Monday, 22 April 2013

The Ultimate Cancer Care Package


I hope you forget about this post. I hope you read it, enjoy it, and never refer to it again.

Counterintuitive? Perhaps. But unfortunately if you happen to find this article helpful and useful at all it means that you or someone in your life has thrown into the ring to battle against one of the most unforgiving opponents.

I am by no means stepping up as the ‘poster child’ for the Cancer journey. Nor can I attempt to speak for the millions of people who have been impacted through their own personal experiences. 
Everyone’s cancer experience is kind of like fingerprints – many similarities but ultimately everyone’s reactions are unique to themselves. If you want to support a loved one at any stage of their journey, there are a few things I’ve learned that I’m passing along in order to help you create the ultimate cancer care package.

  • Lip balm – hospitals and doctor’s offices seem to all be moisture-free zones to begin with. Throw in some chemotherapy, radiation or other treatments and you’re practically Sahara-bound!
  • Hand  & body moisturizer – same reasons as above. And gold stars to you if you get a large bottle for home and at least one travel size version to have on hand at all times.
  • Glaxol skin cream – if going through radiation, this cream is recommended to keep the skin hydrated and protected throughout the treatments. You can pick it up at your local drug store.
  • Deodorant – No, your friend won’t start to stink. Many deodorants contain aluminum, which can impact the radiation treatments (and probably isn’t all that good for you, anyway!) – so if you can find some ‘natural’ deodorant or at least an aluminum-free variety, they’re already ahead of the game.
  • Alcohol-free mouthwash – chemotherapy can be extremely drying and can leave you with that pasty dry-mouth feeling. Fabulous. Normal mouthwashes just aggravate this but the alcohol-free types seem to work much better.
  • Epsom salts – Sometimes a good soak in the tub just makes everything better – easing sore muscles, and allowing for a temporary escape from the reality of treatments. Adding in some Epsom salts helps add health benefits, including soothing the body, easing stress and drawing toxins from the body.
  • Hand sanitizer & wet wipes – germs are definitely not a cancer patient’s friend. Picking up any sort of virus or illness can result in prolonging the treatment – something no one wants, so the more things they can add to the germ-fighting arsenal, the better.
  • Money – you may not be able to ease their physical pain but you can help ease the financial pain with money that can be put towards parking, or even a two-week parking pass if you know he or she will be going every day (common for radiation treatments).
  • Pyjamas – odds are they will be spending a significant amount of time in bed, on the couch, or assuming other horizontal positions. A cozy pair of PJs or a nice comfy outfit to hang out in can help lift people’s spirits and keep them looking & feeling better – plus it’s great for greeting drop-in guests.
  • Gatorade or Vitamin Water – staying hydrated is so important – not just during treatments. Unfortunately, I found I wasn’t able to drink water during my treatments – not sure why, but I was sometimes able to sip some Vitamin water or Gatorade and that seemed to help.
  • Green tea – There are tons of health benefits to drinking green tea, and it is even believed to be helpful in preventing cancer. (Can I get a big ‘Yahoo’??) I’m no stranger to green tea but during my treatment I was lucky enough to have great friends who dropped off a green tea sampler package from David’s Tea – it felt great to be drinking something good for me, and having tons of options to be sure I found some that I liked. That and a pretty mug can make a big difference on an otherwise crummy day.
  • Kobo/Chapters/iTunes gift card – A thoughtful way to help people kill time during and between appointments – they can load up their iPods or eReaders, or have some great new books shipped to them. Anything to make waiting and waiting seem less exhausting.
  • Sour candies – A wonderful friend of mine introduced me to these during my treatments – specifically the Icebreakers Sour Orange variety – and for whatever reason, they were extremely helpful when it came to dealing with dry mouth issues, and was even somewhat helpful as an anti-nausea aid. No idea why but trust me, when you’re in the middle of it all, you’ll try anything!
  • Magazines – sometimes mindless entertainment is just what a person needs to take their mind off of everything.
  • Blanket – it can get darn cold sitting in those chemo rooms, so a nice light throw or afghan would definitely come in handy. Some hospitals give patients a quilt as part of the process, but I know for me, they forgot and I didn’t get mine until the end so extra blankets would have been great.
  • A cute tote bag – something bright, cheery and practical to carry around all of these handy things to their treatments – bonus points if you include a cute lunch bag to match. Chemo treatments can go on for hours so bringing lunch and snacks helps.

One thing I need to mention is when purchasing any of these items, always opt for the unscented varieties of products, where applicable. Many of the treatments can leave you very sensitive to various smells; plus, if you happen to be one of those people who are suffering through unending waves of nausea, the last thing you want is a strong smell to set things off again. Even if the smell isn’t particularly offensive, I found that there were certain smells that I now associate with my “treatment time”. I had to give away certain body washes, shampoos & soap because just one little sniff was enough to transport me back to a time I would rather not go back to.

So there you have it – it may not cover all the bases but it’s definitely a good starting point if you’re thinking of picking up a few items to support a friend who has been diagnosed with cancer. As I mentioned, everyone’s experience is different but I’ve had so many people ask me what they can do or what they can give to help someone through it, I’m hoping this is a good place to start.

Most importantly? Caring enough to read this article and wanting to do what you can to support someone through a difficult time means more than all of the lip balms in the world.


But trust me on the candy…


16 comments:

  1. This is a fabulous list.
    I just wanted to comment on the smells. I worked in a Pediatric hospital. We were scent free (although some jerks didn't abide by the rule). It's something that people don't think about. I'm glad that you pointed it out!

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    1. Thanks, Kimberly - it's amazing all the things that have scents to them that people never even think of...

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  2. Awww, Christy. We even got a photo of our icebreakers. You're such a sweetie. I would have given you a million containers to make your journey easier. What a perfect and generous post for others. It is a win-win for those who want to help and for those who need it. xo

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    1. Who ever would have guessed that such a little gift would have had such a huge impact?? So glad to have you on my side! xo

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    1. Thanks for sharing this post, Shannon - hoping to be able to help someone who might need it! :)

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  4. Oh, I wish I had this list last year! But thankfully (AMEN!!!!!!) my girlfriend has made it through her 11 rounds of chemo and is now out of the hospital and recuperating at home now. Such a great list ... I really did feel stuck for ideas at the time ... I so desperately wanted to help, but it's hard to know what is helpful and what isn't!

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    1. Yay! So glad to hear positive victory stories like that, Julie! I think your friend is just lucky to have a great friend like you who is in her corner...

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  5. What a lovely post. Thank you for sharing this wonderful gift giving idea for someone who needs a pick me up. Thank you :)

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    1. Thanks so much - I'm hoping that there are at least a few items on here that people might not have thought of but will make a world of difference to someone going through their treatments.

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  6. Really great ideas and I think really important for so many people. Friends and family always want to do something to help people in treatment but feel at a loss for doing so. This is a great reminder of the stuff that people really want and will use.

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    1. I definitely agree that the first thing is being there for the person and wanting to help. Here's hoping a few of these items will help make that effort that much easier!

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  7. Thank you for this practical list. It's really hard to know sometimes what a loved one battling cancer would need (besides hugs and support), so this is awesome! Congratulations on kicking cancer in the butt. You're amazing. :)

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    1. Thanks, Christina - you're right, it's definitely hard to know. And I know that each person's experience is unique to themselves but sometimes just going ahead and doing something is the best way to help. And you can't go wrong with Icebreakers! :)

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  8. Thanks for putting together this list. You're right, I hope I never have to refer to it but if I do, i know what to do.

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    1. So glad you found it helpful, Amy - and I definitely agree that I'm hoping you never need it!

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