Best Breast Cancer Care Packages for a Cancer Patient
This year, the American Cancer Society reported over 3.8 million American women living with breast cancer. Every patient’s case is different: some might need chemotherapy or radiation to shrink their tumor; others opt for a lumpectomy if they get an earlier diagnosis, while few women undergo mastectomies for extra precaution.
It’s incredible how one disease has so many possible outcomes. But the journey can be just as lonely and overwhelming for patients regardless of their journey. The first few months of my radiation therapy were emotionally and physically taxing on my body. Words can’t explain the mental battle women face to reconcile the rapid changes cancer causes in our bodies. I was lucky to have my mom and husband around to support me throughout the most vulnerable stages of my diagnosis.
Carla E., who’s in and out of chemo, found the strength to navigate her breast cancer experience through her circle. “I couldn’t have done it without the gift of friendship—that made a huge difference in the outcome of my process.” Social support is crucial to cancer recovery.
So what do you do when you want to encourage your sick loved one but can’t be there in person 24/7? Get them a breast cancer care package!
What Should a Good Cancer Care Package Include?
They say a picture tells a thousand words, but so should a care package for a cancer patient. Here’s a general rule: the items in your gift should either uplift, inspire, or motivate your loved one. Of course, they could also have all three effects—the more, the merrier.
Your cancer care package for her could include practical items like hand sanitizers and masks; or gifts that alleviate the symptoms of chemo and radiation, surgical pain, and cancer-related anxiety.
But above all, empathetic words have the most heartwarming impact. Simple compliments can mean the world to a cancer patient and even more to a woman with insecurities about losing her breast.
There’s no universal list of products to include in a breast cancer patient care package. But learning about your loved one’s experience can help you select the best gifts to complement their journey.
Below, I give you the 4-1-1 on things to consider when shopping for a breast cancer patient. By the time we’re done, you’ll be able to create your very own care package!
Things to Remember While Buying a Breast Cancer Care Package
Whether you’re shopping for a mother, sister, daughter, or friend with breast cancer, it’ll help if you consider their:
1) Treatment Stage
Loose hospital gowns are great gifts for patients prepping for surgery—they’ll need relaxed clothing for the upcoming weeks of in-patient recovery. It sounds odd, but most people like receiving gowns because, otherwise, they’ll have to use disposal ones from the hospitals. Personalized gifts like these help lighten the mood in a gloomy hospital room.
Buying a gown is pretty basic. But cancer recovery is like a marathon: what works today may not be the best option tomorrow, making shopping more complicated. Most people think of buying fancy, padded bras for patients after surgery to cheer their spirits. But bra inserts can be uncomfortable for patients in the first weeks after an operation because their incisions are still healing.
Patients who just underwent a mastectomy might also be considering reconstruction or implant surgery. The fresh incisions can cause massive inflammation to their chest tissue. The good news is that the inflammation decreases as their body heals. The bad news is that their bra sizes will likely change too often to give them a chance to appreciate your gift.
Besides, stringy apparel is too complicated for patients to wear with chemo infusions connected to their chest. Even routine tasks like wearing a seatbelt can feel uncomfortable with infusion ports sticking out of your torso. In that case, a seatbelt cushion might be more valuable than a bra.
However, not everyone has a port inserted into their chest. Some of my friends received chemotherapy through a PICC line run through their arms. Those can’t get wet in the shower, so PICC line covers make excellent gifts.
Drainage bags are also practical items to include for patients who undergo mastectomies. I would tie the bags around my shoulder to carry my surgical drains so the tubes didn’t dangle around awkwardly through my clothing.
2) Body Changes
Patients who don’t opt for reconstruction surgery will need prosthetics and custom clothing to accommodate their new physique after the mastectomy. Prosthetics are worth the penny. Some women choose not to wear any add-ons, but for others, they’re a necesity after experiencing such a drastic body transformation. I paid about CAD $400 for mine. Not everyone can afford that comfortably, so getting friends to chip into the cost means a lot.
Many patients say that the prosthetic makes them feel hotter during the summer. I can attest to that, and believe me: your cancer patient will love you more for buying her cooler clothing and swimwear during those months. But beware of clothing with underwires, hooks, and other accessories that might obstruct drainage pipes or injure sensitive, healing tissue.
3) Side Effects
Chemotherapy and radiation can take a toll on cancer patients’ skin health. Calendula tea soaks, and medical-grade creams soothed my radiation burns. Radiation drugs also make the skin delicate and extra sensitive to sunlight. I stayed indoors for most of my recovery, but I’d never miss wearing some sunscreen before heading outside.
You could also throw in a bottle of all-natural coconut oil to keep your friend or family member’s skin moisturized, especially after long hours sitting under the air conditioning.
Not to get too sciencey here, but radiation drugs often decrease red blood cell count—the primary cause of anemia. Iron deficiency management can be tricky because some cancer patients get nauseous from mineral supplements. Carla, who’s also an Integrative Health Coach, uses a more natural alternative.”One thing that I could recommend is Spirulina to [boost] iron levels in the blood, [particularly] for those who don’t eat meat or prefer not to eat too much animal protein.”
4) Range of Motion Post-surgery
Post-surgical recovery can span several months. Most patients won’t be able to move their arms or get around on their own for the majority of that time. It would be great to include;
- sleeveless tanks;
- zip-up hoodies; or
loose shirts with deep armholes and pockets for patients to fit their surgical drain pipes.
A pack of scentless or hypoallergenic wipes is also helpful and may even be essential for patients early in recovery who still can’t move around to take full showers. They’ll use the wipes to clean their upper bodies.
It took me a few months to get back on my feet. And even then, my mom had to cut open large Ziploc bags and tape them on my body to hold my tubes while I was in the shower. Her technique worked like a charm, but it’s only effective with the help of a caregiver.
5) Treatment and Transportation Costs
If you’ve ever gotten sick, you’ll know that healthcare costs an arm and leg. Then imagine paying for frequent checkups, regular treatment, or radical surgery. Cancer is costly. So adding food delivery gift cards, mileage and gas cards, or other discounted home services to your package can really help patients manage monthly expenses.
6) Recovery Essentials
Light exercise has been proven to help relieve anxiety, improve muscle health, and boost cognitive function for cancer survivors. People don’t just wake up physically active one day. Survivors may need extra motivation to get moving after months out of commission. Comfortable activewear like sports bras and soft-soled sneakers would be great to include in a recovery care package for a cancer patient.
Essential oils are popular in the cancer community for relieving nausea, stress, and anxiety. Some patients use them to infuse bath water or gently massage sore muscles. But they’re fundamental for aromatherapy and meditation. Herbal teas, chocolates, and ginger and peppermint sweets work well to soothe upset stomach after rounds of chemoradiation.
By now, you should know I’m a big fan of customized gifts. Printed water bottles are one of my favorites because they’re useful throughout your loved one’s entire cancer journey.
Some patients actually prefer to wear fewer bras and padded clothing after their mastectomy, so be sure to ask them about their comfort level and personal choices before spending on items they may not use.
A better idea might be to include a gift card that they can use to do personalized clothes shopping. After all, they’ll know what best suits them at this stage.
Most chemotherapy patients develop cold sensitivity during their treatment. Hats, socks, and blankets keep them warm during appointments in cold offices and back home when they get an episode of the chills.
If you’re a spouse or partner, then buying matching pajamas or fluffy slippers can add a bit of romance to your gift.
Some women like wearing scarves after they lose their hair. Consider adding some print-outs of wrap tutorials that she could try out to make the experience more fun.
5 Best Breast Cancer Care Packages for Cancer Patients
Aren’t settled on a gift yet? Here’s a list of my top 5 recommendations for a breast cancer care package, each catering to a specific aspect of your loved one’s journey.
- Cancer Gifts - for comforting, self-care cancer packages
- Just Don’t Send Flowers - for soothing nausea-related cancer symptoms
- Spoonful of Comfort - for pampering gifts and personal care items
- Recovery Care Products - for healing post-surgical wounds with medical-grade products
- Amidira - for remedying the harsh effects of chemotherapy and radiation on the skin
Which one are you eyeing?