Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Reader Recs: Kalindria Shares Her Recommendations for Cancer Patients

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 5.41.20 AMDear Wendy readers are some of the most intelligent, stylish, super-cool people around (it’s a proven fact), so it’s a no-brainer to feature some of their favorite products. Many of the recommended products happen to be affiliate products, which means I’ll receive a commission on any click-throughs or purchases you make through the affiliate links. As always, I appreciate your support! Today’s recommendations come from Kalindria, who is is a young-at-heart grandmother, writer, and dog lover who lives north of Seattle in a small town on Puget Sound with her longtime partner, Nick, and their dog, Ozzy. She recently retired as the global PR contact for the network security division of a major tech company and is enjoying time in with her grandchildren and writing/illustrating a book about Ozzy. Kalindria was diagnosed in 2013 with ovarian cancer and underwent fifteen months of chemo. She was cancer-free for two and a half years but recently had a recurrence. She’s now enrolled in a clinical trial and feeling great.

Kalindria reached out to me recently, writing: “Three years ago I wrote in the forum about my ovarian cancer diagnosis. Well, I beat it, but now it’s back. I’m about to start a new kind of chemo, a one-a-day pill. I am hopeful that I will kick it again.

My point is, I have become a resource for my friends who have a loved one diagnosed with cancer and want to know what they can give them to help them through chemo treatments. It’s a pretty specific audience, but I do have a list and would be happy to share it if you think other readers might be interested.”

I did, and she was kind enough to send over this amazing list, along with some advice and tips for speaking to cancer patients. First, her product recommendations:

This is one list of recommendations I hope no one ever needs. But if you have a friend or loved one who is facing chemotherapy or extended treatments for any condition, these recommendations may be helpful. These products really helped me deal with my fifteen months of chemo. One thing to keep in mind is that many chemo drugs significantly enhance the sense of smell, so unscented items are generally a better idea than anything with a scent. I packed a small duffel bag for my five to six-hour long chemo sessions with snacks, candy, a book, my sewing/embroidery, Kindle, iPhone, and charger, etc. Eventually, I took fewer things, but it’s good to have stuff to keep yourself occupied. Most infusion centers have some snacks (graham crackers, juice boxes, etc.) as well as a refrigerator and microwave for patients, but I took my own too.

Other staples in my duffle included a rich lip balm as chemo wreaks havoc on your skin, making it dry, itchy, and flaky; a good hand cream is also vital. This is another favorite unscented hand cream. To counteract frequent nausea, I used natural remedies like ginger tea, ginger chews, and Bach’s Rescue Remedy Pastilles. These last were suggested by a good friend who does energy healing and I swear by them. Because I am a writer, I received several journals and I particularly like this one in which recorded some of my journey.

I’m not a fan of wigs and my skin was irritated by a lot of textiles, so I opted for scarves instead. Mostly I got one-dollar scarves on eBay. A good friend sent me a pre-tied scarf which was great if I just wanted to dash out the door quickly without fussing. I also found Bolder Band – a great headband that stays in place, is comfortable, and offers attractive patterns. If you’re short on money and want to do something sweet, you can get a free scarf for cancer patients here. Every scarf comes with the story of a woman who has worn the scarf previously and won her battle. If you do gift a scarf, share this link on how to tie them. I got to be quite the expert! Scarves are great in warm climates or as an alternative to a wig.

Chemo makes you cold, and you can be in the infusion center for five to eight hours. The infusion facilities have blankets, but it’s nice to have your own snuggly one. I also appreciated warm socks.

And now, a few suggestions for speaking to cancer patients:

– Many newly diagnosed people don’t know this but, according to the American Cancer Society, every cancer patient is a survivor from the moment of their diagnosis. It may seem like wordsmithing but I found it helpful and positive.

– Don’t tell us we have the “good kind” of cancer – there’s no such thing.

– Don’t tell us about someone you know who died from cancer (any kind) – it’s not helpful. Really. In fact, don’t tell us about anyone else’s cancer unless we ask.

– Don’t ask about our prognosis or words to that effect. We know what we’re facing, we may not want to share, and, the way medical science is changing, no one really knows anyway.

– If you offer help, don’t expect us to have an answer for you. It’s really tough to ask for help, especially when you’ve been independent and active. Instead offer to drive us to chemo, to clean our apartment, to bring over a meal or pick up groceries (as about dietary restrictions – there can be a multitude), to walk the dog, etc.

– Be open to listening to your loved one’s experiences as it can be healing to talk to a willing listener.

– It’s OK to be at a loss for words and simply say, “I’m so sorry.” Gentle hugs are good too.

Thank you so much, Kalindria!! These are fantastic suggestions that I know will me helpful to some readers. Best wishes for a smooth and successful cancer treatment. We’re rooting for you!

If you have some products you’d like to recommend to the DW audience, shoot me an email at wendy@dearwendy.com with links to five recommendations. (Write “reader recs” in the subject line, please). Your recommendations can be from any store or website, but they need to be accessible online. If your list is a good fit for the site, I’ll ask you to write a brief description of each item/explain what you love so much about it.

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9 comments… add one
  • K September 8, 2016, 12:08 pm

    Kalindria, you’re awesome for being an ovarian cancer survivor! I wish you all the best!

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  • AKF September 8, 2016, 1:11 pm

    I love this list! I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year at 26 and heartily co-sign all of the above. The things that helped me the most during chemo were popsicles, having someone over to distract my boyfriend or parents when their hovering became too much and the most amazing eyebrow pencil of all time (http://www.sephora.com/arch-brow-sculpting-pencil-P376457?skuId=1737667&icid2=products%20grid:p376457).

    Kalindria, sending positive thoughts during your recurrence!

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    • kali September 14, 2016, 3:29 pm

      Hope you’re doing well too, AKF. It’s a crazy journey (especially when you’re stage IV) so I understand what you’re going through.

      My eyebrow pencil of choice was Benefit’s BrowZings but I hear they’ve changed the color formulation. Oh well. I don’t know about you, but losing my eyebrows was almost worse than losing my hair.

      Sending positive thoughts and healing energy right back to you!

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  • anonymousse September 8, 2016, 2:55 pm

    Sending positive thoughts your way! Thanks for sharing!

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    Astronomer September 8, 2016, 8:26 pm

    These are all excellent. Thank you!

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  • csp September 9, 2016, 10:32 am

    I have pinned this link for the future. Honestly, this will be great for when the next person I know is faced with this. It is nice to create a helpful gift basket to support someone. Thanks for taking the time to write this and share it.

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    • kali September 14, 2016, 3:31 pm

      csp – I hope you never need this list but at least you have it. There are obviously a thousand things that can be added but it’s a decent start.

      Be well.

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  • mcj2012 September 9, 2016, 2:29 pm

    What a great and thoughtful list! I am sorry you are going through this again and sending positive thoughts your way!

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  • kali September 9, 2016, 3:23 pm

    Thanks, everybody. I really appreciate the well wishes and truly believe that good energy and positive thoughts help.

    One other suggestion for crazy, offbeat loved ones with a bit of a twisted sense of humor are two books my daughter gave me: ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ and ‘All My Friends Are Still Dead’ starring a cute little dinosaur. My son-in-law thought we were mad but I laughed til my sides hurt.

    One other thing: don’t ignore vague abdominal symptoms or try to pass it off as irritable bowel – get checked out! There are no screening tests for ovarian cancer.

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