My name is Arlene Kray. I reside in the North Hills with my husband, Andy, and my son, Luke. When I was 7 years old I lost my father to cancer. When my son was 7 years old, and I was 42, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2017, I was diagnosed with ER+ DCIS and the only treatment planned was surgery. They removed a few lymph nodes to confirm it had not spread, but it had. I then received treatment with radiation. Based on my MammaPrint results (low chance of recurrence), I did not undergo chemo. I am currently 3 years into 10 years of Tamoxifen.
I have a PhD in Pharmacology and a PharmD. I work in Pharma and have been leading teams of medical writers for over 10 years. At the time of my diagnosis I was working in Oncology, but am now working in Dermatology. I am amazed by how many local cancer survivors have been touched by 412Thrive in such a short time. I am happy to volunteer my time to this organization as there is a great need in our community.
Hey there! My name is Amy Zanke. Although not a native Pittsburgher – I’ve lived in the South Hills since 1992 and consider Pittsburgh my home. I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma ER+/PR+/HER2- on November 4, 2016 at age 46. I had a lumpectomy and sentinel node removal, but it had spread to my lymph nodes. 2nd surgery was to remove all lymph nodes under my right arm. I now have mild lymphedema, but it has been relatively easy to manage. My testing showed that chemo would not be a viable treatment option, however, I did receive 33 rounds of radiation. I opted not to do any reconstruction but did have to have a hysterectomy in 2018. I was recommended to do hormone therapy for 5 years, but recently had to stop due to the crazy awful side effects. I'm currently enrolled in an aspirin research trial for breast cancer prevention. I consider myself so blessed and lucky for my outcome - and feel guilty that I got out so easy compared to others. That’s what motivated me to want to help - I stumbled upon the 412Thrive Facebook page and was immediately drawn to the members and message. I finally found a group of people who not only understand what it means to have cancer but also offers such great support and insight into life after diagnosis and beyond treatment. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be a part of this amazing group!
My name is Christine Adamek, and I am a cofounder of 412Thrive. In 2009, on my birthday, I received the news that no one ever wants to hear: “You have cancer.” I was the picture-perfect image of health: working out daily, practicing yoga and meditation, and even adopting a whole foods, vegetarian diet/lifestyle. I found a lump while showering and called my doctor, who scheduled a mammogram and biopsy, which later confirmed my diagnosis of a rare non-hormonal form of breast cancer called Triple Negative.
After a whirlwind of tests, it was decided that adjacent chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation with a slew of clinical trial drugs were needed. I was also told the heartbreaking news that if I survived cancer I would have to wait several years to start a family and that my fertility could be compromised. At twenty-seven years old, I was afraid and felt alone.
For many years after treatment, I battled with anxiety and depression, all while struggling with fertility. Six years after treatment, my husband and I were blessed with two beautiful, free-spirited twins. I thought the hardest part of my cancer journey was behind me, and I was ready to enjoy life with my new family. But three days after the birth of my children, I was diagnosed with postpartum cardiomyopathy, a rare, pregnancy-induced form of heart failure, and was told I may or may not recover from it due to my history of chemotherapy. Further testing also revealed that I had nodules on my lungs that needed to be monitored for the next two years to make sure my cancer had not metastasized. I was left yet again with feelings of fear and loneliness.
Persistence and patience are just a few traits that I have learned to use to navigate my cancer journey. I am beyond grateful to have recovered from postpartum cardiomyopathy and have no evidence of disease.
I was ecstatic when I met Samantha Moatz. We shared the same feelings of fear and isolation during our cancer journey and decided to found 412Thrive together. We wanted to form an inclusive group to help breast cancer patients of all ages not only survive cancer but live life to the fullest and thrive, throughout their cancer journey and beyond.
My name is Samantha Moatz, and I am a cofounder of 412Thrive, an advocate for ALL breast cancer fighters, and a super mom to two of the most special kids to ever exist. In October of 2010, at the age of 23, I found a lump in my right breast and within a month was diagnosed with stage 1b 100% estrogen positive breast cancer. I had no family history and no genetic mutations, so I am living proof that cancer can happen to anyone at any time and at any age. A true warrior, I underwent a lumpectomy, did thirty-six rounds of radiation, and started a ten-year run of a drug called tamoxifen. My body did not respond well to tamoxifen, so after a year and a half I decided to stop taking it and underwent a double mastectomy. But this was not the end of the fight, not by a long shot. I have had to fight multiple infections and will most likely continue to do so.
I celebrated ten years cancer free on October 28, 2020. I commemorated this anniversary with other cancer survivors, including my 90-year-old grandmother, which just goes to show that you can beat cancer at any age. I also celebrated with my husband Marc and our two beautiful babies. I realize how lucky I am to have the kind of love and support that my family provides.
I know that being cancer free doesn’t mean that the battle is over; there is a price to pay physically, emotionally, and financially. This knowledge was the catalyst for cofounding 412Thrive with fellow breast cancer survivor, Christine. Our nonprofit provides support for individuals affected by breast cancer and genetic mutations. I know the importance of connecting with other Thrivers because that was exactly what I had been missing until I met Christine in 2019. We were shocked to discover that we were diagnosed less than a year apart and were both from Pittsburgh, yet had never met. We knew that other Thrivers needed to feel the same support that we were able to provide for one another. We often joke that 412Thrive is like a dating service because we provide a space for Thrivers to meet their “significant other” in the breast cancer world. I hope to continue to connect Thrivers by hosting events, setting up meal deliveries, sending personalized care packages, or even dressing up as a giraffe to make a cancer fighter laugh.
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.
Hello! My name is Cara Nash Snyder. I reside in the South Hills of Pittsburgh with my husband Jeremy and our two sons, Hansi, 5 and Jesse, 2. We also have our "ol lady lab" Mocha, who is 12.5. Our lives are beautifully messy but full of love.
I joined the board of 412Thrive because I really believed in their mission and their desire to help others thrive during what may be the most difficult time of their lives. 412Thrive goes above and beyond to personalize and cater to the needs of their members. The amount of thought and effort that goes into what each individual needs at the current moment is invaluable. Average or standard does not apply. Christine and Sam both live super busy lives, each with young children, yet know exactly what time you are going into chemo on Tuesday and what your favorite scents are. They really get to know each of their members on such a personal level. The community and friendships that have evolved since 412Thrive was born is incredible! The connections are real and deep.
I met Sam at a support group for another local organization (YWBCAF) and we instantly became friends. Soon after, she invited me to a super fun, social event at her home. That evening, I got to meet Christine, a fellow TNBC Survivor of 10 years. I was diagnosed with early stage TNBC in July of 2018 and then diagnosed with brain metastasis in July of 2019. Christine and Sam have been so supportive of my journey and are always there for me during both my high and low points.
When I heard that they were starting a non-profit, I was more than excited for them! I knew they would be successful and put their hearts and souls into it. I immediately wanted to find ways to help them. I believed in them and knew their efforts, drive and passion would turn into something so much bigger. I am so very proud of them!
I provided them with their very first monetary donation and supplies for making care packages. Chatting with Sam one night, I helped name the organization and also was able to connect them with a graphic designer to get their logo designed pro bono. For me, it felt so good to be part of something that helps other young Thrivers get through their journeys while feeling supported along the way. I have been so extremely lucky with the amount of support I have been shown since my diagnosis and I really wanted to pay that forward
Once they were official, the universe aligned. I was hanging out with Sam and another Thriver and I asked, “How do I get on the Board” and Sam’s response was “OMG, Christine and I were going to ask you tomorrow if you would like to join our Board?!” I am honestly so honored to part of this organization for Metastatic Outreach.
I plan to help others thrive while living with Stage 4 cancer, so they can continue to live and love each of their days. To help them find resources and connect them with people that understand what they are going through. 412Thrive also supports the families of those with metastatic cancer. We aren’t just a group for those in early stage treatment. We are here to support previvors, survivors, thrivers, caregivers and those grieving the loss of loved ones.
Although I am not myself a cancer survivor, several family members have battled and are still battling the disease. I am a local Realtor with Coldwell Banker, and have owned a web development company for the past 22 years. I have been a PTO President, Treasurer, and a board member for my local Community Day. I recently joined 412Thrive, happy to utilize my skills to help get the website launched and get the word out about this fantastic organization that offers much needed support to breast cancer patients and their families.