My name is Bev Cwalina. I am a wife and mother of two 20-something sons. I was first diagnosed with very early-stage breast cancer in May 2015. After I had a lumpectomy and 33 radiation treatments, I thought that was the end because no type of cancer runs in my family. I chose to seclude myself and live my life as if cancer had never existed for me.
Three years after my initial cancer, I was diagnosed with stage IIIb triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) in May 2018. TNBC is a rare, fast growing form of cancer. Although a TNBC diagnosis is scary, I knew that God had a plan for my life and I needed to seek out other cancer survivors to support me and whom I could, in turn, encourage with my story.
My TNBC tumor was in the scar tissue of my initial breast cancer, so by the time it was discovered in May 2018, it was very large (8cm x 8cm). I went through aggressive chemotherapy and had a single mastectomy followed by reconstruction. In 2019, while taking Xeloda, a chemotherapy pill commonly given to TNBC patients to hopefully prevent recurrence, I developed an infection and lost my implant. Previously radiated skin often has trouble healing, and my incision did not heal for seven months. I had my first colonoscopy in February 2019 and they discovered a large lipoma (non-cancerous tumor) in my transverse colon. This caused an intussuscepted bowel which required emergency surgery in December 2019. In Fall 2019, a large nodule in my thyroid was discovered and I was told it was probably caused by no thyroid shield being used during radiation in 2015. In May 2020, the growing nodule and half of my thyroid were removed.
Throughout all the heartbreaking health struggles that go along with a cancer diagnosis, I have met amazing women and men because I opened myself up to the love and support of others. I met fellow board member, Cara Snyder, at a support group and she encouraged me to sign up for Camp Breastie. Cara invited me to a get-together at Sam Moatz’s house to connect with other women going to camp. I didn’t realize that this was the inaugural event of 412Thrive!
In John 16:33, Jesus says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Cancer has given me many troubles, but I have peace in my life no matter what happens due to my faith in Jesus Christ. I have been blessed to connect with fellow cancer survivors to share peace, joy, and support. I consider being on the Board of 412Thrive an honor and look forward to using my professional skills as a former non-profit Executive Director to help 412Thrive succeed at their mission to support those affected by breast cancer and genetic mutations.