Care package for someone with a life-threatening illness
February 22, 2012 7:06 PM   Subscribe

A wonderful friend was just diagnosed with life-threatening cancer recurrence. What can I send as a care package to support her and her family?

One of my oldest friends just learned that she has what will likely be a terminal cancer recurrence. Her entire approach to fighting this has been awe inspiring up to this point and I'm gutted for her and her family. Unfortunately I'm also many states away and unable to be useful in a day-to-day way for her or her family right now. A group of her friends have organized gift cards for prepared meals and are working on arranging for a cleaning service and I've been talking with her and listening as much as possible. I'd also like to send her a good old fashioned care package, but am at a loss about what to send. Reading is hard for her, and she and her family are weighing treatment options, so are not certain where she will be in the coming weeks.

I'm looking for ideas about things that might be silly and take her mind off things for a little while, without being too flip. I'm also trying to think of little comforts she could have with her either at home or in the hospital. I'd also love ideas for things I could include for her early school-age son and wonderful husband.

Ideas I've had so far include funny old pictures of us, music mixes, chocolates and beyond that I'm just getting stuck. She's not able to read well right now, so books and magazines are out.

If any of you have faced similar circumstances with friends or loved ones, what kinds of things did you wish you had at hand?
posted by goggie to Human Relations (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Maybe DVDs or audiobooks, so she can just close her eyes and listen?

When my father-in-law was in the last months of his cancer, and we knew it was terminal, he appreciated us just keeping him involved in our lives. If she's not up for phone calls, you could send email updates to her husband to read to her. We found that folks really mobilized at the beginning because it (understandably) seemed like an emergency, but after a while people were sort of at a loss. You can't drop everything for six months, and I think most people had a hard time folding this in with their everyday lives (even we had a hard time with it). Staying in touch during the months or years ahead will probably be very much appreciated.

You might also contact Gilda's Club and see if they have any tips.

I'm so sorry to hear this. It's good of you to want to help.
posted by elizeh at 7:25 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If she's going to be in the hospital, see if there are any (travel-sized?) toiletries that she likes and can tolerate (e.g. won't break out her sensitive skin or nauseate her with smells). My mom was recently in the hospital for a week and after about 5 days of using hospital all-purpose body wash and shampoo, her request was for "real" shampoo. The other thing she liked best was something to pass the time, especially when no one else was there. Since books and magazines are out for your friend, I'll second the idea of audiobooks, podcasts, movies, etc. Some really nice sock-slippers might be appreciated as well.

Regarding the audiobook/podcast idea, if she needs some super-comfortable headphones, SleepPhones were my Christmas gift to myself and I love them. They're really easy to fall asleep in, and if I want some light blocking, all I have to do is pull the headband down over my eyes.

The gift cards for meals are a fabulous idea - my dad and I ate horribly when my mom was in the hospital. Another idea is a gift card for a local drugstore in case she needs some OTC meds/wound supplies/etc.

Don't overlook the idea of a small stuffed animal.

For her young son, I would likely buy books and/or coloring books with crayons. If he's old enough, some activity books with puzzles and such might be a good distraction too.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:26 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My first thought is something really soft and comfortable and nice. A super soft and warm Pashmena? Luxury pyjamas? Cashmere socks? Something gentle and comforting she can have next to her skin.
posted by looli at 7:24 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We're doing the following with a friend of ours in a similar situation:

- Loaned DVD box sets
- Purchased one-off DVDs, especially of cheesy stuff from teen years--in this case the 80s
- Nail polish/makeup, gift certificate for massages
- Homemade comfort food
- Junk food we know she loves and would feel guilty about eating in more ordinary times
- Silly hats! for when she loses her hair due to radiation
- Valentine's card from a group of friends with stupid photos of us plus LOLcats
- Homemade booze for her husband (take care of the caretaker too!)
- Just plain old emails telling her stuff like I thought of her when I saw a pair of shoes today

I'll be reading the thread with interest. I'm looking for more ideas, too.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 1:54 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

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