In Christ Alone: Our Journey through and after Breast Cancer

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

God’s Amazing Grace December 11, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 3:32 PM

“Let us then approach Godʼs throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” ‭‭(Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬)

Have you stopped to think about God’s amazing grace lately? We all have heard the song Amazing Grace, but what do those words and phrases really mean? What is grace and what does it look like in our lives?

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul asked God to take a burden away from him. Have you done this? We are facing something hard, really hard in our lives. It would be so much better, we think, if God would just remove this circumstance or trial from us. It says Paul pleaded three times for God to remove this burden from him. We do the same thing in the midst of our hard times. We pray fervently for God to just take it away. But sometimes God says no to us. He tells us we need to walk through this valley. This time He will not take it away.

But He doesn’t leave us hopeless or in despair as we navigate these hard times. He promises and provides His amazing grace. God tells Paul in verses 9-10, “”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” We can claim this promise today and know that God’s grace will be enough for us too. We can persevere in any situation by the grace of God!

What is grace? It is defined as “the free and unmerited favour of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” While on my journey through life, God has given His amazing grace time and again.

First and most importantly, He gave me His saving grace! Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves , it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is only by God’s grace that we can be saved. There is no way to do enough to earn or find another way to heaven. We have to have faith in Jesus and His dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. Then we can receive the gift of eternal life in heaven by God’s amazing grace!

Next, God gave me His sufficient grace throughout this cancer journey. I have seen and experienced so many undeserved blessings and miracles of God over the past 6 years. I have to trust, even now, that God is going to continue to give me His grace for this next step in my journey. He has always been faithful to keep His promises to me, never once failing. He can do all things, and He can give me the grace that is sufficient for the days ahead.

I hope you too can trust God with whatever you are facing in your life right now. He is sufficient and will give you the grace you need to navigate whatever valley lies before you today. Trust Him and take hope in His promises! Remember His amazing grace to you!

Finally, God has showered us with His amazing grace over these last 2 weeks! Some synonyms for grace are “favour, good will, generosity, kindness, benefaction.” Our family has experienced such kindness and generosity through so many of you these past days. There are so many praying that we will enjoy special times together as a family, and God has already been answering. We have been blessed through many visits from dear friends and family, and countless beautiful cards, gifts, and messages from so many expressing their love and support for us.Our church family and Eric’s work family at Baptist Church Planters have been God’s hands and feet to us since we moved here. They continue to bring in meals, clean, help with the kids, and anything else that comes up. We are so thankful for their love for us shown through their acts of kindness.

This past Saturday night our community in Columbia Station came together to place over 50 lighted luminaries down our drive to our front step. It was such a beautiful picture to show their support for our family. We are so thankful for a community like this that will support us with barely knowing us due to my being so sick since moving here. God definitely has a purpose and plan in moving us here!

img_7444We have also enjoyed some special times together with the family as my energy and strength has allowed. We all enjoyed an exciting Sunday celebrating Faith’s baptism! It was such a joy to my heart to see her publicly proclaim that she is saved and wants to follow Jesus with her life! What could be more exciting for a parent?! I am so thankful God allowed me to experience this wonderful day with Faith!

We have also enjoyed a family time eating out at one of our favorite restaurants, a girls shopping trip with Faith and friends, and a date with my love Eric eating out and Christmas shopping for the kids! We are so thankful for these times making memories and hope and pray that my strength and energy will increase so we can do more in the days ahead.

The last blessing we have received this week has left us in awe and completely humbled by the love, generosity, and sacrifice of so many. Our dear friends in Bennington, NE wanted to bless us through an online gofundme site to accept donations to take care of any expenses for us to make memories together as a family and raise money for a much needed new family vehicle. This opportunity was shared through Facebook and in just 5 days has raised over $10,000! We are completely overwhelmed looking through the list of so many that have taken the time to go and give a gift to bless our family in this way! There are dear friends from every stage of life and location we have lived in, as well as many we don’t even know personally that have come to know us through others. We are absolutely in awe of how God has bestowed His grace on us through all of you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

 

Incomprehensible, Overwhelming Peace, Joy, & Love December 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 11:59 AM

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” ‭‭(Psalm‬ ‭139:16‬)

Words can’t describe what it is like to be touched by so many precious souls in this life. Your outpouring of love & support is truly beyond comprehension to us! Just when we think God couldn’t possibly show His love, peace, joy, and comfort any more, He does. Through each of you.

We have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the stories and comments of you in our lives! I have been beyond blessed with a life full of such amazing people! I am so thankful to God for bringing each of you into my life. He truly has a plan and a purpose for every detail of our lives. Thank you to each of you for once again taking the time to be a blessing to me in this time. You have brought me more peace, joy, and love than I ever thought possible. My heart overflows with love for you all!

 

The Time to Part Ways has Come Now: Hospice Care November 29, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 10:31 PM

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

This is the hardest decision we have had to make on this cancer journey. When do we part ways for now? What is God’s will for us right now? There are so many factors that have converged at this point for Eric and I, our precious family and way beyond us. If you are reading this, we are all in this journey together in some way. So this decision will affect so many of you precious, dear friends in some profoundly significant ways too.

We have made the choice for me to begin hospice care at this time. God has once again given His peace that passes all understanding in this decision for us. My quality of life in the time I have left is more important to our family than the length of time I have left. We want to enjoy beautiful times together with family and friends!

What exactly does this mean? I will discontinue my chemotherapy and further brain radiation treatments going forward. These treatments are currently significantly deteriorating my quality of life. My care will change to making my time most beneficial and focusing on the best possible quality time with my family and friends in the time I do have left. A hospice nurse will now visit our home once a week to make sure we have everything we need.

It is fitting that God brought me to the truths of the book of Philippians to begin this cancer journey almost 6 years ago, and I can still hold to those promises and encouragements today! God’s Words are always true and never-changing! The words of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” applies just as much to me today as when I claimed them as my life verse in college, as when I claimed them for my cancer journey, as when Paul wrote the words to the New Testament believers in Philippi!

Love for You All
And God gave me all of you to go on this journey with me, to love and support me and my family all along the way. I have told you before, but what Philippians 1 says about you I still claim and pray for you with all my heart:
“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, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in Godʼs grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians‬ ‭1:3-11‬)
We love you all, with all our hearts!

Parting for Now
So we reach the time to part ways for a little while. We can all rejoice in the hope we have through our faith in Christ though! Paul goes on in Philippians 1 to remind us of this precious hope we can cling to in this time:
“And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and Godʼs provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭1:18-21‬)

How is dying gain, you may ask? Leaving all of you is the hardest thing I will have to do. But I will be face to face with my precious Savior at last! I will have gained heaven and my perfect, eternal life with Jesus forever and ever. I just get to go there a little sooner than all of you. 🙂

I have to say once again: if you have not accepted Jesus as your own Savior, please don’t put off this decision another second! A-admit that you are a sinner and need Jesus to save you from your sins. B-believe Jesus loves you and died on the cross for your sins. And C-call out to God today to save you! If you do this, you can know for sure you will be with Jesus in heaven when you die! You too can claim this promise from Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Thank you all for your continued prayers, love, and support on this journey. We can’t thank you enough for all you do for us from near and far!

 

More Not Good News November 17, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 9:29 PM

We once again covet your prayers that we can continue to cast our burdens on the Lord. We look to Him to sustain us. (If your remember from my last update, sustain means to comfort, help, assist, encourage, succor, support, give strength to, buoy up, carry, cheer up, hearten.)

Today was my Gamma Knife procedure to treat my brain lesions. I had a high resolution brain MRI this morning for the neurosurgeon and radiation oncologist to use to plan my treatment. They were expecting 3-4 spots to treat from looking at my previous MRI 2 weeks ago. But today they found 18 spots! While we were shocked by this news, we take great comfort knowing that God was not surprised today. 

They went ahead and treated the 7 biggest spots in a nearly 2 hour procedure today. We will have to regroup and talk through the options to treat the remaining spots. Pray my doctors will have wisdom as they discuss further treatment options and for wisdom for us as we seek the Lord’s will for the next step.

In the mean time, I will continue with the plan and start my new chemo on Tuesday. Pray that this will be effective against the other cancer in my lungs, liver, and bones without causing severe side effects for me. I am already extremely fatigued from my previous treatments.

Thank you again for all your prayers and support! They truly sustain us during this difficult journey.

“Cast your burden upon the LORD, and He shall sustain thee” (Psalm 55:22)

 

Next Steps: Surgery, Gamma Knife, & Chemo November 10, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 6:29 PM

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm‬ ‭55:22‬)

I am so thankful for this promise from the Lord. We can cast our cares on Him and He will sustain us! Curious as to the exact definition of sustain, I looked in the dictionary and found these synonyms: comfort, help, assist, encourage, succor, support, give strength to, buoy up, carry, cheer up, hearten. Wow! What a list! I am so thankful that God is the one who is sustaining me through this cancer journey. Thank you all who are praying for the Lord to sustain us right now! Your prayers mean so much to us!

We now have the schedule laid out before us of the next steps in our journey. We wanted to share them with you so you can be in prayer each step of the way.

First, tomorrow morning I go in to have a Pleurex Catheter surgically placed to drain fluid off my left lung. I already have one on the right side, so now I get a matching set! I had to go off of my blood thinners to have this surgery, so pray I don’t develop any clots during this time. My surgeon thinks he can do the surgery without completely putting me under, so I will hopefully be able to go home the same day and NOT have to spend the night in the hospital.

Secondly, next Thursday, I am scheduled to have another Gamma Knife procedure to kill the new cancer lesion that has shown up in my brain. We caught this one much earlier this time, so it is much smaller than the 2 tumors I had back in May. The neurosurgeon saw 2-3 more additional “suspicious” spots in my brain as well. So Thursday morning they will do a high-resolution MRI and make their plan of attack from those images. If you remember from my previous Gamma Knife, 192 beams of radiation are set to converge at the point where the cancer lesion is in my brain. This ensures the radiation is only effective on the cancer lesion and NOT the rest of my brain. They can then reposition the machine to target the next spot. So they can zap all the spots they find on Thursday!

Thirdly, I am scheduled to start my new chemo, Abraxane, the following Tuesday. This will be the week of Thanksgiving. So I will be laying low that week to see what the side effects of this new chemo will be for me.

Thank you again for your prayers as we continue on this cancer journey and trust in the Lord to sustain us through whatever comes into our path. Don’t forget to take your cares to the Lord, too, and trust Him to sustain you!

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm‬ ‭55:22‬)

 

Cancer Spreading November 3, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 11:27 PM

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:1-3)

Once again, we thank you all for continuing on this cancer journey with us and covet your continued prayers as we embark on the next steps.

I had scans again after the third round of my new chemo and received the results this week. The good news first: the two tumors that were Gamma Knifed back in May continue to shrink, the spots in my lungs show marked improvement, and the fluid output from my right lung continues to decrease.

The rest is not good news. There is fluid increase in my left lung and a drain is going to be put in, so I then will have a drain on both sides. A new lesion has shown up in my brain. We will meet with a neurosurgeon next Wednesday to schedule another Gamma Knife procedure as soon as possible. New cancer spots have also shown up on my spine, liver, and both hip bones. Two spots in each of those. So while my current chemo has seemed to work well in my lungs, the cancer has continued to spread in other areas. This means we have to switch my chemo again already. There are fewer than few options they have because I have had so many different chemos already.

I love and whole-heartedly agree with the words my wonderful husband Eric wrote concerning our current situation:

“We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we have hope in tomorrow because of our great God who loves us, has saved us despite our sin, and who promises to never leave or forsake us. To leave this life is to be present with our Creator and our King.

No matter the news, God IS Good!”

I am so thankful I have trusted Christ as my Savior and know I will go to heaven when I leave this life! This promise of eternal life with my Lord and Savior gives me hope for tomorrow! Do you have that absolute assurance today? If not, don’t put off making the decision to trust Christ as your Savior today.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalms‬ ‭121:1-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

 

Help Comes When Needed September 22, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — awilmeth @ 8:33 AM

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

Thank you for continuing to follow us on our cancer journey. We are so thankful for each of your prayers and support as we continue to settle in here in Ohio as a family and with our medical team. We have loved our community and schools so far. The kids are making friends and like the schools here. They still miss their friends back in Nebraska and have enjoyed receiving cards and letters and communicating through technology. Our church family and BCP family continue to support us in many ways. My mom was able to come out this week to help out around the house and stay with me so Eric can begin working more regular hours in the office. He has his office all set up now and is excited to start on many projects that will help with church planting across the United States!

Medical Update

Chemo Round #2 was yesterday. We spent most of the day seeing the doctor and then receiving my chemo treatment. The side effects should be hitting me in the next day or two, so I really covet your prayers for that time. Knowing what side effects I had last time helps us be more prepared this time. Also, I’m not just coming out of surgery and a hospital stay this time, so hopefully my body can tolerate the chemo better this time.

The oncologist told us we will do scans after my 3rd round to see how the chemo is fighting the cancer. The spots on my back and on my chest that we can feel have stopped growing! So we are praying the cancer in my lungs is also responding.

I am able to breath much better since my procedure to put the window from my heart to my lung and the Pleurex catheter from my right lung to drain the fluid out. We are still draining 300-400mL of fluid off every other day from the drain. The doctor says I need to drink plenty of fluids to make sure I don’t become dehydrated. I do still struggle with my breathing any time I do any activity. I have to turn up my oxygen. At rest I do very well! I used to have trouble keeping my oxygen saturation levels up just sitting, so I am progressing. 🙂

Thank you again for all your continued prayers and support. We love receiving messages, texts, cards, and calls letting us know you are lifting us up to our amazing Lord and Savior through this time of trial. He continues to provide the help and strength we need each day!

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2)