Meet the West Chester Nonprofit Founder Providing Wellness Services for Women With Breast Cancer
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, 2016 Be Well Philly Health Hero Sue Weldon realized the benefit of complementary therapies like acupuncture and massage. Now she's trying to ensure all breast cancer patients can access them.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be chatting with some of our past Be Well Philly Health Heroes to give you a glimpse of the people who are helping Philadelphians live healthier lives. Got your own Health Hero to nominate for this year? Do so here.
Name: Sue Weldon
Role: Founder and CEO of Unite for HER, a nonprofit helping to bridge the gap between the medical and wellness communities for breast cancer patients.
What motivated you to create Unite for HER?
When diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago, I found a gap in the medical community, where complementary therapies, resources, and education were not easily accessible, covered by insurance, or financially feasible for many. Yet these therapies impacted recovery, symptoms, and side effects without adding more prescriptions or medications, on both an emotional and physical front. That was powerful. I was fortunate to have the means and the foresight to find these therapies and implement them into my year-long healing plan. This led to me wanting to see this type of integrative approach to healing available for ALL women, not just those that could have access to the education and/or could afford it.
Has running Unite for HER inspired you to live a healthier life in any way? If so, how?
That would be an absolute yes! But make no mistake, it is the staff and community that surround me that inspire me everyday with their leadership, dedication, and resourcefulness to continue to grow our programming and answer the many needs this community is faced with, especially our stage IV/metastatic women we serve. I know I speak for our entire staff and board when I say the women of Unite for HER inspire and educate us everyday, giving our team an understanding of what is needed when a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment is presented. Knowing that we have a platform and a community of resources to draw from, we can together meet these new challenges and continue to serve in a way that is hands-on, impactful, and meaningful to the women and the families we serve.
How has winning the Health Hero Challenge helped you further reach those in need?
When I won the Health Hero award, thousands of women won it right along with me. Unite for HER was serving 741 women annually who were newly diagnosed with breast cancer at that time. We now serve more than 1,400 and have expanded into the ovarian community as well. The grant, media, promotion, and press that came with winning this award brought much-needed awareness and support to our organization and mission, which helped Unite for HER expand at a rapid pace and serve more women in need.
What do you have in the pipeline now?
Expanding our reach to support ALL women affected by breast cancer through HER Care Box, a care package we developed filled with educational resources and useful products for women affected by breast cancer. We call it our ‘mission in a box’ and can ship it anywhere in the world to support women in need. We also recently partnered with Independence Blue Cross to deliver 800 boxes to Medicare Advantage participants and are working on new ways to expand our reach and support women everywhere.
What is a misconception you think people have about what it means to be healthy/what they need to do to be healthy?
Many feel they have to make a complete lifestyle change to be successful, and that is just not the case. At Unite for HER, we provide ways to make small changes that produce a great impact on emotional and mental well-being. One step at a time, one healthy upgrade at a time. When we educate, and meet our women where they are, this breaks down barriers, for there is simply no judgment. Anything from switching out your sugar sweetener and adding mindful meditation to eating more vegetables and understanding how the chemicals in our bath and beauty products can be toxic to our systems builds confidence. We at Unite for HER offer a variety of tips on our blog and in our social media channels under the handle @unite4her.
What advice would you give to those looking to make a healthier shift in their lifestyle?
Start small and be gentle with yourself and focus on what you CAN do and not what you CAN’T. Habits form over years, so it may take time to make a lifestyle change. But small changes lead to large outcomes. Start with one or two upgrades, then when you start to notice a physical shift — maybe more energy, sleep-filled nights, interest in cooking — you can continue to build on that emotional and physical balance you found, one step at a time.
What advice would you give to your fellow Health Heroes — those looking to help others make a healthier shift in their lifestyles?
It is important to know it is not your job to ‘fix’ anyone, just to love and support them. Approach your loved one with authenticity. When you come from that place, then knowledge and advice will be accepted more easily. A healthy lifestyle is not one size fits all. There are thousands of ways to find that healthy balance. Just knowing that can be inspiring for many. Introducing them to a weekly CSA share weekly from Lancaster Farm Fresh or sharing the book, the Cancer-Fighting Kitchen cookbook, especially the Culinary Toolkit ingredient list, can be a great way to empower them. When tools and resources are easily accessible and simple to understand and most important, joyful, then making a shift to a healthier lifestyle becomes real — not overwhelming.
Know someone who deserves to join Weldon in the ranks of Be Well Philly Health Heroes? Nominate them here.