Memo: April’s Second Breast Cancer Update, June 2019

Memo2-breast-cancerThe storm has arrived. The small, misty drops from the top of the early storm-breakers have reached our souls. The monstrous, well-formed waves of April’s cancer that threaten to capsize our life have not yet come into view. But there is no doubting the arrival of this storm in our lives.

Over the last few weeks, April’s occasional back pain has become more intense and has lasted for longer periods of times. She has felt sorrow as she weaned her baby girl and has stopping picking up our 3 year-old and 5 year-old. Over the past few days, she has also felt the first side effects of her cancer medication, fevers and bone pain. We spend our days researching drugs, calling doctors, and hunting down medical records. April’s stage four breast cancer has arrived.

After listening to several doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners, April and I can now discuss the essential elements of this cancerous storm with some certainty. We know her tumor has existed at least since last November. At that time and on two ensuing occasions, April discussed a lump in her breast with her OGBYN. He ignored her concerns, saying he would schedule a mammogram or ultrasound for her in June if the lump still existed. April’s breast cancer has grown slowly,  feeding off of estrogen and progesterone. But with that being said, we know the cancer has had time to extensively flow throughout April’s body. The cancer has metastasized, expanding from the confines of her breast to reach her lymph nodes, her blood, and her bones. The cancer could also possibly reside in her liver, but the tests are not conclusive.

The ER+ and PR+ and HER2- breast cancer is considered a more treatable and manageable form of breast cancer. Employing hormone therapy and eventually chemotherapy, doctors think the cancer’s raging waters can be held at bay and potentially pushed back into the sea of suffering from whence they came. However, the storm will eventually adapt, regain strength, and come back to our shores.

Medicine cannot cure hormone based cancer.
According to the doctors, the cancer will most likely crash into our hearts with life-taking power in 6 or 7 years. But the doctor’s expectations are little more than the law of last year’s averages. In many ways, our storm still lacks a defined shape. Until April begins her treatment and the doctors measure how her cancerous storm responds to the various therapies, we can only vaguely speak of the storm’s path, duration, and ability to cause harm. April and I hope and pray that April will be able to successfully battle the waves of this storm for the next 15 to 20+ years.

Just as communities turn to sandbags, bulldozers, and the National Guard for help as massive storms approach, we have reached out to the top breast cancer clinics in Virginia and as well as the top three breast cancer clinics in the United States. We will do all in our power to bolster April’s natural defenses. We will begin exploring treatment options and clinical trials at Mayo Clinic, Sloan-Kettering, and UVA during the next two weeks. Hopefully we will be able to share more about the location and nature of April’s treatment come early July.

When storms of this life changing magnitude slam into our lives, we invariably find our minds drifting to the “why” questions. Why did God allow April’s OGBYN to ignore her concerns about a lump in her breast? Why did God send her, me, our children, and our extended families into this storm? Why did not allow her cancer in the first place?

I honestly don’t know why. But this I do know: God is good, and God is with us! Isaiah 43:1-2 says:

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

Isaiah spoke these words to Hezekiah. His kingdom was under attack and at the point of death. But God promised to be with his people as they suffer. April and I experienced the special presence of God when we lost our first-born-son Peter Alexander in 2013. Christ stood with us then. And we are sure that God is standing with us now because we are certain that Jesus left the tomb and reigns in heaven.

As we dive into the waves of the latest storm, we trust that God will strengthen our muscles of faith, belief, and trust. Each time we fear the waves will overwhelm us, God arrives and saves us. He has dried our many tears with the warmth of his love. And as we have begun to speculate the about a wifeless and motherless future, God’s Word has reminded us that we have nothing to fear. We are his redeemed people. No wave or fire will break us for our God stands with us amidst the storm. There is no fear to large for God. As the hymn says, “All I ever needed thy hand hath provided.”

In Mathew 8:23-27, the disciples were tossed violently by the sea. They turned to Jesus in a panic and said, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” Notice how Jesus responded:

And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”

We are tempted to fear. But then we look and see our savior resting peacefully for he rules the waves and April’s cancer.

He is our hope. As we suffer with Christ, we find our Lord and savior to be so sweet and so good. He’s with us, he hears us, and he will deliver us! We can confidently say that the words Psalm 34:8 become true with each passing day.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Contact Info:

We have been blessed by the love of our families, our ABC family, and our friends. If you wish to contact us, we ask you to do the following:

Email us at: biblefighter@gmail.com 

You can reach us via snail-mail at : P.O. Box 637/ Amissville, VA 20106

You are also welcome two reach out to the elders of Amissville Baptist Church, Mark Hockensmith and Bill Brown, at: 540-937-6159.

Click here for our GOFundMe Page

Though April and I welcome inquirers and emails, calls, and texts of support, they can be overwhelming at times. We appreciate your patience with our responses.

We plan to also keep posting updates here at witkowskiblog.com

Thank you for your love, prayers, and never-ending support.

God is good!

Sustained By Grace Through Faith,

Peter & April

Memo: April’s Breast Cancer Announcement

blog-post-cancer

Our hearts grinded to an abrupt stop on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 2:30 PM. Like standing on an island of doom in the middle of a Walmart shopping aisle, first April and then I could only hear two words echoing over the waves of life: “metastatic cancer.”

The day before my dear wife, April, had had an MRI scan performed on her lower back. We feared a slipped disc, medical bills, and few weeks of recovery. All these outcomes were serious but none were insurmountable. But the report that reached our ears as we managed to pick out cheese puffs and cans of condensed milk spoke of a challenge that would press our faith to its end. April had metastatic cancer. My bride, my best friend, and my favorite counselor, and Luke, Lily, and Lacey’s mommy was sick beyond belief.

Just a day before we would celebrate the seventh anniversary of our engagement when April told me, “Oh yes” as I presented her with a ring on one knee, we found ourselves staring into the hopeless waves of death.

We spent the ensuing Friday afternoon and the following five days in a daze. We sat in doctor’s office after doctor’s office and learned that April’s blood work, CT Scan, mammogram, ultrasounds, and biopsy all confirmed the original foreboding report of stage four breast cancer.

Though we are still in the process of determining the scope and nature of April’s treatment plan, we believe April should be able to maintain a high quality of life for at least the next 5-7 years (We hope to beat that number, given April’s youth and vitality). April and I at times find this news encouraging. Multiple times over the last nine days, we have feared that April had only months to live. Conversations about years seems far more promising than those about days and months. Yet, we still find the news to be an audaciously formidable tempest. It’s sovereign winds will push our little family into an uncharted ocean, containing many highs and lows. We hope to navigate safely through the waves for the next five years; and then, we will attempt to make it another five years. And will happily take another five after that and beyond.

April and Lacy 2019But our ultimate hope resides not in medicine or treatments or doctors. Our hope rests in Christ. We believe that April’s sickness was sent as Jesus said in John 9:3, “that the works of God might be displayed,” in her. We believe God would be glorified through April being saved from these waves of cancerous death. She and I and our families have prayed like never before, pleading for our God to hear our cries. As we cry, we trust God will not give us snakes and stones but, “good thing[s] to those who ask him (Matt. 7:7-11)!”  As Paul reminds us, God, “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus thought all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” This is the God we turn to in faith, pleading for healing for April. He is our hope and our strong tower.

And we look to God for miraculous help not because we our worthy of God’s special favor. April and I both identify with the Psalmist when he says, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” We know we have no right to stand before God; we have nothing to offer him as our service, our abilities, our talents, and our earthly attainments come from him. Rather, we appeal to our God because he is the God who forgives. As the Psalmist reminds us “But with you there is forgiveness that you may be feared.” April and I can approach the throne room of God because Jesus has saved us from our sins. Jesus’ loving father is our loving father. We know that the God who saves week and feeble sinners is the same God who delivers the sick from illness. Jesus raised Lazarus from dead because he had redeemed his soul. We plead with God to save April from the clutches of death because of He has triumphed over the Grave and sits at the right hand of the father!

Pray

Pray for God to be glorified through April’s sickness.

Pray for April’s salvation from cancer. Pray she is healed and the Lord prolongs her life.

Pray that our children will not be harden to the gospel because of April’s sickness.

Pray for God to grow and to strengthen our faith and the faith of all touched by this trial.

Pray that we would not fear the suffering that is before us but each day find the strength we need in Christ alone.

How Can I Help As I Pray?

1. Point us and our family to Christ! As the Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 130:5, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word I hope.” We need the Word of God. April is fighting cancer, but she and I and our family are ultimately fighting for our faith in the midst of cancer. And the best encouragement for the weak and hurting is the Word of God. Pray God’s promises for us. Write to us of God’s promises. And tells us of God’s promises when you give us hugs.

2. Join us in grieving this evil. Cancer is evil. The creation groans with the agony of sin (Rom 8:19-23). We should cry, pray, and plead when evil touches the core of our hearts. The Gospel is predicated on the idea that we exchanged the perfection of Eden for bodies of death. April’s cancer is a sign of that exchange. It reminds us of why Christ came and why we need him to come again. We should grief her illness and cry out to God about this evil, trusting in God’s ability to triumph over evil.

IMG_57973. Celebrate April’s life. My dear wife is very much with me, our three kids, and our church family today. Breast cancer threatens her, our marriage, and our kids. But her cancer has not won and does not define her. She is first and foremost still a daughter of the king, a laborer for the fields ripe for harvest. As part of the people of God, April and I are hoping for God to do above and beyond what we think possible. And as we navigate this storm, we rejoice in the reality that every day is gift from God! Psalm 3:4-5 states, “I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” Do not mourn her and pity her. Celebrate the God who sustains her!

4. Please share secondary helps cautiously and hug us more. April’s hope and my hope for this time is not an essential oil or a vitamin supplement, or an exercise plan. Friends, our hope is in God. Psalm 119:92-93 says, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.” The power for life, the ability to keep going, and the hope for tomorrow does not come from our attempts at fixing this broken world. It comes from God.

We do not discount the natural aids of God. We are surrounded by faithful friends who are working tirelessly to help us find the best medical care available. Pray for them and for us to have wisdom. But our hope is not modern medicine. And our hope is not some magic elixir. Our hope is God’s amazing love for his people.

Moreover, the best and most scriptural secondary helps are hugs and hospitality, and care. We welcome those! See below.

5. We welcome physical and practical help. Though we do not know all of our needs at this point, we know we cannot walk this journey alone. We need and most defiantly have the help of our family. We need the love and support of our church family. And we embrace the love and prayers from our brothers and sisters around the world.

We will also need help with doctor’s appointments, childcare, meals, medical costs and a host of other things as we discover our new normal. We will know more about our needs over the next few weeks.

At the moment, we are doing well. April’s family is here with us in Virginia and friends both at Amissville Baptist Church and from afar are helping us with the medical side of things.

Contact Info:

At this time, we ask that you direct offers to Amissvillebc@comcast.net or to biblefighter@gmail.com 

You can reach us via snail-mail at : P.O. Box 637/ Amissville, VA 20106

You are also welcome two reach out to the elders of Amissville Baptist Church, Mark Hockensmith and Bill Brown, at: 540-937-6159.

Click here for our GOFundMe Page

Though April and I welcome inquirers and emails, calls, and texts of support, they can be overwhelming at times. We appreciate your patience with our responses.

We do plan to also keep posting updates here at witkowskiblog.com

Thank you for your love, prayers, and never-ending support.

God is good!

Sustained By Grace Through Faith,

Peter & April

Hope For Hopeless Christians

sad-adultA bunch of hopeless people. This is what you will find as you make eye contact with the people sitting in your church pews. You will be greeted by smile after smile that is nothing more than a cheap movie set façade. Turn the corner and you will realize there is no firm foundation of joy. All that exists is some thin piece of painted plywood held up by two supports of flimsy church culture.

The hearts around you and me are hurting, struggling, and hopeless.

Many of us Christians gave up on the idea of the sufficiency of the Scriptures. We took up God’s script with interest when we first heard about the king of heaven. We eagerly followed every divine word of Scripture up to the base of the cross.

But as we left the cross and began the next scene of our life, we felt that the script was inadequate. The lines mentioned nothing about anorexia, ADHD, and our many other problems. Perhaps the script was no longer useful.

joseph-gonzalez-273526We addressed our concerns to local co-director. He heard our complaints and empathized with us, but agreed that the God’s script was actually kind of lacking. He patted us on the back and ushered us out of his office offering a few trite words encouraging designed to keep us reading and praying.

And so we conclude that the gospel that saves us essentially ends at salvation and will only pick up again at heaven. In the meantime, we improve things as best we can, trying to determine God’s will for our life by asking our heart, “what do you think is best?”

Quite naturally the heart that has put down the Scriptures and devoted itself to the study of itself, pop-culture, and modern thought, finds only cultural wisdom.

Our culture’s mindset is one of hopelessness. There is no hope for the sex addict, for the far too thing teenage girl, and for the out-of-control kid. Sure, we can toss some medicine and therapy their way. But at the end of the day, we can only medicate them. We cannot cure them.

And Christians who are more defined by their sin than their savior are going to be helpless. They cannot hope to be anything else. If God cannot help us with our problems, then we really are hopeless.

This is where all the lonely people come from.

Thankfully, we do not have to remain in this state of hopelessness. God does not call us to be facades. He calls us to build full and vibrant lives on his Word. The script does not end at conversion. That is the point when the plot gets really good. At conversion, we get the power of Christ to overcome our sins. The story of our life goes from being one of failure to one of success, because the hero Christ has arrived and empowered us with his helper, the Holy Spirit. Paul said it this way,

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with temptation he will also provided the way of escape that you may be able to endure it.

– 1 Corinthians 10:13.

The message of the Bible is that you are sinners redeemed by grace. If you are stressed to the point of panic attacks, cannot handle you porn addiction, and cannot control your body weight, the Bible is for you. Dive into it, find a biblical counselor or a godly pastor, and you will see that there is a way of escape. God rescues his people.

Your ultimate problem and my ultimate problem when I think life is hopeless is our theology. The divine script is not wrong. We simply misread the text with our modern, sinful eyes.

To overcome our stress, worries, and depressions, we need to dive into God’s script. As Paul told the Corinthians,

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come – 1 Corinthians 10:11.

We like the New Testament believers live in the last age. Living in the last age does not imply the Bible is outdated. Rather, Paul says the Bible is full. We have all the stories of the Old and New Testament precisely because they are relevant to our lives today. The show us how to repent of sinful idols and how to refocus on Christ. The Scriptures are never more, relevant, important, and helpful than now.

All those fake smiles in our church by the power of Christ could one day be real and meaningful.

If you have more questions about how the Bible applies to your life or about how you or your church could start practicing the disciplines of grace, please reach out to me. I would love to help.