Monday, December 10, 2012

'Tis the Season: 16 Holiday Gift Ideas for Caregivers and Survivors

People are so compassionate and caring by nature. It’s incredible. One of the very first things I hear from everyone who finds out about this little adventure we’re on is, “Oh my gosh, I just don’t know what to do or say or how to help. Tell me what to do! I want to do something for you guys!” It blows my mind open every time that they care so much.

The first and most important answer is just that by putting your healing, positive thoughts in motion, and sending those good and positive healing energy on a daily basis, you are doing the most important thing you can do for survivors and caregivers. My advice is to do that first, and keep doing it, every single day as part of your daily practice. Don’t waste any time on the bad thoughts. Think only the good ones, and keep them flowing on. And, when you can, send a note along once in awhile to let them know you’re still doing it. Healing thoughts and prayers are the most powerful juju you can send into the universe for anyone.

Now, with the holidays upon us, I know we’re all also looking for ideas to do something meaningful and show we care about the people we love. And, for those of us recently brought into the can’t-sir tribe, it’s admittedly a bit of a strange time. Many of the scents and tastes we love no longer appeal. Or, we just don’t want to ruin them forever, so we’re abstaining (yes, chocolate, I’m talking to you!) Some activities we love to do, but, we simply can’t do right now, due to where we're at in our healing journey. And, our caregivers, well, goodness, I think the best way to capture that would simply be to say their worlds are pretty much completely upside-down!

So, I’ve been thinking about some of different types of gifts to get for patients with triple negative breast cancer, and for those who care for them. If you are looking for some tangible gifts, I hope these give you a few unique ideas.

(Note: I’ve made some vendor recommendations to get you started, but please know, I believe in shopping local and making as much of your own stuff as possible, so if you’re into that as well, I hope you’ll just use these as ideas to get you going in that direction!)

#1 -- Detox Bath Basket: A detox bath is an amazing way to relax for both survivors and caregivers. Go back to basics, with ingredients like Epsom salts, baking soda and Vitamin E Oil. You might even include a bottle or two of electrolyte enhanced water in good non-toxic bottles, or some detoxifying tea. Strong scents and highly perfumed goodies are typically too overwhelming during treatment (plus, highly toxic in their own right!), so try to think organic and natural and don’t go in for anything super flowery or fruity unless you’ve talked with your person and know they can stand it right now. Here’s a good basic tutorial if you’ve never prepared a detox bath before to give you a sense.

#2 -- Juice and Raw Food Cleanses: Past making my own fresh juices, one of my favorite juice cleanses is from Cooler Cleanse. There are many great companies out there, and depending on your area, you may have a local provider you can go through to ensure the freshest juice possible. Juice and raw food cleanses don’t need to only be used as meal replacements, and can also be added into a day, week or ongoing plan for healthy eating. I love my fresh raw juices and foods every day, and so does my husband, but making any food can be a lot of work, especially on high-fatigue days. Sending the gift of juice in a box is like ensuring both caregiver and patient will have all their vitamins and minerals for the day, week or month! Yay for vibrant health! (Note: You may want to check in to confirm your person is allowed raw food and raw juice and adjust accordingly. Some can’t-sir diets are very strict and don’t allow raw foods.)

#3 -- Headscarves: Beaubeau scarves are like the Cadillacs of chemo scarves, because there’s basically nothing you need to do but put them on and go to have them look beautiful, and they come in so many different and lovely choices. I have to admit to coveting them for the last couple of months. I think they really pay off in terms of form and functionality. Of course, there is no end to other scarves you can pick up. Check out my headscarf post for ideas on sizes, shapes and fabrics. Trust me, you can never have too many chic head coverings! Especially in winter.

From Healing Threads
#4 -- Arm Covers for Lympedema Survivors and Pict Line Wearers: If your survivor has a pict line or is living with lymphedema, Lymphedivas and Sleeksleeves offer some beautiful and fashionable coverings that can be worn during the healing journey. They come in all kinds of cool fabrics and patterns, sizes and shape, perfect for accessorizing. They’re great for increasing wardrobe flexibility and making it easier to stay moving and active -- so important for all of our can’t-sir luchadors out there!

#5 -- Recovery and Outpatient Wear: It is super hard to find specific, comfy clothing for use during procedures and treatment. I think Healing Threads offers some of the better options in recovery wear for those coming through mastectomy, designed with comfort and discretion in mind. Though I don't own one yet, I particularly like their treatment robes, since survivors get to go in for so many outpatient procedures. Putting on one of these would be so much better than the ubiquitous paper cape!

#6 -- V-neck Tops for Port Access: I’ve had trouble finding port-specific tops that are also also fashionable, so I just choose to find my own v-neck tops and throw a cardigan over them. I’ve found that’s the easiest and warmest solution so far, and it means I don’t end up wearing a track-suit. (No offense, track suit wearers. I just can't pull it off!) The best tops don’t have too deep of a V, but are stretchy and loose enough the port can be easily accessed. These tops from Victoria’s Secret are my favorite right now, though they’re a little more slim fitting than I like, so I buy one size up. But the price is right, the material is soft, and they're a little more fashionable than a regular square t-shirt.

Sorry. Couldn't resist.
#7 -- Stretchy Pants: Nacho Libre had it right! We all need our own pair of stretchy pants, caregivers and survivors alike. My latest discovery is cashmere infused pants. I bought these bell-bottom pants, and they are one of the best gifts I ever gave myself because they are so warm and soft. Leggings and stretch pants also work great for treatment and procedure days -- like MRIs, where you can’t wear anything with metal fasteners (so nice to get to keep your pants ON for a change!) -- and they are particularly nice for anyone undergoing treatment during a cool time of year. So comfy!

#8 -- Fuzzy Blankets: One of the best gifts I got from one of my amazing posse was this sherpa blanket from Target. My hubs and I loved it so much (as did the cat and the dog), we went out and bought a second one! Now one goes with me to chemo and gets immediately washed upon returning home, and we have a second one ready to go for post-chemo snuggles on the couch. The small size is really great for portability and sitting in the chemo chair for hours, and soft and easily washable is where it’s at for treatment blanky options!

#9 -- Comfy PJs and Slippers: Some of the best gifts I received from my posse have come in the form of PJs and slippers. You can’t really ever have too many during the healing journey! My work team even sent me an awesome surprise of PJs in a box from Pajamagram, which was as fun to open as it was to start wearing. (Just be sure to remove all those little silica gel packets before you put them in the washer and dryer. Oops!) I recommend warm, long, oversized soft pants and roomy tops, and big, easy to squeeze into slippers or booties. Tight stuff is not our friend right now. But you’ll know your survivor best. What a great gift for caregivers, too, who likely find themselves at home lounging more than usual.

One of the only nonprofits
focused on Triple Neg.
#10 -- Donation to Charity: Making a gift to a great cancer charity that is working for survivors goes a long way. I recommend thinking first about small and local organizations like The Lydia Project, who are actively doing work for survivors every day, or something specific to the type of can’t-sir your person has, like The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. I know the "big pink" organizations are the easiest, but they really are so big, your donation may not be as impactful as it can be for small charities, so it's just something to think about. Here are some more charities to consider, large and small, if you need some ideas. The main thing here, I think, is to try to find a way to make it personal and meaningful. I received a short note telling me some background about a donation that was recently made in my honor, and the story absolutely made me cry. It was so lovely to understand why the donation was important to my posse, and to see how much bigger the work we're doing together is. I love that!

#11 -- Journal Kit: How great is it to receive a full journal kit complete with a beautiful new book, a nice pen, even fun things like tape flags and stickers and cute post-it notes?! I admit, I'm obsessed, but I think it’s just the best, and again, great for caregivers and survivors alike. Personally I love the idea of this one from Urban Outfitters, even if it would be for dreaming and planning post-treatment!  And check out this one, which has a lovely uplifting theme and great thoughtstarters! I also like this one, because 5-year anniversaries are so important. And, this format keeps it simple. Jot down some thought starters of your own, add some handwritten journal prompts and a few words of encouragement in, and it’s even better. Again, a great gift for survivors as well as caregivers.

#12 -- eReader and iTunes Gift Cards: The miracles of technology! It probably goes without saying, but having immediate access to new books and media is a real gift for caregivers and survivors who spend hours at a time waiting around. Never having to go to the bookstore is even better now than it was before!

Ooh, crafting through chemo.
Some of the blurry cards I made this year.
#13 -- Craft Subscription Box: I’m a big believer in art and craft as healing practices. But I never knew crafts can be delivered right to your doorstep! Now that I've learned this, I may never go back. There are many great companies out there that offer monthly craft subscription delivery services for different kinds of crafts, and they include everything you need to do a project from start to finish. Check out Whimseybox for starters, or google “craft subscription box” for more ideas. If monthly is too much, then hit up your local craft store and make your own! Just be sure to give the recipient the full works, to make it easy to get from start to finish for caregivers and survivors. There's almost nothing more depressing than having to get dressed to go to the craft store for one last piece of stick 'um at 7pm.

#14 -- Raw Food Snack Box: I also only recently discovered that there are companies offering regular delivery of raw snacks. What an awesome addition! Find one you like and send an array of delicious, nutritious food that can be enjoyed on the go by survivors and caregivers. Perfect for carrying along to treatments and long appointment days! Healthy Surprise does a pure “snack box”, and Rawvolution is one company that does both whole meals and snacks. (Again, for any raw foodstuffs, just make sure your people are okay to eat raw as part of their diet.)

My head, post-henna crown.
#15 -- Private Henna Session: After my experience receiving a henna blessing, I really feel that henna heals! And even if your survivor or caregiver doesn’t need or want a crown, henna placed on other parts of the body is an equally healing and nurturing experience. Find a local henna artist in your area and line up a private one-hour session to relax and enjoy feeling pampered and beautiful. You may also be able to get a referral in your area through Henna Heals, a Canada-based group who are doing a lot to bring Henna healing to the forefront. Their Facebook page is a great place to start.

#16 -- Reiki Sessions: Not surprisingly. as a Reiki Master Teacher myself, I’m a huge advocate of Reiki for stress relief, relaxation, and healing. In addition to self-treatment, I now go every other week myself to see my Reiki Master Teacher, Denise Sheehan, of Sage Spirit Coaching and Reiki, as part of my can't-sir healing journey. I believe in it so strongly for can’t-sir thrivers and caregivers because of its non-invasive, through-healing nature and detoxifying energy. Unlike other therapies, Reiki can be done hands-on or hands-off, and does not require manual manipulation of the body, so it can be enjoyed as a pure, relaxing experience even if the recipient is achy and sore. I always leave feeling energized and ready for my day. The best way to find a local practitioner in the area is through word of mouth at spas and through other holistic healers, or do a search on Google. Some practicitioners are listed on at the International Center for Reiki training, so that’s also a good place to start if you need to find some resources in your local area.

Got a great gift idea for caregivers and survivors? Please share it in the comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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