In Christ Alone: My Journey through Breast Cancer

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

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!
 

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!

 

 
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