If you have been reading my blog for the past few months, you probably know that it's been a hard one for my family. My grandfather passed away about a month ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time, and now my poor dad is going through ordeals with his fourth kidney stone, this one causing an infection and almost causing kidney failure. When it rains it storms, right? The hardest part for me is that I am the only person in my entire extended family that lives outside of California, it just makes the most sense for me to be here in Washington at this point in my own life. But for my family, I do wish I was there right now.
When I posted about my mom's breast cancer about a month ago, I mentioned that the doctors thought they could just do a lumpectomy and then just do radiation. I was grateful that at first they thought she wouldn't have to do chemo. But when they did the lumpectomy, they didn't remove enough around the tumor during surgery the first time so they had to go in and do surgery a second time. And on top of that, they found more tumors behind the first one. So in total she has had 3 surgeries in the same spot so far. Her lymph nodes are fine, thank God, and it appears the cancer has not spread anywhere else. My mom has chosen to just do a lumpectomy and not full mastectomies, and either way she does have to do chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy now.
So I decided, since I can't be with her physically as she starts chemo this week, I can at least send her a big box of goodies to help her out during her treatment. And I figured that I would share this list with you all as we never know when one of our loved ones will have to endure this same process. If you or someone you know have been through chemo and have some great tips and tricks on how to feel as best as you can during the process, please let me know so I can share your ideas on my blog. All of our insight combined equals a lot of comfort for each person going through this. Now I myself have not had cancer, but this compilation of goodies to put in a care package has been gathered through a lot of reading and research of different people's experiences with breast cancer treatment through chemo.
1. Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse - I've read that your mouth can get really dry while going through chemo. The dry mouth oral rinse helps to get your saliva production going to combat dry mouth. If the peppermint flavor is too powerful, dilute it a little with water.
2. Biotene Dry Mouth Toothpaste - Biotene toothpaste also helps combat dry mouth & mouth sores which are common for chemo patients. I read one woman's story about her process of chemo and she said that brushing her teeth 3-4 times a day really helped her saliva production and prevented mouth sores.
3. A Soft Toothbrush - as your body will be more sensitive during chemo, it's best to use a soft toothbrush.
4. Any sort of moisturizing body wash - if you decided to shave your head or experience losing your hair, theres no need to use shampoo. Moisturizing body wash may feel soothing on an itchy scalp.
5. Lavender Baby Oil - applying lavender baby oil on a tender scalp after a warm shower helps to moisturize and keep the skin soft, plus the lavender scent is calming and comforting.
6. Jergens Ultra Healing Lotion - lotion is key when someone is experiencing a lot of dryness during chemo. I read a few articles where women said they liked Jergens ultra healing lotion the best. I say for anyone buying lotion, also avoid buying lotions that contain alcohol which dries out the skin after the lotion has settled.
7. Natural Sun screen at least 30 SPF - I know staying out the sun in the summer will be impossibly hard for my sunbathing momma. So I bought her a 45 SPF sunscreen for when her skin gets extra sensitive to the sun during chemo.
8. Tea Tree Oil & Peroxide - Some people experience a lot of pain, dryness, and cracking in their nails during chemo. I read a few articles that said that dipping your nails in peroxide every night to clean them, drying them off, and then rubbing on a dot of tea tree oil on each nail helped to sooth and restore them.
9. Aquaphor & Aloe Infused socks - Some people get neuropathy pain in their feet during chemo treatment. And I know my mom loves having her feet pampered anyway, so using Aquaphor (non-petroleum) to slather all over her feet every night will feel really good along with aloe infused socks while she sleeps.
10. Acid Reducers - Chemo can effect how food tastes & smells along with how your mouth reacts to flavorful foods and how your tummy handles a lot of food. Antacids can help! Eating small portions, avoiding acidic foods & eating more bland food can also help to keep food in your tum.
11. Herbal Tea - herbal tea along with simple foods like jasmine rice are calming on the stomach.
12. Alcohol Free hand Sanitizer - during chemo, your immune system is much more vulnerable than usual so it's good to keep some hand sanitizer nearby at home or in your purse.
13. Sinus Cleanser - using some kind of sinus cleanser is also a great way to keep your immune system running smoothly, clearing your sinus passage way daily or whenever feels best for you. I myself use a neti pot.
14. An Herbal Comfort Eye Pac - Your eyes can get dry and tired during chemo, so taking some time to rest with a soothing herbal comfort eye pac over your eyes can be a calming and comforting experience.
15. Eyebrow Make-up & Stencils - I myself have really pale eyebrows so I use an eyebrow powder to fill in my eyebrows. Some people lose their eyebrow hair during chemo, so using a soft eyebrow powder plus an eyebrow stencil to fill in the eyebrows is a great option. Since skin can sometimes pale during chemo, try using a slightly lighter shade than your natural hair color for your eyebrow powder so as not to overwhelm your face.
16. Head wraps - Since my mom will be going through chemo in the summer, I bought her a few lightweight scarf & turban options for her head if she does lose her hair. I'm betting wigs will be too itchy during the Northern California heat. My mom has such a classic 1940s/50s beauty so I know she will totally be able to pull of a classic chic turban look during her everyday life during the summer. There are a lot of great head wrap, scarf, and turban options on Etsy for women going through chemo! Here are a few I love: 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5
17. Fun Jewelry! - Hey girl, if your read to rock a glamorous head turban or a colorful head wrap, layer on some fun jewelry! I think some big dangly earrings or a statement making necklace look especially fun and joyful when paired with a head wrap. Just because your going through chemo and experiencing all of the hardship along with it, it doesn't mean you can't get fancy when you want to :) I'm going to make my mom so bold, blinging jewelry for her to wear this summer so she can remember, she is a babe no matter what. I might be inspired to create some fun jewelry just to celebrate all you ladies out there who have powered through chemo. I admire you!
My momma is starting chemotherapy this Wednesday so if you can be sending her thoughts of healing, peace, health, and strength during that time, we would so appreciate it. She will be doing chemo every two weeks on Wednesdays for the next 4 months (from April 15 - Aug). So if you are an avid sender of good thoughts or person who prays, mark her sessions on your calendar to send her waves of love, comfort, and healing. I thankfully have two trips already planned for the end of May and July where I can add a few days to my trips to visit my mom and family. And in the time between, I have full faith in my sister Alexandra who is ready to take on a new level of responsibility within my family. I am so proud of her. Please be sending her thoughts of power & strength, grace, calmness, support and feelings of joy in her new independent free choice of taking on new responsibility while my mom is going through Chemo. Send happiness and love to my Dad and youngest sister Bella, that they only feel comfort, support and calmness during this time too.
I feel so very lucky knowing that so many people are rallying around my mom right now. I know she will be graceful and joy filled even during such a hard Spring & Summer. I'm praying with all my might that the depth of feeling we will all experience will only make us better people and closer as a family. Thank you for your support & good thoughts! And do let me know if you have any great ideas to make this process at least a little more joyful for my momma and our family! I so appreciate your words of advice. :)
UPDATE: I have had a few people ask me if they could send me something for my mom. You are SO SWEET to ask, you guys! Thank you so much. You can send anything to the address below and I will get it to my mom. Please leave a note in the package saying it's for my momma! (Please make sure any of the goods are paraben free. All others will be donated.)
PO Box 31686
Seattle, WA 98103