In Christ Alone: My Journey through Breast Cancer

a 35-year old, christian, mother of four, missionary/pastor's wife's story

The Waiting Game May 18, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 1:00 PM

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭27:13-14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
Why is it so hard to wait? One of the hardest times for me to trust in the Lord and His perfect plan for my life is in the time of flux and limbo and waiting. It is easy to quote God’s words that say “His ways are higher than our ways” and to have that head knowledge that He is working out that perfect plan in His perfect timing as we wait. But then, the rubber meets the road. And I have to sit and wait. I like to have a plan and work out that plan step by step, logically. But at this time I understandably have restrictions while I wait: No Driving, No Cooking, and No Being Alone to name a few big ones.

It is hard for me to take a step back and let others help and serve me in these areas where I used to have such freedom. But it is also such a blessing to have so many come together in our time of need to support us! We have had countless messages, texts, calls, cards, help with the kids activities, food brought in, and gifts and flowers to brighten our days as I have to sit and wait. We are so blessed!

The Medical Update

We now have a date for the Gamma Knife Procedure: May 31st will be the day! We were hoping for a sooner date, but a little more waiting is in order to get everyone’s schedules lined up. Thankfully the recovery time after the procedure will be VERY short and I should be able to cut back on my steroid use quickly too.:)

My anti-seizure medication, Keppra, has been giving me the hardest side affects of being extremely exhausted and in a brain fog much of the time all day, every day. Praise the Lord, I just found out I don’t need to continue this medication at this time! My steroid to reduce the swelling of the brain tumors should be sufficient to keep me from having seizures until my procedure can be done to zap the tumors. Thank the Lord with me for this amazing reprieve in this time of waiting!

I did have my routine 6 month CT Chest and Abdominal scans on Friday to keep an eye on the areas of cancer my ongoing weekly chemotherapy is treating. We were happy to hear that everything is stable and unchanged! There are no new areas of cancer that have popped up. And the small spots of cancer on my back and and right chest area have not grown and the chemo is continuing to work on them! I am so thankful my current weekly treatments of Gemzar and Herceptin chemotherapies have been working on these areas since July of 2015.

The Big Move to Ohio

We are also planning to move forward with getting our house on the market NOW and searching long-distance for a new home in Ohio! We are excited to see what God will do medically-wise, job-wise, church-wise, family-wise, school-wise, and community-wise as we get moved and embark on this next Adventure! Please pray with us as many details need to be worked out in our time of transition, but we know God continues to direct and work out His plan for our lives. 

Many have asked how they can help with our BIG MOVE and job transition. Our Mission Agency we work for, Baptist Church Planters, has set up a fund to pay for our Moving Expenses to Ohio, or you can become a Monthly Financial Supporter, or give a One-Time Monetary Gift to our Ministry as Missionaries. You can go to the Baptist Church Planters website for information on how to support us in these ways: http://www.bcpusa.org/giving/

Thank You

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all your prayers. They sustain and uplift us each and every minute of every day through this journey of life.

Continue to pray that we would live out the words of Psalm 27:13-14 as we wait on the Lord in this time: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!”

 

The Brain Plan May 9, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 11:21 PM

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thes. 5:16-18)We have much to rejoice in and give thanks for! In the midst of this new bend in the road I’m thankful for a God who is not surprised and is worthy of our thanks, praise, and prayers. I am so thankful for the options that I have before me and the optimistic outlook of all my doctors and surgeons.

I definitely have some challenges before me too. I have lost some of my freedoms that I took for granted before. I am now on an anti-seizure medicine called Keppra that makes me very drowsy and in a fog most of the day. I am also restricted from driving for 3 months. This means I can no longer drive myself to my treatments or go anywhere without a driver. Although the doctors don’t think I need to worry about more seizures while on the Keppra, I am not to be alone either, just in case something were to happen. So I am adjusting to a new normal on many levels for the foreseeable future. My amazing hubby Eric is taking good care of me and keeping a close eye on me.:)

After talking to the neurosurgeon and my radiation oncologist today, they agree that the Gamma Knife Procedure is the best option before me. With two tumors in two different locations, traditional brain surgery isn’t a viable option. That leaves whole brain radiation or the Gamma Knife Radiation as my two main options. Whole brain radiation would have many more possible adverse side effects, as it would radiate healthy brain tissue as well as the cancerous cells. The Gamma Knife Procedure will take images from MRI and CT Scans to target only the cancerous tumor cells, leaving the healthy brain cells unaffected. The doctors think I’m an ideal candidate for the Gamma Knife Procedure, given my current condition. We can radiate the two tumors the same day and monitor the results through scans.

The procedure will take a couple of weeks to schedule. We have to go through the preauthorization process for insurance and then coordinate the schedules of my neurosurgeon, radiation oncologist, and availability of the radiation machine. The process was initiated today, so the ball is rolling getting all the ducks in a row to do the procedure as soon as possible.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support in this time of scheduling and adjusting to a new normal way of life for the time being. We have been so encouraged by all the emails, messages, texts, and calls that you are thinking of us and praying fervently for us! We know God hears and is answering those prayers. Rejoice and give thanks with us for answered prayer and good treatment options before us! As 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, this is God’s will for us, to rejoice always. He is working out His perfect plan through these circumstances.

 

Update & Discharge from Hospital May 5, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 5:45 PM

Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

I’m home again! I didn’t have any more incidents after getting to the hospital yesterday morning. They kept me for 24 hours of observation and had me start anti-seizure medicine. The MRI showed the mass in my left frontal lobe of my brain is 1.9cm and it found a 2nd smaller mass about 1cm in size in the middle of the cerebellum. They believe the larger one caused my seizure. 

Most of my specialists agree that radiation is the best course of action for these two spots. I have an appointment with a specialist and then my regular radiation oncologist on Monday to talk through their recommended course of action. We’ve been told about a Gamma Knife Procedure that will target the radiation in a concentrated dose at both the tumors in my brain. It would be a high dose so only 1-2 treatments would take care of it. We’ll have to wait till Monday to hear all of the specifics and the timing for getting me in.

We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of prayers and support in response to our unexpected turn in the road! We can definitely feel the power of prayer as we’ve been in the hospital and now been discharged. It’s amazing how God watches over us, protects us, and provides for our every need. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who have answered the call to be my prayer warriors or helped out in some other way.

While this was not our plan for the week, God knew this was going to happen. We may make our plans, but God establishes our steps. He is accomplishing His perfect plan through all these circumstances. Pray that we will be His ambassadors wherever this journey takes us, proclaiming His grace and peace and faithfulness to all who will trust in Him!

 

Calling all Prayer Warriors May 4, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 4:33 PM

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:1, 4-7
We have had an eventful morning in the Wilmeth house! After we got the kids off to school, I was getting ready for the day and experienced a seizure. Thankfully Eric was there with me to catch me. I’ve never had a seizure before. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Thank you to the amazing Bennington Fire & Rescue for taking good care of me! It was nice to see some familiar faces to help us out.:)

At the hospital, they were able to get me in for a CT Scan right away and discovered that I have a 1cm mass in the left frontal lobe of my brain. They are thinking that is the cause of my seizure. I have since had an MRI of my brain to see what else they can see and find out from that. We are still waiting for the MRI results now. I have been feeling normal since getting to the hospital with no lingering symptoms of my seizure or any other problems. They plan to keep me for observation for at least 24 hours to make sure I don’t have any more episodes.

Even in this whole ordeal, we can see God’s hand of protection! If the seizure had happened even a half hour earlier, I would have been in the van driving the kids to school. God protected me and the kids in the timing of events. Also, Eric was right there with me when the seizure happened at home and was able to keep me from falling and hitting my head or anything. Although it was a scary experience, it could have been much worse! God is definitely Sovereign and watching over our whole situation. We have much to rejoice in!

Please join us in praying for wisdom for my doctors and medical professionals as they read the scan results and counsel us on what the next steps are in this new development. We will definitely pass along updates as we learn more.

Thank you so much for the encouraging emails, texts, and calls so far today. It’s so encouraging to know so many are taking us to the Lord in prayer. And we know God hears and answers our prayers and extends His peace that passes all understanding for whatever situation we are facing. We are trusting the Lord to accomplish His perfect will even in this situation and are thankful for opportunities in talking through my medical history with doctors and nurses today to share God’s faithfulness through my cancer journey and the miracle of Asher already. God is good all the time!

 

God’s Perfect Plan? April 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 6:06 AM

This March marks 5 years I have been battling this stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. What a ride it has been! 10 surgeries, 3 different times through radiation therapy, and 13 different types of chemotherapy later, and I am still here fighting and living life!
God has supplied just what I needed exactly when I needed it on this journey! I have an amazing support system in my family, friends, medical team, and community. As my life verse says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) God gives me strength when I need it to do the things He wants me to do. He also gives me rest when I need it. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) When my treatments steal my energy, I have to plan time to rest and rely on my amazing support system God has given to help me.
Through my cancer, God has taught me so many things and worked so many miracles for us and all of you to see. He truly has given me the grace to bear it. “There is no greater mercy that I know of on earth than good health except it be sickness; and that has often been a greater mercy to me than health,” Charles Spurgeon said. “It is a good thing to be without a trouble; but it is a better thing to have a trouble, and know how to get grace enough to bear it.” It is only by God’s grace that I can stand, holding up the lamp stand so others can find the grace they need to face their troubles, whatever they may be. God is the only One who can give you the grace you are searching for!
Our family has been reading about the end of Jesus life on earth this past week as we celebrated Resurrection Day! Just as with the plan for Jesus’ life, God has a perfect plan for my life through this cancer journey. Peter talked about God’s plan for Jesus’ life in Acts 2: “This Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” (Acts‬ ‭2:23-24‬‬‬) That plan for Jesus to suffer and die and rise again would not be what we would choose to show His sacrifice for our sin and His triumph over death, but it was God’s perfect plan. We would not have chosen a battle with cancer that has continued for five years now, but it is God’s perfect plan He is using to accomplish His perfect will in my life and many others. I am so thankful for God’s love, mercy, and grace for each day.
Are you trusting God to work out His perfect plan through your troubles in this life? Are you turning to Him for the grace that you need to stand today, no matter what may come?

 

Wilmeths on the Move March 15, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 7:10 PM

Medical Update:

Praise the Lord, my current chemo treatment is continuing to control my cancer and keep it from growing! I still have one small lump under the skin on my back and a few tiny lesions on my right chest area that we are watching closely. I have been on this treatment since July, so that is a very long time for one treatment to continue working in my case.
My 3-week chemo cycle consists of 2 consecutive weeks of Gemzar and then 1 week off to recover, along with weekly Herceptin treatments. I continue to have chemo fatigue, extremely low energy, and enter the chemo “fog” for a few days after each treatment of my Gemzar. I am usually able to plan around this and, with Eric’s help, keep my schedule clear for a couple days each week when the effects are at their worst. The chemo also knocks down my blood counts pretty good, requiring 1-2 Neupogen immune system booster shots each 3-week cycle. These also add the side effects of light, sound, and touch sensitivity.

IMG_20160226_120759562_TOP

I am very thankful for my good days and the time I can spend with family and friends and doing things in my community. I am thankful for the strength and energy God gives me to be able to do “normal” things like playing outside with Asher, volunteering in the kids’ classes at school, and meeting a friend for lunch. Even on the bad days, God sends His blessings! If I can get a nap in during the afternoon, I can usually handle a bit of reading books or playing card games with the kids. And snuggles with the kids as I rest on the couch are always a special blessing!

Sabbatical Update:

I am so thankful for my wonderful husband and all he does for me and our family! I truly do not know what I would do without him. Thank you to all who have continued to pray for and support us these last 6 months as we were on our medical sabbatical. This time has been just what our family needed to rest, recuperate, and prepare for our next step. We were able to enjoy a break from weekly ministry work responsibilities, and focus on building up our relationship with God and our relationships within our own family. God granted us an amazing week long trip to Florida in October, where we experienced His amazing creation and did many fun and adventurous activities together as a family! Then we were able to have some low-key, relaxing holidays reflecting on what we have to be thankful for and finding ways to bless and encourage others around us.

The Next Step:

After the New Year, we began more actively searching out opportunities for our next ministry. One thing we have learned on this sabbatical is that God will always take care of us and provide for all we need and then some! Wherever He leads us, He will be there with us. We wanted to be open to whatever ministry God had for us. We began looking at the strengths and gifts that God has developed in us and how to best utilize those talents in our next ministry. We looked at leading a new church plant, assisting with another church plant, and assisting at an established church, among a few other specialized opportunities. We had to add the demands of battling cancer to the mix, so that eliminated some of the options before us pretty quickly.

We gathered much information, sought godly counsel, and prayed earnestly for God to make the next step on our path clear to us. We found out what Proverbs 16:9 really meant: “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” When we looked at things logically and what would be an easier transition and fit in our mind, we were inclined to a couple of opportunities before us. But as we gathered more information and sought God’s leading, those doors began to close for various reasons, and we were directed to an unexpected opportunity. This would require a big change for our entire family, but would use all the talents and gifts God had been developing in us throughout our lives and ministry experiences to help further church planting in the US, a passion of our hearts!

We began exploring this opportunity looking for God to shut the door somewhere, as it would require many big changes, including moving pretty far, finding a new medical team for my cancer treatment, and uprooting our whole family from friends and extended family, our support system, schools, and community. But as we looked at each one of these obstacles, God clearly showed how He would supply for each need and take care of us.IMG_20160315_181026 The words of Joshua 1:9 kept returning to our hearts and minds, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

So we can now officially announce the Wilmeths are accepting the call to go to Grafton, Ohio (near Cleveland) where Eric will become the Operations Manager at our mission agency, Baptist Church Planters! While we are sad to leave many near and dear friends in Nebraska and Iowa, we are also excited to see what God will do on our next great adventure!

In the mean time, we plan to report to our supporting churches here in the Midwest over the next few months as we prepare for our big move this summer. We would love to see as many of you as possible before we move, so check our schedule to see when we will be reporting in your area or contact us to set up a meeting! Please continue to pray for us as we work through the many details of our long-distance move, start to pack up our house, as well as travel to reporting meetings on weekends (visit wilmeth.org to see our schedule). We know that the Lord our God will be with us wherever we go!

 

Amazing Adventures, Answers, & Awe November 11, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 10:06 AM
The Wilmeth Family enjoying God's beautiful & magnificent masterpiece and blessings in Florida!

The Wilmeth Family enjoying God’s beautiful & magnificent masterpiece and blessings in Florida!

We once again cannot express in words our thanks to so many who have helped bear our burdens and experience a time of respite on our journey. We stand in awe of how God orchestrated so many people and details to come together in such a short time for such a huge blessing in our trip to Florida!
Sometimes in the midst of our trials and the difficulties of everyday life, it is hard to see and believe in the promised blessings from God. We don’t see, from our human perspective, any possible way for things to get better or that God can deliver us from what we are facing. But if we patiently wait on the Lord, He will accomplish His purposes and shower down His blessings in due time! I hope our story of blessings will help you take heart and patiently wait and trust in God’s perfect plan and timing in your life!
Psalm 34:8,10 says:
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
…Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.”

Our trip to Florida was an Amazing Adventure for our family that we never really dreamed would be possible and that we will never forget! Here are some of the details God orchestrated:
Cancer Treatment – My doctor wanted me to take at least one week off of my chemo before we left on our trip to ensure my white blood cell counts and platelet counts were high enough to keep me from getting sick or having issues while we were gone. Then I would also be off chemo the week we were gone. Any time I have taken more than 1 week off of treatment my cancer has begun to grow at a rather alarming rate. Also, the timing of the trip would require me to have chemo 3 weeks in a row before these 2 weeks off. Normally my body can only handle 2 weeks in a row and then requires a week off to recover. We knew that God had worked out all of the details of getting the trip in place for this time, so He could work out these details in my treatment schedule as well! And He did! I was able (1) to tolerate 3 weeks of chemo in a row, (2) my counts recovered for the trip, and (3) my cancer only had minimal growth while I was off chemo for 2 weeks!!!! Praise God for working out these details of my cancer treatment! What amazing answers to our prayers!
Good health, strength, & energy – Many, many prayers were brought on behalf of my energy levels. The longer I am on chemo, the more and more fatigued I have become and the longer it takes for my body to bounce back. There were so many amazing things we wanted to do and experience together as a family in Florida that we will probably never have the opportunity to do together again, so we knew only God’s strength would allow us to do them all. God answered these prayers and gave all of us strength, energy, and good health to enjoy so many experiences together! Eric’s sister was also able to join us on the trip and help out with Asher and the kids, so Eric and I didn’t expend all our energy just getting ready for each day. More amazing blessings!
Rejoicing in the Lord – We did exciting and exhilarating things and we were also able to relax and enjoy time together as a family. We saw God’s amazing creation in interesting animals and creatures of the sea. We saw God’s amazing handiwork in the ocean waves and His specially crafted masterpiece in the beautiful sunset on the beach. We were able to give thanks to God each day for His blessings and the many who had made these experiences possible for us!
Generous donors to provide for every need – It was also quite amazing just to see God work out all the details to get the trip in place in the time of about one month! From the gifted plane tickets, to park and attraction tickets and hotel accommodations from the Memories of Love Foundation, to the rental car expenses, to unique dining and excursion experiences, to souvenirs to remind us of this Amazing Florida Adventure, everything was provided for! Every time a different item came up on our list in planning for the trip, we received a gift or gift card to cover it completely! God amazingly provided for every detail through so many generous and loving individuals! We truly did not “lack any good thing” on our Adventure!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who prayed for us and/or gave a gift to make this trip possible! We are going through our pictures and I hope to share more details with you soon of our Adventure and some lessons God is teaching as we reflect on this experience! Today I will leave you with a highlight reel of pictures to give you a taste of our Adventure. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

 

 

 
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