Someone asked if I’d share the list of items for the chemo care packages I am going to work on putting together. This is a rough list, but it contains things that gave me some relief, pleasure, etc. during my chemo treatment. I’m not sure that everything will make it in a donation bag since I’m not independently wealthy, so if anyone wants to donate any items, I would not say no! As I mentioned in a previous post, I plan to donate chemo care packages to chemo patients in the Charleston area.
Also, if you have a loved one going through chemo and want to gift them some items, this is a great starting point.
⁃ Chapstick (plain/unscented/unflavored) – My lips were dry and chapped through most of my treatment, even now. I say plain, unscented, and unflavored because smell and taste aversions are a real thing! I was ready to move out of the house when Brad cooked bacon one day, no joke.
⁃ Hand lotion (plain/unscented) – My hands peeled and got all crackly. Bonus points for a full body lotion! My entire body was flaky. Attractive, I know. Feet, too. Same scent rules apply.
⁃ Nail file (with a fine edge) – My nails got brittle (some chemo drugs cause nails to fall completely off, too), so having a nail file in my purse was a tiny little miracle.
⁃ Hand sanitizer (plain/unscented) – You know…germs and all that. Shouldn’t need to explain this one. Scent rules apply.
⁃ Biotin Mouth Rinse – This was nice to have. And Listerine (alcohol free). I got horrible cotton mouth, and sometimes I had the absolute worst taste in my mouth and thought I’d lose my mind.
⁃ Warm socks – Because who doesn’t like fluffy socks? I’d actually put fluffy socks on during chemo just so I could take off my sneakers and still protect my feet. I mean, you were sometimes spending the entire day there, might as well be comfortable.
⁃ Cup-a-Soup – There were days when I couldn’t eat or didn’t want to eat real food, so cup-a-soup was a nice alternative to plain broth. I could actually stomach it.
⁃ Tea (caffeine free) – A nice alternative to water. It was soothing for my throat when the dryness got to be too much.
⁃ Peppermints/Starlight Mints – Mints sometimes helped with the cotton mouth/bad mouth taste. It also helps during chemo when the nurses inject saline into your port…you can actually taste the saline in your mouth, oddly enough. So if you’re sucking on a peppermint, it masks that taste.
⁃ Puzzle book (word find, crossword, etc.) – Not only did puzzle books keep me busy during chemo, but they also helped work my brain while not at chemo. My oncologist actually told me to exercise my brain with crosswords, word finds, and stuff like that when I mentioned chemo brain to him once. So these are great.
⁃ Notepad – When chemo brain started affecting my memory, I started writing everything down! Whether it was notes to ask the doctor, a to-do list, or a shopping list, having a small notepad in my purse helped.
⁃ Pens/pencils – To use with the notepad and puzzle books, of course.
⁃ Deck of cards/card game/travel games – Brad and I played Phase 10 during my first chemo treatment. It was fun for me and him, and it kept our minds off what was happening, even if it was only for seconds at a time. So playing cards or travel games (smaller, portable versions of Checkers, Clue, Yahtzee, etc.) are a great addition to have on chemo day.
⁃ Adult coloring books – These are probably a take-it or leave-it for most folks. I liked my adult coloring books. I liked variety. I am an avid reader, I love to read, but I couldn’t focus enough (tired, chemo brain, etc.) to read books, so having lots of non-reading alternatives, was great. The adult coloring books just gave me one more activity to choose from.
⁃ Colored pencils/markers/crayons – For the adult coloring books. I went all out and bought myself this ridiculous package of 100+ gel, sparkly, metallic, and milky pen set. But seriously, a small set of colored pencils or crayons would do. I’m a little extra.
⁃ Bag to put it all in – The size bag depends on the quantity/size of the stuff you get. I had a few different tote bags, and I think totes were the best. And not necessarily anything fancy, like a reusable grocery bag style is perfect. I have one that had a breast cancer design, and another that says “Warrior.”
⁃ Refillable water bottle – Optional, since most people already have plenty of these. But I would get super thirsty while there and always brought a water bottle.
⁃ Blanket – Another optional item. I brought a blanket a few times, but often the clinics have them, too. So if you find a really nice one, I’m sure the recipient will love it. Otherwise, it’s not a big deal.
What not to gift…
Scented anything. Unless someone specifically requests something, I’d go with unscented everything. I was gifted a lotion that was plain, but it had a very distinct scent that made me so nauseated.
I would avoid food or snacks unless you’ve spoken to this person and they request something specific. Certain flavors and smells can be a total turnoff, even with beverages, so just be careful.
Books. I hate saying that because I LOVE BOOKS, but if anyone has the chemo brain concentration problem I had, books might be upsetting if they can’t read them. Again, if you’ve spoken to someone and they can read/want to read, gift them books!!
If I think of anything else, I’ll add them to the lists, but for now, this is a huge start. And please keep in mind, these are all based on my opinion, my experience, and everyone’s experiences are a little bit different. I’d like to say the items on the “do” list are pretty universal, but you never know. There are some people who may break out in hives at the sight of a crossword puzzle…