In an unfortunate turn of events, two of my dear friends are undergoing treatments for breast cancer at the exact same time. From an outsider’s point of view, it is difficult to know what to say, offer, or do in times like this. Some friends drop off the planet because they don’t know how to approach a sick person. I strive to not be one of those “friends”. I want to offer as much support as I can from my position. I’ve done some research and soul-searching and come up with a few ideas for care packages that I thought would come in handy for someone going through a double mastectomy or even any medical treatment:
1. Lipstick, perhaps along with a copy of “Why I Wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy.” I remember reading a clip from this book in a magazine, celebrating femininity and encouraging a sense of hope in anyone fighting this disease. Once a woman begins wearing lipstick again, she’s on the road to recovery.
2. Nail polish, neck scarf or bold jewelry. Same principles as above apply. A woman is a woman no matter if her breasts are attached or not. She can still celebrate her inner and outer beauty in other ways. Let your loved one know that her beauty and value as a woman is most definitely not attached to her chest.
3. Form pillow. Women going through painful treatments can use as much creature comforts and padding as you can give them.
4. Cashmere socks (or socks infused with aloe like I found). Keeps her extremities warm and pampered at the same time.
5. Handheld games, magazines, and other reading material. This sort of thing helps pass the time and entertain her when she’s in another waiting room or receiving treatments.
6. I found a book called something to the effect of “200 Foods That Will Save Your Life.” You have to be careful with this one. You don’t want to insult your dear friend or violate any diets her health care provider has recommended. But if she’s talking about overhauling her diet and lifestyle, something to help her along in the process is always appreciated. This book explained each superfood’s health benefits and provided a recipe for each.
7. Journal. Whether she wants to vent, hope, or write letters to her children, a journal provides a woman with a wonderful creative outlet.
8. Daily devotion book. You have to be careful with this one too because of varying religious beliefs, but if you know your friend’s beliefs, this sort of spiritual reassurance can help heal her soul and instill her with a sense of peace.
9. Comedic relief. A comic book, funny movie, or handcrafted book of goofy pictures helps revive joy in an otherwise morose circumstance. Laughter truly is medicine. I’ve even read studies about laughter and how it reduces pain and helps the healing process.
10. Hot/cold pack. I found a nice pack that can be both heated up and frozen for whatever sort of relief she needs.
11. If she’s up for it and you can manage it, one of the best things you can do is just to be there for her. Provide moral support during treatments, lighten her load, provide her and her family with dinner, or stop by and hold her hand for awhile. It’s always reassuring to know you have people who love you and want to take care of you.
12. A cancer buddy/weapon/curer. Find a trinket that reminds you of your friend. Maybe a healing stone, a plush stuffed lion or a fake sword that she can bring with her to the hospital. There should be some significance attached to the object of course, such as a “cancer weapon” sword, so that your friend is not only reminded of the love of her friends each time she sees it but also gives her courage in her fight.
13. False eyelashes and nails. Chemo treatments can leave a woman without eyelashes and healthy fingernails, and a woman always loves to feel gussied up and pampered.
14. Do a 5k in her name. Find a race in your area that benefits cancer research and scout out donations. Progressing the search for a cure has to be one of the most productive ways you can help your friend (and the rest of humanity that faces cancer risk).