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Mrs. Cwiek Goes to Washington

Making Your Voice Heard

Six years ago, Becky Cwiek was a stay-at-home mom. Ask her what she does today, and it depends on which hat she's wearing at that moment: mom, breast cancer survivor, pharmacy technician or president of the fledgling Michigan Breast Cancer Coalition.
Becky Cwiek

After her best friend died of breast cancer, Cwiek read a story about the National Breast Cancer Coalition. She decided to see if she could raise enough money by sending 100 letters out to friends and families asking for $10 contributions to go to the NBCC's annual conference.

Cwiek's friends went above and beyond, in some cases sending $300 instead of $10. In the end, she raised $2,200-enough for two years' worth of conferences. "I was crying every time I'd go to the mailbox," she said.

Since then, Cwiek has divided her time between chatting up Michigan legislators on Capitol Hill during the NBCC's annual Lobby Day and establishing the Michigan Breast Cancer Coalition to influence policymakers in Lansing. Their goal is to "advocate, educate and eradicate." The group recently obtained its non-profit status.

Cwiek has also committed herself to learning as much as she can about cancer. She recently took an NBCC six-day course on molecular biology and epidemiology, and has begun to serve as a grant reviewer for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. She also serves as a member of the U-M Breast Cancer Advocacy & Advisory Committee, helping to provide feedback to researchers about clinical trials.

"If we can make a difference, we have to," Cwiek said. "It's amazing, really. We have the ability to change laws. We just have to get smart first."

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Thrive Issue: 
Summer, 2008