Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease such as breast cancer is already stressful on its own. Plus, chemotherapy can cause nausea and messes up the appetite, sleep, immune system, digestion, weight, hormones, libido and energy levels.
And since the Holidays are just around the corner and it's the season of giving, I'd like to encourage you to do something good for someone before the year ends by surprising the women you know who are diagnosed with one of these lovely gifts... especially if they're doing the big 3: chemo, surgery and radiation. These goodies can definitely be useful and can bring a smile in a very challenging time in their lives.
1) Aromatherapy Oil Diffuser and/or Therapeutic Oils. My cousin sent me this as a gift right before treatment started and I've been hooked ever since! They've been helpful in my journey even until today. I use lavender oil to help me relax and sleep, eucalyptus or peppermint oil to manage dizziness, lemongrass oil to feel inspired and sweet orange oil to boost a low mood.
2) Scented Candles. Just like aromatherapy oils, scented candles give a therapeutic effect because of their appealing smell. Their light also sets the perfect mood for meditation, prayer and/or a hot, long, relaxing bath.
3) Epsom Salt Bath. This is magnesium sulfate supplement in the form of a hot bath. My acupuncturist and masseuse advised me to do this during the the first few days after each chemo infusion and after I get a deep tissue massage. It flushes toxins, improves sleep, relieves pain, and produces serotonin.
4) Head Accessories. From cool bandannas, to chic head scarves, to baseball caps with encouraging captions, to hip fedora hats, to radical wigs, to cozy beanies... these are just some of the many possible things you can give to someone who's about to temporarily lose her hair to chemo. Each woman has a different preference so best to do a bit of research about the her personal style first or you can surprise her with what you think will look great.
5) Beauty Basket. This can include cuticle oil for the nails and toes since chemo makes them very dry, a good brand of body oil or body lotion to keep the skin hydrated, a non-drying hand sanitizer to stay germ-free since the immune system is compromised, petroleum jelly or chap stick to keep the lips from cracking, baby shampoo for the hair growth after chemo, a mild facial cleanser made for dry skin to gently clean the face and still retain natural moisture, and Biotene mouthwash to prevent dryness of the mouth.
6) Make Up Bag. Pale skin, hair loss, bloating, dry skin... these are just some of chemo's nasty effects that can cripple a woman's self-esteem. Products like false eyelashes with an easy-to-use glue, eyebrow make up kit or pencil, natural looking blush and bronzer, tinted facial moisturizer, lip balm with a hint of color, and body shimmer can make the patient feel that there are still ways to look beautiful even while on treatment.
7) A Bad Ass Blender. Making green smoothies is one habit I've gotten into since my diagnosis that I've carried on until today. It's the easiest way to consume lots of fruits and green leafy vegetables that are beneficial to overall health. These smoothies boosted my recovery period in each round of chemo so I'm definitely an advocate. My favorite blender brands are Blendtec and Vitamix, expensive ones but worth it because they're a one-time investment that you can use for a very long time.
8) Castor Oil or Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. These babies are proven to promote healthy hair growth. I've been using Castor Oil since my hair started growing back and it's been amazing so far! It's been coming out healthier, thicker and shinier. Extra virgin coconut oil is also a great alternative to this.
9) Tea Bags. Ginger and honey tea does major wonders for nausea and digestion. Chamomile tea aids in sleeping big time. Green tea is very good for detoxing. Guyabano tea helps fights off cancer cells. The list can go on and on but these are my personal picks.
10) Art Materials. Making art is very therapeutic and distracting. It's the perfect time for the patient to release her inner artist that she has probably set aside when the grown-up life took over. You can choose among the following: adult coloring book with pencils/pens, sketch pads with watercolor or acrylic paint, knitting set, crochet/embroidery kit, scrap book materials, vision board or collage materials or bullet journaling tools.
11) Inspirational Books. Reading stories that inspire, empower or any beautiful memoir that demonstrates turning a minor setback into a major comeback can help the patient feel uplifted during down days. If she is spiritual, books about meditation or Christian writings such as The Daily Bread can encourage her to nurture and rekindle her relationship with the Higher Being, which is very important at such a crucial time.
12) Jigsaw Puzzle, Crosswords and Board Games. These activities are great distractions, can kill a lot of time and at the same time, improve concentration. I always carried crosswords or word games with me while doing chemo to keep myself busy and focused somewhere else, which lessened my anxiety and impatience for the treatment to be over. Board games also encourage bonding and connecting with loved ones.
13) Food Cravings. I was lucky to have people prepare food for me while undergoing chemo. I craved for sinigang, arroz caldo and nilaga to name a few. As a gift, my tip is to ask the patient if she has any cravings at the moment and get it for her. It's an effort to eat during treatment so she will really appreciate it if you bring her something she specifically requested for.
14) Flowers with Hand-Written Cards. I can never get enough of these because they are such sweet gestures! Even at the midst of feeling down, helpless, weak and ugly, pretty flowers delivered in my door step with a hand-written message from the heart just makes any woman's day beautiful, whether she's sick or not.
15) Your Time and Attention. Take time to visit her or if you're far away, set up a video chat date. Give her your full, undivided attention. Listen to her talk, exhale, laugh or cry without any judgment. Give her a long, tight hug. Tell her you truly believe in her healing. Assure her that you're there for her all the way. Your love, presence and support can sometimes be more than enough and turn out to be the best gifts you can ever give.
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