Team Survivor Northwest empowers women who battle cancer

Organization expands to Renton’s Spoonfed Training, helping women through “fitness, education and community.”

Being physically active is important for overall health — something that Seattle-based oncologist Dr. Julie Gralow noticed from her more active patients back in 1995.

After serving as a team physician for a group of female cancer survivors training for a triathalon, Dr. Gralow was inspired to co-found Team Survivor Northwest (TSNW), a local nonprofit organization that has been offering fitness opportunities for female cancer survivors for nearly 30 years.

“Since then, there’s a ton of research that has supported what we know — that exercise can reduce the side effects and can reduce fatigue and pain and depression and anxiety and can also actually reduce recurrence. And so it’s a really good thing for [battling] cancer. We know that on paper now,” said TSNW communications manager Anisa Ishida.

The organization caters to women throughout the Pacific Northwest and has recently partnered with Renton’s own Spoonfed Training, offering a weekly TSNW “Move to Heal” fitness class.

The hour-long, low-to-moderate intensity class, which takes place at 12 p.m. Thursdays, is designed for women who have had a cancer diagnosis. The class includes cardio, resistance training, flexibility and balance.

Spoonfed owner LaTaunya Witherspoon’s first TSNW class began in October 2023.

“Fitness is extremely important to me and I try to get people to understand that it’s a lifestyle, so whenever I’m presented with an opportunity to help in any way, shape, or form when it comes to fitness, that is a yes for me, along with what Team Survivor stands for,” said Witherspoon, when asked why she decided to partner with Team Survivor. “I love supporting other women, especially women who are battling with challenges, like cancer or those who are in remission, so being able to give back and offer my services is heartfelt.”

Witherspoon first started with TSNW as a fitness instructor in early 2023 at the organization’s annual fitness retreat, which are two-day events complete with speakers, fitness instructors, nutrition classes, catered meals and even crafting options.

For Damaris Pearson, who recently became a TSNW member, the latest retreat on Bainbridge Island was nothing short of amazing.

“Everyone was open. I was new. I only knew like two people, three people when I got there. And I got a chance to meet a lot of people that are going through the same thing that I have gone through in the past. And it was just nice to share,” said Pearson, who started out taking a dancing and movement class, then Witherspoon’s class, a nutrition class and a meditation class.

By the time Pearson had joined TSNW, it had been 13 years since she had undergone treatment for breast cancer. But getting to be active with women who understand her experience has been a boost.

“I got to be with other women like me that we could share stories, which was very uplifting for me,” Pearson said. “Going through the surgery, and all that stuff, and then coming out of the other end and trying to get your life back is going can be hard. But if you connect with other people, it’s a good thing.”

Since partnering with TSNW, Witherspoon said that her training methods have evolved with her new clientele.

“It kind of makes you shift your mind a little bit in a good way. Being more appreciative, being more sensitive, being more open to change,” she said. “There have been some members who came in and when they first started, they struggled with certain exercises, but with just a simple shift and showing them the form. I’m still doing what I do with anybody as far as my training goals, but then being more sensitive toward their needs and what they’re dealing with.”

Along with indoor fitness classes, TSNW also offers outdoor programs, like its regular mountain climbing adventures, year-round Dragon Boating excursions and seasonal programs like hiking, cycling and walking groups, which begin in April.

For more information on TSNW, call 206-732-8350 or visit For more information the weekly Renton class, visit