A Cancer Gift Guide

Earlier this week I realized it’s 2018. Let the jokes commence: I’m a little late to finally putting the correct date on my checks, right? Just in time to switch to 2019.

But here’s the thing – in December of 2008 I was officially labeled in remission from lymphoma. Ten years. It’s been a decade since I had cancer! TEN YEARS!


Just three years ago I wrote this piece about the fear that still remained at seven years in remission. And no, the fear never goes away completely. This year alone I’ve had two different biopsies for two other flavors of cancer (one a false alarm, one still questionable but I’ve already completed treatment so DON’T FRET). But to have the anniversary just sneak up on me like this a mere three years later? I think they might be on to something with that whole “time heals all wounds” thing.

But I have at least four friends navigating cancer at this moment. I’m betting you do, too. (Or maybe you yourself are dealing with a diagnosis. If so, I am so terribly sorry. It’s a shitty, shitty club and membership perks are nonexistent.) Since it’s the season for giving, I pulled together this quick gift guide:

Lots of treatments involve hair loss. Skin sensitivity is an issue, too. Keep their noggins warm and soothed with a hat from HeadCovers.com. Their styles sit lower and closer than most hats to completely cover the head. In the cold of winter, I often slept with a sleep cap. They have hats for men, women, and *hard swallow* kids. They have tied options, too, but in my experience the knots are uncomfortable. For everyday outings, this was my personal favorite:

In the same vein (because who doesn’t like an infusion pun?) a silk or satin pillowcase can make sleeping easier. I found cotton and flannel would always snag on my hair stubble and pull at my paper-thin skin.

Chemo targets rapidly reproducing cells…which, unfortunately, includes the cells in your mouth often resulting in mouth sores. This mouthwash is alcohol-free, gentle, and moisturizing. I found I could keep most sores away if I swished after every meal.

There are so many aches and pains that come with treatment. A heating pad can relieve some of those. Added bonus: when brought to treatments, warming the infusion site before the needle goes in can make the vein easier to find. Also coiling the excess tubing in the heating pad will raise the temperature of the medicine and will lessen the shock of it entering your veins.

If all of those feel painfully practical, you can find some quirkier versions of the pillowcases or heating pads on Etsy. And I’m a fan of almost everything Emily McDowell (a cancer survivor herself) makes. She has a whole line of things for the fighter in your life. But I’m especially fond of these books of postcards. Order some for yourself, then you’ll always have the perfect note onhand to let your loved one know you are holding them in your thoughts. That is the single best gift you can give.

I can think of one more thing that made my persoal journey easier. I still rely on it heavily for recovering from…well…everything. I bet you can guess what I’m going to say. And if you want to pair it with an easy learning tool, I love this book from Jumpin’ Jim Beloff. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. I started on a simple Mahalo and truth be told, it’s still my favorite one to play.

If you have other suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this old ukulele video seeing as how it’s Friday. When I recorded this, I was a mere two years in remission.

I know the holidays can be hard, with or without navigating cancer. In your darker moments, try to remember that every lap around the sun is a victory, that every day you survive, you win. And if your struggling, reach out for help. We will catch you.

Happy Merry Everything, my loves.