For many women, breast cancer may feel isolating, particularly during a pandemic. The physical changes and need for support are often greater than what their family or friends provide. Most begin to examine life habits and their overall health as they seek to understand their new normal.
As someone recently diagnosed, I had no idea how my life would change. For instance, simple tasks such as cooking, house cleaning, or walking becomes far more challenging while undergoing treatment. And yet, now it is more important for me to eat well and take care of both myself and my home.
I also discovered we’re all in this together thanks to Unite for HER, a nonprofit that has expanded to support breast and ovarian cancer patients nationwide, providing integrative therapies, services, and education at no personal cost to program participants. One of the benefits of integrative therapies is I have a sense of “doing” something to improve my health that gives me energy and comfort.
When Unite for HER founder Sue Weldon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, she began searching for information on therapies that would complement the medical treatments she was receiving. She discovered a lack of easily accessible resources on topics like nutrition, yoga, counseling, and other ways for breast cancer patients to enhance their wellness and care for their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs.
“Nutrition, yoga, and acupuncture saved me,” said Weldon. “After my treatment I experienced so many side effects that no one was talking about. A friend introduced me to yoga and I began to explore integrative therapies and how they support your overall health and wellness. The more I dove in, the more research I found that supported this integrative care model.”
Inspired by her recovery, Sue attended a local breast cancer survivor event and shared her discoveries.
“There was a young girl there who looked just as I did nine months prior: same bald head, yellow skin. I was her,” said Weldon. “I started to share with her all of the tools I found to help me heal, and as I was talking she started tearing up, saying ‘I could never afford all of that,’ and then it just clicked.”
In 2009 Weldon founded Unite for HER, a 501(c)3 nonprofit to “bridge the gap between the medical and wellness communities and provide powerful integrative therapies to all breast cancer patients, regardless of income.”
Today, all patients in the Unite for HER Wellness Program receive their signature Wellness Passport, valid for $2,000 of integrative therapies, and attend a virtual wellness day to learn about integrative therapies, meet care providers, and connect with the Unite for HER community. All services are provided virtually or shipping directly to patient homes in a branded cancer-fighting care package, called HER care box.
Patients can choose from services like free groceries, meal deliveries, nutrition consultations and cooking classes, virtual yoga, fitness classes, counseling, and more. Patients receive services for a full year; metastatic breast cancer patients and recurrent ovarian cancer patients receive services for life.
“When you are going through cancer treatment, it can feel like you don’t have control over anything,” Weldon said. “At Unite for HER, we seek to empower patients and give them that control back by educating them about the power of integrative therapies and letting them try the services that work best for them. Every patient is unique and we are here to guide them to be restored.”
A few services that have helped me tremendously are remote Reiki healing, nutritional training for healthy alternatives to traditional recipes, and house cleaning. The Unite for HER team welcomes new patients with open arms, helping each woman feel good during the most difficult times in her life.
To learn more about the Unite for HER Wellness Program, or to support the mission and services of Unite for HER, visit uniteforher.org.