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Gifts For a Cancer-stricken Colleague Options
Priscilla86
Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2016 11:17:38 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 5/28/2014
Posts: 902
Neurons: 4,009
Location: Lavender, Singapore
I've just learned that one of my colleagues is currently battling breast cancer. She just underwent a double mastectomy and will start the chemotherapy next week. We sometimes exchange pleasantries but I am not close with her and have never worked with her (she's not on my team), but her husband is on my team so I've worked with him extensively.

I think they're in their 40s, and she especially, always looks so maternal. They don't have kids, though, and I've never really asked them why but I once asked her if it was something that they'd chosen, and she said no. She said God just hadn't blessed her with kids yet. I didn't press on because it seemed like too heavy a topic to discuss over company lunch.

They both are expats just like me, and I don't know if they have family members here but I asked him yesterday who was keeping his wife company at home and he said nobody. She's recuperating alone at home.

I have no experience dealing with cancer-stricken friends or relatives (thankfully) so I need suggestions on how to be of help. My first instinct is to not give food or flowers. I once had to be hospitalized and had no appetite whatsoever for anything other than mung bean shakes (something I normally don't drink), I'd imagine the effect from chemo will be much worse. Flowers are just too much of a hassle to take care f.

I want to give her something she could really use to get through her days, something soothing and uplifting. I've Googled the matter a bit, seems to me organic lotions and balms are a good idea since I've read chemo could make skin become extra dry and sensitive. And I've read chemo patients suffer from metallic taste in their mouths, any idea what to give her that could help her with it?

I'm also thinking of bringing some food for her husband, I've read a little TLC for the caregiver is also crucial. I'm thinking a homemade lasagna or casserole, something easy that he can just reheat.

Any other suggestion is welcome.

The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
Axel Bear
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 12:45:45 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 4/5/2015
Posts: 981
Neurons: 22,368


Hey Priscilla, a tragic situation...just be there for them but don't overwhelm.



Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite: Joseph de Maistre
Ravindra
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 1:59:36 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/23/2009
Posts: 654
Neurons: 41,049
Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Priscilla86, it's always heart-rending to see or hear such, regardless of the relationship or the acquaintance with the ailing. Axel Bear's thought, I trust, is the right.
I pray to Jesus to bless them.

When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That's when you can get more creative in solving problems.
Stephen Covey



Ravindra
ellana
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 2:26:49 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 12/19/2010
Posts: 671
Neurons: 126,161
Location: Roquefort, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, France
A friendly compassionate conversation goes a long way. Many people go through this difficult experience not always needing or wanting much from others. Tell them that you're concerned and available to help, and let them come to you.
omicrom
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 4:24:27 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 12/13/2013
Posts: 268
Neurons: 70,391
Location: Ourense, Galicia, Spain
http://www.choosehope.com/category/gifts-for-patients

I read your post and it reminded me a news post about the entrepeneur that was in the same situation as you are now. she launched her own range of support products for families and friends. hope it may help you, may be give you some ideas.
L.Rai
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 4:26:21 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/20/2014
Posts: 644
Neurons: 579,020
Location: Grover Beach, California, United States
Offer to visit and then just be there and listen. Often that's the best gift you can give, your time and the ability to listen to others.

"Your life matters more than you will ever know, so live it well"
BRODA ALBERT
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 6:26:55 AM

Rank: Newbie

Joined: 6/10/2015
Posts: 1
Neurons: 358,139
Location: Tamale, Northern, Ghana
If you are a prayerful person, you can also pray for them by name regularly. Prayer is often unseen but goes a long way to bring the 'daily miracles' we all do need.

I will be praying with them (and you too) from Ghana.
Hope123
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 10:32:08 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/23/2015
Posts: 6,964
Neurons: 40,458
Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Priscilla, sorry to hear about your friend.

I'll ask my friend - she just finished 6 months of awful chemo and is now doing radiation for NHL. She mostly slept and right now is sick to her stomach. I haven't seen her all week. She didn't want anything except a hug. She has her husband and they hired a cleaning person to help.

If you do give her something for her skin, make sure it is chemical free and organic. The volunteer ladies at the cancer centre here make little cloth hats and give them to those who lose their hair. My friend had several of different colors. If they don't do that at your friend's hospital and she is losing her hair once she gets started, you could look for one, maybe in the shop at any hospital.

Food for the hubby is fine. They both liked my famous homemade organic muffins. Another friend a year ago took one of my muffins each morning with her to eat while she was getting the chemo. She didn't get the nausea. They have meds now to counteract the nausea.

I think just continued support with a call or email is good, as people react at first but then forget. I send my friend jokes on the email and sometimes she will reply if she's having a good day. People just want to know you are thinking of them - whether they are sick or healthy.

Equality is when you see a person - not a label.
Priscilla86
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 11:29:50 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 5/28/2014
Posts: 902
Neurons: 4,009
Location: Lavender, Singapore
Thank you all for the kind words and suggestions.

Hope - I still don't know when I'll be visiting her since she will just be starting her chemo next week. I figure I'll just give her and her husband some space and time to adjust first. I'd imagine the first week or two will be rough when the effect of chemo starts to show, and I don't want to intrude - she will probably feel too vulnerable and as a relative stranger, I think my presence will be more of a burden than comfort.

I think you are right with the continued support. I'll try to do that when the time comes.

Do let me know what your friend says. Hope she's doing well.


The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
Hope123
Posted: Wednesday, September 28, 2016 11:59:20 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/23/2015
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Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
She answered my email today that she's not going to the TT BBQ tomorrow night as she feels queasy. So I emailed her back and asked her your question - but she is not one for much email even when well, so it may take a while till I see her in the hall. She was stage four Non Hodgins Lymphoma but they've got it down to some shadows on her spleen and the doc is happy so far. The radiation on the spleen is what is making her feel - her word - queasy.

I'll let you know if I get an answer. I do know when she was so sick she just wanted to be left alone. That's how I feel too when sick.

Equality is when you see a person - not a label.
Lotje1000
Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2016 2:02:06 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 11/3/2014
Posts: 872
Neurons: 378,554
Location: Gent, Flanders, Belgium
Offering support and saying you're there if they need anything, as everyone has responded, definitely seems to be the way to go. As you don't know the woman in question that well, I think it's good to start with focus on her husband who you know better. Caregivers are often forgotten when it comes to these situations, so it is important he feels supported as well.

If it comes to actually getting something, then I think perhaps a book or some music could be an idea (assuming you know her taste, of course. Perhaps the husband could suggest something). If she is sitting alone all day, reading might help her take her mind off things. If reading is too much, then perhaps some soothing music in the background could boost her spirits.
Priscilla86
Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2016 3:20:41 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 5/28/2014
Posts: 902
Neurons: 4,009
Location: Lavender, Singapore
Hope123 wrote:
I do know when she was so sick she just wanted to be left alone. That's how I feel too when sick.


I second this. Hence my reluctance to visit, at least for now.

Lotje - I was thinking about getting her an audio book because I think anybody has access to music nowadays. I'll look for something lighthearted and fun.


The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
Hope123
Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2016 11:53:49 AM

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Joined: 3/23/2015
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Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Hey I like the idea of something to listen to or watch or read - her favorite magazine subscription after asking her husband? Good thinking, Lotje.

All are just a little something to say I'm thinking of you in your time of trouble.

Equality is when you see a person - not a label.
Tovarish
Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2016 9:12:35 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/2/2009
Posts: 11,062
Neurons: 39,580
Location: Booligal, New South Wales, Australia
Sad to hear of your friends diagnosis Priscilla, I hope her treatment is successful.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago this December and started the merry-go-round of treatments, the oncologist and surgeon both
have me on six monthly assessments.

People do care and offer assistance constantly, but we dealt with it as a family because it does effect the entire family.

Little gifts of Guardian Angles were given to me as little presents, I am not particularly spiritual but I appreciated their thoughts and wishes, who knows those little

Crystal angles may be why I have been clear for the last few years.

Hope123
Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2016 10:06:12 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/23/2015
Posts: 6,964
Neurons: 40,458
Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
My friend says a natural body cream, tell her to listen to her body, and take it one day at a time. I guess she would like some more muffins because she says my muffins are amazing. ;) I'll have to bake tomorrow!

Tov, so glad you have graduated to six month recalls! Stay well!

Equality is when you see a person - not a label.
Tovarish
Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016 2:25:18 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/2/2009
Posts: 11,062
Neurons: 39,580
Location: Booligal, New South Wales, Australia
Thanks Hope, having cancer gives you a reality check, my priority has always been family first, but it definitely makes you focus on the day because none of us know about the future.
Priscilla86
Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016 3:32:44 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 5/28/2014
Posts: 902
Neurons: 4,009
Location: Lavender, Singapore
Hi, Tovarish - hope you are on the mend now =) May I know, after your diagnosis and first round of everything, how long was it until you'd adjusted to your new routine and was well enough to receive visitors?

Hope - Please thank your friend for me.

Anyway, since it might be months before I get to visit her, would it be okay to pass the gift to her husband or should I wait until I get to visit her and give them to her personally? I prefer the latter, though.



The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
Romany
Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016 11:33:20 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/14/2009
Posts: 12,872
Neurons: 39,250
Location: Brighton, England, United Kingdom

All your answers have been marvelous - and that 'Cancer sucks' t.shirt struck me as great. Once, when I was going through something horrific and people kept saying 'Be positive' and advising me to take my mind off it with books/films etc. someone just walked in and said. "What happened to you SUCKS"....and that I appreciated more than anything else. Because it really did and yet people were expecting me to ignore the sucky part of it and 'be positive'.

When my husband's bosses wife (so no, not a particularly close friend) got terminal cancer I discovered that the value of my visits to her had been that I encouraged her to actually talk about it and her fears and despairs etc. and commiserate with her. As well as having HUGE laughs. Seems having people visit because you have cancer, and then politely NOT discussing all that entails is not just stressful, but a waste of what time they have left. (Though of course, your colleagues wife hopefully, is going to make it through.)

If I were you I would indeed start passing on the odd little gift already: she's going to be feeling lonely and miserable, so to know that someone has her in their thoughts could be a terrific boost? Even if she's not up to actual visits.
Tovarish
Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016 10:48:22 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/2/2009
Posts: 11,062
Neurons: 39,580
Location: Booligal, New South Wales, Australia
Priscilla, my surgery was 3 days before Christmas, and I love Christmas, so I was a bit of a diva on Christmas Day and that is so unlike me, my enjoyment is cooking and

pouring great drinks.

I was placed in a chair with appropriately placed pillows and given the 'sit and stay' order.

So in answer to your question of when I was up to having visitors, it was when I got out of the car after discharge or daily treatment.
Tovarish
Posted: Friday, September 30, 2016 10:52:58 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/2/2009
Posts: 11,062
Neurons: 39,580
Location: Booligal, New South Wales, Australia
Rom, I have met my fair share of the "Poor me and Why me" types, and my answer has always been, 'Why not you or why not me'.

If you want a reality check go through an oncology ward in our Kids Hospitals.
MelissaMe
Posted: Saturday, October 01, 2016 10:59:48 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/10/2014
Posts: 5,366
Neurons: 342,748
Location: Gualala, California, United States
A Calvin and Hobbes comic book might be nice, if the person is a fan. It's very hard to concentrate. Sometimes I still get that way. Maybe even a childhood favorite children's book. I got a new copy of Heidi for myself when heavy reading was comparing different adverse reactions to chemotherapy drugs. :-(

An origami kit with origami paper and a large, easy to follow instructions for one single crane - the most recognized example. A notebook and some easy to use writing implements and let her decide what to do with it. A drawing pad and a couple of pencils. A coloring book and crayons! A kazoo. Simple stuff. Fun stuff. Silly stuff.

This is my only now.
Ashwin Joshi
Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2016 12:47:39 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/3/2016
Posts: 1,247
Neurons: 66,421
Location: Jandiāla Guru, Punjab, India
Prayer has miraculous effect. Take him/her to church, temple or any religious place of choice.

Me Gathering Pebbles at The Seashore.-Aj
Hope123
Posted: Saturday, October 22, 2016 11:48:09 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 3/23/2015
Posts: 6,964
Neurons: 40,458
Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Priscilla, don't wait. My friend died last Friday and was cremated Monday. We thought she was doing so well. I did get those muffins to her in time and took muffins, cookies, and meals of chicken soup to her husband of 52 years last weekend. There were a lot of tears in the building. She was a gracious lovely lady and we all miss her. Frigging cancer.

So many of our friends are gone and going. Sad. :(

Equality is when you see a person - not a label.
mactoria
Posted: Sunday, October 23, 2016 8:13:11 PM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 8/13/2014
Posts: 481
Neurons: 912,574
Location: Stockton, California, United States
See this thread is still going, don't know if Priscilla is still checking in for responses.

From both personal experience as well as career experience, my advice given the scenario you described (i.e. serious disease, co-workers involved, no kids and no close relatives, etc.) is to talk to your team member, the husband of the woman with cancer. Ask him how he's doing which may lead to him discussing how his wife is; if not, a soft, non-nosy question as to how she's doing might well provide you an opening to talk in more depth. If the husband and wife are really without close family, the husband may well need to just talk to someone about what he's feeling and what his wife is going through. If they are extremely private people, then he'll let you know to back off. But more than likely he'll want to talk.

What do seriously ill people and their spouses/family need? A sincere human touch, someone to listen, someone to sympathize and maybe empathize. In the course of talking you can just ask the husband if there is something you can do to help, something he needs help with, something his wife needs help with. A lot of people will thank you for the thought, thinking you're just being polite and don't really want to put yourself out...but if you really want to be of help to them, you should ask if they need something specific, as in: "can I help out by cooking a main dish for you two this week" or "does your wife have someone to talk to, I'd be happy to talk to her on the phone or visit next whatever-day". People who are very sick and their loved ones are often so tired, scared, stunned, they don't know what they need, so suggesting some things that you can do for them and letting the husband know you really want to help, is exactly what will help. Giving people in this kind of situation what you think up or what helped you once, without finding out if it's what they actually need, is not likely to be very helpful.

Prayer or wishing someone well are great but are not tangible when a person is feeling overwhelmed. People in the kind of situation Priscilla described sound like they have little support and could really use some actual, tangible help. Most people don't want nosy, invasive people asking lots of questions for selfish reasons, but they probably would appreciate real, tangible help that they've agreed they need. Even if the husband turns down your offer to do something specific, the fact that you put yourself out by offering to be involved will probably be comforting. Friends and co=workers are more and more in our spread-out societies becoming our families, so we need to help each other and put ourselves out a little bit for each other.
Priscilla86
Posted: Friday, October 28, 2016 9:55:37 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 5/28/2014
Posts: 902
Neurons: 4,009
Location: Lavender, Singapore
Hope123 wrote:
Priscilla, don't wait. My friend died last Friday and was cremated Monday. We thought she was doing so well. I did get those muffins to her in time and took muffins, cookies, and meals of chicken soup to her husband of 52 years last weekend. There were a lot of tears in the building. She was a gracious lovely lady and we all miss her. Frigging cancer.

So many of our friends are gone and going. Sad. :(


So sorry to hear this, Hope!! I would usually get email notifications if someone replied to my post but somehow I didn't. I must say I'm in shock even though I didn't know your friend at all, mainly because of the timing of it all. I had just asked on this forum and she gave some valuable answers through you and then she was gone...so sad :( Again, I'm so sorry for your loss. Terrible.

I'm glad I listened to all of the advice on here. I gave my friend a skin cream and lip balm (all organic and chemical free) and she and her husband were happy and very appreciative. I text her randomly, just to let her know that someone is thinking of her, and she, in turn, updates me on her progress. She's starting to lose her hair now, she's developed some rash on her chest, and she said her tongue feels raw. But she still sounds quite upbeat and positive, which is good. I'm going to visit her soon.


mactoria wrote:
See this thread is still going, don't know if Priscilla is still checking in for responses.

From both personal experience as well as career experience, my advice given the scenario you described (i.e. serious disease, co-workers involved, no kids and no close relatives, etc.) is to talk to your team member, the husband of the woman with cancer. Ask him how he's doing which may lead to him discussing how his wife is; if not, a soft, non-nosy question as to how she's doing might well provide you an opening to talk in more depth. If the husband and wife are really without close family, the husband may well need to just talk to someone about what he's feeling and what his wife is going through. If they are extremely private people, then he'll let you know to back off. But more than likely he'll want to talk.

What do seriously ill people and their spouses/family need? A sincere human touch, someone to listen, someone to sympathize and maybe empathize. In the course of talking you can just ask the husband if there is something you can do to help, something he needs help with, something his wife needs help with. A lot of people will thank you for the thought, thinking you're just being polite and don't really want to put yourself out...but if you really want to be of help to them, you should ask if they need something specific, as in: "can I help out by cooking a main dish for you two this week" or "does your wife have someone to talk to, I'd be happy to talk to her on the phone or visit next whatever-day". People who are very sick and their loved ones are often so tired, scared, stunned, they don't know what they need, so suggesting some things that you can do for them and letting the husband know you really want to help, is exactly what will help. Giving people in this kind of situation what you think up or what helped you once, without finding out if it's what they actually need, is not likely to be very helpful.

Prayer or wishing someone well are great but are not tangible when a person is feeling overwhelmed. People in the kind of situation Priscilla described sound like they have little support and could really use some actual, tangible help. Most people don't want nosy, invasive people asking lots of questions for selfish reasons, but they probably would appreciate real, tangible help that they've agreed they need. Even if the husband turns down your offer to do something specific, the fact that you put yourself out by offering to be involved will probably be comforting. Friends and co=workers are more and more in our spread-out societies becoming our families, so we need to help each other and put ourselves out a little bit for each other.


Yes, mactoria, I'm still checking in sometimes :)

Thanks for the reply. I have taken your and others' advice on here to heart, so far they've been really helpful. I want to be of help but I always have this reluctance because years ago, my grandmother got sick and the whole family, friends, and neighbors all got on her case until she lost control of her life, so until now I am always wary of imposing myself on others in this kind of situation.


The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
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