Resources for breast cancer patients and caregivers in the Philadelphia area
By Tara Behan Marmur
“You have breast cancer.” It’s a sentence that no one wants to hear. The diagnosis interrupts and forever alters the lives of everyone who receives it. According to the American Cancer Society, 333,490 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed by the end of 2021. That’s just in the United States – and it includes men, although the disease strikes them at a significantly lower percentage than women.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a substantial decline in all cancer screenings, including mammograms. Many cancers may be going undetected. So it bears repeating: Annual mammograms are the best tools for early detection of breast cancer at the stages when it is most treatable.
People who have been diagnosed are not alone in their fights. Countless resources and organizations throughout the Delaware Valley provide support for breast cancer patients, their families and caregivers, usually at no cost.
Founded by Sue Weldon in 2009, Unite For Her supports breast and ovarian cancer patients throughout the Delaware Valley. “We are that gap in the medical and wellness community that gets bridged without any financial burden,” says Weldon.
“When you’re in the battle against cancer, you can’t see the end, and organizations like Unite for Her really give you power.” – Tracy Davidson
Unite for Her provides women with care boxes containing Wellness Passports. “Each Wellness Passport has a value of $2,000 of integrative therapies like yoga massage, acupuncture, and counseling sessions,” says Weldon. “Unite for Her allows women to choose and create their own personal plan that resonates and works for them and where they are in their cancer journeys.”
Tracy Davidson, NBC10 news anchor and six-year breast cancer survivor, took advantage of Unite for Her’s services. “When you’re in the battle against cancer, you can’t see the end, and organizations like Unite for Her really give you power,” says Davidson. “They make you realize that: one, you’re not alone; and two, you can do this. They provide services that restore your life, restore your health, renew you and make you feel like, ‘Ok, you’re right, I got this.’ They empower you.”
In 1993, Cancer Support Community Greater Philadelphia was founded to provide complimentary programs to patients, family members and caregivers impacted by cancer.
The comprehensive services include educational lectures, mind/body activities, creative outlets and social opportunities for adults, children and families. Programs are offered at multiple locations across the Delaware Valley and virtually. “We know that it’s not just about the treatment for your physical health,” says Kelly Harris, CEO of CSCGP. “We know that when people feel supported, when they feel educated, when they feel empowered, when they can reduce their stress by participating in our mind/body programs, that they do better. Studies say that people who participate in these types of programs do better through their treatment and into their survivorship.”
Helping cancer survivors regain their strength through exercise is the goal of the THRIVE program at the YMCA of Bucks County. During the 12-week group personal training program, THRIVE participants and their families receive free memberships to the YMCA and have full access to the facility and its classes, both in-person and virtually. During the program, participants meet twice a week for group personal training sessions. The goals are to build muscle mass and muscular strength, increase flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, and improve functional ability.