All in the Family is a new Calvary Church Newsletter column dedicated to you, the Calvary Church family. It is a forum where we will share the individual stories of people and families in our church, with topics ranging from miraculous healings and deliverances, to those of overcoming difficult life circumstances, as well as incredible ways fellow church members are living out their faith, and more. The column’s singular purpose is to display the unique ways God is moving in Calvary Church with the goal of inspiring readers, inside and outside of Calvary, to trust in Jesus. Do you have a story you wish to have featured here? Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!
In this inaugural feature, longtime Calvary Church member, Beth Cozzolino, shared her battle with, and ultimately, victory over, the insidious disease of breast cancer.
WYNCOTE, PA—Imagine being healthy your entire life, then, in an instant, to be left reeling with the revelation that you have a life-threatening illness.
It was the winter of 2011 when Beth Cozzolino went in for her routine mammogram, only to learn that cancerous cells had been growing and spreading in her body.
“I was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, which had spread to the lymph nodes,” explained Cozzolino. “The high estrogen level in my body had caused a tumor to grow.”
Cozzolino described the unexpected diagnosis as news that left her in a state of “emotional shock and disbelief.” Soon after, she said, fear and doubt would follow.
If based only on family history, Cozzolino didn’t have great cause to be concerned about developing breast cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer death among women, after lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. It was following her diagnosis that she learned of a great aunt who had contracted the disease later in life.
“No other person in my family had breast cancer, however,” she said.
Nonetheless, now that Cozzolino had arrived at this unfamiliar and unwanted place, it was time to begin learning how to take care of her body in new and different ways.
“Even though the hormone estrogen caused this cancer, I needed to learn how to strengthen my body to fight off cancer in the future,” she said. “This would include learning how to eat less sugar, [eat] more leafy greens, and work on eliminating toxins in my environment and body. This has been a positive change for me.”
And while it may be difficult for most people to conceive of anything positive resulting from a breast-cancer diagnosis, in addition to gaining indispensible nutritional knowledge, Cozzolino also noted other ways she has experienced joy through her often-uphill journey.
“Prior to my diagnosis, I was greeting new people one Sunday and I met a single gal, Ruth,” she explained. “I introduced her to the church and we developed a relationship. Having a heart for young adults, we became close in a mentoring way. I never knew that God would use Ruth, along with Rachel and Nicole, to be there for my needs during the week. After chemotherapy, they would cook dinner for us. I sat in my chair and helped them learn new recipes. To this day, these girls feel that our home is theirs, and they continue to give Wayne and I great joy.”
Joy during treatment is something acquired as you see God meeting your needs and giving you comfort along the way.
But, Cozzolino was also honest about how the disease has negatively impacted her.
“I am daily dealing with the fear of my mortality, which I had never addressed before,” she admitted. “I have always been healthy and was there for others. It was now my time to learn a deeper lesson in trusting God through a difficult and scary time, along with allowing others to be there for me in practical ways.”
While some cancer survivors have experienced instantaneous, miraculous healings, Cozzolino’s recovery has been a progressively improving one.
“I finished up my radiation therapy one year and three months ago,” she said. “I still get tired and sense ways that chemo has damaged parts of my body, but I am thankful that God has gotten me through this journey triumphantly.”
And, just as her friends Ruth, Rachel and Nicole have been at her side, Cozzolino also acknowledged the numerous ways Calvary Church, as a whole, has rallied around her.
“My Calvary family has met so many needs during this time—from meals provided, prayer, spiritual support to deal with fears, weekly cards of encouragement, which continue even still, to cleaning of my home, rides to chemotherapy, prayer warriors speaking over my life, and people not afraid to ask how I truly am doing,” she said. “I know that God had allowed this event to happen during this time frame where I would have a wonderful husband and loving church family to care for me.”
With that, when asked how others could be most supportive to people facing serious illness, Cozzolino suggested first allowing time for the person dealing with the illness to come to terms with the diagnosis.
“Give them time to adjust to the news, but let them know you are there for them,” she said. “It is difficult to know how people can help you while you are in confusion, so it is a blessing to have people state how they are going to help rather than ask.”
Furthermore, Cozzolino said people should be careful to avoid making references to others with similar illnesses, albeit well intentioned.
“[Cancer patients] don’t need to hear of others that you know who are suffering through cancer,” she said. “That can be painful, even though there are no ill intentions. Instead, encourage them with God’s Word so they can focus on hope.”
And speaking of hope, Cozzolino said this experience has strengthened her relationship with God and ignited in her a greater desire to share God’s goodness with others.
“I told the Lord that I would trust Him for His promises of healing He had given me and that I would be a ‘big mouth’ for Him as a result!
“I told the Lord that I would trust Him for His promises of healing He had given me and that I would be a ‘big mouth’ for Him as a result,” she said. “I want others to hear of His goodness in the details and His faithfulness to His promises.”
Cozzolino also said dealing with breast cancer has broadened her perception of what it means to suffer.
“This experience has given me a deeper understanding for suffering saints, and I know that He will use this [for me] to be able to speak into others’ lives through counseling and encouraging others in suffering,” she said.
No one is guaranteed tomorrow; therefore, we take a tighter grip on our Savior’s hand and learn how to lean hard on Him, as He leads us through the difficult times.
To that end, Cozzolino offered anyone facing serious illness the encouragement to ‘lean hard’ on Jesus.
“No one is guaranteed tomorrow; therefore, we take a tighter grip on our Savior’s hand and learn how to lean hard on Him, as He leads us through the difficult times,” she said. “He does not expect us to have the strength to deal with illness, but to learn that He is our great strength, and a deeper healing is His ultimate will. He is faithful to be there for us.”
As she reflected on the events of the last two years, Cozzolino said the main take away for her has been to accept her limited strength and wholly embrace that of Christ’s.
“I am without strength for this life [if I don’t have] His strength displayed in me,” she said. “His promises are yes and amen, and He is faithful!”
She continued, “Now that I am through the Red Sea, I can build my rock altar of praise and reflect on the goodness of God, while looking back and seeing the obstacles that He walked me through. My joy now is to encourage others in their suffering, as we bring ultimate glory to our Lord and Savior through our lives.”
Cozzolino has been a part of Calvary Church with her husband, Wayne, since 2006. She actively serves in the Young Adults Ministry, Women’s Bible Study, Women’s Ministry, Fusion and as a Biblical Counselor.
By Cynthia T. Graham
Cynthia serves the Calvary Church Media team as our lead writer and copy editor. For more about Cynthia read her bio here.