Giving Back to the Community: Chemo Baskets
Why I Support Chemo Baskets
Before I begin talking about chemo baskets I'm going to get a little personal as to why these are so important to me. Growing up someone in my family always had cancer, my grandma has had breast cancer four times, bone cancer, and lymph node cancer, luckily she is still alive many people are not so lucky. My mom has had breast cancer and cervical cancer, she first got it at twenty-nine and again at thirty-six. All of my aunts have had breast cancer and they weren't as lucky as my grandmother. During my young years I spent a lot of time with my grandmother while she was in the hospital, I'd sit with her after her surgeries and go with her to some of her chemo appointments. Seeing everyone else there always made me sad, especially the ones who were alone, and had nothing to do. When I was little I loved to crochet so I started bringing in hats and scarves, because my grandma loved them, she always wore my hats instead of a wig, and soon so was everyone in the chemo unit. After that I began reading into other things that would help chemo patients. I began making lotion when my grandma couldn't use store bought stuff anymore without breaking the bank on an expensive brand, and she loved it so I began including that in my donations. From there I began adding more and more things first asking my grandma if it was something she would have enjoyed to have while she was going through that. I was lucky enough to be able to hand them out to people individually, some hospitals won't let you, but they will accept them at the front to be handed out. I support these baskets so strongly because I was able to see how much they helped people and how happy it made them to receive these items.
What is a Chemo Basket?
A chemo basket is a basket, bucket, bag, anything full of items meant to help cancer patients. They range from things to do while they're receiving their chemo treatment, to relaxing items to wind down and make them less uncomfortable when they get home, to food items meant to help keep them from throwing up.
Even though the items are typically not super expensive they are still a lot of help to the patients paying all kinds of hospital bills and expenses especially if the cancer keeps them from being able to work. There are a few more expensive items that you can add if you have the extra money that can be very helpful to people who would be using them. The chemo baskets can be as expensive or as cheap as you want to make them. You can donate a 10$ basket or a 50$ basket, either way they WILL help someone.
Chemo baskets a great thing to donate because they offer immediate help to people going through chemo. Some of us don't have enough money for us to feel like our donation will be helpful, and some of us just are not sure whether or not the money we send will go towards helping patients. This way you can be sure your donation is used and helpful as you can drop them off right at the hospital and some places will even let you go back and give out your baskets face to face with the patients. These will immediately go to someone who can use it and it can make someone so much more comfortable.
Many organizations make these baskets and send them out to hospitals all over. If you make your own baskets you can donate them directly to hospitals or if you are close to someone who is going through chemo or someone who has a family member going through chemo you can donate to them. If you do not have time to make these baskets yourself there are several organizations that accept money donations to buy items for them, or to send them out, I will include links for two of them below.
What to Include in Your Basket
Here's some of the things that can be included in a chemo basket. You can include as many or as little of these items as you would like, no matter what these baskets can be a huge help.
Port softies- Port softies are a great thing to include. For those of you who don't know what those are, they're little soft packages to go over the port they get chemo through to keep seat belts from hurting it or making it bleed. These can be purchased or for generous crafty people out there they can be sewed, knitted, crocheted, or basically anything that will allow you to make it soft.
Warm socks- Hospitals are often cold, and when you receive chemo because of the weight loss and your body trying to keep up it makes you even colder. A nice pair of soft warm socks for them to wear around can make someone so much more comfortable during this struggle in their life.
Packs of gum- Chemo can leave your mouth constantly tasting gross and since the chemo often causes people to throw up gum is a good way to help keep the taste out of their mouth without them struggling to hold down food. Mint gum can also help settle their stomach to keep them from throwing up as much.
Soft scarves- This is for the same reason as the socks. Chemo makes you very cold so a nice soft scarf made from fluffy and warm material can be a huge help. For those out there who craft a nice soft brand of yarn crocheted or knitted can be great and cheaper. Make sure you use soft yarn though because chemo also makes your skin very sensitive.
Reading material- Chemo appointments can last a few hours. That's a few hours sitting in a room hooked up to a machine it can get very boring. A good book can be a great way to help the time pass.
Lip balms- Chemo causes sensitive and dry skin, and that applies to lips too. Chemo can make your lips very chapped, and so can sitting in the dry hospital.
Bottled water- This is usually available in vending machines near the chemo room but that water is much more expensive than getting a big 24 pack of water. Bottled water is great for chemo patients because it's something they can keep down easily and it helps when their mouth gets dry.
Puzzle books- A cheap puzzle book with word finds, crosswords, and other puzzles can also really help people pass the time while they're being treated.
Soft blankets- This can be a bigger project for those who like to crochet, knit, quilt, or whatever other method you like to do. This is one of the items that can bump the cost of the basket up, though it is very helpful to be able to cover up in the hospital or have a nice soft blanket at home to snuggle up with at night.
Healthy snacks- Some snacks are easier to hold down than other especially the more healthy ones. Some good options for food items include; almonds, peanuts, organic coconut, dehydrated mango, banana chips, trail mixes, and many other items. Typically the organic section at your local Walmart has a lot of good options.
Adult coloring books- Pencils should also go with this, but many books come with some colored pencils. This is just another time passer for those who enjoy it.
Tea- Tea won't do much while they're in treatment but it's a wonderful surprise to include for when they get home. A nice hot cup of relaxing tea can do someone wonders, especially before bed. Some good ones to include are; sleepy time teas (any kind), peppermint teas, tummy soothing teas, and just about any with relaxing effects.
Bath items- This is another one that isn't used while in treatment but can be a wonderful surprise when they get home. A nice relaxing bath with hydrating products can help someone feel so much better. This is another item that can be done by crafty people, homemade bath bombs are a good choice, same with homemade lotions, and soaps. When giving these products out though make sure ingredients are listed on the ones you make just in case of allergies. Also the chemo makes your skin sensitive so with bath bombs and soaps make sure you use lots of oil to keep it from drying their skin, and make sure the soap is superfatted and made correctly.
Soft hats- This is another warmth item that is great for a lot of reasons. They can wear it at home or while in treatment, and a lot of chemo patients lose their hair so they like to have a nice hat when you go out. This item is one I always like to include in my baskets because not only are you helping with comfort items, but it also helps with confidence and feeling normal.
Slippers- This is another warmth item and goes great for those who include nice soft socks in their baskets. This helps keep their feet warm and will be so much more comfortable than everyday shoes while they are receiving their treatment.
Of course there's also a lot more items that you can include in your basket. One that I see a lot is a handwritten or handmade card, another is wigs though that can bump the cost of your basket up a lot. See what works for you, and when donating these they can be given directly to a hospital, directly to chemo patients, or donated to chemo patients families to give to them. This is a wonderful way to be able to give back and help out in a much more personal way that donating money.