I’ve been thinking a lot lately about chemo care packages. So, over the last few weeks I’ve been pulling a list together. When this journey is over I want to be able to provide those that I know going through chemo with their own chemo care package. I won’t purchase everything, of course, but a small gift basket with a few items would be helpful. Here are some things that I’ve come up with. I thought some of you might also be interested. Also, I will update this post if I think of any others.
- Extra Soft toothbrush – this was the first thing I needed after my first chemo. My mouth/gums were so sensitive during chemo even “soft” was too hard. Kevan found extra soft at Wal-Mart in a package of 2. I kept one here at home and one at my MIL’s for when we stayed with her for Dr. appointments.
- Chamomile Tea – for the throat/stomach burning – it is the only thing that helped me. I drank it every night before I went to bed and anytime during the day when I had the throat burning.
- Ginger Tea – for nausea – I liked iced ginger tea better, but was only able to find the iced version at the Puffy Muffin. It is awesome ginger tea! I could only find the hot version at the store and I didn’t care much for the taste, but others might like it.
- Slippers or soft socks – I had a lot of problems with the bottom of my feet hurting during chemo. Slippers and soft socks helped me a lot.
- Comfy clothes – I lived in comfy pajama-like clothes for MONTHS. This was a must have as well. If summer, it is nice to have a few shirt/shorts outfits. I also wore a lot of cute pajama pants and shirts that didn’t require a bra (some type of pattern or sewn so it is not as noticeable if someone stops by. lol!). The colder months it was nice to have some long sleeve/pant outfits…especially in the hospital since it is so cold. If they have hot flashes though stick to a lighter weight material.
- Cool Chemo cap – due to my hot flashes most head coverings around the house are too hot. It was VERY hard to find one that wasn’t too hot for nighttime. When I would have hot flashes I would be drenched and I’d have to take it off. Then, I’d get cold because my head was wet. So, it has been an endless battle trying to find the perfect cap for bed. I’ve found that the best ones for night are the ones that are made out of t-shirt material – also, they don’t have a tie on them so you aren’t sleeping on something hard and won’t wake up with a sore neck.
- Amazon Gift cards – for books, audio books or movies to watch when they aren’t feeling well. I used mine to purchase movies to watch on my iPad during treatment or when I wasn’t feeling well at home. Audio books were good for the days I couldn’t see well or think well.
- Walkie Talkie’s – This helped Kevan and I a lot when I needed something. Both after my surgery and during chemo. We could’ve used our cell phones, but then if I was asleep and someone else called it would’ve woke me up. So, walkie talkie’s worked better. He could go outside or do whatever and I could always call him when I needed him and he could check on me if he started to worry. Also, ours has a feature that vibrates so if Kevan was mowing the lawn or on the tractor he could still feel it ringing if I needed him. They aren’t very expensive.
- Personal Mini Fan – If they are pre-menopausal and will be going through menopause this is a lifesaver!
- Pharmacy Gift Card – If the person is light on cash or does not have insurance this is a good gift. Kevan and I didn’t need this, but it would come in handy for someone that has expensive prescriptions or needs the MANY Claritin pills to counteract the Neulasta bone pain. The Claritin was $25 a package and I had to buy 3 during my chemo treatments.
Things I ate the days I was most nauseous, having throat/stomach or intestinal issues:
- Cream of Wheat – I like the “from scratch” box, but they make packets too for those that want the easier route. Then, you just add water.
- Oatmeal – On my good days I made the Old Fashioned version. On my bad days I used the Low Sugar packet version and made the hot water in my keurig.
- Baked Potatoes – this was my favorite, I could just stick them in the microwave for 5 minutes and put some butter on them.
- Eggs – scrambled, fried, hard boiled…but mostly scrambled with cheese.
- Watermelon – another alternative to drinking water and staying hydrated. This is a MUST-HAVE the first few days after chemo since we need to flush our system of the chemo poisons! They need to be going to the bathroom EVERY 2 HOURS so that chemo doesn’t sit in the bladder. Also, if they don’t have a port this is helpful the day before and the day of (before arriving) any type of needle pricks (blood draws, chemo infusions, IV’s, etc).
- Homemade soup – After my surgery and chemo this was a favorite. Someone made me a huge pot of chicken soup and I just froze it in individual serving sizes for when I was craving it. It was easy to thaw a little in the microwave and then heat it on the stove. Also, my mom made me Cream of Potato soup (or chowder) and this was very good to have on the days I couldn’t eat much. Soup was a HUGE gift to me! I loved it on those days when nothing sounded good or tasted good.
- Popsicles – helped my throat feel better, but a little too much sugar so I didn’t eat them very often.
- Lollypops – help with the throat flare and tongue rawness. I even ate them during church service because my throat was on fire.
- Prunes and raisins – If your friend is having problems “going” this is a good thing to have and eat throughout the day. I tried to start eating them a day or two before chemo and then continue EVERY DAY the first 2 weeks. Also, the individually wrapped prunes lasted a lot longer, as far as not getting so hard, than the non-wrapped.
- Apple juice – see the one above. Good for helping the intestines. Buy the one without added sugar so it is a little healthier.
- Lemonade – I was sooooo tired of drinking water that I made up some Country Time lemonade and drank it when I felt my tongue could handle it. It tasted a lot better than water. Fresh lemonade would be better, but too much trouble for me when I didn’t feel well. This might have contributed to my weight gain since I don’t usually drink sugary drinks. Crystal Light might be a good option, but I’m allergic to an ingredient in it and have never been able to drink it without having days of migraines following a glass of it. :o(
- Dill pickles – Taste buds get really messed up and I craved pickles. But, Clausen are the best (from the fridge section). I would eat a whole jar in 2-3 days. lol! Also, my brother made me some bread and butter pickles and I ate those in 3 days as well. Yummy! He’s the pickle-man!
- Blanket – I received a couple blankets as gifts. I loved bringing my own blanket to the hospital with me or to chemo. It is just nice to have something that is your own and also to remember those who gave it to you and that they are thinking/praying for you.
- Foot massages – my husband gives GREAT foot massages, but if your friend is single or her hubby is not good in this area purchase some foot massage gift certificates. Chemo is hard on the feet. They need to be moisturized and loved on a lot (massaged). Also, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Reflexology therapy for the feet, but we didn’t have anyone in our area that did this. My cousin who is on chemo for a brain tumor did this type of therapy and he believes that it really helps his side affects.
- Lavender pillow – A friend from high school sent me a few lavender products and the lavender pillow she sent is wonderful. All the products were made locally. If I’m having a bad night or stressed out I put my head on it and I could feel myself relax immediately. Lavender in my bath also helped relaxation, but sometimes to the point of falling asleep in the bath!
- Bath pillow – I wasn’t allowed to take baths until about 8 weeks after my mastectomy so I did not use my gifted bath pillow until chemo started. I took lots of baths because of lack of energy or body pain. When you have no hair the back of the tub is VERY cold….a luxury bath pillow is very nice to have to lay your head on. Also, when I would be sick in the bathroom and have to lay on the floor it was nice to use to lay on or just hold when I was sitting there in pain.
If you want a few funny items that they will probably really end up needing, here are a few:
- Toilet Paper Wet Wipes – make sure to get the natural ones that do not contain alcohol.
- Senokot – this is natural and won’t give them too many cramps like other items on the market.
- Imodium – once the Senekot and prunes start to work…they may have to get this out. It is a never ending battle.
- Prunes (I mentioned them above too).
Another thing that really helped me during my 3rd and 4th chemo treatments was my parents coming to visit. During chemo 1 and 2 I had many days that I didn’t feel well and would lay around. I felt alone because Kevan was working and I would watch way too much TV. Well, once they visited I had the opportunity to sit with them if I felt like it and interact. It really helped pass the days faster and I didn’t lay around nearly as much because I had someone to talk to…maybe on 1 or 2 of my really bad days. Also, we have 2 sitting rooms so if I wanted to be alone I could while they were in the other room. So, if there is only one sitting room you may want to ask the patient if they need alone time….just in case. Also, I didn’t feel as bad about having to be driven around since they were always at my house. :o)