In Christ Alone: My Journey through Breast Cancer

a 34-year old, christian, mother of four, missionary/pastor's wife's story

Time for More Scans April 12, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 5:00 AM

It has been 6 months since my last scans. And just in time, a couple of my recurring spots on the right side decided to pop up again. This tumor first made it’s appearance a little over a year ago during my pregnancy with Asher. Since then, we have seen it respond to 2 different chemotherapy regimens and go completely away each time, only to return again. This time I noticed it again the day before my last treatment. I had my treatment and again saw it shrink, but it has not gone away completely yet.
Since this spot keeps coming back, we are exploring other options of treatment. My oncologist set me up for a PET scan and CT scan. I also saw my Radiation Oncologist and radiation looks to be a good option. I’ve had great results from radiation on my left side, but have not had any radiation on the right side. So for now I continue my current chemotherapy treatment every 3 weeks, wait for results on the scans, and will most likely begin radiation in May.
At the beginning of May, I have the wonderful opportunity to go with my daughter Faith on her 5th Grade Class Field Trip to Washington D.C.!!! I have never been there before, and I am so excited to share this special experience with Faith! We have been fundraising throughout the school year to offset the cost of the trip. As May approaches, we have begun to research some of our destinations, and we are eager to see some of the examples around our Capitol that show the Christian Heritage of our nation! Please pray that I will have the energy needed to enjoy this amazing trip with Faith! Thankfully it will fall on the good week in my chemo cycle, but my energy has definitely been down again these past couple weeks.
Lately, as my prayer list has been growing with so many that are facing such difficult circumstances, I believe God has been working in my heart and showing me some ways that I can help and encourage those around me. I began a Bible study in our home this week with some dear ladies and am very excited to see how God will work through it in our lives in the coming weeks! I am also pursuing some other opportunities and will see if God continues to open doors. Please pray for me to have wisdom in using my energy and knowing what God’s will is for me right now.

As many cancer patients know, the time leading up to and waiting for results from scans can be a very anxious time. Fear of cancer spreading or recurring can run rampant if not held in check. When I struggle with worry, I always end up going back to my first round of testing to see if I had cancer. God brought me to the book of Philippians. Right in chapter 1:18-20:
“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
This will turn out for my deliverance. No matter what the outcome, God is in control and will work this out for my deliverance and His glory! So I am to exalt Christ through my current situation.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” God has a purpose and can work any situation out for my good when I turn to Him and seek His will.
So, practically, what do we do when worry and anxiety creep in? Philippians 4:4-9 has the answer:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
1)Rejoice in the Lord, 2)Think of others, 3)Pray, 4)Give thanks, and 5)Control what you think about. (If it’s not on the list, change your train of thought to something that is on the list of things to dwell on.) Then the Peace of God which passes all understanding will be with you. Much, much easier said than done, I know! ;) It’s not easy, but it does work.
I’ll leave you with one last verse that I memorized under the tag “Assurance of Victory”:
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) No matter what the future holds in this life, God will provide a way of escape for you to endure it. And we always have the future hope of eternity in heaven with our Savior!

 

11 Months & 3 Years March 17, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 10:22 PM
Asher photo bombing Adam and Ethan's picture!

Asher photo bombing Adam and Ethan’s picture!

Guess who is 11 months old today!?!?! Our sweet little miracle Asher is already 11 months old! Where does the time go? It’s so amazing to watch him learn and grow. He is such a blessing and joy to everyone around him. His smile just lights up his face and you can’t help but smile in your heart when you see it. :) He is truly living up to his name’s meaning of “happiness and joy”. We are so thankful for this sweet blessing from God in the midst of cancer.

Today also marks a big milestone in my cancer journey.3 years ago today, we heard those words that changed the course of our lives: “You do have cancer.” We did not know what this journey would bring. It has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but God has been our rock through everything. We have heard those words 3 times in 3 years, once right after finding out we were pregnant with our sweet Asher. Each time we had peace that God was in control and had a plan in all of this, even if we didn’t know what that plan was. There was more than one time that we had to face the reality that God may take me home now. I do not know how we have made it through the hard times; it’s only by God’s strength that we have continued to walk each day. We are so thankful for all the support and countless prayers on our behalf. The power of prayer is absolutely amazing! God hears and answers our prayers!

I am still here 3 years later, and I am feeling the best I have in the last 3 years! My new “miracle” chemo Kadcyla is doing it’s job! All of the bumps and lumps we have been watching have completely gone away. We watched them shrink each time I would receive a treatment, and now they are gone! My side effects have been minimal compared to what I have dealt with these last 3 years. And my energy level has been increasing each day! I can have a busy day and not be completely exhausted for the next couple of days. Pray this treatment will continue to work with minimal side effects!

I am excited to see how God will work through this new energy that I have. I am thankful for many opportunities to help and encourage friends and new acquaintances, many on their own cancer journeys. I know so many that are hurting and facing difficult times right now. My prayer list is long and the opportunities are great.I know that God can and does work miracles. I know that He works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, as He tells us in Romans 8:28. Will you pray that God can use us to share this hope with those in need right now?20140317-222200.jpg

 

Video Interview and Update February 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 11:46 PM

I want to thank each of you for your prayers and encouragement! Many of you have never met me, but faithfully pray for me and send me such encouraging messages. I pray that God uses my story of His faithfulness to encourage you in whatever circumstances you may be facing right now.

I now have my video interview and story to share with you! My oncologist had a camera crew come in and interview patients this past Fall. This interview was done a week after I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time, so it is mostly about my first two rounds with cancer. They couldn’t put all of the interview in this clip, so they also did a written story entitled God is My Rock using my other comments and information from my oncologist. All of these are posted on my oncologists website: Oncology Associates

I pray you are encouraged and will share this video to encourage others:

I did receive the second dose of my new chemotherapy Kadcyla this past Friday. (I only have this one every three weeks.) This targeted chemo has been sooo much easier on my system than my previous type of chemo. I still have the fatigue, but not as severe and by the third week I am feeling almost “normal” again. The other side effects have been minimal! And even better, we have seen results already! My tumors on the right side are shrinking! And all of the areas on my left side that were radiated away have not come back at all, and my skin has healed up really well from radiation. We are praising the Lord for His answer to so many prayers! Please join us in praying that this new “miracle” chemo will continue to work and kill my cancer. I am so thankful that my God has His sovereign hand over my life.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

 

9 Months Already! January 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 11:22 AM
Asher is 9 months old!

Asher is 9 months old!

Asher has reached another milestone: his 9 month birthday! He is a happy, social little guy who is always on the go. If anyone gives him a little attention he smiles and smiles. He is definitely living up to the meaning of his name by spreading “happiness and joy” wherever he goes! He is crawling all over now, pulling himself up to standing, and walking with help.He has had 2 haircuts, has 6 teeth, and is loving eating food now! He is our perfect little miracle from God! I can’t help but thank and praise God for this amazing gift as I watch him grow and develop each day.

I haven’t given a medical update for quite some time now. I did finish my 3 weeks of daily radiation to my left chest area at the beginning of December. We saw great results from the radiation! The 2 tumors are completely gone and the skin area is much improved and hasn’t shown any signs of growing again since then. I did have some pretty good radiation burns this time and even had an area that opened up. My radiation oncologist prescribed a burn ointment that worked wonderfully though. The area was completely healed over within 2 weeks after looking pretty nasty! Now my burns are all healed and the skin is looking very good. I am so thankful that the radiation works so well against my cancer!

As I was preparing to begin radiation on my left side, some new bumps popped up on the right side again. I continued my weekly doses of Herceptin chemotherapy while doing radiation. At the end of radiation I added a new daily chemo pill that was very hard on my GI tract. I ended up on it for a week and then off for a week to recover. We kept up this routine for 6 weeks and my symptoms just seemed to get worse each time, so we decided to move on to the next chemo. The pill was just meant to be an interim chemo until I was healed up from radiation. The Herceptin and chemo pill (Tykerb) did seem to work in the respect that my new cancer on the right side did not grow, but also did not shrink while on them.

Asher is hanging with mom,  sporting his new haircut!

Asher is hanging with mom,
sporting his new haircut!

In just the past week I have seen some small growth of these bumps again, so God worked out the timing to move on at just the right time once again. I began Kadcyla chemotherapy Friday. This is a new “miracle” drug that was just approved last year. We are hopeful that it will attack and kill the cancer with minimal side effects! Will you pray with us that this is the case?

Also, please be in prayer for my chemo friends. In the past week we have seen one chemo friend pass away, and 3 others receive news that their cancer is back or has spread. We are thankful for the wonderful testimony of Bonnie Walls at her memorial service. She was always willing to share her experience and kind words to help and encourage me and others in the chemo room. We rejoice that she is

now in heaven with her Savior, but we also sorrow with those loved ones left behind. With many friends hearing “bad” news this week it has been difficult to keep our focus on rejoicing in God and His goodness.

I read a great quote from Lysa TerKeurst and her book Unglued, “I can’t control the things that happen to me each day, but I can control how I think about them. I can say to myself, ‘I have a choice to have destructive thoughts or constructive thoughts right now. I can wallow in what’s wrong and make things worse, or I can ask God for a better perspective to help me see good even when I don’t feel good.’”

I am so thankful for the verse I taught in Jr. Church last Sunday that the Spirit kept bringing back to my mind throughout this week: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) We know that God loves us and wants the best for His children. This is His will for us. As I try to rejoice, I remember the next part of the verse. If I cannot rejoice, I pray that God will give me joy despite what my circumstances may be. God has given me so many blessings to rejoice in. I have to keep my focus on Him and His blessings!

Wilmeth Family Vacation at Mall of America!

Wilmeth Family Vacation at Mall of America!

We were able to enjoy some wonderful times of blessing over the Christmas Season when I was feeling okay! We spent time with all our family, some college friends, some high school friends, and other dear friends. We celebrated Adam’s 7th birthday at the Science Center in Iowa. We also took our first Wilmeth Family Vacation! Well, the first vacation that wasn’t to visit family or to go to a conference. ;) We left Asher with Eric’s parents and took the other kids to the Mall of America for a few days! We had a great time visiting the Lego store, American Girl store, and exploring the amusement park in the mall! We were able to make many memories that we will remember for years to come. We thank the Lord for this blessed time together!

 

At Jesus’ Feet December 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 1:24 AM
GmaDonna

Grandma Donna Jean Wilson, Now at Jesus’ Feet

Parting is such sweet sorrow. This past Friday, December 6th, one of my greatest supporters and prayer warriors went to meet her Savior. My Grandma, Donna Jean Wilson, passed away suddenly from complications of a blood clot.

We thank the Lord we were able to see her again just 3 weeks ago as we celebrated my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary with family. What a wonderful example of a God-centered marriage they have been to us. They always endeavored to honor God with their lives, sacrificing themselves and what they had to help, encourage, and love each other and those around them.

Grandma always had a way of finding practical ways to help out and love our family, whether that was helping clean my house in preparation for a big event, taking us out to eat, or watching our kids when we needed a break. She has always been one of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders. She was always there to support and cheer me on in any endeavor I pursued, whether education, hobbies, marriage, child-raising, but most of all following God’s leading in my life. She told me often that she prayed for me every day.

I have always loved to hear the stories of how God was working to change the lives of those around my grandparents. God used them to help plant a wonderful, God-honoring church and bring the Good News of God’s Salvation to so many. Even after retiring, they used their time and resources to help missionaries and minister in multiple churches, as well as helping many family members and friends in their travels. I’m sure there are many, many ways God used them that I do not even know about. What a wonderful example they leave to all of us to love God and love those around you wherever you go.

We are so thankful for the comfort we have in knowing Grandma Donna is now in heaven at the feet of Jesus. She knew the truth of I John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” She believed, and we know she is now in heaven with her Lord and Savior, as my Grandpa sang “her” song at the funeral:

Look for Me at Jesus’ Feet

If I leave this world of sorrow sometime before you do,
Just look for me in heaven and we’ll talk the ages thru;
But if, at first, you fail to see me, let me tell you where I’ll be,
I’ll be thanking Christ, my Savior, for saving a wretch like me.

Don’t look ‘neath the gates of pearl, don’t look on the streets of gold,
Don’t look by the walls of jasper, nor among the many sights untold;
For I’ve been longing and I’ve been waiting for the precious, holy One to meet,
There I’ll be thru the countless ages, look for me at Jesus’ feet.

But if you should reach that city before my time has come,
Perhaps you’d like to greet me when my race down here is run;
Just wait, for I’ll soon be coming across life’s ebbing sea,
And I’ll tell you now, my brother, just where to wait for me.

Don’t wait ‘neath the gates of pearl, don’t wait on the streets of gold,
Don’t wait by the walls of jasper, nor among the many sites untold;
For I’ve been longing and I’ve been waiting for the precious, holy One to meet,
There I’ll be thru the countless ages, wait for me at Jesus’ feet.

I treasure the last words my Grandma wrote to me in a card she gave me when I last saw her: “We pray daily for you and ask God to heal you, if it would be His will. We love you and your little family and we praise Him for the testimony that everyone in your family is for the Lord. We sang this song in church last Sunday and I said to myself, this is Amy’s song:

No Need to Doubt Him Now

Roy E. Coble, Jr. and Sydney G. Coble

Looking back through the years
The heartaches and tears
My Lord has never once let me down
Though I don’t understand
Still I trust in His plan
For He said that His grace would abound.

No need to doubt Him now
He’ll make a way somehow
Safely this far Jesus has brought me
No need to doubt Him now.

Child of God, have no fear
Though your path seems unclear
Some day God’s plan will unfold
He has never, never failed
He has always prevailed
The Lord is still in control.

No need to doubt Him now
He’ll make a way somehow
Safely this far Jesus has brought me
No need to doubt Him now.

All our Love,

Grandma & Grandpa”

Thank you for the love you showed, Grandma. We love you so much and miss you dearly as we look forward to the day when you will greet us when our race down here is done and we can be with you at Jesus’ feet!

 

Here we go again November 4, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 12:47 AM

A lot has happened since my last update. It took me a little longer than normal to bounce back from my last “hard” dose of chemo in September. I finally started feeling more energetic and not wearing out so easily about 4 weeks later. I am so enjoying being more active and doing more activities together with my family and friends!

At the same time, I found another new suspicious lump on my left lower chest area. (This new lump was very similar to my 2nd bout of cancer found last September on my right chest area.) After showing it to my oncologist, I was sent for scans again to check things out. These scans did not show anything to be concerned about as far as cancer goes, but they found 2 blood clots, one in my leg and one in my lung! i had barely gotten back home from the hospital where the scans were done when I got the call to go back to the hospital ASAP. I was put on blood thinners to get rid of the clots and prevent them in the future. I was taking a pill and getting shots of blood thinners until they could get my INR levels into the therapeutic range of 2-3. (That just means your blood will clot in 2-3 seconds, instead of the normal 1 second.) Thankfully, God had protected me in allowing these clots to be caught early on this scan so we could take care of them before anything serious happened. Since I was not having any side effects from the clots and my vitals were all normal, they were able to send me home the next day. Thankfully my wonderful husband Eric was willing to keep giving me the shots 2 times a day, so I could go home. (He is working on his honorary nursing degree with all the medical issues he’s helped me with. ;) )

I thought that was enough excitement for one week, so I waited until the next Friday to add some more. I had my INR level checked along with my normal weekly blood work, and found out my INR was at a critical level: 6.5! Yikes! I think every medical professional I saw that day asked if I was bleeding anywhere and said not to touch knives. :) Thankfully God was once again watching over me and I didn’t have any accidents that would cause bleeding during this critical time!

I was given Vitamin K to counteract the blood thinners and taken off the blood thinners until I returned to the normal therapeutic range. I was able to get it back down to 2.0 again by Tuesday in time for my outpatient surgery biopsy to remove the suspicious area and determine what it was. The results show that it is cancer once again. In the time during all this testing and dealing with the blood clots, I found another small suspicious spot on my upper left chest area, that is most likely the same thing, as well as seeing the skin area that developed while I was pregnant back in April begin to thicken and redden once again. All these areas are just outside the radiation field from my first bout with cancer. (From March 2011-April 2012, I received chemo, had a double mastectomy, received more chemo, and then finished treatments with 6 1/2 weeks of daily radiation on my left chest area.)

So for the third time in a little less than 3 years we have heard the confirmation that I indeed have cancer. God has not finished using us in the cancer world yet. We know He has a plan in all of this, even though we do not understand what it is at this point. God has shown Himself faithful once again over this past month in the constant reminder of His promises to those who trust in Him.

Romans 8:28 says “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” We have seen over and over again these last 3 years how God can work things together for good. We have a precious perfect little 6 month old miracle in our little Asher! My cancer has miraculously not metastasized to any other part of my body. God has given me the support and strength I need to walk this journey each minute of each day. What amazing blessings He bestows on those who trust in Him!

God has also given me the privilege to share my story to help and encourage others in many ways, including through this blog. Last week I was able to share my story with a video crew that my oncologist is using to put together videos for a special website for those newly diagnosed with cancer. It will share information on what to expect as you choose and begin treatments, as well as sharing the stories of other cancer survivors telling their experiences in order to help others.  I was able to share my unique experience of being pregnant while battling cancer and the story of how my faith in God has gotten me through my journey so far. (I will share the link once my video clips are edited and uploaded.) I am so thankful for the opportunities to share how my amazing God has helped me find joy and peace amid these difficult circumstances. I pray others are encouraged and turn to Christ in their time of need.

I was able to meet with my radiation oncologist on Friday and we determined that we will begin my new course of treatment with 3 weeks of daily radiation to the 2 new spots. The cancer has not come back in my previously radiated area, so this seems to be an effective pursuit in my case. We are waiting on all the cancer markers to come back still to determine which chemotherapy options we will pursue after radiation.

This week I have an appointment to get my 7 stitches removed from my biopsy surgery and then a radiation planning session. If my incision is healed up well enough, we plan to begin radiation the following week.

Thank you once again for your continued love, support, and prayers as we continue on this cancer journey. I could not do this without all of you! Pray with me that through the power of the Holy Spirit I can live out what Paul wrote in Philippians 1: 18-21:

“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

 

Answered Prayers! August 31, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 9:32 AM

Thank you all for praying! We’ve had two big answers to prayer this week! First of all on Friday night while we were praying as a family before bed, our 6 year old Adam asked God to forgive all his sins so he could go to heaven! He has been asking questions and contemplating giving his life to God for a while now. We have answered his questions and prayed fervently that he will understand what salvation is and desire to turn to God.

Ethan, Faith, and Adam wearing their cowboy boots - courtesy of Makarios Photography Studio

Ethan, Faith, and Adam wearing their cowboy boots – courtesy of Makarios Photography Studio

It has been so neat to see the change God has made in Adam. Immediately afterwards his face was full of joy. He does smile quite a bit and is very loving, but is a serious boy about a lot of things. His face was now softened with a smile of joy that can only come from the Lord. And he couldn’t stop smiling! He was also looking for ways he could help out and show love to everyone around him. He even asked if he could make me breakfast in the morning! How can you say no to that?! :)

He also wanted to tell everyone he saw what had happened: that he was now a baby Christian! He is a Christ-follower and wants to love and be kind to others, just as Christ loved him and even died for his sins. As we talked about verses we had learned at church in JOY Club, it was so amazing to see him remember the verse, but now understand what it meant, what he should do, and why he should do it. He didn’t just have that head knowledge of the verses, he now had a heart knowledge and wanted to live out what it said.

It’s so amazing to see the change God can make in a life, and see their desire as a child of the King to share the hope they now have with others. A favorite song in our house lately has been “Hello, My Name Is” by Matthew West. Now it is Adam’s favorite song to play over and over, as he joyfully sings along the words,

“Hello, my name is child of the One True King, I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, I have been set free, Amazing Grace is the song I sing. Hello, my name is child of the One True King!”

If you are not a child of the One True King, please take a moment to consider this important decision! Such wonderful joy awaits you!

My wonderful husband and caretaker Eric with our sweet Asher - courtesy of Makarios Photography Studio

My wonderful husband and caretaker Eric with our sweet Asher – courtesy of Makarios Photography Studio

Another answer to prayer this week has been exactly what I asked all of you to pray for. I asked you to pray that I would be able to help out with the family more this week than after my last round of chemo, specifically that I would have no migraine and less touch sensitivity. I was praying this would allow me to help with the nighttime feedings for baby Asher and allow me to be around the older kids more after school.

God answered with exactly those things! I didn’t have a migraine and had little touch sensitivity. I was able to do all the nighttime feedings so Eric could rest and be ready to care for all of us during the day. I was able to have the older kids come into my dark room when they got home from school to share how their day went and encourage them to keep up the good work around home. It was still a very exhausting and hard week to get through, but much better than the “overwhelming” week we had last time around. God has taught me, once again, that when we pray specifically, He will answer specifically! We have not, because we ask not. John 16:24 says, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

He wants to bless us; He is waiting to give us full joy! We just have to ask! And now my soul has been praising God for His wonderful blessings this week! Take some time to Bless the Lord!

 

 
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