Wednesday, October 9, 2013

#GivingComfort -- Provide TLC to a Cancer Patient in Need by Sharing a Giving Comfort Care Kit with Them #Sponsored

Disclosure: This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Giving Comfort blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are mine and mine alone.


"This year, more than 1.6 million people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer. Hundreds of thousands struggle to pay for basic needs, leaving them unable to afford the comfort items that make treatment more bearable. Giving Comfort, a nonprofit program of the McKesson Foundation, provides patients in need with Comfort Kits."  I was sent a a Giving Comfort kit to share with a cancer patient as part of this paid SocialMoms and Giving Comfort blogging program.  Read on to learn how how cancer personally affected me, and how these Comfort Kits mean the world to those battling cancer.

While the above statistic ("1.6 million people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer this year), is startling, I became part of this statistic back in 2008, when I was diagnosed with stage 2 nasopharyngeal carcinoma, after spending the year earlier trying to find doctors to biopsy a mass I found in the back of my throat.  A handful of doctors looked at it and said it was nothing, while others flat out said that I was not a candidate for cancer.  Not a candidate?  How did they know this?  Do they not keep up on the studies and reports released about young adult cancer cases?  When I finally found an ENT in CT that agreed to take out my tonsils and adenoids, as well as the mass, I finally thought I would get an answer to my concerns.  And, low and behold, right before the holidays in 2007, my life changed forever.  

If you have ever been on the receiving end of a phone call or sitting across from a doctor that speaks the words "You have cancer," then you know how I felt.  Or, if you have been sitting next to a family member who received these words, then you know how my parents and husband felt, when I mustered up the strength to call them after finding out the news, and asking them to come home to be with me.  I still remember "the call" and how I felt.  It is weird how the world around me seemed to stop.  While I knew the doctor said "cancer" I didn't want to believe.  How could a 28 yr. old healthy person have cancer?  What had I done to become a statistic?  None of my family had this rare form of cancer?  So, why was I the lucky one to get it?  So many thoughts went through my head, as well as emotions that ran from sadness, hopelessness to angry.  What was I going to do?  Would treatment work?  After seeing close family and friends battle cancer and succumb to disease, I was more afraid than ever about how my cancer battle/journey would turn out.

I will not lie.  I talked to my parents about death and if I did pass away how I wanted to either have my ashes scattered in blue/green (which I had never seen, but hoped to one day -- still waiting.) or be buried in RI near the ocean under a blooming tree.  They never wanted to hear me talking about this, but knew that it was something you had to discuss, just in case.  I remember right before treatment started, all the paperwork the doctors had me sign in regards to the radiation and chemo treatments and how I would not hold them liable in case something happened to me.  In addition, I had to have a health care proxy and advance directives on file...again, just in case.  There were so many "just in case" instances that had to be accounted before, way before the treatment could start.

Finally in March 2008, I started 8 weeks of daily radiation to my head and neck.  I will save you from hearing about radiation treatment, as it not a pretty thing to experience, let alone having it done to your head and neck.  In addition to radiation, I also had 3 months of high dose chemo treatments.  After the first round of chemo, they had to adjust my dose because I started developing ringing in the ears and neuropathy in my hands and feet.  By the time May rolled around, my radiation and chemo treatments were done, and now it was just a waiting game.  I had to give my body a few months to heal before scans could be done to see if the cancer was gone.  Prior to treatment starting, I had a port a cath and feeding tube  put in, which were lifesavers, as I couldn't eat after the third week of radiation, and relied on my feeding tube in my stomach to get the nutrients and medicine I needed to stay strong and continue my fight.  I would have to wait until Nov. to get both of these taken out.

If you have ever had cancer, or know someone who has/does, then you know how stressful waiting for scan results is.  The time leading up to the scans is also stressful, as you want to know what is going on, but then as you lay in the machine getting your scans done, you can't help but wish you didn't have to go through this anymore.  I still go every 6 months for scans, and dread the time before the scans, and the few days after that I have to wait until I see the doctor.  It is not until he tells me there is no signs of new cancer and spots they are watching remain the same size and are not cause for concern, that I can breath a sigh of relief and go about my "new normal life" until the next round of scans.  I have talked with cancer survivors who have been out of treatment and remission for 10+ years, and they still dread their annual appointments and follow up scans.  It is amazing how one scan or test can change your life forever.

While I am happy to report that I was deemed in remission, after being 5 years of cancer treatment with clean scans and no sign of new cancer forming this past July, there are still many people that I know who are still fighting a courage battle or just learning that they or a loved one has cancer.  And, a few people also weren't as lucky as me, and passed away after courageously fighting for their "new normal life" after cancer.  Through my entire cancer journey, I was able to connect with family and friends on a whole new level.  Sadly, when you begin your cancer journey, you learn who really cares about you and matters in your life.  During my journey, I had a friend send me a card in the mail each day.  I remember coming home from treatment to find  humorous card waiting for me.  She had the cards numbered like a countdown, to let me know that there was an end in sight, and soon enough my treatments would be over.  Another friend sent along a care package that contained puzzle books, mediation CDs and lemon drops -- all things that came in handy during my 5-6 hour chemo treatments.  Others would cook meals and bring them over to my parents, who I was staying way to be close to Dana Farber in Boston.  While I couldn't eat the food myself, my parents, who were my caregivers, needed to keep their strength up, as they would stay up around the clock with me, and help me when I didn't have the strength to help myself.  We oftentimes forget about the caregivers, who are the support system for cancer patients.  It was not until I finished treatment and was on the healing pass, that I could see how much my family sacrificed for my cancer care.  My father had retired from his job, so that he could drive me into Boston daily, and be home to help care for me.  My mother used most of her vacation and personal days to also be home when treatment took a toll and I wound up in the hospital with an infection,  While I was feeling lousy and weak due to treatment, they were also burning themselves out from lack of sleep, worrying about me, all while trying to maintain their personal and professional lives to keep a roof over our heads and the bills paid.

As I look back on my cancer journey, the one thing that I find that got me through it all was the comfort and support of others.  Like I said, simple care packages and cards received daily really did brighten my mood and lift my spirits.  I still have a shoe box on my shelf in my closet with all the cards I received from friends and family during my treatment.  While I threw out the sweatpants and loose fitting tops that I had bought and wore to my radiation and chemo treatments, I couldn't throw away the trinkets and cards I was given.  These comforting gestures really made my treatments more bearable.  So, when I heard about the Giving Comfort, a nonprofit program of the McKesson Foundation, and how they give comfort kits to cancer patients in need free-of-charge, "through a network of Distribution Network Partners, which include cancer treatment centers, hospitality houses, and support communities. Giving Comfort also offers Kits for sale through their e-store, with all proceeds going toward Kits for those in need.  These Care Kits are cancer care packages filled with essential items that help ease the discomfort caused by treatment. And, based on the age and gender of the cancer patient, there are different types of comfort kits for their cancer journey.  Here are just some of the Comfort Kits available for purchase online --

Younger Boys/Girls Essential Kit

Kit includes: Custom children's design pillowcase, Fleece throw blanket, Sleep cap, Socks with Grippers, Animal crackers, Toiletry bag contains Burt's Bees Lip Balm, Toothpaste, Extra soft toothbrush, Hand Sanitizer, Unscented lotion, Magazine voucher for 1 year free magazine, Custom coloring book w/pack of crayons, Playing cards, Stuffed animal, Bouncy ball, Back Pack. Kit packed in Back Pack.

Teen Boy/Girl Care Kit 

Girls Kit includes: Sage Plush Rolled Blanket, Pink foldaway shopper, Military style khaki cap, Dream Journal, $10 iTunes Card, ear buds, Queasy Pops, Hand Sanitizer, Burt's Bees Lip Balm, Simplicity Water Bottle (purple accent), Pink Grapefruit Bissinger's Gummies. Kit packed in custom Giving 
Comfort Gift Box.

Boys Kit includes:  365 Brain Games (book), $10 iTunes Card, ear buds, Striped beanie, Black Cinch Bag, Grey Plush Rolled Blanket, Queasy Pops, Hand Sanitizer, Burt's Bees Lip Balm, Blue Aluminum Water Bottle, Blueberry Bissinger's Gummies. Kit packed in custom Giving Comfort Gift Box.

Thinking of You Care Kit

Kit includes: Blue Plush Rolled Blanket, Courage Journal Book, Relaxation CD,Burt's Bees Lip Balm, 'Get Happy' Tea Tin, Water Bottle Infuser. Kit packed in custom Giving Comfort Gift Box.

Caregiver Kit
Kit includes: 'Get Happy' Tea Tin, Water Bottle Infuser, Relaxation CD, White Waffle Spa Wrap (heat and aromatherapy), Light Green Stress Reliever Ball, Things I Wish I'd Known (book). Kit packed in custom Giving Comfort Gift Box.

Click here to see all the Comfort Kits available for purchase --

As part of this paid SocialMoms and Giving Comfort blogging program, I was able to choose a comfort kit to receive and share with someone who was battling cancer.  I ended up choosing the Women's Harmony Care Kit, which included the following: a cream velour robe, Black Quilted Tote Bag, Head Wrap Scarf, Hope Journal, Aromatherapy Eye Pillow, Queasy Pops, Hand Sanitizer, Burt's Bees Beauty Kit, Light Green Stress Reliever Ball, Relaxation CD, Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips (book), Water Bottle Infuser, 3 Tea Sampler. Kit packed in Black Quilted Tote Bag.

At first I was planning on bringing the Women's Harmony Care Kit to Dana Farber yesterday when I had a follow up appointment with my doctors, to hand out to a cancer patient I saw in the waiting room, I ended up surprising an elderly neighbor who just found out her bone cancer had come back.  I chose not to share photos of my exchange with her, due to her wish for privacy during this time.  But, I can share that she was overjoyed when she saw the bag.  Now living alone after the passing of her husband a few years back, the simple gesture of a comfort kit meant the world to her.  She said that while she still has family, they live far away and can't be with her at this time, just knowing that others are praying and thinking about her, makes her want to stay strong and fight her cancer battle with courage and perseverance.  I know that the care packages, cards and phone calls I received meant the world to me, and let me know that I was not alone during my cancer journey.  And, with Comfort Kits like the ones available from the McKesson Foundation, others having to become part of the 1.6 million new cancer patient statistic will finally be able to have access to comfort products that they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford, to help make their treatment more bearable. 

If you know someone who is battling cancer, why not surprise then with a Comfort Kit from the McKesson Foundation?  You will never truly know how appreciate they will be, until you hear them speak from the heart about how you helped them through this difficult time, and how your simple gift provided encouragement and showed them just how much they are loved.  We oftentimes forget to let others know how much they mean to us, until it is either too late, or a medical illness arises bringing family and friends closer together.  Giving Comfort makes the world of difference for both the person giving the gift, and for the person receiving the comfort care items.

Thank you for taking time to read my cancer story, and hopefully, you will slow down and reconnect with those you love, to remind them just how much they mean to you.  And, if you know someone who is battling cancer, or even a caregiver to a cancer patient, why not reach out, and offer your support.  Just knowing you are there will mean the world to them. :-)

Click here to learn more about the Giving Comfort program, or to order a Comfort kit

About Giving Comfort: 

Giving Comfort, a nonprofit program of the McKesson Foundation, fights cancer with comfort. Working with healthcare partners across the U.S., they help provide cancer patients with Comfort Kits. Filled with soothing and useful items, Comfort Kits reach patients at their time of greatest need – during cancer treatment. One hundred percent of individual donations to Giving Comfort go directly to providing Comfort Kits to patients. Founded in 2012, Giving Comfort has already distributed more than 14,000 Comfort Kits in 33 states. To learn more, visit them at

For more information and to see how it works, please check out:

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 Disclosure: This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Giving Comfort blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are mine and mine alone.

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