Saturday, April 27, 2013

Care Package for a Chemo Patient

Since I have been diagnosed, several people I know have also been diagnosed with cancer. And it is sad and scary for everyone involved, trust me. Now, in most cases, everyone has been able to get a clean bill of health after only needing surgeries to remove the offending cancer. They can avoid the entire chemo and radiation journey that I'm on (the joys of getting diagnosed with stage 3 Angry Cancer). I am so happy anytime someone gets a clean bill of health!!! And for those of you that have to follow me down this chemo/radiation journey, I am here for you!

However, this has me thinking, what would I do for you or get you if you had to go through chemo? What would I want you to have? This is really an extension of the question of I get asked a lot: What do you need/want? So, I decided to put together this "care package" of things that would help a chemo patient out, based on what I needed the most.

(1) I would take charge of setting up a care calendar for you. Meals? Groceries? Rides? Transportation for your kids? I might need to ask you for email addresses and what your family likes to eat, but it'll be set up and ready to go on a moment's notice. Please don't cook ever again!

(2) Straws and grown-up sippy cups (you know, those cups you can buy from Starbucks with the lid and straw). Seriously, you need straws, I can't explain how vital they are. It's easier to lay in bed and drink if you have lids and straws. And I'll get you at least 3 of the cups...one for water, one for juice, one for ginger ale...because you will want all 3 at the same time.

(3) A case of bottled water for your car. Chemo makes you SO thirsty. Not kidding, there will come a day when you are headed to the doctor, or to brave the germ-infested masses at the store, and you will be dying of thirst! And then you will think I'm a genius.

(4) A goody bag with the new essentials for your purse/car/bedroom (yes, I really do have 3 sets of of everything): Chapstick, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, and lotion (all unscented, of course).

(5) Fuzzy socks (with grippy feet) and nice soft hats. Again, when you need these, you will think I'm a genius. Note to self (and anyone out there using this as a shopping list): KEEP THE TAG ON THE HAT so that the patient will know where to go to get more if it becomes their new favorite clothing item!

(6) A soft blanket or shawl, perhaps hand-crafted with love. Unfortunately, I am not crafty so I would have to get someone to do it for me. I have received several of these and I love them all! And appreciate the ones that were made during a prayer circle/meeting. You can feel the love.

(7) Biotene makes a line of great mouthwashes, toothpastes, mouth gels, etc. Trust me when I say, you will need it all!

(8) Really good salt...the fancy flavored sea salt kind...and lots of it. And probably some awesome spices. I'll even throw in a little baking soda with it and tell you how to keep from losing your taste buds like I did.

(9) I will share my meds with you if your doctor doesn't give you the good stuff. But since you will probably get all kinds of good stuff, I'll make sure to bring you all the boring over-the-counter stuff they forget to mention that you need to get through it: Tylenol, Claritin, Colase, Senakot, Queasy Pops, a variety of stuff to help you sleep...all kinds of fun.

(10) Trashy magazines. As much as I love to read, sometimes my brain isn't functioning and I just want to flip through People or Us magazine. And then not worry if I don't remember reading it.

(11) Restaurant gift cards for you and your family to use. Trust me, even if you don't care, there will be a day where your family desperately wants to go out to eat.

(12) iTunes gift cards. I don't know if you have an iPod, iPad, Kindle app, whatever. But you will need mind-numbing games to play, music to listen to, books you can read without carting around a library, audiobooks in case your eyes go to hell like mine did. Thank you Apple.

(13) I will tell you NOT to shave your head before chemo starts. Sure, go ahead and cut it short, but don't shave it off in dramatic fashion like you see in movies and TV shows. Because if you have hair growing in/stubble when your hair really does start to fall out, your head will hurt. Not any fun.

(14) I will send you cards via snail mail just because. I currently have 4 or 5 people that do this and it is so fun to get these cards. Whether they are sunny, sweet, or funny, it is so nice to receive them. And SO much better than the bills that fill up the mailbox.

(15) I will pay for a subscription to Netflix or Hulu or whatever you want. Trust me, you will become infinitely familiar with the television schedule and you will start to hate every channel.

(16) When you figure out which day(s) is your "bad" day, holler. I will take your kids out of the house (because you might find them to be loud and smelly). Or I'll come over and take care of you and send your family to my house to hang out. Or I'll kick everyone out of your house, shut your bedroom door so you can have peace and quiet, and sit downstairs and read a book and wait for you to need something. Whatever you want that day to look like. I didn't want anyone bothering me because they smelled, but I needed someone in my house to bring me drinks. And I was lucky to have friends and family who took my daughter each weekend so she never really had to know what it looked like when I felt like that. (The teenage boy was often so oblivious that he didn't even notice mom hadn't come out of the bedroom for days).

(17) Every now and then I will ask you what you need. And please, speaking from personal experience, TELL ME. Do you need groceries? Your bathrooms cleaned? A massage (god, not from me, but I'll take up a collection and make sure you get one)? Soup? Ginger Ale? To go for a walk? To get out of the house? Go to a movie? Talk about how crappy life is? Not talk about how crappy life is? Bring. It. On.

This is just some things that I found I needed...and was lucky enough to have people taking care of me. Happy to pay it forward.

49 comments:

  1. I've been looking for ideas of things to send to my cousin who will be starting chemo soon. I found ideas here that I haven't seen anywhere else. Thank you!

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    1. I'm so glad that it was able to help you help your cousin through this time!

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    2. My cousin as well will be starting chemo soon, this was helpful for ideas to send her a care package! I'm on the other side of the state and won't be able to see her soon being full time student and having a full time job. So Thank you :)

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    3. Mrs. Yusko,
      Thank you for sharing your ideas to so many of us patients and/or families.

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    4. This list is amazing! Thank you for sharing!

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    5. Thank you so very much for sharing! My mum will start chemo in about 2 weeks and I will do anything to make this time as easy as it can possibly be. I love her so much and just want her to be healthy and safe again. <3

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    6. An excellent blog. Thank you so much for sharing. My step mom is doing chemo. I love her so much and I want to help somehow. I feel at least a little useful knowing that these things might confort her.

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  2. Mrs. Yusko,

    Good morning and thank you for your ideas. My little brother just started chemotherapy last week and a light bulb came on in my head. He chooses to stay active as long as possible, but with that, he will need to be prepared while out on the road working (he is a landscaper). So, here you are. I will turn my backpacks around the house into useful "cancer packs on the go". One for treatment days, another for on the go days filled with useful items that he will need so he is prepared any day and anywhere he goes. Thank you and bless you for your time and thoughts! Take care, Sandra

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    1. So glad that it can help you help him! Prayers to all of you...

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  3. Can you share about the tastebuds? Thanks for your list only someone who has been through this can share this wealth of info. My dear friend has been diagnosed and trying to stay ahead of what she will need.

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    1. Swishing SALTY water mixed with baking soda around in your mouth SEVERAL times/day (like 6-8 times...don't swallow though). Keep a water bottle of this mixture with you throughout the day, or mix it in the morning and put it somewhere that you pass by a lot so that you'll remember to swish often.
      Sending prayers up for your friend!

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  4. These are terrific ideas. I own an online business www.theelephantstrunk.ca offering gift packages for people with cancer in Canada, because there are not alot of resources for this here. I have certainly done my research before putting together these packages and reading your post gives me the satisfaction in knowing that my hard work was done well. I include most of these items you mention in one package or another, but you have given me food for thought on updating some of them. l feel very happy that my choices are in deed valuable items for someone with cancer.

    I know a few people who have gone through the cancer journey and each give some insight, each something I did not know. I did not know about what shaving does although I should have because someone told me how much it hurts when the wind blows her hair.

    I love your page both visual and content and will continue to read them for insight. I would love to add your URL on my Inspirational Links page to enspire and educate others both patient and friends, loved ones and co workers who sometimes just don't have a clue. It is my wish to soon have an interactive calendar for friends to co-ordinate tasks that will help an individual with cancer and their families have an easier time. good luck and stay positive!
    Brenda
    The Elephant's Trunk

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    1. Thanks Brenda! I love what you do...keep it up.

      Yes, you are welcome to link on your website.

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  5. I second and third the straws, hand gel and tissues! :)

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  6. Thank you so much for this page, I will be the caregiver, and when I asked the Oncologist what we as the family needed to do to help him, all we got was "I don't know", I felt so alone in that moment. These are the things we need to know. THANK YOU!! Milliganisle

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    1. I hope all is going well for you as caregiver now. I am so sorry for your situation and the horrible response from the oncologist. Yikes! Makes me so much more grateful for my team. Prayers for your family!

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  7. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and reccomendations. My brother's girlfriend was recently diagnosed and will be starting Chemo next week before she has an agressive surgery to remove 1 whole kidney and half of the other. They are 6 hrs away from my family so we are feeling helpless right now. You gave me some great ideas for care packages. I will also send along your blog because I think it would be very helpful for her to follow. They are in a tough situation as both my of their families live hours away. Thanks again. I admire your strength in taking such a crappy situation and making the most out of it for yourself and for others.

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    2. I am so glad that this post was able to help you. I hope that your brother's girlfriend is doing okay through chemo.

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    3. I know that it is hard to want to help a loved one through this but be far away from them. Small gestures of love really go a long way. Keeping your family in my prayers!

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  8. Thank you so much for your very helpful and detailed blog!

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  9. Thank you very much for your list!

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  10. Thank you so much for writing this. My friend just started chemo for ovarian cancer and I wanted to send her a care package. Your ideas are wonderful and I can't wait to surprise her!

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    1. I am so glad that this post could help! I hope all goes well for your friend through her treatments and I am keeping her in my prayers.

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  11. My boyfriend was diagnosed with stage 3C cancer a month ago and starts chemo Monday. He's very depressed and petrified of chemo. I've been looking foan idea of things to do to help him through this proçess. Your ideas are awesome! Thank u so much for sharing!! I will be getting all of this stuff for him and hopefully it will help brighten his day :) God Bless

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    1. Thinking of you and your boyfriend. It is absolutely scary and everyone reacts differently. One day at a time was always my motto. And it felt like it would never end. But it did. And I hope for positive results for him. I'm glad that this post could help!

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  12. Great ideas! I could not get enough salt when I went through it...fancy salt would have been nice. All should share this with friends that are going through this...thanks for sharing.

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  13. I have put together this care package for my dear friend that was diagnosed with breast cancer before Christmas. I'm going with her tomorrow for her second chemo treatment. I will be giving her a HUGE pink box full of all of these items that me and lots of friends put together. Included notes of encouragement, too. Thanks so much for these tips. Her name is Ashley, 32, 3 kids under 5. If you want to follow her progress I started a facebook page for her: https://www.facebook.com/AshleyFranksLight.
    Thanks again for your help!! Praying for you and your progress as well!!

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  14. This was by far the most helpful thing that I have read. A friend had been diagnosed with pneumonia and it turned out to be leukemia. It has been a whirlwind week and it is hard to know what to do to be of help. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  15. This is fantastic, thank you so much for sharing. My son's choir teacher is starting treatment this week. I'm going to make a tool box full of these items. I think the straw cups are smart and handy, I think I'll buy different colors and label them with vinyl lettering. When my younger brother went through chemo he had a hard to swallowing food. Do you have any suggestions for entrees?

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  16. Wonderful ideas. I've been racking my brain for some simple things I can do for a friend's mother who really wants to keep things on my down low (so she won't have a lot of help or support -- I'm working on this..) I was planning to offer the I'll sit and talk/not talk, errands, etc. plan - but I never thought of the straws & cups. So simple and convenient. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and tips!

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  17. this is so helpful - like the person above, my mom was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection which turned out to be leukemia….all in a matter of days and is heading into day 4 of 7 chemo treatment.

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  18. No lie...I'm a grown man and I got teary-eyed reading this. A very close friend of mine is going through chemo currently...and I have been researching what to do to help. Thank you for this list. All seem like excellent suggestions.

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    1. Same here. I just found out that a dear buddy has colon cancer, and he started radiation today and chemo early next week. Just ordered a bunch of stuff from amazon, and it should be here in time to deliver a nice care package. Cancer sucks (through straws!)

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  19. Thank you so much for this post! My mom starts chemo in a couple of weeks and I'm 14 hours away. This is a great idea to send support even if I can't be there physically.

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  20. First, I pray that you are doing better than when you first posted this blog. Next, God is using you to bless many others on their loved ones journey of making it through chemo. Last, my brother was diagnosed with CLL a slow growing leukemia with no cure currently. He has been diagnosed at a very early stage so will not start chemo until later, but I wanted to put together a care package for him and you have given me many ideas. Thank you and God bless you.

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  21. Thank you Mrs Yusko. Im feeling hopefu and inspired. My cousin Pam lives in Nashville and i live in Kentucky. She has lung cancer and i have been trying to figure out a care package for her body and soul and to bring some comfort during her chemi treatments. Thanks again. God bless you.
    Rita Ohlmann

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  22. I hope that you know what a blessing this post has obviously been for so many, even a year and a half later. I pray you are doing well. Thank you for this.

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  23. These are great ideas! My MIL was just diagnosed with beat cancer for the second time, and we live 5 States away so we cannot be there to help. My daughter & I also plan to make a no sew fleece blanket to add to our package. May God bless you & your family, & all those who are going through this.

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  24. This list is great! My best friend was recently diagnosed with cancer and into his second week of chemo. You had mentioned the flavored sea salts..but you also mentioned unscented lotions and not liking smells. Do you think the flavored sea salts would bother him?

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  25. This is exactly what I was looking for as I look for ways to help my dear friend undergoing chemo for terminal lung cancer at the age of 46. I hope you are well and can continue to offer your assistance to others. God bless.

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  26. One of my very best friends is starting chemo today. These were the best ideas I have found to put a care package together. Thank you so much for this post.

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  27. Thank you so much for the list! A wonderful friend just started chemo and is too far away for me to help. I plan on getting a care package out tomorrow. I hope you are doing well. You have been a great help to a lot of people who want to help their loved ones in any way possible.

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  28. Starting chemo tomorrow last time I had breast cancer was 15 years ago there wasn't any resources or good products. so glad to find your list it really helps.

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  29. Thank you for this blog. My Uncle was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung and Liver Cancer. I have been wondering what I can do for him and my Aunt. This has been a huge help. I hope you are doing well. God bless.

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  30. Thank you for your blog. My uncle was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung and Liver Cancer. I have been trying to figure out what to do for him and my Aunt. I pray you are doing well.

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  31. Thank you for these ideas. Like others said, a good friend is dealing with this. She's about midway through the chemo cycles for stage iv lymphoma. Thankfully I live nearby. I've offered to help in many of those ways. So far, her immediate family has been able to support her in those practical things. I'm on standby. I'm trying to support her by following her lead. If she texts me something silly and funny, I reply like any other time before cancer. If she tells me she's in horrific pain, I tell her I'm sorry and ask how I can help. I worry I ask too often if she needs help. I don't know if I should ask a bunch of questions about meds and blood cell counts, or talk about anything other than cancer to get her mind off it for a minute or two. She's stumbling through this and as her friend, so am I as I try to support her.

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  32. Thanks so much for this blog post. Very helpful and really appreciate the honesty and openness. Wishing all the best!

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