When my cousin called me to tell me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I was at a complete loss for words. Under most circumstances, I know a little bit about any given topic – cancer is not one of them.
Once the initial shock wore off a bit, I began doing as much research as I possibly could. I wanted to know what she was going to be going through, every step of the way.
When someone you love receives such a diagnosis, there's very little you can do to comfort, and even less you can do to carry any amount of the challenge they are going to endure. Still, I wanted to do SOMETHING that would be beneficial – something that would help while going through the treatment itself.
After a considerable amount of research, and after talking with a couple of people who had been through the whole experience that my cousin was just beginning, I decided to put together a chemo care package of sorts.
First I found a really cute, trendy bag that she could keep handy and take with her to each of her treatments. I also grabbed a nice, sturdy, bankers box to put items in that she would need at home instead of at her actual treatments.
Once I had those, I put together my shopping list that included:
3 adult sippy cups – the kind with a lid and straws. One cup each for water, juice and Ginger Ale. All of which she may want to keep close by once she got home.
1 case of bottled water to keep in her car for times when she gets thirsty going to or from her appointments.
3 sets of the following items that I learned were “essentials” to have at home, in the car and in her chemo bag: Chapstick, Kleenex, hand sanitizer and unscented lotions.
1 bottle of Biotene mouthwash specially formulated for extreme dry mouth.
1 box of good sea salt. I was told using the sea salt as a mouth rinse would help save her taste buds.
Magazines – the kind you always read in the checkout line. Apparently it's better to have these than to attempt reading something you wish to actually retain what you've read.
1 bottle of Ginger Ale and 2 bags of Ginger candies (thanks to a good friend from Hawaii) to help with nausea.
A couple of days before she began her chemo, I took the care package to her and went over the instructions I had read or had learned from others who have undergone chemotherapy.
If the weather were colder, I would have included slippers, a nice soft blanket and possibly a cap of some sort. Given that our weather is super hot and humid, I decided to forgo the warm, fuzzy recommendations and concentrate on those that might offer some relief from the symptoms she might experience as well as providing a bit of a distraction here and there.
If you are aware of other items that should be included in a chemo care package, please share as I will be keeping her in supply until she has completed her full 20-weeks of treatment.