A Chemo Care Package

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.)
Moorea Seal
PO Box 31686
Seattle, WA 98103


Roots and Feathers said...

where were you when i went through this! girl you amaze me. you are so thoughtful! your mama is so lucky to have you as a daughter.

one thing i can recommend is something for an upset tummy. chemo gave my mom alot of nausea. ginger chews are good for when you need something light. my mom also dressed her head in pretty scarves. she was so cute! i think the adornment part is wonderful. as a woman, your hair can be such a comfort. my mom lost her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, so it made her feel so different looking. so adorning herself really helped!

i have no doubt you know just what to do. you are doing so good at educating yourself. i did so much just off gut instinct. i love that you are also really getting in there and finding out what worked for others. you are so thoughtful and smart. i just love you moorea. sending your mama so many positive vibes...

Molly Clark said...

However hard it will be on your mama to go through chemo, she'll find so much comfort in the thought and care you put into this. She's very lucky to have such a support system and I just know she's going to kick breast cancer's butt!

Kelly @ Studio DIY said...

I was just going to write about ginger chews when I saw the comment above. Speaking from personal experience, ginger chews work wonders for nausea. You are so sweet to make this care package. As someone who has both sent and received a care package in times of illness, they really do work wonders for boosting morale. Thinking about you and your family and sending all the good vibes I can muster!

Rachel B said...

Sending good vibes your family's way! My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer this November. She's going through chemo now.

Two things I would recommend would be fun reading materials to help pass the time waiting for appointments and test results (Are there any doctors who stay on schedule?) and a quick-read thermometer. Running a fever during chemo treatment is a medical emergency. I felt a lot better knowing my mom had one that could take an accurate reading, fast.

Anonymous said...

Really appreciate this post! My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer in December and started chemo in February, a treatment that will continue for a couple more months. Will definitely be taking these items into consideration as gifts for her. Thanks for the great ideas, and God bless your family through this trying time

Rachael said...

I want to second reading materials (maybe a gift card for e-books if she has a tablet) and other media (movies, etc). Your immune system is so comprimised by chemo that you end up spending tons more time pretty much alone. I know that when we've had cancer in the family, a new movie to watch together, or a game or puzzle, were greatly appriciated and enjoyed.

And maybe include a book or something for her caregivers, whoever they may be. I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms while my Gma was in her treatments during her last battle, and you can only watch so much Judge Judy before you want to break things. (WHY do waiting rooms have the worst tv ever??). And it's just so hard, to watch someone you love in pain, just as hard as it is this go-round, where I'm so far away and feeling helpless.

Chloe Moon said...

Sending her strength and courage! This is a beautiful and wonderful idea. I wish your Mom and family all the best! =)


Tyler and Natalie said...

This is so beautiful, Moorea. I love how despite a heart-wrenching and difficult situation, you bring rays of sunshine to your blog by creating such a lovely gift package. I admire your strength and am wishing all the best for you and your family. Your love will pull you through :)

asbooks.com said...

Encourage friends and family to send cards of love and encouragement. I am currently going through a 12 week run of chemo (weekly) and I love getting cards in the mail with encouraging and uplifting thoughts from my family and friends!

Theresa said...

Moorea my heart goes out to you and your family. I am a ten year survivor and I know what you are facing. I would add a couple of things to your list. Find a massage person that knows how to work with cancer scars. I had a bilateral mastectomy and the massages have helped me to keep my chest from freezing up. I can move like a normal person but I worked really hard to keep that mobility. And I would add geranium oil. You end up with lots of infections in places that may surprise you. Geranium oil can help alleviate some of the outside symptoms while the antibiotics take effect. And one last thing. Since I went through all this, there is an organization called Lotsa Helping Hands. You can set up a way to keep family and friends up to date easily. And it offers support for the care givers too. Just some thoughts. Hope all goes well for your mom. By the way, I was 49 when I was diagnosed. May 10 is my 11th anniversary. Never lose hope.

Jill St. George said...

Your momma is really going to appreciate this gift. Prayers for her, you and your family!!!!

Theresa said...

Sending you good thoughts too. Wish I could make cards for everyone going through this experience. Find me on facebook if you would like to share your address for more card love. https://www.facebook.com/theresa.petermann?ref=tn_tnmn

Anonymous said...

You are so sweet. I am sending you, your Mama and your whole family lots of love, support and prayers. *hugs*

Anonymous said...

How thoughtful and wonderful! My own mother is a breast cancer survivor. It can be overcome! It sounds like the prognosis is good, but hard times are still ahead. A care package is a perfect gift since you can't be there in the flesh!

Loves Happy Hour said...

This is such a great post! Strength and positive vibes to your mom, you and your family! Having gone through similar experiences with my grandfather, I know how hard it can be, and it really helps to have support from family and loved ones!

Fiona said...

My heart goes out to you and your mom. I'm so glad she's got a daughter like you looking out for her at this point in time. Your care package looks great, and seems to have so much covered. I hope things begin to improve for you and your family soon.

Ffion said...

Wishing your mother all the best! The care package is a brilliant idea :)

Emmie said...

Something else I would suggest for the care package is lip balm. With a dry mouth comes extra dry lips. My dad is going through chemo at the moment and every time I visit him I seem to leave him with one of my half used Vaseline or Burt's Bees pots from my handbag. Anyway, I love your care package. It takes courage to even design and post such a thing, let alone describe each item and it's use. Don't forget to look after yourself and surround yourself with people, too. Best wishes.

Melissa at bubbyandbean.com said...

This is such a wonderful idea. I wish I'd thought about doing something this this for my aunt. You have a big heart Moorea.

Alice said...

I've been following you on Instagram for a long time now, but I don't know if I've ever commented on the blog before.

I wish your mom all the best. I went through chemo with my mom, who had cervical cancer, so I know all too well what all of this looks like.

What I would recommend for sickness is dehydrated ginger candy. It makes you feel less sick. My mom didn't throw up a lot the first time around, but she felt sick and tired.

Head wraps are great, my mom had that one. Because there are so many types of chemo drugs, not all of them make you loose hair. Some do, some don't. But the doctors tell you that. So when she starts to loose hair, it won't go all away in one day. It starts slowly. Once my mom started loosing more and more hair, and it was noticeable, I cut the rest of her hair to about 0.5-1 inch length. the rest went away when she washed her hair, so did the eyebrows.

I really recommend very sensitive shampoo, so that she doesn't use anything too strong.

Oh, if your mom ever feels unable to eat, don't feel bad, let her now she doesn't have to feel bad about that and never force her. Everything will work out once the chemo is gone.

Sending you all hugs!

Erin O. said...

I just heard about this book yesterday, it is for cooking for people with cancer. I had no idea that tastes can change during chemo, so this book addresses those issues. The author wrote it for kids, but I think it has great ideas for adults too.

Kyle said...

Thank you for the care package ideas. I'm dealing with a similar situation with my mother. Best to you and your mother.

Gae Seal said...

Yes I am blessed to have a daughter like Moorea!

Gae Seal said...

My team at home and at church and at Sierra Nevada Hospital are all the BEST!

Kara said...

Absolutely special blog post. I am bookmarking it and hoping I never have to use it, but it hit home as a loved one in my family recently got a C-word diagnosis. Prayers and love to your mama and your family. <3

sweet harvest moon said...

Sending love and my prayers to you and your family! xx

Audrey - This Little Street said...

Moorea - sorry things have gone from bad to worse :( Thinking about you and hoping your parents both recover very soon. Hugs.

Vanessa said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Moorea. Best wishes to all of you.

Tegan said...

Wow, sending up prayers for your mom right now, I'm so sorry to hear about all this happening to your family. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 months ago and just had a mastectomy, she's still deciding whether or not to go through with chemo, if she does I will be right by her side with a care package like this! thanks for the great ideas, and again praying for you, your family and for peace, healing and comfort through this tough time. xo