When Sue Weldon, a former gymnastics coach, was diagnosed with breast cancer about 11 years ago, no one could refer her to an array of specialists for holistic treatment.
So Weldon, a Chestnut County resident who underwent surgery and chemotherapy, began her own quest.
She came up with three areas to pursue: acupuncture to deal with hormonal side effects, yoga to address the “mental chatter that would go through your mind as someone who was diagnosed,” and nutrition.
“During that time,” she remembers, “I was like a machine. I was doing research and trying to understand who I could connect to. It’s amazing what’s out there when you find it, when you get to the right people.”
Sometime later, Weldon was at an event where she spotted a woman with a scarf on her head – a cancer patient undergoing chemo, Weldon thought. The two struck up a conversation. “I said, ‘You’re going to get through this. I’m a year out and I had a year of hell and it’ll get better.’ …I told her about the acupuncture, the yoga, the nutrition, the message therapy – all these modalities I was using at different parts of my treatment and healing. She just got a tear in here eye and said, ‘I could never afford that — I could never do all that.'”
That’s when Sue Weldon decided to establish what would become Unite for Her, to help women look after themselves as they recover from the effects of breast cancer surgery and treatments. The non-profit served 1,000 women this past year, its seventh since operations began, all supported by contributions and fund-raisers that now bring in more than $1 million annually.
“We started in one hospital in 2010 with a Wellness Day program where we impacted 30 women. Now we’re covering 14 hospitals.”
Wellness Days are single-day workshops with professionals about acupuncture, message therapy, yoga and, at the core, nutrition. Each woman gets a container with a yoga mat, a nutrition guide and $2,000 worth of vouchers for services that include a weekly box of organic vegetables from Lancaster Farm Fresh, a cooperative of Pennsylvania farmers.
Women are invited to these Wellness Days by their breast-surgery navigators, the point people who work with their surgeons to guide the women through their surgeries. After the single-day workshop, Unite for Her follows the women who participate for a year.
Nutrition, Weldon says, is at the core. (“We so don’t realize how our food is affecting our health.”) To that end, Unite for Her’s team of professional advisers includes Katie Cavuto, the founder of Healthy Bites, which provides nutrition and personal chef services. Cavuto, who also writes about nutrition, is both a registered nutritionist and a graduate of one of the nation’s top culinary schools, Johnson and Wales.
Women who participate in the Unite for Her program get a chance to either walk around a grocery store with Cavuto as she gives them nutrition tips, or cook with her in their own kitchens. I did both after my wife Susan, a beneficiary of Unite for Her, underwent surgery for breast cancer and then, chemotherapy. Weldon had come to our home to cook with us – she directed preparations for five simple, healthy dishes we put together inside an hour. Later, for WHYY’s “The Pulse,” she went with us through the aisles of O’Neill’s Food Market in Glenside, a family-owned grocery not far from our house, then came back to our kitchen to cook three recipes with us.
At O’Neill’s, we studied peanut butters to see which products had just peanuts and which were laden with other ingredients. We looked at maple syrup (grade B, we learned, was more wholesome than grade A), talked about cereals, and admired the fruits and vegetables. Fresh, fresh, fresh: that’s one of Cavuto’s major mantras.
Once back in our kitchen, we became Cavuto’s sous-chefs for three dishes she often makes with Unite for Her clients. We put together a quinoa salad, a baked salmon fillet with a mustard-and-maple syrup glaze, and an eggy frittata full of veggies.
Cavuto tries to inspire people “to get back into their kitchens,” which she says “we lost touch with” for many reasons, including the availability of ready-made, packaged and fast foods. “I started Healthy Bites with the goal to give people the tools they needed to implement lifestyle changes versus just giving them the information. So, by going to the grocery store, by coming into people’s homes and actually cooking with them, I’m providing the tools they need.”
She’s extended that goal to helping breast cancer survivors in particular by pushing for healthy options they can use in simple ways. “We want to inspire and empower these women to find themselves again in this process that feels overwhelming. Changing the relationship people have with food is what really motivates me to be a nutritionist.”
Contact informationUNITE FOR HER: www.uniteforher.org or 610-322-9552. FACEBOOK: uniteforher. TWITTER: @UniteforHER. E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
KATIE CAVUTO’S HEALTHY BITES Cavuto’s blog — “Nourish. Breathe. Thrive” — is at www.katiecavuto.com, and the phone for Healthy Bites is 610-517-4355. FACEBOOK: katiecavutord. TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @KatieCavutoRD. E-MAIL: Contact Healthy Bites by clicking onto http://www.katiecavuto.com/contact.php.
RecipesHere are the three recipes we cooked with Katie Cavuto.
BASIC FRITTATAServings: 6
Ingredients:• 8 eggs• ½ cup whole milk• 3-4 cups vegetables, chopped (leafy greens like spinach, kale, arugula; and a selection of peppers, onions, asparagus, tomatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms)• Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste• 2 tablespoons olive oil
Preparation:1. Preheat oven to 450°F.2. Cook the chopped vegetables in olive oil, until softened. Turn heat to low oncevegetables are cooked.3. In a glass mixing bowl, thoroughly beat the eggs until frothy. Add themilk and stir until combined. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.4. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet.5. Turn the heat under the skillet to about medium and cook for about 5 minutes oruntil the egg begins to set around the edges; this will look slightly cooked. Nostirring!6. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until the eggs are fullycooked; you know they are fully cooked when you shake the dish and no liquid moves.7. Once cooked, turn pan upside down onto a cutting board to release the frittata.Cut into wedges like a pie.
This can be eaten cold, hot or at room temperature. Serve alongside salad for a greatlunch or fruit for a quick breakfast.
NOTE: If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can pour the egg mixture into a bakingdish and add the cooked vegetables. If you do it this way, add 5 to 10 minutes to thebaking time and check to make sure the egg is fully cooked before serving.
MAPLE AND MUSTARD SALMON
Ingredients:•1 tbsp maple syrup•1 tbsp whole grain mustard•1 tbsp Dijon mustard• ½ tbsp fresh chopped thyme (optional)
Mix together and brush on salmon. Roast at 375 degrees for 12 minutes.
QUINOA TABBOULEHServings: 4-6
Ingredients:• 1 cup quinoa• 1 lemon, juiced and zested• 2 tablespoons olive oil• ½ English cucumber, diced• 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)• 2/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley• 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Preparation:1. Cook quinoa per package instructions, cool.2. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl, adding quinoa.3. Salt and pepper to taste.