In Christ Alone: My Journey through Breast Cancer

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

Change January 29, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 6:00 AM

Change. Why is it so hard? For me I think it is the fear of the unknown. I like my control. I like to know how things are going to go. At least partially. I like to plan and be prepared for what is coming.
I also like routine. I like my rut and would rather stay in my rut than forge a new route. I find something I like and stick with it. I don’t particularly like to try new things, because I might not like them. I eat the same breakfast every single morning. My husband will tell you that for every restaurant we frequent, I have a “usual” order that I will get every time we go there. I always set my grocery list up so I can follow the same path through the store every time. These things are all routine. Unchanging.
(Unless, of course, we run out of oatmeal, a restaurant replaces their menu items with new ones, or a store moves its items around. ;) )
In life, change is inevitable. And a lot of times it is forced upon us. We cannot stop it. We cannot make it wait until we are ready. But change does not have to be a bad thing or even a hard thing.
If I could truly control everything, there would be no need to trust. In reality, I can’t truly stop anything from changing. Life itself is so very fragile. It can all change in the blink of an eye. But in a world where nothing is truly permanent or unchangeable, there is one thing that is unchanging: God and His promises never change. I am so thankful that when everything in my world is changing, I can still stand on my Solid Rock that will not move.
My battle with cancer has been the source of many changes in my life over the past nearly four years. Just when we get used to a new “normal”, cancer rears its ugly head and our battle tactics must change again. We are redirected and have to adjust. We have learned the value of being flexible and trusting that God knew this change was coming. He is the One that will give us the strength to continue each day, each hour, each minute in this battle. He has a plan and a purpose for each struggle and each triumph. Looking back, we can see His hand at work in the challenges we have faced, in the connections that we have made, and in the miracles and answers to our prayers we have experienced. We ourselves have grown and changed so much!
So what is this new change, you may be wondering? Well, once again, my cancer has built up a tolerance to my current chemo regimen. I began getting sores on the lumps and bumps of cancer on my chest. They continually and slowly got worse over about a four week period. My oncologist shared his concern that this may be a sign of the cancer tolerating the chemo and beginning to break down my skin. Then over just a few days, the sores got much worse and we noticed the larger tumors begin to grow again. This prompted the need for a new battle tactic. I am so thankful for the many options that are available, and the hope that a change could help us find the drug that will kill my type of cancer! So last week I began a chemotherapy called Halaven.
With new chemo comes new side effects, so I have been adjusting to these new side effects over the past week. I am thankful they have not been severe, but a change nonetheless. Fatigue is always a struggle, and I continue to need nearly daily naps to keep up. Some other “new” side effects from this past week have been nausea, headaches, joint aches, and nose bleeds. My blood counts continue to be effected, causing quite a drop in my white blood cell counts this week. I will be getting two Neupogen shots to boost my white blood cell production, which have the side effects of more headaches and joint aches. But these are all manageable side effects requiring some changes in my routine and planning, more trips to the doctor’s office, and a good dose of patience. God has definitely taught me to be a flexible and patient patient! :)
But let’s not get distracted by all the side effects, and miss the main point! Along with all these side effects and changes come results. This is the part we cannot control or predict. It requires faith and hope.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego’s reply to the king as they faced the fiery furnace shows true faith in our All-Powerful God:
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.'” (‭Daniel‬ ‭3‬:‭16-18‬ NASB)
I know my God is able to deliver me from cancer, but even if He does not, I will praise Him!
Will this new battle tactic succeed or fail in beating the cancer? Will the cancer respond to this treatment or fight its way through? Ultimately we don’t know God’s full plan at this point, but we are cautiously optimistic we are winning this battle! The results so far? In just a week, this new chemo has shown signs of shrinking my various cancerous lumps, bumps, and tumors! Praise the Lord for His goodness! Whatever the coming weeks’ events hold for us in this battle, we will trust God and stand firm on the hope we have in Him.

 

Blessed in 2014 January 1, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 10:18 AM

Family 2014

Happy New Year! I can’t believe another year is in the books! As I look back at 2014, I realize I have so much to be thankful for. God has blessed me with another year on this earth with family and friends, old and new! So many have been with me on this cancer journey in so many ways. When I think back over the last 3-3/4 years, I am truly overwhelmed by the love and support of so many! We are continually in awe of how God provides for our every need through all of you: food, clothes, medical bills, financial support, gifts, child care, transportation, friendship, understanding, encouragement, patience, forgiveness, love, joy, peace, hope, and so much more. Wow! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
While there have been many ups and downs again this past year, God has given me the strength to keep fighting in this battle with cancer. Some mornings I wake up completely drained and exhausted from this fight and the normal daily demands of life. I feel I don’t have the energy to even get up to get three kids ready and off to school and chase a busy toddler around for the morning. But then I remember my favorite verse: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13) I stop and pray that God will strengthen me to do what I need to that day. Amazingly it has always worked; He gives me the strength to get up.
No, I don’t always get done everything that I want to. But I do what needs to be done and He gives me time to rest when my body needs it. (Thank the Lord that Asher still takes a nap most afternoons so I can rest!)
I do have to schedule my time wisely and know my limitations. I can’t put unrealistic expectations on my energy levels! This has meant cutting back on some of our family activities and simplifying much of our lives. This has been unexpectedly freeing for our family. We are not constantly consumed by a busy schedule, running from activity to activity. We are able to focus on things that are important to us and make sure our time and energy are used for worthwhile things, things that God has called us to do.
As I thought about how to best use the time God has given me in 2015, I came across a quote that fits well: “Our greatest fear as individuals should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” (Tim Kizziar)
In the past year, God has definitely opened my eyes to the difference between a want and a need, between things that really matter and things that don’t. There are so many things that I realize are ultimately not necessary or important in the long run. I pray you all will see how blessed you truly are in 2015. God has been so good to me and my family throughout 2014; I know He will continue to faithfully love and bless us in 2015.
As you consider your goals and resolutions for 2015, think about these things: Why are you doing what you do each day? What is the purpose of your life? Are you a slave to a hectic schedule of things that have no lasting importance? Have you accepted God’s gift of hope for your life? You too can live in the joy of the precious hope we have in Jesus, despite any difficult circumstance you may face in 2015! If you do have this gift, does your daily life and the way you spend your time reflect the hope you have? Just stop and think about what you are living for today. Take just 15 minutes of your 2015 to watch this video by Francis Chan to consider what God tells us in the Bible: Just Stop & Think (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRi4VwcrYmA). It could change your life! I pray you all will succeed at things that matter in 2015!
Blessed 2014

 

The Good News at Christmas December 29, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 10:51 PM

I have not shared a medical update for a while now. I am still continuing on my weekly chemo that I began back in July. We know it is controlling my cancer, keeping it from growing and spreading. My oncologist thought we should take a week off from my normal Friday treatments to help my body recoup in November. I enjoyed the benefit of more energy for a weekend trip to see family for Thanksgiving festivities! But by Monday all of my cancer spots had noticeably grown! I went in on Tuesday to get my chemo and everything stopped growing again. I have continued on my weekly treatment ever since. We are still hoping and praying this chemo will shrink my cancer spots. We are so thankful that it is keeping the cancer under control and not allowing it to grow or spread! Thank you all for your continued prayers!

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7e9/22529099/files/2014/12/img_2362.jpg I hope you all had a very blessed Christmas celebrating Jesus’ birthday as out family did! Our church ministry has given us many opportunities to share the hope we have in Jesus with many in the Bennington Community! Here are a few of our activities: 1)We made cards to give residents and sang Christmas Carols at a retirement community in Bennington, 2)we made ornaments with verses from throughout the entire Bible pointing to Christ as our Savior for our Christmas tree displayed at Bennington’s Festival of Trees, where our Church Kid’s Choir was also able to sing and play Christmas songs for those attending the Festival, and 3)we made Christmas cards and goody bags and went Christmas Caroling on Christmas Eve to some families in our community. We are so thankful for these opportunities to share the good news of great joy during the Christmas Season!

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/7e9/22529099/files/2014/12/img_0164-2.jpg Eric’s Christmas Sermon was about this message as presented in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God’s love for each of us is so amazing! If you have ever wondered what John 3:16 means to you or want to take a refreshing look at this well-known verse phrase by phrase, you can listen to the sermon A rEVOLution is Born online at www.BenningtonBaptist.com. Ever since High School, one of my favorite songs this time of year has been “O Holy Night”. We would sing this song to begin our Winter Vocal Concert at school every year. I remember entering the back of the dark auditorium carrying my lit candle and singing my alto part as each choir member proceeded slowly down one of the four aisles and up onto the stage to our places. There was something almost magical about the darkness and stillness being flooded with candlelight on all sides and this beautiful crescendoing song telling about the Hope for all the world! Can you picture it? Can you imagine a full choir dramatically harmonizing the various parts of “O Holy Night”? Think about the words of the last verse: “Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother. And in His name all oppression shall cease.” What precious hope we can have in Jesus! When we accept His gift of love, He gives us peace! We can rest in the knowledge that He will break the chains of sin that hold us and all oppression will cease! Won’t you accept His gift of hope to you today? Do not be unbelieving, but believe!

 

And Now We Wait… October 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 11:32 PM

I realize that I have not updated you in a while now. We continue to wait on the Lord for many of the “big” things we are dealing with in our lives at the moment. But in the mean time, our day to day activities continue.

Health-wise, things remain much unchanged since I began my new chemo regimen three months ago. I did have my three month scan this week and it showed that everything is holding steady. The cancer has not grown anymore or spread anywhere else! Praise the Lord! When my cancer began to grow again in July, it was at a quite alarming rate, so we are thankful that this new chemo has stopped the cancer in its tracks.

We have not seen any shrinkage in the tumors yet, so we have begun to be more aggressive by skipping my “off week” in the chemo cycle and pushing forward with weekly treatments with no breaks for my body to rest and recover. As long as my counts can stay up and my side effects are tolerable, we hope to continue and see the cancer respond by shrinking. My lab counts have started to drop at times from the new chemo now, so I have gotten a couple of shots to boost my white blood cell production. These shots have side effects of head aches and aches in my bones and joints, but have not been too bad. So far this has worked and my counts have been up in the normal range again for the last two weeks! I have become even more fatigued as my body has no rest time. I now have to take a nap nearly every afternoon and plan my daily activities carefully so I do not overdo things. I am very thankful that Asher naps nicely each afternoon to give me time to rest! Usually an afternoon nap gives me the energy I need for the evening. I am also very tired on Fridays and Saturdays after my treatments. Pray with us that these more aggressive treatments will be effective and we will see the cancer begin to shrink!

Ministry-wise, my fatigue has somewhat limited my part in our church planting efforts, as well as Eric’s. I have not been able to begin leading a new Fall study with my Bible study gals due to my low energy and other family and church needs. Eric has also had to help out at home more by watching the kids while I rest and taking on more of the cooking responsibilities. This has taken away from the time he is able to devote to his pastoral duties.

These past few months we have devoted much of our ministry time and efforts to building a Strategic Mission for the church. This vision will allow us to refocus our attention and energy on growing our church family and building relationships in our community to show God’s love and share His hope with those around us. You can see and listen to more on this Strategic Mission to Connect, Grow, and Serve together on our website: benningtonbaptist.com. We covet your prayers as we begin implementing this plan. We see God at work in many recent opportunities and know He can do great things with His church in Bennington. We are waiting on His perfect timing. We also see Satan attacking in many ways to distract and deter us. Pray that we can stand firm in the Lord and overcome the obstacles that lie before us with His help and strength.

Personally, we are so thankful for many blessings in our lives! God continues to give many opportunities to be encouraged and to help and encourage others in our day to day activities in the Bennington community, as well as the medical and cancer community. We are thankful for the time and energy we can spend helping in our community through the kids’ school and many community organizations and events. We are so thankful for the many individuals that continue to help by sending monetary gifts, clothes, meals and food, and providing childcare. Our family was also chosen to be this year’s recipient of the proceeds of a Breast Cancer Benefit Dinner a local Omaha restaurant does each year. We were so humbled by the love and generosity shown by the Harvest Cafe owner and employees, as well as all those that came out to support this event! Thank you so much for blessing us as we serve our wonderful Savior and wait on His perfect timing in our lives. Psalm 27:14-15 says:

“I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.”

I want to leave you with a few pictures of our amazing miracle Asher as we celebrate his 18 month birthday! I still look at him and think of all the miracles that had to happen for him to be here with us. I cannot imagine our lives without the “happiness and joy” of Asher!

20141021-231552.jpg20141021-231611.jpg20141021-231604.jpg

 

Go August 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 3:57 PM

If you recall, my last two blog posts were entitled Get Ready and Get Set, so it’s only fitting that this one is entitled Go! God is working in truly amazing ways as we seek His will and wait patiently for His timing, while so many of you have fervently prayed with us!

2 Corinthians 1:10-11 – “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

I shared this verse in my Get Ready post and asked you to pray with us about three specific areas. In my Get Set post, I shared how we could see God working in each of those three areas in our lives. Now, I invite all of you to give thanks with us for the “gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” God keeps his promises! He is our Deliverer! He is our Provider! Here is how God is working:

Financially, we are praising God for His AMAZING provision! “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

It is hard to even count the gifts of love we have received over these last few weeks from our sending and supporting churches, from dear friends, and from those in the Omaha and Bennington community! We have received many meals, clothes, food to stock our pantry and freezer, gift cards and more! In addition, we have received one-time, monetary gifts totaling $10,000 AND another $5,000 for medical expenses! God has also provided through a new financially supporting church bringing our monthly support level up to 56%! We are in awe of God’s provision through each one of these gifts! Thank you to all who have prayed and supported us in some way! To God be the glory!

Ministry-wise, we are excited that God is directing in our ministry planning as well! Continue to pray for God’s wisdom for us as we seek to plant a church that will glorify God as we connect, grow, and serve together.

We are thankful that, in answer to our prayers and waiting, God has closed the door on outside employment for Eric at this time and has shown He will continue to provide as we walk by faith. This helps us focus our time and energy on our current church plant ministries and raising our full monthly support through individuals and churches.

I also asked you to pray for partners to join with us in our ministry. Praise the Lord, we now have one answer to that request: a year long pastoral intern will be joining us in January! Having just one more committed person serving with us will open up many more opportunities in our work! Continue to pray that others will join our efforts permanently, and that we will have wisdom in how to best utilize the time and efforts of those here to show God’s love in Bennington.

Health-wise, we have been exploring another cancer treatment option. An opportunity presented itself to us, and we felt it would be good to follow through by gathering all of the information and prayerfully considering this new option. After speaking with these ‘new to us’ medical professionals and relaying all of my case information to them for review, they determined that they would not have anything additional to recommend at this time, aside from my current treatment.

This is reassuring to us that the treatment I am receiving is what other medical professionals would also recommend at this point. I have now been on my new chemo, Navelbine, for one full cycle, which is 4 weeks. All of my new tumors we are watching have stopped growing! We have not seen them shrink yet, but my oncologist says it can take 2-3 cycles before we see that response from this drug. So now we wait and see what God has for us to do while we are waiting. (There is no shortage of opportunities as we look around!)

Being back in the chemo room for weekly treatment again has allowed me to reconnect with some chemo friends, as well as meet new friends just beginning their cancer journeys. I am so thankful that God can use me and my cancer experience to share hope and encouragement with these dear gals and their families. What a privilege to be able to share of God’s faithfulness to me and the joy and hope He gives! Are you looking for the opportunities God places before you today, while you wait on His perfect timing for something else?

God has put the song While I’m Waiting on my heart, explaining how the waiting time is not easy and can be painful, but God is faithful and gives us many blessings when we serve Him while we are waiting. Thank you for blessing and encouraging us in so many ways while we are waiting!

Thank You from the Wilmeth Family!

Thank You from the Wilmeth Family!

 

Get Set July 19, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 9:43 AM

Thank you all for your prayers! God has been working in each area we asked you to pray with us about this week! I’m so thankful God hears our prayers and answers!

Health-wise, I was able to have my CT scan done this week, and it only shows one of my lumps that we already knew about. This is very good news! The cancer has NOT spread anywhere else! And most of the new lumps are still superficial enough that they do not show on the scan. We have adjusted my chemo: I went back to Herceptin to attack any of the HER2 positive cancer, and also added a new weekly chemotherapy called Navelbine. It does have a long list of possible side effects, including my blood counts being affected, so we will have to wait and see how it affects me this week. I received my first dose on Friday, and so far I’ve been feeling pretty good! The wheels are now set in motion, so we will wait to see how the cancer responds to this treatment.

It was neat to see how God worked this week in making the next step clear to us. We had different possibilities we were pondering, but God had the week’s events planned to help us Trust Him and He directed our path. Why is it so hard for us to claim His promise in Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.

Financially, God is putting some new opportunities before us! Some we have been working toward for a while, others came out of the blue just this week. If nothing else, we have the confidence that God will provide. He is over all His works! He owns the cattle on a thousand hills! Please pray that we will continue to have wisdom from above in discerning what God’s will is for our family financially.

Ministry-wise, God is shedding some light on possibilities, so please continue to pray as we seek to follow and honor God in our church planting ministry in Bennington, NE. I am so thankful for God using my hubby’s sermons in my life, especially the past two weeks. You’ll notice my last blog was entitled Get Ready from the title of Eric’s sermon that week. God is going to do great things! Are you Ready?

This past week’s sermon, He’s Here, reminded me why we can Trust God and His Word. If we have accepted Christ as our Savior and made Him Lord of our lives, He sends us the Holy Spirit to live in us. We have God living in us, with us wherever we go! He will give us whatever power we need to stand, no matter what comes. Trust in Him and Trust in His promises from His word.

God has put a couple of older songs in my heart this week. From my Patch the Pirate Club days, Rejoice in the Lord reminds me that God never moves without purpose or plan and He knows best. He Giveth More Grace reminds me that He will provide whatever I need as the needs arise. His power has no boundary! His riches are infinite! His love has no limit! As we rest in Him and cry out to Him, He gives us His grace, mercy, strength, and unexplainable peace for our journey.

God is at work; please keep praying with us as we Get Set for what He will do!

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

Get Ready July 12, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 10:29 AM

God is always at work and preparing us for what is coming. For a while now, I’ve felt God preparing me for something big that was on the horizon. I’m so very thankful He prompted me to lead a Bible study on Beth Moore’s book Get Out of That Pit. It was a wonderful time of getting to know these dear women and sharing our struggles in life and seeing God’s faithfulness in all situations. Through God’s power, we don’t have to stay in the pits of life. We are able to live this life out of the pit, standing firm on our Solid Rock no matter what challenges or storms this life may bring! Whether we were thrown into a pit by something that happened to us, slid into a pit, or jumped into a pit, God’s power can lift us out:

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord.”
Psalm 40:1-3

We are sometimes tempted to try to stand by our own power, and that may work for a time. But other times there is no way we can stand firm without God’s power. We are facing three big challenges in our lives right now that we crave your prayers and support as we look to God for guidance and strength.

Healthwise, my cancer treatments these last couple months have not been as effective as desired. Radiation did shrink my recurring tumor on the right side some and chemo seems to be keeping it from growing too much for now. Meanwhile, I have had five new tumors develop in the last three weeks in the middle, left, and now right sides. These tumors seem to be unaffected by my current treatment, so we are seeking what course of action is the best. Please pray for wisdom and clear direction for our medical team and for Eric and I as we seek what course to take. I am scheduled for scans on Wednesday and we will go from there.

Financially, our reserves are quickly dwindling. Our current missionary support level is about 50% of what we need now with our increased healthcare costs this year. We are seeking God’s will and direction. We either need to raise the rest of our needed support through churches and individuals giving, or Eric will have to take on another job to meet the needs. Either option will be a challenge with the needs of the church here, my changing medical treatment, and the demands of daily life for our family. Will you pray with us for guidance and clear direction in our financial challenge?

Ministrywise, we have felt the strain of needing some fellow laborers in our church planting ministry. Our Assistant Pastor and his wife have been away from our church to serve as interim pastor at another Nebraska church in need since March. I am struggling with fatigue from my cancer treatments, causing Eric to have to take on more of our household and family responsibilities. This in turn makes it difficult to keep up with the needs of a church plant, let alone be able to effectively plan for the future. Please pray with us that God will raise up strong families or individuals in the area to serve as part of our core church planting team.

We have some big challenges ahead, but we know that God is bigger and will make a way for us to stand firm no matter what circumstances we may face. We are so thankful for the continued support of all our prayer warriors, family, friends, and community. We truly could not do this without each of you!

2 Corinthians 1:10-11 – “He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”
God has put this song in my heart-In Christ Alone
You can read our latest wilmeth.org missionary update here-The Wilmeth Wire

 

 
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