This holiday gift guide is for all my cancer warriors out there. Every cancer diagnosis is different. Every chemo journey will be different. But what isn’t different is the anxiety and fear that comes with tackling something that no one is ever prepared for. This list is made up of seemingly little things, but together they’ve made my cancer journey less scary. I hope it does the same for you or your loved ones fighting through a cancer diagnosis. Remember, just focus on the good, and the good gets better.
I wanted to share the things that have gotten me through this crazy #cancerlife thing, as well as tell you why exactly they helped. My hope is that it might help you, too.
The Breasties Hoodie
This is perfect for you, your breastie, a caregiver or supports the breasties!
Stupid Cancer Women’s Crew T-Shirt and Mens Crew T-Shirt
Stupid Cancer Makes young adult cancer suck less! This Stupid Cancer ZipUp Hoodie is perfect for the cooler weather! From their website: Runs small, so if you prefer a looser fit or are between sizes, you may want to size up.
Hand Cream and Body Lotion
Like my lips, my hands and really entire body were extra-dry during chemo. When a nurse at the hospital gave me this hand cream during my first infusion, I never let it out of my sight. And the same with this BeautyCounter Lotion. It became like a ritual, applying it right before my infusion and again any time I washed my hands or stepped out of the shower. The trick there (beauty advice, y’all!) is to make sure to do it while your hands are still wet. This helps lock in the moisture that’s already on your skin. Goodbye, chemo dry skin!
Starting at $8.99
The Giving Keys Necklace
This is something that was extremely touching for me and is making me emotional just writing about it. The Giving Keys necklace is a simple chain embellished with a key charm that’s been stamped with an inspirational word. The wearer is encouraged to pass it onto someone in a time of need. I had two friends send me their Giving Keys necklaces that I wore to every chemo appointment as a reminder that I had the strength 2 get thru today. Those five words have been a mantra for me going through this entire journey and will stick with me forever. As I start radiation, the necklaces are still around my neck. You can’t go wrong giving this as a gift either.
Starting at $40
When you’re going through chemo, the smell of saline or flushing the port after the nurse takes your blood and before the premeds are given can cause nauseous feelings. I was advised by another breast cancer survivor to pack peppermint oil (which some studies show can fight nausea) and keep it handy at my chemo infusions. This peppermint oil came in my chemo bag with me and I’m so glad it did. The nurses even got into the habit of saying, “OK, we’re flushing your port now, get your oil ready.” If peppermint’s not your thing, you can try another scent that you like or find comforting.
Everspring Peppermint Oil $7.99
Mountain Mover Leggings, $79
These are “buttery soft and compression” leggings that will be the go-to in your lounge wear.
This may sound impersonal, but I can’t tell you how many different gift cards I got that truly helped me out. I received plenty of Grubhub gift cards that saved me during the long doctor’s appointments and chemo infusions. I remember on my first chemo infusion, my husband came with me and we thought we’d packed and prepared everything for that day. Well, the one thing we didn’t do was pack a lunch. When it came time for us to eat, I still had about two hours left in my infusion but I didn’t want him to leave. So we pulled up the Grubhub app and had food delivered. It helped out immensely. Other gift card ideas: local grocery stores, Starbucks, or Amazon. I also had friends ask me, “Hey, what would you rather have, this card or that card?” This was very considerate, too.
National Breast Cancer Foundation Leaf Necklace
I bought this for myself after I finished chemo and just loved what it stood for. “Our founder, Janelle Hail, was inspired to start NBCF after reflecting on a brilliant fall leaf—a symbol of life, growth, and hope for the future. This vintage-styled, delicate brass leaf pendant on a 16 inch chain is the perfect way to subtly show support for NBCF’s mission,” according to their website.
Because some chemotherapy drugs can cause mouth sores, it’s important to keep moisture locked in those areas. My lips were extremely dry during chemo and lip balm helped immensely. I didn’t have any cracks or bleeding, which can be a common side effect. Plus, who doesn’t need lip balm?!
I love this Burts Bees Lip Balm pack starting at $10.99
Whether it’s to take to chemo or just to snuggle up at home, it was so nice to have a cozy blanket when I just needed to lay down. Though the Barefoot Dreams Blanket is an investment, it’s totally worth it. Or this Sedona House Blanket is a great option too!
Starting at $23-$130+
Cancer has a way of playing tricks on you. One day you’re crying at the doctor’s office and the next day you’re laughing over margaritas with your girlfriends (#truestory). It was when I started incorporating this gratitude journal as part of my morning quiet time that I found consistency in the way I approached each day. Instead of stress and worry, I trained myself so that the first thing my mind went to every morning was all the things I was grateful for in my life: my hardworking husband, my energetic and happy boys, my supportive family, hot coffee, and having my appetite back. When you focus on the good, the good gets better. And that it did my friends.
An Inspriational Chemo Bag
On my 35th birthday, my sister gave me a bag with a quote from one of my favorite actresses/philanthropists, Audrey Hepburn: “I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” I was diagnosed with breast cancer three days later. I have taken this bag with me to every doctor’s appointment, every chemo infusion, and every scan. It holds my essentials (which is, ahem, clutch, since you have a lot of stuff you’ll want to tote back and forth during treatment), but more than anything it’s a constant reminder to be strong when I don’t think that I can.
I love this Monogram Pouch as an option!
I did have another chemo side effect, however: a metallic taste in my mouth. When my sweet friend brought over a whole carton of these lemon-honey candies, it was the first time I found something that totally got rid of the unpleasant taste. I was so relieved that I packed them with me everywhere—my purse, in the car console, in my husband’s car, my kids’ backpacks. When I say everywhere, they came with me everywhere. Before I would eat, I would suck on the candy and it helped rid my mouth of the metallic taste so I could actually tolerate—and even enjoy—my food.
Magnetic Liner + Lashes and a Good Brow Pencil
This was a hard part for me—losing my eyelashes and eyebrows— but these two products helped me mentally and physically! It was just fun to play around with the different eyelash styles. Anything to make me feel like a woman again!
Starting at $9.99
A Good Read
A friend from high school whom I hadn’t spoken to in years sent me For Once In My Life by Colleen Coleman as part of a care package. It came about three weeks after I started chemo and it was the perfect timing because all I wanted to do was escape my reality for a little bit. I remember several nights after taking a shower and realizing my hair was falling out, I dried up my tears, wrapped up my hair, and settled in with this book. It was my mental break from thinking about baldness, appointments, tears, and explanations of complicated medical things.
Also, if you’re looking for a book about breast cancer but you’re so over the medical jargon, then Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Hope & Healing for Your Breast Cancer Journey is for you. My sister sent this book to me–it’s filled with inspirational stories from women who have gone through breast cancer. I smiled after reading each personal account. And a smile is something that is definitely needed during this difficult time.
If you followed me during my pregnancies you know that I used these QueasyDrops religiously when I was experiencing nausea. So when I started to feel nauseous during chemo, I went straight to these and they worked like a charm!
Did I miss anything? What would you add to this list? Would love to know below!
I also include most of these in my Top 9 Things That Helped Me Through Breast Cancer via HealthCentral and my Tales From The Chemo Chair column!
You can read my newest post on Breast Health: Getting To Know Your Normal here my post on Celebrating One Year as a Breast Cancer Survivor here.