Getting news about a friend or loved one’s cancer diagnosis can throw anyone for a loop. But what you’re doing now, right here by reading this, is important. You are showing up for your friend and getting the best tips to creating the perfect chemo care package. Keep reading for your step-by-step guide!
You’re A Good Friend
It’s hard to know what to say or do or react right now. You want to curate a thoughtful gift for your friend or family member battling cancer.
Step one: showing up with compassion and love. You’re already doing this. Being there for your person during this difficult time, supporting them with love, is the most important thing.
Obviously, you want to something more tangible than “being there.” Creating a gift basket, care package or other gift to provide additional comfort is a great idea right now.
There are so many amazing cancer care package ideas to help the chemo patient you love.
Lean in to your instinct to show up for your friend ASAP. Reach out, even if you don’t know what to say or do immediately.
As you support your loved one, it’s also important to do a little research into chemo and side effects for cancer patients. While not all people will react the same way, there are some common side effects from chemotherapy treatment to be aware of.
You might want to think about the common side effect of metallic taste or hair loss as you build your care kit. There might also be some items that are off limits due to medication, possible germs or a weakened immune system.
One great way to build a great gift pack is to stay in contact with your friend and follow their progress through chemo treatments. As you chat, text or email, take some notes about what they are experiencing and their changing preferences.
Knowing your friend’s needs and wants will help you to build the best care package possible!
Make a list of things your friend has mentioned or side effects they are experiencing. As you add things to your care kit, check-off each item or make notes about when your friend might need a restock.
If you can, coordinate your gifts with other friends and family. This is important so that your friend doesn’t end up with 100 blankets but no warm socks! You could use a group chat or RSVP website, like ones for meal trains or digital invitations, to track who is gifting what and when.
Follow His/Her Preferences
No two cancer journeys are the same, even if they are receiving the same type of radiation treatment or chemo.
Your friend is still the same person, with the same or similar likes and dislikes are prior to their diagnosis. So if they were firmly against lavender or peppermint before, check in before you load up on those things now.
Just because a few blogs have recommended minty candy or lavender lotion as a great thing to buy for cancer patients, it doesn’t mean that all cancer patients love it.
This is where that communication with your friend and coordination with their wider support system will be crucial. Making sure of preferences or needs before you hit “purchase” will make your care packages more meaningful and personal.
Choose From His/Her Favorite Things
One great way to organize shopping to really cover your friend’s favorite things is to create wishlists. Amazon, Target and other online shops have the option to create shopping lists to share.
Your friend, their spouse, another family member or friend, or you could create and curate a personalized list of items they want or need right now. Then those who are looking to support them can easily shop and ship things.
Another option, if an online shopping list isn’t for them, is to create a spreadsheet or other trackable list. You could add links to places where items can be purchased, too. If your friend has requested handmade or other hyper specific things that aren’t available at major online retailers, this is a great way to go.
Share the spreadsheet or list with other people in your friend’s life so that they can edit it, too. GoogleSheets is a great tool for this!
Email people the link to the spreadsheet. Then, they can peruse the requested cancer care package items and find places to purchase them, too. As things are sent out, the list can be updated and adjusted.
Put The Chemo Care Package In Action
Once you have a plan in place, you can start creating your friend’s perfect chemo care package!
- Delivery method: ship it to their door or hand deliver?
- Portability: will they need or want to bring this kit with them to treatments?
Whether you are going solo with your care package or coordinating with others, you’ll want to address your friend’s current side effects, symptoms and needs.
One common concern with chemo is being very cold and creating extra warmth. Consider adding:
- Warm hats in fun patterns or styles
- Cozy socks with non-slip grips on the bottoms
- Thick, fluffy blankets
- Sweaters with open fronts
- Shawls, scarves or wraps made out of fleece or wool
Many chemo patients report being very thirsty or having a dry mouth due to their treatments. You might want to pack your gift with:
- Personalized water bottles that are dishwasher safe
- Reusable, easily washable straws
- Hard candies
- Herbal teas
Dry skin and lips is another common reaction to chemo, radiation or other cancer treatments. Make sure you check to see if there are any strong reactions to fragrances or ingredients first. To help your friend combat this, consider gifting:
Another often reported side effect is nausea. Adding in trusted homeopathic remedies might help your friend feel better. Think about adding:
- Ginger candies and drinks
- Anti-nausea essential oils (after checking for possible medication interactions or reactions)
Getting chemo or radiation, other treatments or needing to stay in the hospital can lead to boredom. After all, they are taken from their normal busy life. They’ve got hours to fill while they get care. You might want to gift:
- Crosswords and other puzzle books
- Entertainment or streaming subscription, like BritBox, Netflix, Audible, Kindle Unlimited, Amazon Prime Music, or Amazon Prime Video
- Neck pillow
No matter which type of care package you are building, throw in a hand sanitizer or two and maybe a gift card for groceries or take out. Keeping out the germs and helping to stock their fridge is always needed! Pop everything into a tote bag so they can carry your thoughtful presents to their treatment location easily.
Most importantly, keep showing up for your friend with kindness, compassion and a listening ear. Sometimes, just being there as a friend is more vital than physical gifts.
- Use These Awesome Ideas for Your Next Care Package
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Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!