In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, SHWI interviewed Unite for HER, a national nonprofit organization supporting the cancer community through integrative-based care and education.
SHWI: Please share more about your organization, why it was founded, and its mission and values.
Our mission is to enrich the health and well-being of those diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancers – for life – by funding and delivering integrative therapies. Our vision is that every person with breast and ovarian cancers will feel the support of a loving community, and will have access to comprehensive education, services, and tools that enrich their health and well-being. We are committed to being a safe space for people of all sexual orientations/gender identities.
When Sue Weldon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, she was determined to regain her strength and be there for her three children. After her treatments, she was told she was cancer-free, and with access to integrative and recovery therapies she was able to improve her overall wellness. Sue wanted to share her healing journey with others.
"I discovered a lack of easily accessible resources on topics like nutrition, acupuncture, massage, yoga, counseling and other integrative therapies that support the wellness and emotional needs of breast cancer patients.” - Sue Weldon
Recognizing that finding integrative therapies can be time-consuming and expensive with treatment, Sue founded Unite for HER in 2009 to bridge the gap between the medical and wellness communities and provide integrative services to breast cancer patients in the Philadelphia region. Today, Unite for HER has expanded into a national nonprofit organization, providing services and education to breast and ovarian cancer patients nationwide.
Since founding, Unite for HER has provided over 113,000 integrative therapy treatments and services to patients nationwide.
SHWI: Unite for HER offers a wide range of programs and support services. What kinds of resources do you offer those who’ve been affected by cancer?
We provide comprehensive education and integrative therapies and services to women, men, and non-binary individuals affected by breast or ovarian cancers. All of our programs and services are provided to our program members at no personal cost.
Free Educational Events
We host free virtual educational events monthly, including live cooking classes with a team of registered dietitians, presentations by medical and wellness experts in HER Speaker Series, and Ask the Experts, a live question and answer session with medical, health, and wellness experts streamed on Facebook.
We also have a large video library of free resources for patients and those interested in health and wellness. HER Library contains free videos by field experts in topics ranging from nutrition, fitness, medical and wellness issues (lymphedema, sexual health, neuropathy, and more), and practical life skills (managing insurance, financial resources, etc).
Wellness Passport Program
The Wellness Passport Program is for those who qualify and are within 18 months of a breast cancer or ovarian cancer diagnosis. Program members receive a Wellness Passport, valid for $2,000 of integrative therapies and services, including acupuncture, fitness, massage therapy, meditation, nutrition, professional counseling, sexual health counseling, and yoga, as well as a care box containing educational materials, healthy and helpful products.
- Extended Passport Program
The Extended Wellness Passport Program is for those who qualify and are living with a metastatic breast cancer or recurrent ovarian cancer diagnosis. Program members receive a renewable Wellness Passport valid for $4,000 of integrative therapies and services annually, including acupuncture, fitness, massage therapy, meditation, nutrition, professional counseling, sexual health counseling, and yoga, as well as a care box containing educational materials, healthy and helpful products. Extended Wellness Passports are renewable every six months for life.
Empowered Living Program
The Empowered Living Program is for those diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, all stages, regardless of diagnosis date. Program members receive access to digital educational resources and live events. All members diagnosed within 18 months will also receive a care box containing educational materials, resources, and healthy products.
SHWI: Your organization takes a holistic approach to cancer care and includes integrative therapies in its programs. Can you share how these therapies have positive results with cancer patients and why it’s important to include them in patient treatment plans?
We were honored to present data from our Wellness Programs at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in 2022. Data was collected from participating metastatic breast cancer patients and submitted the data for analysis by Cancer Support Community. Among the key findings were the ability of integrative therapies to reduce stress, reduce medication used for side effects, and to improve reported quality of life.
- 97% of patients agree that Unite for HER made a positive impact on their quality of life with cancer
- 93% of patients reported a reduced level of stress
- 80% of patients reported significant improvements in their side effects
- 28% of patients reported being able to eliminate or reduce at least one prescribed medication to manage side effects
To view the complete poster presentation, visit uniteforher.org/sabcs. This was just one group surveyed by our team, and countless members have shared personal stories of how our supportive integrative programming has changed their lives.
SHWI: To date, what kind of impact has your programming had on the lives of those diagnosed or recovering from cancer? Can you share what kinds of testimonials you receive and how far reaching your programs have been?
Unite for HER has supported more than 15,000 patients since founding. You are welcome to read any of the testimonials from our members on our website.
SHWI: What are some things that healthcare providers can do to support their cancer patients? And what is one thing people can do to support Unite for HER?
As healthcare providers work to treat the cancer, we work to bridge any gaps to support whole-person healing and wellness. We hope to continue to see new research in this field and for more healthcare providers to adopt an integrative approach to support their patients.
Our programming is free to patients thanks to the generous support of private donors and organizations. Individuals, organizations, and businesses can support our mission by making a financial contribution, hosting a fundraiser, or funding and building care boxes for our member patients. We also have corporate volunteer opportunities, as well as four signature fundraising events in which 100% of the net proceeds benefit our outreach programs.