The Willow Foundation provides Metastatic Cancer researchers interested in studying complementary therapies such as diet, exercise and mindset with funding to help increase the likelihood of remission, improve patient life expectancy and improve quality of life.
While traditional and emerging cancer treatment includes vital pharmacological interventions, we believe that optimal nutrition and complementary care can dramatically increase the quantity and quality of life, helping to lead many stage-four cancer patients to remission. The research on complementary care is mostly anecdotal, and most nutrition and lifestyle research focuses on cancer prevention. Additionally, advanced cancer is chronically underfunded. As an example, less than 7% of funding for breast cancer research is allocated to advanced stage therapies. Nutrition and complementary treatments are rarely funded as their yield for profit is limited. There is emerging and compelling research that correlates lifestyle and dietary approaches during cancer treatment with an increased chance for survival and remission. Our goal is to provide funding to researchers who focus their research on these therapies for advanced stage cancer in order to bring light to the best equation for optimal survival.
Meet the founders
The Willow Foundation is a passion project, founded by Leah and Janine after Leah’s stage four breast cancer diagnosis in 2017. Leah’s a Registered Dietitian and Certified Exercise Physiologist who works as the Global Employer Brand and Wellbeing Director at Marriott International. She’s also a former officer in the United States Army Reserves, former division-one athlete, and an MBA graduate of the Georgetown McDonough School of Business.
When Leah was diagnosed at age 36, her cancer had already metastasized outside of her breast. What that means is that at the time of diagnosis, cancer had entered her bloodstream and had spread to other, vital internal organs. What it also means is that she will forever be in treatment and will never be “cured”. The overall 10-year survival rate for someone with this kind of cancer is about 4%.
In the summer of 2017, Leah completed four months of aggressive chemotherapy. Afterwards, she entered a clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of a new drug on metastatic breast cancer patients. Although the trial brought numerous side effects and frustrations, Leah persisted and, in parallel, continued to nourish herself with healthy nutrition, exercise, and a steadfast commitment to positivity. In the winter of 2018, Leah’s oncologist shared with her that her cancer could no longer be detected. She believed that Leah had become one of the rare metastatic patients to reach remission.
What we don’t know is why some people respond to treatment and live long lives and some don’t. Leah was determined to learn about lifestyle during cancer, and became impassioned about research connecting diet, exercise, and mindset to improved cancer outcomes. After scouring the internet and emailing with cancer dietitians and specialists around the country, she still couldn’t come up with best practices for cancer patients that help improve the quality and quantity of their years. While there are some researchers out there connecting the dots between our own behaviors and response to treatments, funding is limited. Leah believes that relying on medicine alone is just not enough.
In response, Leah and her best friend Janine created The Willow Foundation. Janine's an Exercise Physiologist and is passionate about natural living. The Willow Foundation supports research efforts that help connect behaviors with improved outcomes for advanced and late-stage cancer patients. Willow raises money to support research that improves and extends the lives of these patients, and then vets these researchers in search of promising data that can potentially improve outcomes in conjunction with traditional cancer therapy.
When someone's been faced with a life-altering diagnosis, many people turn to those things they know will help them thrive. They may pray, travel, or spend time with loved ones. They may change their diet or lifestyle. Many simply want to have some control over their outcome. We believe that lifestyle plays a role in life extension and quality of life. Help us learn more about how we can live longer and thrive with advanced cancer.