the transplant from both the side effects of the chemo and declining blood cells and platelets combined with the new stem cells wanting to fight with other cells in Bonnie’s body. We will use a future blog posts to give you additional information on how she is responding to everything.

Please continue to pray for God’s peace for us, as this is what has sustained us throughout the journey. Also pray for Bonnie’s protection tomorrow during the surgery to insert the catheter. Also continue to pray for Cassandra, Caleb and Callie as they will be apart from us for lengthy periods of time. It won’t be easy for them to jump in the car and pop in to see Bonnie, with Karmanos 1 ½ hours away. Thanks for your continued interest.

Blessings to all,

Steve and Bonnie

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday (9/20/09)

Thank you for your continued interest in our ongoing medical situation. If you have been coming back to the blog regularly you found that we have been delinquent in updating it since Labor Day. There hasn’t been much to update as we have been waiting for the bone marrow donor to be lined up.

Since Labor Day, Bonnie endured seven days of an in-home IV of a strong antibiotic to ensure the staph infection she picked up at the hospital was completely eliminated. In addition, her white blood cells dropped this past Tuesday (9/15) so she became neutropenic again and had to resume injections of Neupogen. By Thursday, the WBC were back up and over 15,000, but her hemoglobin was low so she needed two transfusions of red blood cells on Thursday night.

The timing of all this once again gave us an opportunity to trust God with everything, because the timing is ultimately His, even if it doesn’t fit ours. It’s difficult to plan anything not knowing what the next day will bring from a physical perspective. Bonnie and I had been invited to attend a special event at the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum in Cincinnati this weekend. We were hopeful to get away to the event for a change of scenery, however with her first being neutropenic followed by the low hemoglobin, it didn’t look like the timing would work. God was gracious to us, as everything fell into place enabling us to go. We had a wonderful time with friends and staff from the Museum. It was a well needed distraction for us.

Just before we left for the Museum on Friday, we received a great phone call from the Karmanos Cancer Center. The prospective donor that is the best match with Bonnie, out of the three that who are perfect matches, has agreed to be a donor, a 49 year old male. A transplant date has been tentatively schedule subject to a satisfactory physical of the donor which will occur this coming Tuesday. Bonnie is scheduled to be admitted at Karmanos on October 2nd which will be the commencement of the pretreatment to prepare her for the actual transplant day. Karmanos indicated that Bonnie will need to be admitted seven days prior to the transplant date to start additional chemotherapy which will again wipe out her WBC, including the stem cells in her bone marrow this time.

We are thankful and apprehensive at the same time with the timing of this. Our prayer has been that the transplant date would occur such that Bonnie would not need to go back to Sparrow for additional chemo treatments to maintain a remission status. Thankfully that prayer has been answered. At the same time, as we anticipate the long road ahead for Bonnie and the uncertainties that go with it; knowing that it is now right around the corner, is testing our anxiousness.

Prior to being admitted to Karmanos, Bonnie also has the anticipation of getting another bone marrow biopsy at Sparrow, which will establish a new baseline for Karmanos. You may recall from earlier blog posts, a bone marrow biopsy is not a picnic in the park, so Bonnie has this to think about as well.

Please pray for the following things:

1) That the donor’s physical will be satisfactory to continue the process moving forward.
2) That God will bless the donor in a special way and minimize the discomfort he may feel from the Neupogen injections he will need to stimulate his bone marrow for the production of excess stem cells.
3) That Bonnie will continue to see and experience God’s peace throughout this trial and as the day draws near that we relocate to Detroit for a few months.
4) That Bonnie’s strength and endurance will continue to improve over the next two weeks so she enters the process strong.
5) That our children will be spiritually strong, will work together and stay focused on their walk with God and their school work.
6) That we will continue to glorify God through this trial of suffering.

We still don’t know why God has allowed this and realize it is okay to question it, but we do know He has a greater purpose than we can comprehend with our finite minds. We have been encouraged to know that our situation has comforted others who are, or have experienced their own trials of suffering. The other day I was reading 2 Corinthians chapter 1 and verses 3 and 4 stuck out at me with one of those “a ha!” moments. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 helps us to get a glimpse of why God might have allowed this, although this may only be a part of why:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

The comfort we have experienced from God has been incredible and in some cases indescribable. God is teaching us through this situation how to comfort others who are struggling. Please pray that God will continue to comfort us as Bonnie enters this next phase and that He will use us to comfort others.

One other praiseworthy item, I (Steve) only had to have a total of 7 radiation treatments instead of 3 weeks due to the negative PET Scan. So after Wednesday my treatment is complete and I am in remission. In five months I can have my Infusa-Port removed and hopefully have a full head of hair! Thank you for your prayers!

Steve and Bonnie

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday (Labor Day)

After a long week at Sparrow, Bonnie was discharged yesterday, which we were all thankful for. It was a week of highs and lows, but overall we saw several answers to prayer. First of all, the infection from the positive blood culture was identified as MRSA, which is a common staph infection found primarily in hospitals. Out of all the blood cultures they did on Bonnie, only one came back as positive and the staph is treated with a strong antibiotic, which Bonnie was already receiving due to the infection in her toe. Bonnie was discharged with a home IV so that she can continue to receive the antibiotic for 7 more days.

Bonnie’s white blood cell count started to slowly come back on Wednesday and was 1500yesterday. Her neutrophils were 750 of the 1500 so she is still neutropenic and has to wear a mask at home and cannot eat most fresh fruits and vegetables unless they are cooked thoroughly. As the WBC continue to increase, Bonnie’s strength also goes up, which is important in preparation for the pending bone marrow transplant.
In addition to being discharged yesterday, we had two other answers to prayer this past week. We received another call from Karmanos on Thursday informing us that the other two potential perfect matches that provided blood samples also came back as perfect matches, eight out of eight genes. So Bonnie now has three perfect matches, so there are options, should one of the three change their mind or have a scheduling issue. Now that there is a perfect match, Karmanos is preparing for final insurance approval, which will take a couple of weeks. Once this has been satisfied, then Karmanos will go back to the National Bone Marrow Registry to inform one of the three that they are a perfect match and ask them to have a comprehensive physical completed. Assuming the physical is satisfactory, a date for transplant will be set. Best case scenario would be six weeks from now. Please continue to pray that everything will fall into place.

The other answer to prayer was the results of my (Steve) PET Scan. It came back with good results with no more chemotherapy required. Tomorrow I go back to radiation planning and measurement to set new parameters for my radiation treatment which will most likely start next week and run for three weeks.

Thank you for all your prayers.

Steve & Bonnie

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Well, Bonnie is completing her third day of her third tour here at Sparrow. She continues to be neutropenic , so the infection in her foot is being held at bay by a combination of very strong antibiotics. Our Oncologist said that as long as she is neutropenic, she will stay here as an inpatient, which was discouraging news. Each evening she has spiked a fever, with the high of 102.8. If you recall the first time she was in for the long duration May into July, when she spiked a higher fever the hospital staff used a “cold” blanket to help reduce the temperature. That was a miserable experience that Bonnie wants to avoid this time, so she has been putting ice packs under her arms to supplement the Tylenol and thus far it has worked to bring the temp down.

The Neupogen injections she has been receiving to stimulate her bone marrow to produce new white blood cells have had a more extreme impact on her compared to the same injections she received at the end of May following her first and second rounds of chemo. Her bones ache terribly making it difficult to be comfortable in bed as well as crawling out of bed to move about.

On a positive note, we received a call from our bone marrow transplant yesterday informing us that one of the three potential bone marrow donors is a perfect match – 8 out of 8 genes. The other two possible matches still have their blood samples in the lab. The one confirmed match is a 25 year old female. Karmanos is moving to the next step of getting some additional testing completed on Bonnie to submit for final insurance approval. Once the approval has been issued, the donor will be asked to submit to a thorough physical and assuming it is satisfactory the transplant date will be set. Best case scenario is 6 weeks away.

I (Steve) had another PET scan today to determine the effectiveness of the chemo treatments I have been receiving. The results should be available by Friday this week. Assuming the desired outcome was accomplished, I have 3 to 4 weeks of radiation pending.

Thanks for continuing to pray for our family. Specifically pray that Bonnie’s WBC will start to increase soon so that her immune system can attack the infection in her foot. In the interim, please pray that her fevers will be minimal and that she can endure the uncomfortable side effects of the Neupogen injections. One of Bonnie’s more critical concerns is the development of the severe intestinal issues she experienced back in May and June. Thus far she has not had any issues until today. The doctors believe that it could be a resulting side effect of one of the antibiotics, which they have now eliminated from her regiment. Also pray for the potential bone marrow donor who I have named Susan (just the name that came to mind while praying for her - that God might bless her in a special way for her willingness to go through the transplant process).

To conclude this post, we have an interesting item to share as it relates to God’s timing. On Saturday night as we were sitting in the ER, Bonnie said, “I trust God and know He is in control, but I’m having difficult time understanding His timing. He knew I was going to be neutropenic on Friday, so why would He allow me to have the procedure done on my toe on Thursday?” God’s timing is perfect in all situations, although we are not always privy to seeing the reason why for His timing. In this instance however, God did let us see the “why” behind His timing. Yesterday, our doctor informed us that if Bonnie had not had the ingrown toenail removed, the toe would still have become infected and she would have been admitted back to the hospital anyway. Most likely the toe would have been more painful than it already is as the nail would have continued to grow into the tissue of her toe. It is better that the nail has been removed, so even though there is an infection, the toe area will heal quicker once the WBC production begins. So in hind sight, God perfectly orchestrated Bonnie immediately getting into the podiatrist for the procedure last Thursday following her visit to the Cancer Center for the platelet transfusion. She was neutropenic at the time, but no one knew it as the medical team was working off the lab results from Wednesday’s labs. It was the labs drawn on Thursday just before we left to go to the podiatrist that produced the neutropenic results on Friday morning.

Having the comfort of knowing that God is in control of events and the timing of those events adds to the abundance of peace that engulfs us each day. Daniel 2:20-23a comes to mind as a good reminder that God is indeed in control of all things:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him.
23 To you, O God of my fathers,
I give thanks and praise…”

All glory,honor and praise belong to Him. Continued thanks for all your prayers!

Steve and Bonnie

PS....An additional prayer request that just came up. Bonnie's nurse just came in to inform us that one of the blood cultures the lab is growing has just come back positive that Bonnie has an infection in her blood. It will take up to 3 more days until the type of infection is identified. This could be one of the cultures taken prior to the heavy anitbiotics she has been getting, but we haven't confirmed that it was indeed a culture from Saturday, Monday or today. One of the possible complications that could arise from this is the infection attaching itself to the infusa-port that was surgically implanted just before she was discharge on July 8th. If that happens, they will have to remove the port, which creates other issues along the way. Please pray that 1) the other blood cultures don't grow and indicate and infection - which would mean that the initial culture showing infection has been killed off by the antibiotics and 2) if she still has a blood infection that it would not attach to the infusa-port. Thanks!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Well, it’s been a week and quite a bit has happened since the last blog post; some expected and others not so expected. If you recall from our last post, Bonnie had just completed a week back at the hospital for some consolidation chemotherapy and I had just completed my third cycle of chemo on Thursday August 20th.

On Wednesday this past week, Bonnie went to Sparrow labs for her every other day blood work. Wednesday afternoon our oncologist called and said Bonnie’s platelets were only 8,000 (normal range is 100,000 to 150,000) and she would need to come in as an outpatient on Thursday (the 27th) for two transfusions of platelets. Her white blood cell count was 4300 which is at the low end of the normal range (4000 to 12,000).

While we were at the hospital on Thursday, the doctors look at the ingrown toenail on Bonnie’s right big toe. The first two rounds of chemo back in May are still impacting both Bonnie’s finger and toe nails. Her large toe nails curled under on the sides and grew into the softer tissue of her toe causing a quite painful open sore. Following the platelet transfusions we contacted the podiatrist who had removed a previous ingrown toenail the week before when Bonnie was an inpatient at the hospital. The podiatrist got Bonnie in later that same day (last Thursday). He did the painful procedure, bandage Bonnie up and sent her home.

On Friday morning, Bonnie got another call from our oncologist informing her that she was now neutropenic based on the lab work they did following the platelet transfusion. As a refresher, neutropenia is when the white blood cells have been eliminated and the neutrophils (the good WBC that fight infection and disease) are zero. Had there been some indicator that she would be neutropenic on Friday; we would never have done the removal of the ingrown toe procedure.

On Saturday morning, Bonnie woke up and her big toe was swollen and red with infection. Over the course of the day the infection spread across the top of her foot and by evening it was three inches up the front of her leg. We called our oncologist and he wanted Bonnie to go to the ER right away. After seven hours in the ER and starting a strong antibiotic through and IV, they admitted Bonnie and moved her back to 5 West where we have spent a good share of 2009.

Thankfully, the infection seems to have receded and is responding to the antibiotics. Bonnie is still neutropenic and her platelets were back down to 8000 and her hemoglobin dropped to 6.1 (normal low is in the 12 range). Fatigue has set in due to the low hemoglobin. Today she received two more transfusions of platelets and 1 unit of red blood cells, with one more to come around 2:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Please pray that our stay will be short, her WBC will increase, the infection will subside, and that her platelets and hemoglobin will stabilize over the next couple of days.

As far as me (Steve), please to pray that the up and down side effects of this last round of chemo continues to subside. Just when I think I’m beginning to feel better, another wave comes over me that is difficult to describe. I have a follow up PET scan scheduled for this coming Tuesday to gauge the effectiveness of the chemo followed by 4 more weeks of radiation.

We are still awaiting the blood work results of the three potential bone marrow donors. We expect hear an update this coming week.

We continue to be blessed by your many prayers that lift us up to a holy God who sustains us through this trial. We are grateful for the nourishment we find daily in God’s word. It’s so easy to fall into trying to figure out why this is happening, particularly with the added issue of the infection, followed by the question of “what next”. We are grateful that God has allowed us to see a smidgen of His greatness and to understand that we will never fully comprehend His plan for our lives because His infinite breadth and width is greater than anything we can imagine. It helps to think in these terms to put things into proper perspective and to understand that God is in control of all things. Ecclesiastes 7:14 says:

“In the day of prosperity be joyful,
But in the day of adversity consider:
Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other,
So that man can find out nothing
That will come after him.”

Thank you again for your prayers and support.

Steve and Bonnie

Monday, August 24, 2009


After a week of additional chemo, Bonnie was discharged from Sparrow Hospital Saturday evening. We can’t say enough about the nursing staff on 5 West that have become like family to us, although we wished it were due to other circumstances. The care and compassion they have shown to us has been incredible, even the housekeeping staff (or environmental services staff) has the same caring characteristics as the nurses. It’s a comfort to know that should an unfortunate turn of events require us to go back to 5 West, we have friends ready and waiting to care for us. Please pray for the 5 West staff as they have an incredible responsibility day in and day out.

Now that we are home, Bonnie is doing okay, however the chemo is still working in her body to deplete the White Blood Cells. Along with the depletion of the WBC comes the reduction of her platelets and hemoglobin. More than likely, she will need to visit the Cancer Center later this week as an outpatient for a blood transfusion. As the hemoglobin decreases the fatigue increases. Thus far she has not had any intestinal side effects like she did the last two rounds of chemo, which is an answer to prayer. Right now the side effects (other than the fatigue) are limited to sores in her mouth, an infected big toe and heels that are sore and tender. The sores in her mouth are very painful and run up the nerve to her ear. This limits her ability to talk and eat, however she does have a “magic” mouthwash that numbs the area to make eating more palatable (no pun intended). The infection in her big toe isn’t serious, however it is very uncomfortable to stand or wear shoes. If you recall, the first two rounds of chemo caused Bonnie’s fingernails to curve in and fall off. Now her toenails appear to be doing the same thing, however it is causing ingrown toenails. A podiatrist came to the hospital to do a minor procedure on Bonnie’s other big toe with the same issue. Because her blood counts are down, she will have to wait to have the other nail cut back or removed. Please pray that the pain will be minimized.

We are still waiting to hear from Karmanos Cancer Center on the testing of the blood of the three potential perfect matches for the bone marrow donor. We are thankful that three out of the six agreed to go to the next step and continue to pray for each of these individuals that they would indeed be a perfect match, that they would be willing to be a donor, that their schedules would fit Bonnie’s and that God would bless them in a special way.

I (Steve) had my (hopefully) last chemo treatment this past Thursday. I wished I could say that my body is getting used to the poison, but it seems the side effects of nausea are prolonged after each treatment, which I learned is not unusual. I have also found that the upper respiratory issue (wheezing and coughing) is not necessarily from a lingering cold, but rather a side effect of the chemo. The coughing becomes tiresome and has strained some of the ligaments along the sternum so it is somewhat uncomfortable. Please pray that I can endure the nausea as well as the coughing and that both will subside soon.

We are grateful for our small group that we have been involved with for over 19 years. They have been the nucleus of the incredible rings of support that have surrounded us since this journey commenced. We had our traditional end of summer dinner scheduled for this past Wednesday when we learned Bonnie was to be readmitted to the hospital. The rest of our group quickly changed plans and brought dinner into the hospital so that we could all be together. They all wore hats so they could be cool like Bonnie and I!

As events and circumstances in our lives ebb and flow, God wants us to continually be in His word as it never loses its freshness. It’s almost as if a specific trial, such as what we’re dealing with, is like putting on a unique set of glasses that opens a whole new vantage point of God’s word that could not be seen before. For that reason, we are grateful for this trial and continue to pray that God will enable us to continue to see more depth to His words we have read so many times over the years. Yesterday we read Psalm 100 as a family:

1 Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
3 Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

In verse 1 we are to make a joyful shout or noise to the Lord, regardless of the circumstances we face.
In verse 2 part of that joy is serving Him with gladness and singing, regardless of our earthly trials.
In verse 3 we can take comfort in knowing that it is He that made us and we belong to Him and He knows our suffering. Jesus our Shepherd is watching over us and knows our needs.
In verse 4 we are to be thankful to God for all things, including the trial of having leukemia and lymphoma (which is easier said than done and requires a lot of prayer – particularly when we are feeling the harsh side effects of the chemo and disease as well as the unknowns and uncertainties).
In verse 5 we are comforted knowing that God is good (in all things) and that in the midst of the storm we can still experience his goodness and mercy which is the source of our joy.

We pray that we will continue to be thankful to God for the trial we are enduring. True thanksgiving brings us a supernatural joy that is never ending. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Steve and Bonnie

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Ecclesiastes 3:11 starts off with “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time.” We have to continually keep our “timing wants” in perspective with God’s “timing will”. His timing is perfect and based on eternity, while ours is self-centered and based on the “here and now”. Even though we are subject to God’s timing (when it doesn’t fit ours), the Psalmist says in Psalms 103:8 “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”

From an earthly perspective, there is never a good time for leukemia and/or lymphoma. We can look back and dwell on various events missed: a graduation & open house, an 18th birthday, a memorial service for a stepfather and a vacation. Having faith that God has a greater purpose for our unusual sequence of events helps us to come back to the proper focus and perspective of trusting God and His perfect timing. Yet in the midst of submitting to God’s timing that isn’t ours, He is “compassionate and gracious…..abounding in lovingkindness.”

Before updating you on our physical status, we wanted to share with you a snippet of God’s perfect timing that we were able to experience and grateful for His outpouring of compassion. If you have been following this blog, you most likely know that for the past month Bonnie has been feeling better and getting stronger while I (Steve) have been the one experiencing the physical side effects of the chemotherapy. As a result, we have not been able to travel any significant distances since prior to May 12th when Bonnie was admitted to Sparrow Hospital and now with her back in Sparrow for another week of chemo combined with my third cycle of chemo this Thursday, we had a very small window of opportunity to travel to Northern Michigan this weekend to visit Bonnie’s terminally ill father and also visit a few cousins from out of town. This past Friday, we visited Bonnie’s father and Saturday morning he passed away. Bonnie was able to tell him she loved him and he in turn expressed the same to her, so God allowed her to have that closure. There was no other time we could have traveled the 3+ hours North to see him. We also were able to spend some time with cousins at the lake and enjoy a beautiful day….one of the few they have had up north all summer. God is so good and His handiwork so present.

As far as the update on our status…..Bonnie was admitted yesterday for 5 days of chemo. They will be wiping out her white blood cells again as a precautionary measure to ensure she remains in remission. If everything goes as planned, she will be discharged on Saturday, most likely in a neutropenic state, meaning she will have no immune system to fight infections and viruses. She will then receive injections to stimulate her bone marrow to produce new WBC. As of tonight she is doing well and we are praying that she has minimal side effects in the days following the completion of the chemo. I (Steve) have been feeling better the past couple of days with the exception of the cold virus I contracted over four weeks ago that wants to hang on as my system is also taxed from the chemo. As mentioned up above, I have my third (and hopefully last) round of chemo on Thursday. I have a Pet Scan scheduled for September 1st to determine the effectiveness of the chemo which then will be followed by three more weeks of radiation.

In summary, please pray that as we head into this weekend that our side effects are minimal in order that we can minister to each other and our kids don’t have to witness two very sick parents at the same time. We are still awaiting word on whether or not any of the six possible matches for a bone marrow donor are willing to move forward with us. Please continue to pray that someone in this group is indeed a perfect match and willing to be a donor.

Thank you again for your prayers. We are so grateful for you all.

Steve and Bonnie

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Thank you for your care and interest in taking time to keep up to date on the status of the challenging journey we continue to face each day. There hasn’t been much to report or change in status since our last update a week ago Monday, until yesterday.

Yesterday Bonnie had a follow up appointment with “our” oncologist. She is still in remission and her twice weekly blood labs indicate that the level of white blood cells is in the normal range, her platelet level is also normal and her hemoglobin remains slightly low, but acceptable and an answer to prayer.

The looming bone marrow transplant is still off into the future, as a donor has yet to surface. If you recall from our last update, there are six potential perfect matches, but the process is onerous and time consuming. We have yet to hear if any of the six have agreed to provide blood samples to be sent to Karmanos. Once received it is fourteen days until the match is verified, and assuming the match is confirmed and someone is willing, then there is another two weeks to process the insurance approval, followed by a physical of the donor.

As a result, our oncologist does not want Bonnie to go any longer without a round of consolidation chemotherapy to maintain her remission status. This means five days back at Sparrow Hospital as an in-patient for three rounds of a more concentrated chemo like she had the first two rounds. The doctor did say that he would review Bonnie’s file to determine if this particular chemo was the culprit that caused so many of the side effects she experienced. If so, he indicated that he would look for an alternative chemo that could provide the same results without the harsh side effects.

When will this occur? Unfortunately, it will occur sooner than we had expected. Bonnie will be admitted this coming Monday (August 17th) and if everything goes as planned, she will be discharged Friday afternoon (August 21st). Please pray:

1) That Bonnie will have an overwhelming peace as Monday draws near. She knows too much this time around and it is easy to succumb to fear and discouragement.

2) That the doctor will have wisdom and discernment in selecting the best type of chemo for this treatment.

3) That Bonnie will not have the same side effects she experienced last time and that her stay will be limited to the planned five days.

4) That we will glorify God with the proper attitude as this trial continues.

As far as my (Steve) status, my last (hopefully) round of chemo is scheduled for August 20th. I’m slowly coming out of the side effects from the last round two weeks ago. I continue to fight a remnant cough and wheezing from the upper respiratory issue that started four weeks ago. I’ve been able to work five to six hours each day which is a good distraction from some of the physical ailments. My hair has been falling out steadily. Tonight when I washed it, it all came out, so now I look like Mr. Clean. One of our wonderful children suggested that I get a Mr. Clean earring which was completely dismissed.

Once the chemo is complete, I have a follow up Pet Scan scheduled for September 1st which will reveal the effectiveness of the chemo on the lymphoma and whether or not additional treatment is required. I still have three weeks of radiation that will follow the chemo.

In spite of the many issues we face, God is faithful and provides us with everything we need. We are grateful and thankful for the peace, strength and endurance He continues to bless us with each day. In our weak moments, Psalm 94: 18-19 helps us put our sights back into the proper focus – not on ourselves but on a holy God who sustains us at all times and is the source of the joy that is waiting to fill our hearts and available to us at all times, regardless of life's trials:

“When I thought, “My foot slips,”
Your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
When the cares of my heart are many,
Your consolations cheer my soul.”

Thank you for your prayers.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Today was a little more outside the status quo from an emotional perspective and a little more of a roller coaster. It’s very apparent that God wants us to trust Him more fully than we have as we continue on our journey. He closed one door today and opened up another as a possibility. We learned today that neither Bonnie’s sister or brother were a match as a possible bone marrow donor. That was a setback as we were hopeful that Bonnie’s sister was a match, as they have many similar physical attributes.

We are however, still firm in our faith that God is in control of all things, including the issue of finding a donor. We also know that God can heal Bonnie if He chooses to do so, either within the context and framework of the medical community He has blessed us with, or in a supernatural unfathomable way that our finite minds cannot comprehend. He is the great physician and source of our hope and joy.

The other half of the roller coaster ride was the second call we received later in the afternoon from our Bone Marrow Transplant Coordinator at Karmanos letting us know that she was able to identify on the national bone marrow donor database eight potential perfect matches. The key word here is “potential”. Most names in the database have completed a saliva swab to provide an initial DNA record for gene typing. The typing from this initial swab is a good indicator that we have a match, but more detailed typing is required using blood to ensure that the eight genes they need to match with Bonnie do indeed match. Karmanos is initiating the process with the national donor program to ask seven of the eight (they typically use six to seven names) people to go to a lab to provide blood for further testing. Once the blood samples are received by Karmanos the process takes approximately 14 days to finalize the typing.

One other positive with this news is that one of the eight in the database actually has had the more detailed typing completed and appears to be a perfect match. Our Coordinator will speak with Bonnie’s doctor on Wednesday to see if she wants to immediately commence the transplant process without looking at any of the other seven candidates. Issues that can arise though are the donor’s schedule doesn’t work with our timing or they changed their mind. Obviously these issues have to be worked out and we are putting them in God’s hands and trusting that He knows best.

Just a quick update on my (Steve) status. I did receive my second chemo treatment this past Thursday in spite of the lingering upper respiratory issue that continues to hang on. I am experiencing more insomnia and nausea this time around along with the same abdominal cramping I did with the first round and pray that all will subside soon. We are keeping a close eye (figuratively speaking) on my lungs as they seem to have some fluid building, but presently not serious. Please continue to pray for peace in the midst of the physical challenges I feel and that I will persevere with joy even when I don’t feel like it. This morning I read Romans chapter 5 and verses 3 & 4 might as well have been bolded and underlined by God as I was reading the text because He sure brought it to my attention. I’ve included verses 1 through 5 for complete context and have put in bold type below my new prayer:

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

Please pray this with us as we forge ahead each day, not knowing what is around the next corner, but trusting that God is leading us where He wants us to go.