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.