In Christ Alone: My Journey through Breast Cancer

a 37-year old, christian, mother of four, missionary/pastor's wife's story

Another Twist in the Road August 24, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 4:03 PM

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalm 94:18-19)   

It seems every time we are ready to start some treatment for my cancer, an obstacle pops up and delays it. Such was the case again on Monday when we met with my oncologist. He was looking over my heart echo results and saw there is a significant amount of fluid around my heart. So we met with a thoracic surgeon on Tuesday. He agreed we should drain that fluid around the heart. So I am scheduled for some scans and tests tomorrow to determine how the fluid is looking currently. Then on Friday afternoon I will have a procedure done to drain the fluid around my heart into the lung and then put a drain in my lung. This will allow us to keep draining the fluid that keeps accumulating on my lung without having a tap every time. He said he can also put a drain on the other lung if it looks like it needs it from the scans. I will be admitted to the hospital for observation and to get my blood thinners going again as soon as possible. I have to be off them for five days before the procedure, so pray that no blood clots form in this time. If all goes according to the plan, I should be released Sunday afternoon.

Hopefully this procedure will alleviate the breathing problems I am having. Right now, any activity, even just sitting up from lying down, will make my oxygen levels drop and I become short of breath.

We are also praying we can start chemo next week and begin fighting the cancer back again.

The Lord has truly been my refuge and strength these days. He is teaching me to rest in Him and call out to Him when I need the strength just to breath. I thought these verses were very fitting with my current “heart” condition:

When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalm 94:18-19)

I am so thankful the Lord holds me up in my time of need.

Thank you again for praying with us on this journey. We know there is amazing power through God’s people praying! We are so thankful for each you.

 

What’s the Next Step? August 19, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 9:01 PM

“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” ‭‭(Isaiah‬ ‭43:1-2)

    
We got the call today from the research nurse that is looking for clinical trials for me. She said there are currently no trials at the Cleveland Clinic or in the area that I qualify for, but she will keep looking for me. She told us some things that disqualify me from some trials are my current mobility issues, my need for oxygen, and that I have had so many types of chemo already.
So we meet with my oncologist again on Monday to further discuss the chemo options I have here. The three oncologists we have met have all mentioned at least a couple chemo drugs I have not tried yet. We are hopeful I can start treatment right away and it will be effective against my cancer. Will you pray with us that this can be accomplished?

Since my last update, my breathing has gotten more difficult again. A new x-ray showed fluid on both my lungs this time, not just the right side. I had the fluid drained again on the right side-800mL. I am scheduled to have the left side drained on Tuesday afternoon. Every time they drain fluid, I have to be off my blood thinners for 48 hours before the thoracentesis procedure can be done. Pray that blood clots don’t become an issue again.

With so many things not going as we had planned, it is easy to get overwhelmed. When it is a struggle just to breath at times, it’s hard to keep our focus where it needs to be. But God knows what I am going through and is faithfully there at each new twist and turn. I am so thankful we can go back to God’s Word and read His promises:

“But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭43:1-2)

God is my Creator and He has redeemed me. He promises to be with me as I pass through the waters in this life. I don’t have to be overwhelmed when I keep my eyes focused on Him. Pray that we can all keep our focus on the Lord as we walk the path before us, especially Eric and I and our kiddos Faith, Adam, Ethan, and Asher. Thank you for faithfully taking us to the Lord in prayer. It is such a comfort to know so many are praying!

 

Cancer Spreading August 12, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 2:40 PM

This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” ‭‭(Isaiah‬ ‭43:16, 18-19‬)

Thank you all for your continued prayers as we settle in from the move and work with our new medical team at the Cleveland Clinic. A lot has happened medically in the almost 2 weeks we have been here:

Week 1 in Ohio
My first appointment was with my new oncologist on Tuesday. After discussing the history of my case, my oncologist wanted us to see a radiation oncologist, the only one who does a specialized radiation treatment. He normally only works in the main downtown location. After calling to set up an appointment, he came back and said we were really lucky and he happened to be covering for another doctor today only in our location and had time to see me right now. Well, we know God is in control and things don’t just happen by luck. It was so neat to see how God worked out these details for us at our very first appointment! We met with him and discussed my case and his specialized treatment. He also wanted to take my case before a committee of doctors back at the main campus to get their recommendation for a course of treatment. We were excited for the opportunity to have more eyes on my case, especially some of the top oncologists in the country!

Before leaving Omaha, I had one last appointment with my pulmonologist. He did an x-ray and found I had some fluid on my lung. He wanted to make sure I followed up as soon as I got to Ohio, so my oncologist here also sent me downstairs for another x-ray that same day. (We had quite the first day meeting people from all the departments!) The x-ray showed even more fluid on my lung, so he scheduled me for a thoracentesis to drain the fluid and a CT Scan on Friday. They drained 1/2 liter of fluid and sent it to the lab for testing.

Week 2 in Ohio
This week, we met with my oncologist to find out the results. The fluid drained from my lung did indeed test positive for cancer cells and the scan shows some suspicious spots in my lung. So the cancer has now spread to my lung. This rules out the option for the special radiation treatment we were looking at doing. The committee of doctors was able to review my case before my appointment and recommended we do a clinical trial. My oncologist told us there were many treatments that have worked well and are approved for other types of cancer and are now being tested for breast cancer.

If I am approved for a clinical trial, I will begin treatment right away down at the main campus in Cleveland. That will be a nearly 40 minute drive or more depending on traffic in Cleveland.

In order to get into a clinical trial, they still needed the MRI of my brain to followup on the results of the Gamma Knife procedure I had done to treat my brain tumors in May. I was scheduled for one next week, but as we can already see growth in the cancer spots on my chest and back, we want to get treatment started as soon as possible. Praise the Lord, the nurse began calling around and was able to get me in that afternoon at another location. So off we went to get the MRI done.

Now we wait for the call to see if we qualify for a clinical trial that would be a good fit for my case and when we can begin treatment. Please pray for wisdom for those involved. All the doctors and medical staff at the Cleveland Clinic have been excellent to work with. It is wonderful to know that some of the best doctors in the country are working on my case! 

We know God has orchestrated so many details to bring us here at this time to this team of doctors to fulfill His will in our lives. I recently read Isaiah 43 in my study of God’s Word. As I heard the news that my cancer has spread to my lungs, God brought the words from that chapter back to me:

This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah‬ ‭43:16, 18-19‬)

We can look back and see so many miracles God has performed and so many lives that have been touched and changed throughout my cancer journey. God has been faithful every step of the way! But this passage in Isaiah says not to dwell in the past. God is at work right now! He is doing a new thing! We can trust He is making a way for us now. Aren’t you excited to see how He will work?

 

A Fond Farewell & A Wonderful Welcome August 2, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 7:05 AM

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:3-5) 

          
How do you say goodbye after 8+ years? Living life together each day. Celebrating milestones and accomplishments. Hurting together through trials and hard times. Just hanging out to de-stress when life gets crazy. These are the ways we love and support each other as we live life together.

We have loved living life together in the Bennington community. We have met amazing people that we will never forget and that will be forever friends, no matter the miles between us. It always amazes me to stop and think about how so many have come together to support us through our trials and rejoice with us in our blessings. God orchestrated each individual person to come into our lives at the perfect time. He used each of these people to meet a need we would have on our journey. Be it a meal maker. A gift giver. A card writer. A word of encouragement speaker. A prayer warrior. A childcare provider. A house cleaner. A laundry washer. An ear lender. A time giver. And so much more. God has provided our every need through all of you! What an amazing community to live in! Thank you to each of you for your part in blessing our time in Bennington!

We are sad to leave all of you, but we know God is calling us to Ohio and He will again provide for all our needs. You may have a different role now, due to the miles that separate us. God has already blessed us with many friends here in Ohio between our Baptist Church Planters Family and our new church family and dear friends that live here in Ohio. And we trust He will bring other new friends along to live life with us in our new community. We are so thankful for a Loving and Sovereign God who holds the future in His hand. We can trust Him to be faithful to complete His work in and through us as we follow His leading!

Move Complete!

Moving 796 miles is a whirlwind of packing, paperwork, and planning! We had a ‘packing boxes’ Saturday. We had a ‘packing the moving truck in Bennington’ Saturday. And we had an ‘unpacking the moving truck in Ohio’ Saturday. In between those Saturdays, we had inspections and paperwork for both houses, finalizing financing for the house, calls to make switching over utilities, finding new house and car insurance, finding a new medical team, and switching over health insurance. And we were thankful God supplied times to see wonderful friends one last time before the move! We were sad to miss that last goodbye with some of you, but we are thankful there are so many ways to keep in touch now despite the miles that separate us. Our home is always open for visitors, so trek on over to Ohio and see us!😉

We are thankful for safety and an uneventful trip for our family and all of our belongings from Nebraska to Iowa and then to Ohio. It was a loooong day of travel leaving at 7:30am and arriving at 11:30pm, but our caravan of 4 vehicles didn’t have any issues or problems other than traffic and lots of road construction to maneuver. The kids traveled wonderfully (and the seven adults did too.😉 ) I know many were praying especially for that day. Praise the Lord for answered prayer! 

We had an amazing group pack us up and send us off as well as greet us here and unpack us. Thank you to all who shared in the work of moving us! It seems surreal that we are now here and settling into our beautiful new home. God has richly blessed us with amazing people to live life with and a truly beautiful home that meets our family’s needs.

Medical Update

Praise the Lord I have finished weaning off my steroids now! I do not miss the side effects those have brought and am thankful to be able to sleep more than 2-4 hours a night! 

I have had some physical challenges to navigate since my hospital stay. I continue to need oxygen while I recover from my blood clots in my lungs. I have an oxygen machine while I’m at home, but we have to deal with oxygen tanks whenever we go anywhere, including on the trip from Nebraska to Iowa to Ohio. This takes some extra planning so I don’t run out of oxygen, as well as some new obstacles to getting around attached to an oxygen tank.

I continue to get stronger each day. I can walk further and even get up on my own from taller chairs. All three of my boys enjoy doing my exercises with me each day that the physical therapist gave me to build up my strength. And Asher loves to announce to everyone “Mommy’s coming through,” whenever I am up and on the move.🙂 Continue to pray for increased strength and the blood clots to completely dissolve, allowing me to breath normally again.

Pray for us this week as we begin to meet my new medical team and determine my future course of cancer treatment with those at the Cleveland Clinic. Pray the doctors and staff will have wisdom as they review my extensive case history of my 5+ years battling this cancer. Pray that we will be able to clearly recall and explain things as we discuss my case and our treatment plan going forward with many new medical staff. Pray also that we will glorify God and be His light to those we meet as we settle in and live life in our new community.

 

Home, Sweet Home July 13, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 4:20 PM

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” ‭‭(Romans‬ ‭8:28‬)
I was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon, and now am back home, sweet home with my family! Thank you to all who have been praying once again as I was in the hospital for the blood clots they found in my lungs a week ago Tuesday. It is such an encouragement each time I hear you are praying for me.

Medical Update

It was not our plan for me to stay in the hospital for a whole week, but it was God’s plan. I got to meet many wonderful health care professionals that were able to help me in so many ways! I was able to do physical therapy nearly everyday while in the hospital. Now I can walk again with the help of a 2-wheeled walker! I still need help to stand up, but then can support my weight and walk for short distances. This has helped my strength increase everyday too. Praise the Lord for increased muscle power!

I was also able to complete all the shots of medication to begin thinning my blood. Now I can just take a pill everyday to keep my blood thin, so my clots don’t grow. Now we wait for my body to dissolve the clots, which could take 2-3 weeks for all the clots to start dissolving. The doctors also said it could take up to 3 months for all the clots to be dissolved completely.

It is difficult for me to breath deeply with the clots I have in my lungs, so I cough and get short of breath easily. They had to send me home from the hospital with oxygen, so we are adjusting to this new obstacle in my daily routine. Hopefully, I won’t have to be on oxygen too long.

Move to Ohio

We are getting very close to our move date of July 23rd! All the needed inspections and paperwork are getting done. Our house is getting more and more packed up. We are hoping to pack most of the rest of our things up this Saturday. We are so thankful for those that have stopped by or taken a day to come out and help us pack boxes. It has been such a great help in getting us ready for the move!

As we look back on my time in the hospital, and even my time in dealing with these brain tumors since the beginning of May, we can see how God has been working. We have been able to share with so many how God is the source of our strength as we face these various challenges. When I am weak, He is strong! Eric and I have grown in our faith in trusting that God is causing “all things to work together for good.” We have seen so many things with my recent medical challenges, selling our house, and buying our house in Ohio that can only be because of God’s perfect timing and plan. And I know there are many more ways God is at work that we may never know about till we get to heaven.

Thank you again for your continued prayers as I get rid of these blood clots and we prepare for our big move to Ohio. We could not do this without all of your prayers and support! God is good all the time!

 

When a Little Cough Isn’t So Little July 5, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 10:54 PM

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
I wasn’t expecting to have another update for you so soon, but we’ve had another eventful day to share with you. Over the weekend I developed a little dry cough. As the weekend progressed, I started having some shortness of breath when I coughed and then times where it was hard to stop coughing. I also had a low-grade fever and was getting chills. We were thinking, “Who gets sick in July!”
I went in for my normal chemo appointment this Tuesday morning and told my doctor about my symptoms. He decided to send me for a CT Scan just to rule out anything going on in my lungs and then we could try some antibiotics to get rid of the cough.

They were able to get me in for a 1pm scan. We waited there afterward for the results. About ten minutes later they came out and told me multiple blood clots showed up on my scan and I was to head to the hospital to be admitted for treatment!

I have had blood clots before about 2-1/2 years ago. We caught those early on a routine scan before I had any symptoms. I have been on blood thinners ever since then to prevent blood clots. But when I had my seizure and they found my brain tumors at the beginning of May, they had me stop taking the blood thinners and switch to an Aspirin a day because my regular blood thinners might have interfered with my new meds and caused swelling on my brain.

Well, now we know that those blood thinners were keeping away blood clots for me. I have multiple blood clots in both lungs. The good news is they are not blocking any of the main pathways, so blood is still getting through. I have started Lovenox shots to thin my blood while I am here in the hospital so they can monitor me. I’ll hopefully get to go home in a couple days as the clots dissolve and I can start taking my pills at home again.

This morning as I was reading my Bible, I came to James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” I knew this cough was not like any cough I had before, so I prayed God would give us and my doctor wisdom as we figured out what to do. I am so thankful we decided to do a scan before just trying antibiotics. Once again God is faithful and answers prayer by guiding and directing the next step for us.

On the chemo side of my treatments, last week I got a week off from chemo! I had only received Herceptin the week before, and my tumors on my back had not grown at all. They typically grow a bit when I don’t have my Gemzar chemo too. I asked if I could take a week off from chemo and try to build up my muscles and my doctor thought that would be good. I have seen great improvement in my arm muscles and can use them to move myself quite a bit again! My legs have been slower, but are definitely improving too. My thigh muscles are definitely growing. Praise the Lord! Another praise is that even with last week off chemo, my tumors on my back have not grown this week again! God is so good!

Thank you once again for keeping our family in your prayers as we face this new challenge. Pray the medicine will work and these clots will dissolve quickly! God knew how our day was going to go and He was with us each step of the way. We know He has a plan and a purpose for me to be here. Pray that we can glorify Him in all we do.

 

On the Move June 27, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 4:42 PM

“…For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

Hang on! God is definitely moving in our lives this week! Thank you all for your continued prayers for the specific requests I’ve been sharing. It’s so amazing to see how God works out the answers in His perfect time and way! There was a reason I wasn’t able to have my harder Gemzar chemo this week. God knew Eric and I would need some extra energy and have to rest in His strength for what He had in store for this weekend.

In God’s perfect timing, he called Eric’s Grandma Frances Davenport home to be with Him early last Thursday morning at the age of 94. She loved the Lord, served Him faithfully, and left a wonderful legacy that touched so many lives in her time on this earth. We were able to make the trip to Creston, IA for the visitation on Friday and Eric was able to fulfill his Grandma’s request that he be the one to share God’s story of her life at her Celebration of Life Service on Saturday. I don’t think here was a dry eye in the church as the Holy Spirit was at work! Please pray for anyone that was moved to accept Christ as their Savior or is still thinking about it because of the testimony and life of Eric’s Grandma Frances. We rejoice that she is now face to face with her Savior and we have the sure hope that we will be reunited with her when we get to heaven!


Move to Ohio

In God’s perfect timing, He also decided Saturday would be the day for us to sell our house! We had a wonderful family, with great credit, that had already sold their house, that came in on Friday from out of state for a second look at our house. They decided our house was The One after taking time to pray about it, and in God’s perfect timing we sold our house on Saturday morning! Praise the Lord for answering this BIG prayer request! Our family had also been praying another Christian family would move into our house to impact our neighborhood for Christ after we move. Isn’t it amazing how God answered even this prayer for us too!? God is so good!

As we were celebrating, the radio began playing the song God is on the Move. We found that very fitting for God working out all the details at that very moment and in His perfect timing is moving us on to our next Adventure He has called us to in Ohio!

Now, where do we go? We only have a month to find a house and close on it! The house we had been keeping an eye on in Ohio had already accepted another offer and there weren’t really any more viable options available that would meet our family of six’s needs. Then, Friday we came across a For Sale By Owner house. This house is in a great location right between the BCP Office where Eric will work, the church we wish to attend, the Satellite Cleveland Clinic Office that I would like to go to for my cancer care, as well as a great smaller school district for our kids to attend! Wow! Could this be the house God had prepared for us the whole time??? Well…we were able to come to an agreement with the homeowners Today and we now have a signed contract for our new house in Ohio! We should be moving in on July 30th if all goes according to plan. Anything is possible with God! He truly can move mountains when we trust Him and His perfect plan and perfect timing for our lives!

God has been asking us to trust Him for all the details to work out in His perfect timing. It has not been an easy road with the physical challenges I am experiencing, but God has provided help and strength just when we needed it. Rejoice and Praise Him with us!

We now have many details to figure out and see what God has in store in the days and weeks ahead, so please keep praying for us as we go through this time of transition and move on to what God is calling us to next. Thank you again to so many for their prayers, love, and support. We could not do this without each of you!

 

 
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