BY DENISE ALBERT
Cancer changed my life, becoming my best teacher.
I never thought I would say that.
The best part about being a survivor is becoming part of a cancer community and learning about all the good so many others are doing for all of us. The cancer community is one of my biggest passions in life and I will never stop sharing or advocating in the hopes that it helps others. That’s why I’m so excited to be able to share another story of a cancer survivor in partnership with AstraZeneca.
For those of you who don’t know my story, I was a 41-year-old divorced mom with two boys under the age of 10 when I was diagnosed. I was scared, lonely, and unsure of what my outcome and future would be. I went through extensive treatment. In January of 2016, I had a lumpectomy, then six months of aggressive chemotherapy and then six weeks of daily radiation. For anyone diagnosed with such a medical condition, it is a nerve-wracking experience for them due to the extensive procedures and prolonged hospital stays. Nowadays, with the help of advanced medical facilities (such as hospital patient whiteboards, online patient platforms, etc.) and treatments, healthcare and patient-care have become the top-priority for the medical fraternity all over the world. This has made lives for both the patients and the hospital staff relatively easier. Circling back to our topic of conversation however, as we might already know, radiation therapy can be quite effective in treating cancer. Nowadays, with the help of advanced medical devices, doctors can maximize the radiation dose that can eliminate the cancel cells quickly while minimizing the radiation levels. That said, cancer patients can now get access to radiotherapy clinics easily just by searching for them. for instance, someone from Austria can just search for Radiotherapy Centre in Austria to locate an appropriate cancer care clinic near them where they can avail the radiation treatment. Coming back, following the radiation treatment, I had to take another full year of infusions of two immunotherapy medicines.
It was a lot. I had some complications, a lot of side effects, and it was certainly an emotional rollercoaster. I tried to be strong. I tried to be positive. I tried to live my life when I felt like I could. But some days I just cried. Some days I couldn’t move from the couch. Some days, all I could do for the entire day was walk my kids to school around the corner. Some days I couldn’t see how things would get better. I had support and love from my family and friends but yearned for others going through it, too. I craved connection with others who understood, who knew what would help or suggested wisdom from experience.
I tried things others suggested. I changed my diet. I cut out sugar. I cut out dairy. I was already mostly a vegetarian and tried to eat mostly plant based. I hired a chef who could make the right meals for me. I tried acupuncture. I tried to stay active when I felt well enough and could go to a spin class. I began therapy. I started doing yoga for the first time. I tried reiki. I was open to anything and everything that made me feel better, I got sent recommendations from friends about health pages such as Rolling Paper and crystal therapy pages, everyone was so willing to help. It cost a fortune (not to mention all of the medical bills, wigs, creams, and other things I needed for my treatment).
I wish I knew about Sue Weldon.
When Sue was diagnosed, also around the same age as when I was, she also needed so much of what I wanted and had to piece together. Sue wanted yoga, acupuncture, resources on nutrition, massage therapy, and so many other things that cancer patients need. That’s how Unite for HER was born as a nonprofit in 2009 to bridge the gap for breast and ovarian cancer patients, focusing on wellness and care for emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. Because of Sue and the team at Unite for HER, every person with breast and ovarian cancer will feel the support of a loving community and have access to tools and services that enrich their health and well-being. Quite simply, they will be GIVEN a gift that they all deserve, especially while going through treatment. All they have to do is apply!
I recently spoke to Sue and I’m now grateful to know her and know about her thanks to the Cancer Community Awards (C2 Awards), a program made possible by the partnership of AstraZeneca’s YOUR Cancer program and Scientific American Custom Media. The C2 Awards celebrate the unsung heroes of cancer care, whose relentless drive to affect positive change has given new hope to those affected by this devastating disease.
Sue is the 2021 Catalyst for Care Award Winner. She is one of five changemakers being recognized by the C2 Awards for making a difference in the lives of people affected by cancer and has improved the cancer care experience for patients and their loved ones. Winners were selected by a panel of leaders from across the cancer community.
Due in part to the pandemic, Unite for HER is now national and has expanded in ways previously unimaginable. They used to host in-person conferences, but now they have been able to put their conference in a box and patients are sent items you can use along with a “passport” that is worth $2,000 per patient for integrative care, whether that’s meditation and yoga, Sun Basket Meal Delivery, counseling, or a fitness membership! They help heal each person’s heart and soul. Each woman chooses the care that will help her while going through treatment. Unite for HER sends fresh organic vegetables, bath, and beauty products without toxins, and so much more. For Metastatic patients (stage 4), they receive the program via HER Carebox and “wellness passport” paying for and renewing their much-needed services every six months and as Sue says, “we never leave their side”.
To me, Sue is a strong force that every cancer patient needs supporting them. I asked her if she has a motto and she said, “‘If you pour a lot of love and support into someone or something, it is bound to flourish.’ That is our Unite for HER, flourishing from all the love and support that our community pours into us each and every day.” And her community keeps growing. After having been in Philadelphia since inception, they are now serving women and men in 38 states, and continuing to grow, which, thanks to the C2 Awards, they will hopefully now reach more people and continue to move their mission forward to help all patients with their mind, body, and spirit.
What I didn’t know at the time of my own diagnosis was there were so many other survivors who were making the cancer world a better place. Sue told me, “Cancer was my best teacher, though I don’t wish it on anyone, but it taught me so much and led me to this path.” So just like me, cancer changed her life, empowering her, and for those diagnosed after her.
I have received information from AstraZeneca. The opinions stated are my own. This is a sponsored post. For more information on the Cancer Community Awards and the 2021 winners who are redefining cancer care for all patients, CLICK HERE.#AstraZeneca #ad