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IBX: The Cover Story – Finding Optimism in a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

IBX: The Cover Story- Episode 7

In episode seven of IBX: The Cover Story, I sit down with Amy Gallo, director of sales at Independence Blue Cross, and Sue Weldon, founder and CEO of Unite for HER, as they share their journeys with having breast cancer. We also discuss how her own cancer treatment inspired Sue to help thousands of women diagnosed with breast cancer every year through Unite for HER.

Listen to our conversation here:

A full transcript of the episode is also available below.

Episode 7 Show Notes

Below you will find some of our favorite quotes from the seventh episode, sources that were mentioned, and a segment breakdown. As always, thank you for listening!

Quotes

“The mission of Unite for HER is to deliver and fund these integrative therapies. It’s called a wellness passport of services you get to pick from, like medical acupuncture, oncology massage, reiki, sexual health counseling, regular counseling, nutrition, fresh and organic vegetables getting mailed to the home.” – Sue Weldon

“Unite for HER gives hope and a hug. The only thing I can describe is that you have a sense of empowerment and optimism that you might not have felt until the point and time you start to get involved with Unite for HER. And I can’t recommend it enough.” – Amy Gallo

“Four years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a lump in my left groin, and I thought it was a sports hernia. I left it alone for six months and it turned out to be stage four cancer. So, I tell all my male friends, if you have a bump or a lump, get it checked. Breast cancer is not a disease for just women. Men can get it too.” – Peter Panageas

Sources Mentioned

Episode Segment Breakdown

0:00 – 6:25: Sue talks about her breast cancer story and what inspired her to start Unite for HER.

6:26 – 10:40: Amy talks about her breast cancer story and how she was introduced to Unite for HER.

10:41 – 15:20: Sue discusses the Unite for HER wellness day and passport and how it helps women and men going through cancer treatment.

15:21 – 30:00: Amy and Sue share how they promote Unite for HER to the Philadelphia area and nationally.

30:01 – 32:37: Sue offers advice and encourages men to also check themselves for breast cancer.

32:38 – 35:34: Sue and Amy share how listeners can get involved with Unite for HER.

35:35 – 40:33: Amy and Sue offer their closing remarks.

If you have a topic idea you would like us to cover in a future podcast episode, email us at thecoverstory@ibx.com.

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Full Transcript

Episode 7 Transcript: Finding Optimism in a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Peter Panageas:

If you’re looking for timely, relevant conversations about the most important topics in health coverage, you’ve come to the right pod. This is IBX: The Cover Story from Independence Blue Cross, hosted by me, Peter Panageas. So by day I oversee all of our national commercial business here at IBX. I’m also a caregiver and a patient. We always say that healthcare is personal, and it is. So my guests and I are exploring how the big picture and the big issues affect our everyday lives and the wellbeing of those we all care about. Together we’ve got this covered, so let’s get started.

Peter Panageas:

Hi, everyone, I’m Peter Panageas. Welcome to episode seven of IBX: The Cover Story. For this episode I want to bring awareness to an important month where communities around the world come together to support and uplift the millions of women and men who are battling breast cancer. October has been recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the past 36 years, with the goal to educate women about early detection and encourage preventative screenings. It’s also to celebrate breast cancer patients and survivors alike and inspire them to tell their stories. And lastly, to raise funds for breast cancer research.

Peter Panageas:

Today we have two very special guests. So everyone, first I’d like to introduce you to my colleague, Amy Gallo. I’ve had the privilege of working with Amy for over 10 years now. She’s a director of sales at Independence Blue Cross, leading our mid-market account management team and responsible for customer and broker relations and customer retention and growth. In 2017 Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer, not too long before I received my cancer diagnosis. Amy, thank you so much for being here with us today.

Amy Gallo:

Peter, thank you very much. It’s great to be here.

Peter Panageas:

You know, Amy, I know shortly after you were diagnosed with breast cancer another colleague of ours introduced you to a non-for-profit organization called, Unite for HER. Hearing your story and how Unite for HER was such an important part of your journey was so inspiring to many of us here at Independence. And now you’re serving on their board, which is also incredible. I’m so happy to have you here and introduce our next guest.

Amy Gallo:

Thank you, Peter and joining us today is CEO and founder of Unite for HER, Sue Weldon. And Peter, as you said, I’ve had the privilege of working with Sue for the past three and a half years. And that relationship has come from me being a woman served by Unite for HER to being able to work with her and serve thousands of other women in the future. So with that, I would like to introduce Sue.

Sue Weldon:

Thank you, Amy. So good to be here. I appreciate it. And it should be a nice conversation today.

Peter Panageas:

Sue, and thank you too for joining us. It’s such an honor to have you with us today. And I agree, I’m looking forward to our conversation. So do us a favor, and how about you start us off by giving a brief overview of Unite for HER? What inspired you to start the organization?

Sue Weldon:

Wow. So 17 years ago, Peter, I was actually diagnosed with breast cancer, and 2004, so I’m a survivor. And I remember those days. I remember really not knowing where to turn and seeing that gap in a medical field where I was just having so much trouble with emotional and physical side effects that come from the treatments itself. And don’t get me wrong, our hospital partners and our medical community is extraordinary and they’re all about treating that cancer. But here I was missing the part that was treating me, right? Sue Weldon, the woman who was really struggling during that time. Hot flashes, bone pain, neuropathy, headaches, losing your confidence, losing all control, and depression, and all normal things that come from a diagnosis. So, Unite for HER was really born out of what I lived that year.

Sue Weldon:

I did about $6,000 worth of treatments that year in the form of acupuncture, medical acupuncture, yoga, whole food nutrition, counseling, and it was all out of pocket. And there was this gap, there was this gap and I was so grateful and fortunate that I could do these services, where acupuncture ended up easing my bone pain and my neuropathy and my hot flashes from 21 a day down to nine a day. And it restored me one step at a time, six months of chemotherapy it’s [inaudible 00:04:20]. And I was fortunate I had access.

Sue Weldon:

And I remember the day that here I was a year out and all my treatments were done and I had lost so much weight that year. And really just a broken woman. And I remember starting to feel better after doing these treatments and the whole food nutrition and the yoga. And I went to an event on the art museum steps, and this event was just inspiring. Bunch of women doing yoga. And I saw another woman out of the corner of my eye and she was younger than I was. And of course I wanted to connect. I wanted to share with her all the tools that I had, was so empowered and I wanted to give her those tools to help her get through.

Sue Weldon:

And I shared with her everything we did, she’s like, “You look so good. Tell me it all, tell me what you did.” And as I’m sharing, she’s crying, she’s filling up. And she said, “Oh, good for you. I could never afford all that.” And that was the moment, that was the gap, Peter, that’s when I was like, “Gosh, shame on me. Here I was fortunate that I did not have to go back to work. I could afford to get access to these treatments.”

Sue Weldon:

And I had a community that surrounded me. And that’s when I went home and I’m like, “All right, honey, I want to start a nonprofit. I’m not quite sure what it looks like yet. We’re going to need people smarter than I am. We’re going to form a board, have to do a whole heck of a lot of fundraising. And every woman should get access to $2,000 worth of treatments.” So then, there’s no financial burden, right? There’s no financial burden that comes with this, and the education, we will have conferences to educate them because you’re down on your knees when you have a diagnosis, and rightfully so. You don’t know which way is up. We help our women see that way and empower them one step at a time. So, Unite for HER was born out of my story, my treatment plan and basically became the blueprint, the actual business model that Unite for HER is still modeled after today.

Peter Panageas:

What an amazing story. And thank you for sharing. It is absolutely inspiring. And I know I got a good friend in Amy who is drawn to you. And Amy, I’d like to ask you if you can share, for those of us who are close to you know, we know your story, but for those, many who are listening today, tell us about your story and how you got connected to Sue and Unite for HER?

Amy Gallo:

So my story started almost exactly four years ago today, literally almost to the day, as a result of a routine mammogram. I was a couple of weeks before my 46th birthday. And I received the diagnosis that I had early stage breast cancer, the form of which was an aggressive form. So I had a very short amount of time to make a whole host of decisions around treatment options, surgical options. And it was like drinking from a fire hose and it’s a very surreal experience. And at that exact moment I did what we kind of do in our industry, which is you call upon your friends, you call upon people you know, and you try to not recreate the wheel and figure out what you’re going to do to move forward.

Amy Gallo:

And I called a colleague of mine who works within the insurance industry. I called her because she had just gone through the exact surgery that I was preparing for, and had gone through the rounds of chemotherapy that I was also mentally preparing myself for, and gave me a lot of information. And then she also asked me to attend a wellness day with her. And it was with an organization called Unite for HER. And would I go with her? And at the time I didn’t know enough to know what I needed. But because she was a friend I went with her and I sat in that room and I looked at a room full of women who were farther down the treatment path that I was. And I listened with an ear of thinking that, I hope I don’t need all of the services that they’re talking about, because I didn’t know what I had in front of me, but I listened to Sue.

Amy Gallo:

And I remember sitting in that first row that had a hospital format, and I just kept thinking, “We, Independence Blue Cross are so aligned with what Unite for HER does. We need to be here. We need to have a presence in this forum.” And then the other part of my head as I was listening was, “I can’t believe that all of these things that Sue and her team were talking about were given to every woman in that room.” And I went into the room feeling defeated, overwhelmed, scared, just out of body. And I came home that day with an armful, a literal armful of products, services, CSA crop share, and a mound of information. And I walked in the door and my husband was like, “You are excited. I haven’t seen you happy and excited since you got this diagnosis and you can’t stop talking about this organization.”

Amy Gallo:

And it was the burst piece of taking control back. And I know Sue mentioned that. From the point in time you were diagnosed until, throughout your treatments, you’re having things done to you. You’re going to the doctor and you’re having treatment and you’re having surgery and it’s all being done to you. And it’s such a lack of control, and Unite for HER gave a way in a way that you can customize what works for you to take some of that control back and to start to heal. It absolutely gives you a sense of empowerment and over time it helps you get to that restoration, to that place where you start to feel like yourself again.

Amy Gallo:

And as a result, the women and the men that have gone through the Unite for HER programs are amazingly, loyal is an understatement, but it’s an army of people. And I’ve had it said to me, and I have said it to others. It’s not necessarily the greatest club in the world to be in when you are an inducted new member of the cancer diagnosis. However, whenever there is a new person who comes in, everyone stops everything to help that person, and Unite for HER did that for me. So that’s, I just, I can’t thank all that Unite for HER has done for me. And I am so happy to be able to have a platform to help other people know what is out there to help them.

Peter Panageas:

Sue, obviously the impact on your wellness day was profound for Amy and gave her the spirit and the energy to really take this diagnosis on. If you don’t mind, can you share us a little bit more about your wellness day and the impact it’s made, not only for you and your journey, but obviously many others who were in the exact same seat Amy was four years ago?

Sue Weldon:

Yeah, absolutely. And I love hearing Amy’s story and it’s one of thousands of women and men that we’ve served. And the story may be different, but the outcome’s the same. And that’s that feeling of having somebody by your side to empower you and to help you do better on treatment, that good quality of life and having good days. The wellness program itself, it’s such a beautiful day, right? And the mission of Unite for HER is to deliver and fun, things integrative therapies, right? Your choice, you pick and choose. It’s called a wellness passport that you get of services. And these integrative therapies, think of supportive services like medical acupuncture, oncology, massage, Reiki, sexual health counseling, regular counseling, nutrition, fresh organic vegetables getting mailed to the home like Amy talked about. Some basket meal delivery. Food and nutrition is so important for our overall emotional and physical wellbeing.

Sue Weldon:

Everything from mitigating side effects and symptoms from that metallic piece in your mouth and digestive issues when you’re on treatment. A lot comes from treatment that really wreaks havoc of your organs and your digestive system. And we help you bridge that gap one step at a time. Fitness memberships, yoga, supported yoga. And I always joke, because we’re not talking about the yoga. You’re bringing your foot up over your head, and where there’s really cute pants we’re talking about the yoga that is a power of breath that allows you to get the negative chatter out of your mind. And it’s one-on-one private sessions. That’s what’s so key. And we meet our women and men where they are. And that wellness day, whether in-person or now virtual, because of our shift to a virtual format during the pandemic has resonated, and it teaches and empowers and educates.

Sue Weldon:

There’s speakers on every modality. So that woman newly diagnosed, or man diagnosed, can look at these treatments and say, “What is going to work for me? That wellness program, I’m going to take my wellness passport.” I always say, “Where are you going to go with your passport of services, $2,000 worth of services. And what are you going to use to help you with the symptoms and the side effects that you have emotionally and physically?” So I always say like, Peter, some people might feel like they’re exhausted. That was me, for sure. Some depression, bone pain, maybe hot flashes. Some may approach it through acupuncture. Others may do the oncology massage, other counseling, others yoga or a combination. The outcome may be the same where they end up having less symptoms and side effects. But they approach it differently and it resonated with them in a way that felt true to who they were in a way that could empower them for life changes one step at a time.

Sue Weldon:

So the wellness conference, now we actually do that virtually, incredible day. It’s that springboard, it starts them off with this education. And it enables you to get really valuable information in this space. And then we send them off with a passport of services that they can use for a full year. If our women are living with metastatic disease or stage four disease, we never leave their side, Peter, never leave their side. So we renew those passports of services every six months. And again and again. So if that counseling is working, if that Reiki or yoga is working, we don’t want to pull that away, because that’s a different diagnosis that I have, that Amy had, a different disease, they will always be on treatment.

Sue Weldon:

Right now we serve about 500 women with metastatic disease and we’re by their side. And we make that commitment. And when Amy was saying, our women are so loyal and they’re just, they’re so committed. They’re so committed and dedicated because they saw what it did for them and they want to pass it forward. And that is this community too, this metastatic community. It’s just, they are a tight-knit community and we’re so happy that we could serve them in such an impactful way.

Peter Panageas:

So I have a two-part question here, Amy, this is for you and Sue. And the first is, Amy, if you could talk a little bit about the things that you’ve been doing locally in helping promote Unite for HER, and then Sue, if you can also talk about some of the work that you’ve been doing on a national basis in really promoting the work that you’ve been doing?

Peter Panageas:

And then part two to our question is, this is not just a disease for women. It’s a disease for men and women. And if you can talk a little bit about that from a man’s perspective as well. Any advice that you can give to many of our male listeners as they’re going through this journey as well. So the two-part question.

Peter Panageas:

First, Amy, I’ll start with you. If you can, I’ve been seeing all the great work you’ve been doing. A lot of our team supporting you out there in the community, doing some great things. Talk about the work that you’ve been doing here locally, and then Sue, if you can take it and talk a little bit more about what you guys have been doing regionally nationally, that’d be great?

Sue Weldon:

Sure.

Amy Gallo:

So from a local perspective, one of the first things that I wanted to touch on was a little bit of an extension of the wellness day conversation that Sue was talking about. So our health coaches and our nurses, as Independence members call into our health coaches, they talk about Unite for HER. They recommend Unite for HER. They help make that connection at that juncture. So there’s a warm conversation that is occurring there. In addition, we have Independence sponsored wellness days. So, whether that is, and when we were able to be in-person at Independence LIVE, right near our office, or they were virtual, and we have held Independence LIVE virtual wellness days, there’s actually one just about to happen in a couple of days. So that’s another way that the connection and the interplay between, and the alignment of the mission of Independence and putting the two organizations together.

Amy Gallo:

Separate from that would be our own employee base. So we have Team Independence and we supported the Unite for HER local 5K that just happened. And I’m going to start it as saying that it’s local, but it was much bigger than that. So it used to be physically in-person in Westchester, Pennsylvania. Last year as a result of COVID that it went virtual. Last year it extended over 38 states, four countries, and I’m not remembering the number of runners and walkers, but it was well over almost-

Sue Weldon:

1,200.

Amy Gallo:

1,200, exactly. I didn’t want to mess up my number.

Sue Weldon:

It’s okay.

Amy Gallo:

And I know that the tally for this year was trying to hit all 50 states. And I know the tally is still occurring because it just finished, their final day was on Saturday. But again, it was virtual. So Team Independence, we had almost 60 Independence employees walking and running virtually as well as we did get together outside to do a smaller scale walk all in Unite for HER’s honor.

Amy Gallo:

Independence also was awarded last year the community partner award for our efforts with Unite for HER. And I know that Sue was going to talk in a couple minutes about the care boxes, but that was also an initiative that we did with Independence, where our Medicare area for our Medicare members purchased care boxes and sent care boxes to our membership. And as Independence employees, we did community service days where we packed those boxes, and we packed over 800 boxes in I think it’s less than two hours, I think at one point physically on site a couple of years ago. And we continue to do those types of work as well.

Amy Gallo:

Also, locally there is an upcoming chef and wine tasting event known as Harvest. That’s in the end of October. Also, locally is Pink, which is the largest gymnastics charity event that is held at the Philadelphia Convention Center. And fingers crossed, we will be able to be in-person this year. It was virtual last year, but the numbers of kiddos that are represented is staggering, and it is the largest event of its kind.

Amy Gallo:

And then finally, locally there is a fashion show known as Bloom, and that is in the spring. And I had the privilege of being one of those models that Sue asked me to do when I was in treatment. And it’s an absolutely touching and amazing event that just shows and shines through a heart of Unite for HER. So that is a nice tour of the local presence, as well as where the alignment of Independence and Unite for HER came today.

Sue Weldon:

Yeah. And all of those things, I have to jump in here, Amy. Because everything that you talked about with Independence Blue Cross, that is how we move forward. It’s our community partners. And it is the people that we serve and having those like-minded mission and goals to serve the health and wellbeing of those in the community that we live and work in. We couldn’t do it without it. We couldn’t do it without you. And Independence Blue Cross helps us recruit, which is so important. Because there’s not just one magic way of recruiting and getting that word to those newly diagnosed, our hospital networks are key. They’re extraordinary, and we have over 36 of them, but there’s other arms of recruiting, and this is one of them. Because there is this relationship that occurs, and it’s very important. And to be able to give such a critical program to your members and do the work, be at the events and build the boxes and share that imitation and support the organization. And that’s how we keep moving forward.

Sue Weldon:

So I just wanted to jump in there, Amy, because it does take a village, and we’re serving over 2,000 newly diagnosed a year. It just doesn’t happen. There’s a lot that goes into that, fundraising and outreach, and both extraordinary, and such an honor to watch grow over the years.

Amy Gallo:

And, Sue, I wanted to take the segue of the local with the care box and kind of position that to, for you to talk about how that care box initiative was so foundational for you in the national expansion. So, I know that’s part two of Peter’s conversation, so I wanted to give you that segue.

Sue Weldon:

Yeah, thank you. You just pitched me up there. So here, the care boxes, that was giving the gift of care anywhere in the nation. And when the pandemic occurred, we had this program sitting there, and we had 900, 800 women that we were set to treat 2020 of March in the spring, and the world shut down. And the cancer didn’t stop. And we wanted to make sure we got to those newly diagnosed men and women. So what we did was we took those care boxes that Amy was talking about, and we put our conference right in them. They became the delivery tool for the wellness conference. Everything that they would get at that wellness day, you heard Amy talk about leaving with our arms full, we mailed right to the home. It became such an easy type of way to deliver the conference in this care package that was definitely put together with love and care and by our volunteers. But everything was in there, including the passport.

Sue Weldon:

And it would go right to that home. What an incredible box to get shipped to you during this time. That was different then an Amazon box, right? It was filled with this love and resources, and then an invitation to a virtual conference. So we shifted everything, serve locally, like what Amy was talking about. We had to shift our model, fundraising and outreach, to actually serve those that were in our serving area, Philadelphia five counties, New Jersey, Delaware. That model became opportunity, that opportunity, which we did lay out on the strategic plan to go to one new city maybe. And to have this very focused approach to get into the underserved communities as well. And that strategic plan was done two, three years ago, and yet still held its own to this day that we can rely on as a guiding light when we went national.

Sue Weldon:

And here the care box became the tool that we delivered the program locally, but we could go anywhere in the nation now, we had a virtual conference. We had our providers, over 150, 160 of them, all in their different modalities have to start shifting themselves to give online counseling services one-on-one via Zoom, which actually took an uptick. Because people were more comfortable in their homes popping up their laptop and having the professional counseling sessions. Reiki, yoga, nutrition, grocery shopping, fitness memberships, all done virtually. So what we did to serve in the local level, we now could take anywhere in the nation and that allowed us to lean in and start to serve nationwide.

Sue Weldon:

Where we wanted to start first, what our strategic plan had told us about, and that was to get to those underserved communities to bridge those health equity gaps. And can we lean in there when we’re starting to move into this direction of serving across the nation with this new model? We saw that the new model definitely broke down barriers, whether that was transportation issues that would occur getting to a wellness conference, childcare, work issues.

Sue Weldon:

All of a sudden there was more flexibility, and we were able to get more women and men to show virtually. Coming in and out of that conference, getting everything delivered to their homes, scheduling at their time. So that hybrid model will always stay in place, that virtual model. Even when we go back to in-person, we will always have this option because it works so well. And in June we launched, we actually worked on it for a full year before we launched in June, but we launched with our first national metastatic breast cancer conference for over 103 women across the nation. The strategic plan had us going into one new city. We actually hit 23 states. And we did this virtually, so that was a big learning trust, right? They’ve got such a win.

Sue Weldon:

And I always say that COVID became our best teacher. At a time that was just so devastating, emotionally, physically, and we’re still in it now, it became a really good teacher for us that we could take this model and serve anywhere. So we had different recruiting partners, like Independence Blue Cross is one of our recruiting partners here locally. We reached out to find other recruiting partners. Two hospitals, Mount Sinai and Weill Cornell in New York City. We started there knowing that the communities of Brooklyn and Queens were ones that we wanted to get to because of those health inequities.

Sue Weldon:

We also started a Spanish speaking only wellness day because of that, knowing that we wanted to get to our Latino community in a way that was resonating with them and that they could feel so included. Now our women actually run that wellness day, that speaks Spanish, where they are our voice and running that program for us, everything is translated. Those launches that we had in June, 103 women living with metastatic disease on one event, and then a national program of over 61 women in the New York area. We saw a really good diverse sampling of the women that we wanted to serve.

Sue Weldon:

And we got to where in New York we had 75% women of color, and really honored that we could get those numbers where they are, because that’s not the numbers that we normally have. So, it’s important to us. And why? Because we know that women that are African-American, even though they’re diagnosed 3% less than the average Caucasian women, they are more likely, 42% more likely to die of breast cancer. And that they are more advanced stage upon detection as well, two times more likely of getting triple-negative breast cancer, which is often aggressive.

Sue Weldon:

So having this data that we know we pull them from our strategic plan and knowing that it was important to us, that was how we ended up moving to that national level and really looking to go into those communities one step at a time. As we raise the funds, we would then bring on a new community. But we’d also bring on new partners, whether it was hospital partners or other nonprofits that are embedded in the community of color, like Black Health Matters and Touch BBCA and Tigerlily. Really important for us to approach it different ways in order to get them into our community.

Sue Weldon:

So, that was good. And now our goals for next year, we served 220 women last year during that time of piloting and this new launch. This year we’re looking to raise enough funds to serve 840 women nationally, while maintaining all the different areas that Amy talked about. Locally, over 1,900 women, I’ll put the link. So, and then with breast and ovarian cancer, yeah.

Peter Panageas:

You know, Sue, when I was doing my homework here in preparation for our discussion today, I came across, thanks to your perspectives, your mission and your vision. And there was such alignment with what you’re doing and certainly what Independence and the Blue Cross Blue Shield association does for every one of our members, providing whole person, equitable health, regardless of where you live or what you do. And when I read your mission statement as, “Our mission is to enrich the health and wellbeing of those diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancers for life, by funding and delivering integrative therapies.” And your vision, “Offering 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 wellbeing.” An amazing mission and vision.

Peter Panageas:

And Amy, I can see where your alignment in being a senior level person here at Independence and knowing what we live every day in how we serve our community locally, regionally, nationally. And certainly what Unite for HER is doing with your mission and vision are very much aligned. Sue, if I could ask you also, talk a little bit about prevention, even with men. Four years ago I was diagnosed with a form of cancer. I had a lump in my left groin, and I honest to God thought it was a sports hernia, and I just left it alone for six months. And I turned out to be stage four cancer, had to get it removed and the whole thing. And then so, I tell all my male friends like, “Hey guys, if you got a bump, you got a lump, get it checked.” And breast cancer is not just a disease for women, it’s obviously for men too. So can you talk a little bit about that as well?

Amy Gallo:

Yeah, you got it, and know your body. We talk about that all the time. And make sure that you’re doing self-checks. For male breast cancer, it’s a tough one, because there’s not many diagnosed with breast cancer that are man, about 2,400 a year. If you look at the statistics for women, you’re over 300,000, so it gives you an idea. But it’s there. I have two sons, and our risks are going to be higher. So it’s always something for them to really pay attention to. Make sure you’re feeling your chest wall. Make sure you’re understanding that this is something that could occur, especially if you have a history in your family.

Amy Gallo:

We actually have a Unite for him, and we have a his care box. We do that because we want to be inclusive of our men. We want to make sure we’re speaking their language. Having this virtual conference is actually better for our men. It doesn’t feel awkward for them to show up to that conference. And it allows just more resources to get to them in a way that meets them where they are. So for your story, Peter, like if you feel something, you say something. And to have that knowledge and education, it’s really important. I remember, we’re coming into October, and you’re going to hear a lot about breast cancer. And it happens all year long, but there’s a spotlight on it in October.

Amy Gallo:

And there’s a spotlight on men’s breast cancer in October as well. And I remember Beyoncé’s father came out and said that he had breast cancer. That’s important to talk about it. Tell your story, because that makes, that feel more normalized that something like this could happen. And it allows you to be more aware of knowing that it’s important to check yourself and to just be aware of your body in a way that can get you to the right place if you do notice something different, yeah.

Peter Panageas:

If I could ask, so I’ll ask you both. How can our listeners get more involved for Unite for HER?

Sue Weldon:

Yeah, I could start that one, Amy. I mean, Amy rattled off a lot of things that she has done for us. And we are so grateful to have the support and beautiful ambassador in every sense of the word. And that’s usually how it starts. Find something that you’re passionate about. And whatever that skillset is, we have so many volunteer opportunities. Those care boxes, thousands are going out the door and we always need people to help us build them. We have kids in schools that are helping us. And then of course leaders, the adults that lead them. We have people who are encouraging their companies and the organizations that they work for to allow us to apply for grants, because there are grants out there that companies have that want to do good in the community in which they serve. They just don’t know about us.

Sue Weldon:

And we’re so heads down in the work. So share that mission with your company, and help us be able to apply for those grants and let people know that we’re here. They’re just a few ways that we’re open to having you be a part of the Unite for HER community. It is a close-knit community, and we certainly enjoy each other’s company a lot and very easy to do. Go to info@uniteforher.org, send us an email, tell us what you’re interested in and we’ll connect you with our volunteer coordinator and then get you to the right person on staff. So a couple of things I rattled off there. How about you, Amy?

Amy Gallo:

I would say, everyone knows someone touched by breast cancer and ovarian cancer. So, when one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s such a common thing that everyone has that story. And people are always looking for that way to help. And being diagnosed you get lots of well-wishes and you get cards and you get flowers. And one of the most impactful things that someone can do is to send them that care box. And those care boxes have been sent, it’s not a breast cancer only care box. It’s a care box that is designed for people going through cancer treatments. And they have been gifted to folks with all sorts of different cancer diagnoses and have been incredibly, incredibly well received.

Amy Gallo:

So at a personal level, that is just something that is a tangible, meaningful thing that you can do to show that you are supporting that person, while also opening up the door to all of the educational resources and the community that Unite for HER has to offer above and beyond all of the volunteer opportunities. And just keeping your mind and your eyes and ears open for that connection. Because as each person kind of talks to their social network or their employers, there’s opportunity there to plug in and connects to Unite for HER that’s still yet untapped. And I know that there’s so much more good that can be done.

Peter Panageas:

And Sue again, the website?

Sue Weldon:

uniteforher.org. Yeah, easy enough.

Peter Panageas:

uniteforher.org.

Sue Weldon:

[inaudible 00:35:53] start up.

Peter Panageas:

So Amy, Sue, as I do with all of our guests, I ask them if there’s one last passing comment that you’d like to share with our audience, what would it be? And Amy, I’ll start with you.

Amy Gallo:

Unite for HER gives hope and a hug. It’s the only thing that I can describe is that you have a sense of empowerment and optimism that you might not have felt up until the point in time that you start to get involved with Unite for HER. And I can’t recommend it enough.

Peter Panageas:

And Sue?

Sue Weldon:

I’ll piggyback on that, Amy. So, integrative care, supportive care, it transforms lives. And being able to understand that growing need in the medical community, one, that we are filling that gap. It’s vital to someone’s overall health and wellness and to their emotional health. The fact that 94% of those that we surveyed could have an overall positive outcome, eliminate stress, and do much better on treatment because of what we’re able to offer, that’s key.

Sue Weldon:

And we see more and more people leaning into this integrative space that we’ve been doing for over 12 years now. So I’m thrilled to hear that news expand. I was thrilled to hear that Independence Blue Cross is actually offering acupuncture treatments to those that are going through cancer. That’s key, it is vital to how they do as far as managing those side effects and symptoms. Integrative care, there is such a big space in the medical community for it. And we are bridging that gap, but other people are starting to lean in now. And that just makes me incredibly happy because we know that the outcomes are going to be extraordinary for those that are going through cancer care. And the more knowledge that’s out there about these scientifically and research-based and the data is there, the more that we can move the needle to get this really a part of the standard of care.

Peter Panageas:

I think you’ve got a couple buddies in the background there who agree with everything you just said, Sue, that’s great. So Amy-

Sue Weldon:

I’m sorry.

Peter Panageas:

No, that’s okay, that’s what makes us so beautiful. I want this to be as genuine as possibly can, and I cannot thank you both enough. Look, you are both truly such an inspiration. Amy, I’ve had the privilege of working very closely with you the last decade and the work that you’ve been doing in promoting Unite for HER the last four years is just inspiring as somebody who’s watched it. And I’ve watched many of our colleagues, many of our associates, and many of our mutual friends here at Independence rally around you in ways I’ve, you just inspire me every day, Amy.

Peter Panageas:

And Sue, the incredible work that you’re doing in leading this charge and providing that hug that Amy just talked about is game-changing for, I know for a lot of people, and you’re both just blessed and we’re blessed to have you.

Peter Panageas:

So with that, I want to thank you, Sue and Amy for joining us today. I can’t thank you enough and keep up the great work. Thank you.

Sue Weldon:

Now you missed [inaudible 00:39:03]-

Amy Gallo:

Thank you.

Sue Weldon:

Thank you for having us.

Peter Panageas:

And listeners, thank you. I hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion today. Please check out the notes for more information at insights.ibx.com. That’s insights.ibx.com. If you’re an Independence member and newly diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, I strongly encourage you to take the call from our registered nurse health coaches if they reach out. Not only are they going to connect you with Unite for HER resources, they’re also going to support you in better understanding your new diagnosis, how to manage your care journey, and provide you with emotional support.

Peter Panageas:

You can also reach out to a health coach by calling 1-800-ASK-BLUE, that’s 1-800-ASK-BLUE, and follow the prompt for a health coach. You know, we heard a lot today about Unite for HER, and it’s amazing that they’re going to support 2,900 men and women this year alone. And of those supported by Unite for HER, 94% have agreed that the organization’s made a positive impact on their quality of life during and after treatment, which is absolutely incredible.

Peter Panageas:

I want to close out by saying, if you or a loved one is due for a routine mammogram, I encourage you to schedule one or encourage your loved ones to schedule one. Early detection is so critically important. Thank you all so much for joining us today.

Peter S. Panageas

About Peter S. Panageas

Peter Panageas is senior vice president and market president — national for Independence Blue Cross. In this role, Mr. Panageas has profit-and-loss responsibilities focused on new business and retention for all groups 1,000+, including Large Local, National, Health & Welfare, Education, and FEP. Mr. Panageas joined independence as vice president of Sales in 2010. During his tenure with the company, he has implemented significant changes to the sales incentive program and improved the membership reporting capabilities to increase sales force effectiveness. Mr. Panageas is a respected client relationship leader with recognized expertise in new business creation, client relationship management, and innovative client solutions. Mr. Panageas received a bachelor of science degree from Rutgers University.