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Thread: Care package for someone undergoing chemotherapy?

  1. #1
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    Care package for someone undergoing chemotherapy?

    My SIL is undergoing chemo for breast cancer, and the treatments are really taking their toll. She is having debilitating migraines on a daily basis, suffering severe nausea, and basically unable to function at all. My understanding is that her treatments will continue on a weekly basis for the next several months.

    They live two hours from us but she's not really up for company right now. They've got friends in town that have been bringing meals and stuff to the house, but BIL says they've had so much they're having to throw stuff out, in part because SIL is not really up to eating most of the time.

    Apparently the one thing she does eat that they have been going through like water is either Hot Tamales or Mike & Ikes (DH didn't remember which but is going to find out for sure). I'm putting together a care package with a case of candy for her, but would love to have some other suggestions for things to include. I brought her some pink pajamas after her mastectomy (and a friend who had undergone breast reduction surgery gave me the very helpful hint to pick a set that had a button-front top), and she LOVED those. I'm at a loss, though, for other good ideas.

    TIA.

  2. #2
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    Maybe a nice snuggly blanket to wrap up in? I've lusted after these at Brookstone. Maybe a gift card for a house cleaner to come in and take care of that stuff so BIL doesn't have to deal with it?


    "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself" ~ George Bernard Shaw


  3. #3
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    Books on "tape" maybe?
    Well-behaved women seldom make history!

  4. #4
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    DH's cousin is going through cemo and I got her one of these cds based on reviews (something sort of relaxing to chill out to during treatment):

    Sound Medicine: Music for Healing - Steven Halpern
    Chakra Suite - Steven Halpern

    Does she have a subscription to netflix?
    Or along the ideas of a snuggly blanket, Kashwere is sooooo soft and comfy but pricey.
    Amy

    Om Mani Padme Hum

  5. #5
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    I am so sorry she is having such a horrible experience. I hope she is taking anti-nausea meds---the gals on the BC board rave about it and claim they do very well with chemo.
    I can't speak from experience because I skipped it (and hope I did the right thing!!) but after my surgery, I got flowers (gorgeous) and gift certificates (so when I felt OK to venture out, I had someplace to plan).
    I did not like button down because I opted for no recon and the buttons lay right on my bones, so it shows how different we all are and our experiences are.

    A blanket sounds wonderful. Maybe with a good book or magazine.
    If she will be having radiation as well, maybe some oil for skin protection.
    What about tickets to movies or plays if they like that sort of stuff---to get her head out of thinking about this and out of the house.

    I am hopeful her suffering is killing the beast and she will have a long, happy life.
    Thoreau said, 'A man is rich in proportion to the things he can leave alone.'

  6. #6
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    What about some DVD's of either movies that are light, or a light TV show. One that springs to mind is Little House on the Prairie. Those shows are only about 45 minutes long, and not too heavy.

    I don't have too many other ideas - good thoughts are coming your way.
    “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed
    door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

    Helen Keller (1880–1968)

  7. #7
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    I will be watching this thread with interest because my own SIL is undergoing the exact same thing and I'm having the same kind of I-want-to-do-something-to-help-but-what? feelings. BIL/SIL live 40 minutes away, not that far but enough to make it prohibitive to drop by often and just as you said, there are lots of neighbors and friends nearby for the immediate needs. I've tried to focus on just helping her get some temporary relief from thinking about it all and my 'strategy' is going to be calls, cards, care packages and taking the kids off their hands from time to time because this is really happening to their whole family and they need some TLC too even though she's suffering the physical trauma. The first care package I gave her contained the book 'Eat, Pray, Love' by Elizabeth Gilbert which I personally loved and thought would be a nice blend of humor and thought provoking wisdom. She told me she took it to the hospital with her when she had her first chemo treatment and all the nurses were commenting on what a good book it is so she was looking forward to reading it. I also included a book thong which are my ultimate favorite book marks (here's a bunch on ebay but Borders carries them):

    http://search.ebay.com/book-thong_W0...fsooZ1QQfsopZ1

    a bar of 'Emergency Chocolate' (which I found at the checkout of a card store)

    http://www.musthaveboutique.com/emer...chocolate.html

    with instructions to 'apply liberally whenever it hurts' and an angel pin (unfortunately I can't find a link to anything like it).

    I think the cuddle blanket is a great idea and a friend today suggested some at home pampering items like a pair of cushy, comfy slippers or luxurious hand cream.
    Linda

    When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and I could say “I used everything you gave me.”

    Erma Bombeck

  8. #8
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    Is she having any problems with mouth sores? I have heard more than one person say that old-fashioned lemon drops work great to relieve those.

    This is so distressing for your family, my prayers are with her and all of you.
    Margaret

  9. #9
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    Eva, I'm sorry to hear of your SIL's suffering. I've never gone through that, nor has anyone close to me, but when I think of things that would comfort me if I were struggling like that, here are some of the things that come to mind:

    - Magazines, because it's asking a lot of a person who is feeling so poorly to read a book, but magazines can be less demanding on her attention and can be a distraction for small bits of time.

    - Lavender neck wrap, because I find the scent of lavender very relaxing and soothing. I've seen some at Hallmark's Paper Store that are heated in the microwave.

    - A new robe, because that's always a luxury that I wouldn't treat myself to. Don't many of us wear the same old ratty robe forever?

    - Tea and tupelo honey, because Red Rose English Breakfast tea or Earl Grey are always comforting for me and because tupelo honey tastes like liquid gold.

    - Some special lotions, because her body is taking a beating and needs a bit of pampering.

    - A pedicure, for the same reason given above. I rarely get them but I feel very pampered when I do - it's the only time I think my feet look pretty enough to bare them.

    I'm sure others will come up with many suggestions for you to review and something along the way will strike you as the right thing. It's very sweet and thoughtful of you to want to do this for her. I hope she'll have a speedy and full recovery.

  10. #10
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    Eva, I'm so sorry your SIL is going through this. I was going to echo Linda's suggestion for reading material. How about an assortment of fun magazines? Things she wouldn't ordinarily subscribe to but might be able to read during treatments or times when she's not otherwise up to doing much else. How about some homemade treats for the whole family like banana bread or brownies, with instructions for freezing if they can't use right away?

    Even more good thoughts headed out to your family - this is so hard on everyone.

  11. #11
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    Some other ideas......

    Funny/pretty toothbrushes, soft bristled. You need to change toothbrushes all the time when you are doing chemo.

    I have had lots of temperature regulation problems, and sweats, so I've loved really soft tank tops like the ones from GapBody for when a PJ top is too much, even in my AC'd house

    Probably books and movies require too much concentration (I know, hard to imagine) but DVDs of TV series are more manageable. Maybe not if she's having migraines, though.

    I'm going to PM you another idea or two.

    But other than that, I think the Mike and Ikes are great, but unfortunately there is not that much you can do if she isn't tolerating the chemo well. Just give her the space she's asking for, and check in a lot with your BIL, because he's probably in a rough place too.

    You know my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. It is a tough time.

  12. #12
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    Try and drop her a note or card every week or two. When a friend had a double mastectomy and chemo I would check in periodically; share a funny story, send a particularly cute picture of the dog (she loves my dogs!), whatever. She told me later that she so appreciated knowing that she was being thought of and knowing I wasn't expecting a response for a while, because she was really too tired to manage one.

    How about some dry shampoo? I believe Sephora has some, which might be good for when she wants to spiff up a little but can't handle a shower.

    Are there any obligations you can take off her hands? I'm pretty far away from my sister (I'm in GA, she's in MD) and her husband is deploying to Iraq. She has fabulous, fabulous neighbors and, at Christmas, I'm going to ship my sister a bunch of baked goods for TY gifts. Pre-writing TY notes for your BIL & SIL's thoughtful neighbors would fall into this cateogry.

    Does she live far away from her doctors & treatment site? A gas card might alleviate some of the traditional financial pressures that come at this time.

    If you send bath products I recommend finding out her favorite scents - the chemo may make her hypersensitive to smells. I hate smelling like fruit or overly sweet and, God bless her, Mom's birthday gift to me was a full suite of Bath & Body Works Pomegrante. I'm trying to find someone to take it off my hands.

    I also recommend sending a little something for your BIL - even just a Starbucks gift card and a heartfelt "thanks for all you're doing and it's so important." It's so, so commonplace for the caregiver to be overwhelmed and feel underappreciated.
    Last edited by stefania4; 07-18-2008 at 11:06 PM.
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  13. #13
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    As a specific blanket recommendation, I love to give Comfort Silkie blankets, and have given their pillowcases a few times to people going through a rough patch. DH gets upset when his is in the wash.

    http://www.comfortsilkie.com/
    <)>>< Candace ><<)>

  14. #14
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    Pretty much anything soft will work well -- soft cotton tanks and tees, blankets and pillowcases. I'm not that knowledgeable about chemo, but I have seen women who can't stand anything to touch their bodies! Reading matter is also good!
    Kay
    I'm a WYSIWYG person -- no subterfuge here!

  15. #15
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    If she's suffering a lot of migraines, she might like a sleeping mask (or eye cover thing, whatever they're called). I am super sensitive to light when I have a migraine and a mask might help if she's laying in bed during the day.

    Also, when my mom had chemo years ago, she had lots of mouth sores and favored hard candy for that. She also used these brushless toothbrushes. I'm not sure where they came from, but they had sponges on the end with toothpaste-type stuff. She could swish them around her mouth and not have to suffer the brush, but still get a fresh mouth.

    Again, if she's having migraines, I would take that into consideration. Reading may not be something she's interested in. I think the books on tape are a great idea.

    I'm so sorry she--and your whole family--are going through this. I'm sending my best.
    TKay

  16. #16
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    aggie94, what a kind and thoughtful thing to do for your SIL.

    So many good ideas here!

    I have a couple of friends who went through best cancer and chemo. One thing I heard often and especially after they lost their hair was they both wanted and needed things that reminded them they were still women. So whatever little girly thing you can think of like a pretty shade of lipstick or some earrings. The more girly the better. Would be a nice addition to the care package you are creating.

    I also get migraines and sometimes all you can do is lay in bed with your eyes close wait it out. Tkays suggestions for a sleep mask and books on tape are excellent.

    Buying some pretty note cards and sending inspirational quotes and words of encouragement on a regular basis is also nice.

    My prayers are with all of you who are going through this personally or have a loved one who is.
    Beware of the dog and I wouldn't trust the cat either ~ on a sign somewhere

  17. #17
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    Eva, you've gotten so many good suggestions. I am so sorry you and Che are going through this right now.

    My mom did not have the energy to read during chemo round 1, though we are hoping that a tinker with the meds will make rounds 2 and 3 better. She got weekly chemo like SIL, and mostly she was just sick, and tired, and sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. She worried a lot about my step-father, who is useless in the kitchen, so meals that were brought in or the ones I stocked her freezer with were wonderful because they helped her not worry about him as much. So maybe a gift card for Takeout Taxi or something like that? My mom also has loved anything pretty with a sweet inspirational quote on it... she can be a bit sentimental anyway, but they really helped her.

    And really, most of all, what my mom loves are cards. She keeps them in a basket next to her comfy chair, and thumbs through them to remind herself of all the good thoughts coming her way. So Stefania's idea to just keep sending her little well-wishes is a great one.

    I'll let you know if I think of anything else.
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  18. #18
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    I've been thinking about this more. If she's feeling so awful, probably all she wants is to feel as close to normal as possible. If you do go with slippers, perhaps a pair that has a real sole and look more like scuffy shoes would do the trick. Then she can go out to the mailbox or sit outside for a few minutes without worrying what the neighbors think about seeing her in her slippers. Also, and this is going to sound strange, maybe she'd like something like a swivel sweeper. They're super lightweight and help you clean up the house without carting the vacuum around. It might make her feel like she's able to tidy up without getting exhausted. Also, did anyone mention a body pillow? If she's in bed a lot, that might help you get comfortable.

    Hang in there.
    TKay

  19. #19
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    Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions! I am still sifting through all the recommendations, but I have a ton of great ideas here. I will definitely include a snuggly blanket, as I love that one, and am leaning towards including some relaxing CDs and other soothing products, like bath/body stuff. I'll make sure not to get anything too heavily scented.

    In the meantime, there is a box containing 30 pounds of Hot Tamales headed her way.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by aggie94 View Post

    In the meantime, there is a box containing 30 pounds of Hot Tamales headed her way.
    30 lbs of Hot Tamales????? Yowza!


    "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself" ~ George Bernard Shaw


  21. #21
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    Eva, I got one of these for DBF last fall. I originally bought it for him sort of as a joke, something to keep him warm and feeling loved while I was East tending to my mother after her heart surgery. As it turned out (Mom's heart surgery went south in a big way, I was there for month instead of 10 days, and then she died) it was a much greater genuine comfort to him than anticipated--and since he's been recovering from 2 surgeries this summer himself, it's gotten a ton of use. The only thing--their "nap" size blanket is just a tiny bit short, even for us who are both short people. So you might want to spring for the full or queen size one.

    Cuddle Blanket
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    Use an egg carton like everyone else and stop being such a poser." - The Little Book of Wrong Shui

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