In Christ Alone: My Journey through Breast Cancer

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

Thanksgiving and Recipe Tweaks June 12, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 4:43 PM

One of the names of God in the Bible I have come to know well is Jehovah-Jireh which means “The LORD Will Provide”. God has provided, continues to provide, and will provide in the future! He continually provides help, encouragement, strength, wisdom, and grace for each step of this journey. I have composed a Thankfulness List and invite you to rejoice with us and thank God for all He has recently done according to His plan and purpose in our lives.

I’m Thankful For…

  • An amazing husband who consistently seeks God’s will for our family and is my best friend who seeks to love me as Christ loved the church, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. (He even cooks and cleans as necessary!)
  • Energy to volunteer in my kiddo’s classrooms and the PTO this school year, working with AMAZING kids, parents, and staff
  • Energy to see our kids and their friends in all of their end of school year concerts, awards ceremonies, picnics, and graduations. We officially have a 7th, 3rd, & 2nd grader now! It’s a precious gift to see each of them grow in their love for God and their love for those around them, each in their own unique and creative way.
  • Energy to spend time with the kids doing homework, reading, going to the park, playing ball in the backyard, playing games, and just being together
  • Adam playing the song It Is Well With My Soul on the piano for anyone who will listen
  • Faith composing and performing her own song at school about how we are never alone on the roller coaster of life-God is always there with us!
  • Ethan’s hugs, snuggles, and ‘I love you until forever’s just when I need them
  • Asher’s precious smile, sweet voice, expressive faces, and endless energy that spread happiness and joy each day. A perfect little miracle from God for me to teach and watch learn and grow each day! (And he still takes an afternoon nap so mom can rest up from chemo fatigue most days!)
  • The opportunity to sing 10,000 Reasons with my family and reunite with precious friends and faithful supporters in Iowa
  • Amazing prayer warriors that I meet wherever I go! There are so many that are praying for us around the town, state, country, and even around the world!
  • The opportunity to meet some if my faithful prayer warriors while speaking at a Ladies Brunch and encourage them to be planting and watering seeds in their community wherever God takes them each day
  • Dear friends and family to provide help around the house and with the kids
  • An AMAZING community that has come together to provide countless meals and give us many special blessings to enjoy as a family this summer!
  • Precious church family to encourage us as we live life together in Bennington
  • The opportunity to worship our great God, greet and fellowship with my church family, teach application of Biblical truths in Jr. Church, and play in the nursery in our church each week
  • An intern for our church this year to help with our church planting work responsibilities and experience church planting first hand (Thanks for all your work, Josh!)
  • A spacious home always open to many encouraging visitors and dear friends throughout the year (Let us know when you want to stop by for a visit!)
  • Energy to work with great community members through the Bennington Friends of the Library to provide learning opportunities and community events
  • The kids (and Eric) spoiling me by decorating the house, making cards, getting me flowers, balloons, chocolates, gifts, and taking me out for dinner to celebrate my birthday! (Thanks for financing the endeavor, Dad!)
  • My very first manicure/pedicure and a trim for my hair that is growing back! (Thanks to Project Pink’d, Inner Beauty, and Xenon Academy for hosting a pampering night for cancer survivors!)
  • Time alone with my hubby! My knight in shining armor took me to a beautiful castle right here in Omaha! We also got to spend time working on some projects together, going out for dinner and ice cream on a whim, and spending time with great friends without kiddos running around. It was a wonderful break, but we sure missed our kiddos! (Thanks to our wonderful parents for keeping them for us!)
  • Many love offerings from fellow Christians, sister churches, and missionary groups
  • New free eye glasses provided for Eric and Faith
  • Our own backyard garden to plant, water, and grow some of our own food
  • Many gifts from friends, acquaintances, and even strangers to meet our needs
  • Many cards, emails, and messages to encourage our hearts in the day to day
  • A quick and full recovery from my 10th surgery in April
  • Many medical options for my continued chemo treatment to battle my cancer
  • Caring and compassionate nurses, doctors, and medical staff that are walking this cancer journey with me and cheering me on
  • A scholarship to cover my entire medical insurance deductible for this year (Thanks to the Patient Advocate Foundation and its donors!)
  • Wonderful chemo friends to share the ups and downs of the cancer journey with each week
  • Peace that passes all understanding, knowing my Sovereign God is in control and wants to work all things together for good (Even my cancer journey!)
  • A loving, gracious, and merciful God who is working out His perfect plan for our lives

With such an amazing list of blessings, I can only praise God for how He guides and provides. Thank you to each of you that have been and continue to be part of the provision God has given to our family! Each member of Team Wilmeth plays a vital part in our lives. Because of each of you I can truly claim the words of Psalm 23:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.”

You may be wondering what the Recipe Tweaks in the title refers to. As we look to what lies ahead, we are once again preparing for change. Until this week, my new chemo regimen of Xeloda and Herceptin seemed to be at least keeping the cancer from growing. My side effects from the Xeloda got progressively worse each round to the point that some adjustments would have to be made this week to continue. But in the last week we saw the cancer begin to grow again on my right chest area. The new spots on my back also showed some changes. So once again a change in my treatment plan is coming next week. Will you pray for wisdom for my oncologist as he researches treatment options and decides what tweaks are needed this week? Pray that the next step will be clear to us and we can rest in the promise that God is faithful and He will make a way for us once again.

 

Serving Despite Discouragement April 29, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 12:53 AM

I think my favorite attribute of God is His sovereignty. It is truly amazing how God orchestrates so many minute details in our lives to cause just the right thing to happen at just the right time. It just so happens, as God orchestrated, that my dear husband’s sermon this past Sunday was entitled Serving Despite Discouragement. As he began his study and preparation for this sermon on Nehemiah, he did not know how profoundly we would need this message this past week.
On Wednesday at the oncology office, when hoping to hear my surgery had successfully removed all my remaining cancer, we found out the exact opposite. There was definitely more cancer in the surrounding area, but we do not know exactly where or how far it goes. And the scans show new spots on your back as well.
This news was quite shocking and could probably be termed as “discouraging”.
So this is where the rubber meets the road. How will we respond in the face of discouragement? How can we trust that God is working all this together for our good and His glory? Can we truly praise Him in the midst of this storm?
To be continued.
Stay tuned for Serving Despite Discouragement, Part 2.

In the mean time, I invite you to listen to Eric’s sermon Serving Despite Discouragement online at BenningtonBaptist.com. (Spoiler Alert: Some of these questions may be addressed in the sermon. ;) )

 

Unexpected Answers April 23, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 11:41 AM

Philippians 4:4-9 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Rejoice in the Lord always. This verse is easy to follow when we receive good news or unexpected blessings to share. But rejoicing in our times of trial or challenge is difficult. Can I challenge you today to follow the steps outlined in these verses and rejoice with us?

What do we have to rejoice in? The Lord has saved me and the Lord is with me. He has given me the strength and help I need the last 4 years of this cancer battle, and He will continue to provide as we press on. I know that I could not have gotten through this in my own strength; “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) I am so thankful that when I bring my worries and cares to the Lord in prayer, I receive His peace that passes all understanding. He’s got this! His plans are often not what we expect or even want in the moment, but His plans are ultimately better. He holds me in His hand. He is working all these things together for good. I can rejoice in Him and know that He is working out His perfect plan; “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

I pray that each of you will have the peace of God that we have received and that it will guard your hearts and minds from slipping to things we should not be thinking on. Philippians 4:8 gives us a great list of the types of things we should think on: whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. I pray you can keep your eyes focused on the Lord and think on these things!

Are you ready for our unexpected results now? We did meet with my oncologist yesterday and received the results of my pathology report and the results of my CT Scan I had last week. My surgery removed the tumor in my right lymph gland, the surrounding muscle and tissue and nearby lymph nodes. We were hopeful that all the cancer was contained in the tumor, but the pathology examination shows otherwise. The cancer is peppered throughout the surrounding tissue, muscle and lymphovascular spaces. At least one of the lymph nodes removed tested positive for cancer as well. There were also no clear margins, meaning the cancer cells continue beyond the edge of what was removed. The mass removed from my abdomen showed the same results, with cancer cells in the surrounding tissue and lymphovascular spaces and no clear margins.

I have shared before that much of my cancer areas we can feel in and just under the skin do not show up on the scans we do. The tumor in my right lymph gland appears on the scan, but anything that is peppered throughout my skin and tissue does not show up. So we were unaware that there was any cancer beyond the lumps and bumps we could feel. It was good to do the surgery and now we are aware of what we are up against. While my current chemo treatment was working and shrinking what we could feel, it was not being effective against what we could not feel or see. The scan last week also shows some new spots on my back, just below my left shoulder blade. That is not a spot I regularly check for bumps, since all of my cancer has been in the chest area so far. The thing about having breast cancer that has matastesized to the skin is that the skin is a very large organ and you obviously cannot remove all of your skin. ;)

My oncologist is optimistic. He says even though these results are not what we were expecting or wanting, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The cancer has not matastesized to any other vital organs. Things are not as bad as they were two years ago around the time I delivered Asher. From the medical team’s perspective, things looked pretty dire then. But we know God’s hand was at work and He allowed my treatment to fight back the cancer for a brief remission then! Remission is still possible now. With God all things are possible!

Once again we are looking at possible new action plans. My chemotherapy oncologist has a different chemo he would reccomend. I have an appointment with my radiation oncologist on Friday, and I will see my surgeon again on Monday. We are so thankful for the many treatment options we have available to us. Will you pray with us again for wisdom and clear direction as we seek what the next step is on this cancer journey?  Will you pray we continue to look to our gracious Lord in our times of need and point others to the hope we have in Him? We want to allow Him to work in us and through us to bring about His perfect will.

I often hear the comment, “You have been through so much and you still have a smile on your face.” I know this is only because of God’s amazing grace. God orchestrated a precious gift for me yesterday as we were still wrapping our heads around these unexpected results. Last night just before going to bed, Adam, out of the blue came and said, “Mom, I want to play my song for you.” He proceeded to the piano and played It Is Well With My Soul. If you haven’t heard the overwhelming circumstances Spafford was facing as he wrote this song, take a moment to watch and listen to it here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=T8_EfDqF7YI. What amazing grace God gives us, so in the midst of adverse circumstances we can have hope and joy in Him and say, “It is well with my soul.”


 

Surgery Update & Birthday Celebration April 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 10:41 AM

Thank you so much to all who were praying for me, my surgeon, and all the medical staff yesterday! God answered those prayers and everything went well!

I had a new experience with having an IV placed in my foot this time. (I’ve had lymph nodes out on the left arm, they were doing surgery on the right, and it was too close to use my port.) It was a challenge to find a vein with no food or drink after midnight the night before. The foot is definitely more sensitive, but the nurse was able to get it in on the third try and it worked perfectly.

The surgery went just as planned. My surgeon removed the tumor from the right lymph gland. He said it did go in deaper than what we could feel from the outside, but he didn’t think it had gotten to the lymph nodes at all! He did take a couple of the closest lymph nodes to send to pathology.

While my surgeon worked in the lymph gland area, his resident removed the mass from my lower chest/upper abdominal area. This was a fairly easy procedure, removing the tumor located just under the skin and some of the surrounding tissue to send to pathology as well. So now we wait for the results of the pathology report to determine the next step in my cancer journey.

After surgery they gave me some anti-nausea medicine and Tylenol, before sending me home. I am a bit sore, but haven’t needed to take any more meds! I was very tired after surgery and rested for most of the late afternoon and evening.

I was able to come downstairs for a birthday cupcake celebration for Asher’s 2nd birthday! It was so cute to hear him saying “choc-let, choc-let” over and over when he saw his yummy chocolate cupcakes his brother and sister had made for him! It’s hard to believe our Happy Birthday, Asher!miracle baby is now 2 years old! He has lived up to his name and brought much “happiness and joy” to our family and so many others! :) Happy birthday, Asher! <3

2 Year Old Asher!

 

Change of Plans-Surgery Friday! April 16, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 1:31 PM

We have had a change of plans this week! Last week, my oncologist told me he thought we may have shrunk the cancer as much as we could with chemotherapy. We are praising God that this new chemo, Halaven, has been so effective with shrinking and getting rid of a lot of my cancer!

I met with my surgeon this week to see if he thought he could surgically remove a couple of the areas of cancer that remain. He said he could do the surgery and get me in THIS Friday! So I am now scheduled for outpatient surgery Friday, April 17 at 11:30am to remove the lump in my right lymph gland and a mass on my lower chest area. Will you pray for my surgeon as he performs this surgery and all the medical staff that help him?

It has been exciting to be able to share the news of this surgery with family, friends, fellow patients, and medical staff that have seen me battle this cancer for 4 years now! God is so good. He continues to provide His grace and strength at every turn in this battle. Psalm 40:5 says, “Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” As I look at all God has done to get me to this point, I feel that way: His deeds are too many to declare. It’s overwhelming!

I have learned to patiently wait on the Lord for His perfect plan in His perfect time. And here we go! I can truly claim His promise in Psalm 40:

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”

Are you waiting patiently? Are you putting your trust in Him? He will hear you and answer!

Thank you to all who fervently pray for me. God hears and is answering!

 

4 Year Cancerversary March 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 12:27 AM

4 years. I can’t believe it has been 4 years ago today since I first heard those life-changing words: “You have cancer.” When I began this cancer journey, I never knew where it would take me. What a journey it has been! I remember my mom and fellow two-time breast cancer survivor telling me that the next year of treatment will be awful, but then it will be done. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. Endure this for a little while and then things will be back to “normal” again. (Whatever “normal” is!) My cancer journey is turning out quite different from the expected or the norm, but I still have a light at the end of my tunnel.

I am so very thankful that I will always have a light at the end of my tunnel! I have the assurance that I will spend eternity in true Paradise! No matter how this cancer battle ends up, no matter what I have to endure in this life, I will go to heaven for eternity. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Jesus endured the pain, suffering, and shame of death on the cross for the joy set before Him. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Have you stopped to think about how short our life on this earth is compared with eternity? Whatever trial you are facing, don’t lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel: an eternity of joy in Paradise with our Risen Lord and Savior!

Let me encourage you to follow the guidance God has given us in His Word: Run the race with endurance.
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Do not grow weary in doing good. (Galatians 6:9)
Remember His grace is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Don’t let the things of this world distract you from keeping your eyes on Jesus. I’ll leave you with a song that has helped me to keep my focus on the truth of God’s promises in His word: The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns.

If you want to know how you can be certain of the light at the end of the tunnel I’m talking about, take a moment to read this page or watch this 15 minute video. It could change your life for eternity!

 

Sacrifice March 14, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 6:08 AM
What are you willing to give up? Have you taken the time to consider that lately? What possessions or finances are you willing to give up? What do you spend your time doing that you are willing to devote to something else? Things you have leftover or don’t need anymore are easy to give. Are you willing to give up things that are actually wants and not necessary in your life? When pressed, we are often willing to give up our wants in order to help someone else out. We often think of this as a sacrifice. But is it really a sacrifice? Or just our reasonable service?
According to Merrriam-Webster’s Dictionary, Sacrifice is the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone.
I’ve had to decide what I am willing to sacrifice to battle cancer. I’ve had to give up many things I want in order to keep the cancer in my body at bay. Probably the hardest thing for me has been giving up my energy and adjusting to a state of constant fatigue. I have had to cut back on my activities and commitments, as well as my family’s. We have to prayerfully consider what God wants us to say yes to and to what degree. He always provides the energy and resources to do the things He leads me to do.
Cancer and cancer treatment has required me to sacrifice comfort to many unwanted side effects. The treatment that attacks and kills the cancer also attacks and kills healthy cells causing many issues in the amazing complexities of the human body God created for us. With digestive issues, neurological problems, immune system depletion, and hormonal imbalances alone, it is quite astounding how resilient our bodies can be to fight this disease.
I have devoted 4 years of my life to fighting cancer now. That has taken a lot of time and sacrifice. What else have I devoted my life to that requires great sacrifice? I have been a wife devoted to my husband and our marriage for 16 years now. That has taken a lot of time and sacrifice.   II have been a mom for 12 years now. Wow! Parents, you know what kind of sacrifice it takes to lovingly raise a child! I have been a Christ-follower for 30 years now. That has taken a lot of time and sacrifice. But when we sacrifice out of love, it is not hard to make the choice to put the needs of someone else before our own needs and comforts.
Love requires sacrifice. Matthew 22:37-39 says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  This takes deliberate action on our part. It will require sacrifice on our part. Our natural tendency is to love ourselves. “I deserve this,” we often tell ourselves. I work hard; I’m entitled to a little “me time”. A common idea in our society today is, “Take care of yourself first and then you will be able to better help others.” We are to be good stewards of what God has given us, and that includes taking care of our bodies which are the temple of the Holy Spirit, but the Bible doesn’t say anything about taking care of our own needs and then you will be able to serve God and love others around you. We are to love Him and love others and He “will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
We often hear these days the phrase “pay it forward”, carrying the idea that when someone blesses us, we can in turn bless others. But that is not really a sacrifice, is it? We like to feel good about helping someone else when some unexpected blessing falls into our lap. But we are to live a life of love, putting the needs of others before our own. It is amazing the things God will do when we are willing to sacrifice and love. Personally, my husband and I are absolutely in awe over and over again at God’s provision when we are willing to sacrifice. Just in the past few months we have again seen God provide for our family in amazing ways! Whenever we see a need and are committed to find a way to help no matter the cost to us, God always makes a way. If it is a sacrifice of our time and energy when we are already bone tired and weary, He gives supernatural strength to do it.
Many often comment to me, “I don’t know how you do it. I know how tired I am from life, and I’m not battling cancer.” I can confidently answer that it is only by God’s grace and strength that I can do what I do! He gives me strength to get out of bed when my body doesn’t want to. He gives energy for me to keep my commitments. He gives me time to devote to my kids when they need help or encouragement. He gives me time to pray for a hurting friend. He gives me rest when I need it. Oftentimes this comes through the love and sacrifice of my dear husband in rearranging his schedule to help with watching the kids or preparing meals when I can’t. Sometimes it is a friend taking my kiddos so I can have a quiet house to rest in. At times it has even been a stranger dropping off a meal at just the time we need it.
If I care for and help others in need around me, God promises to guide me and provide for my every need! Who around you needs a helping hand, kind word, or listening ear today?
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Is. 58:9-11)
How will you spend yourself in behalf of those in need today? If it is a sacrifice of our finances, God provides. I can’t tell you how many times we see a need arise that we commit to meet or an unexpected bill comes in and we receive a gift that exactly covers the cost. Many times a fellow Christian was led to give the gift for whatever we need it for, not knowing we have a specific need at all. And it is the exact amount to pay the unexpected expense. Or it will exactly pay for what we have sacrificed to help someone else.
So instead of paying it forward when you are blessed, will you commit to sacrificing to love God and others first? When we sacrifice, trusting that God will provide, He always does.
My new chemotherapy treatment has required sacrifice and many adjustments to my life once again. It has taken a while for my body to adjust to the new and different side effects this time. This chemo affects my white blood cell counts and requires weekly shots to keep my counts near the normal range so I can fight off other sicknesses. I have had to sacrifice my hair for a third time to chemotherapy treatment. (Thankfully it always grows back quickly and I have quite a collection of hats and head wraps now!) There are many smaller side affects, but with changes to my lifestyle and knowing my energy limitations, thankfully these are manageable with some sacrifices.
Now I can share with you the exciting results of these sacrifices! It has been amazing to watch the tumors and lesions shrink and disappear before my eyes these last few weeks! Where the right side of my chest used to be all bumpy and irritated with cancerous lesions that had begun to eat through the skin tissue, there is now smooth nearly healed, normal looking skin. The other lumps in my lower middle chest area have shrunk significantly and are no longer protruding. And my doctor thinks the tumor in my right lymph gland is about 1/8th the size it was when we began this treatment. It feels about the size of a pea now! Clearly this treatment is doing its job! I am so thankful for God’s healing in His time! Will you praise God with me that He is Jehovah-Rapha, the Lord who heals!? Will you pray this chemo will continue to work, and that God will continue to do His good work through this situation?
When we sacrifice, God will do amazing things! Don’t miss out on the wonderful blessings He has in store for your life!
 

 
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