Friend Just Diagnosed

Updated on January 11, 2010
C.C. asks from Orlando, FL
15 answers

Hi Moms,
I just had a dear friend diagnosed with breast cancer. She is having surgery in two weeks and I was looking for some ideas to put in a care package as she lives in another city. I feel helpless/useless being so far away, but I thought a box of goodies will make her smile. I work for a cosmetic company, so pampering items will definitely be in there. Has anyone gone through this or had a friend go through it? I am wondering what will be useful after the surgery, what she would wish she had or had access to. She has a six year old ADHD son whom the grandparents are going to take care of while she recouperates the first few days. She has her husband and other friends near by that will be there for support. She is an avid reader and loves to go on vacations.
I appreciate your time and response.

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So What Happened?

Wow!! Thank-you so much for all the great ideas! I bought some chic/fun fabric and are making her two heart pillows. I got some giftcards and fuzzy socks. Lotions and magazines/Teas. I looked up the "Cleaning for a Reason". They do service her city. What a great organization! Thank-you for all the advice! I truly appreciate it!

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answers from Tallahassee on

Hi C.,

I received a basket full of goodies for the hospital when I had my son. One of my favorite items was a pair of cute, warm & fuzzy socks w/ the non-skid bottom for walking around my room. :)

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answers from Pensacola on

What a sweet and thoughtful friend you are! While I don't have cancer myself, I do have some serious medical conditions that have required treatments and long recovery times. I've had friends send me care packages before and and of the best things I've received has been ginger and chamomile teas. Ginger and chamomile both help with nausea ane I'm sure she will be dealing with that. You can get teas that has both those ingredients in them, and teas that have them separatly...both will be fine. Go to your grocery store, and you should be able to find some at decent prices.

Another idea is to get some funny/comedy dvd's or videos for your friend. Or maybe get some shows about some topic she is into, like cooking or travel. Her local PBS (public broadcasting station) may air some shows that interest her, so you could do some research online and find out when those shows air in her area and then write them down and include them in the care package.

I just reread your post and saw that she likes to go on vacations. Rick Steeves is a travel guru and travels all over Europe and does shows on PBS. I think he puts out books and such, try googling his name and see what you get. Maybe you can find something of his that she might like.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I'm very sorry to hear about your friend. I was diagnosed 17 months ago (at age 37, with two small children) and am pretty much finished with my treatment; I have some touch-ups needed on my reconstruction (I first had a lumpectomy, then later a bilateral mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation.)

I have written many articles and created a website about my journey through breast cancer treatment. Perhaps you and/or your friend may benefit from the information I wrote. Remember, everyone's story, treatment and reactions are different - I learned a lot along the way and wanted to share my knowledge and experiences with anyone it could possibly help. I truly hope it helps you and your friend. Here are some links:

You or your friend can feel free to contact me directly (; I know from experience that it helps to talk to someone who's been through it. Best wishes to you and your friend.



answers from Boca Raton on

I am not sure what kind of surgery your friend is having, but when my mom had a mastectomy her favorite thing was a small pillow that she could put under her arm pit, it actually helped her be a little more comfortable. And you can go to Honey Baked Ham online and have meals delivered to her home. the last think she probably wants to do is cook.



answers from Tampa on

Hi, I volunteer for the cancer society and they send out really nice care packages free for the asking. If you contact Nancy and give her your friends address she will either be able to send her a care package or give you the name of the person in that area that handles this. Nancy's number is: ###-###-####. My friend lives in Canada and had a breast removed. She said her favorite gifts were flavored coffees, teas, candles, a soft pillow, chocolates, good books and funny cards...



answers from Lakeland on

Sorry that this took me so long - have been out of town on business and busy busy.... I unfortunately have had two different friends that suffered with cancer. 1 was an elderly gentleman with lymphoma, and the other my best friend - a 30 year old female with stage 3 colon cancer. What I did for the gentlman was a little different - and was tied into another story. While he was in FL for the winter - he was making chicken soup (in a tiny little pan) - his wife was telling him that it stank and she wouldn't eat it, and we were laughing - he told me that he had it in the fridge and skimmed off the fat - and then put it back on to simmer - and then said "Jewish people are supposed to do something with chicken fat - but I can't figure out what" - I almost fell on the floor - so I told him "feed it to your enemies!". The next week I made them a huge pot of chicken soup with spring water and organic chicken carrots & celery. He was VERY touched by it - so when I found out that he was ill - I immediately made a big batch of soup, put it in a huge plastic jug w/ screw on lid, put it in the freezer, made cookies, packed it all in a styrofoam cooler with ice, taped the cooler shut and put silly stickers all over it, packed it in a box and shipped it next day air with some magazines (one in particular they couldn't find in NY) and bought a gift bag that looked like a fishing basket. I filled the bag with little things that were all individually wrapped - chapstick, lifesavers, gum, cards, little games, crossword puzzles etc... and wrote him a silly note that said something like "once a day when you are feeling blue - go "fishing" for a little something to cheer you up and know that I am thinking about you and praying for you!". THEY LOVED IT - and to this day - his widow will tell anyone who meets me in her presence what I did for Seymour 15 years ago!
For my girlfriend - I only live 3 hours away - so I went to the hospital the day of the surgery and brought a "care basket" with me - I made a pretty basket with some little chocolates, lip balm, socks, hand cream, shower gel, lotion etc..... I surprised her and her family in the waiting area - when she was "checking in". I told them that I know the rest of the day would be alot of anestesia etc... but I would be in the waiting room until I knew that she was out of surgery and everything was ok, then I would give her a hug, say a little prayer and go on my way and let her rest and the family have her all to themselves. As it turned out - she had her wires crossed and hadn't "prepped" properly the night before so the surgery was called off and rescheduled for the next day! We got to have lunch and then had a great visit until her liqui-prep stuff started kicking in so I headed out about then. Unfortunately - because of work I couldn't stay 'till the next day. I emailed constantly - to her and her husband getting updates. I sent cards in the snail mail REGULARLY - silly cards, cheer up cards etc... and occassionally I would send little "care packages" with something sweet in it. (lip balm, cream, a new shower gel, back massager etc.) She LOVED it - and commented more than once that "she really knew who her friends were". Even though I am 3 hours away now, I was in more contact with her than the friends who live in the same town. I helped her husband throw a surprise party for her birthday - and brought her an orchid, and helped make food for the party. On another visit - she felt well enough to get out - so we met @ a restaraunt - and another good friend of mine gave her a keychain with an angel on it, and a sweet card that said angels were watching over her. I called her alot - she had a chemo pump and waistpack for a couple of months, and then when radiation started daily - then the chemo pump came out and she had to go every other week for a huge chemo infusion that made her really weak and very ill. I would talk to her on the phone and give her pep talks - you are a warrior - think of this cancer as the bitchy girl @ the concert who was screaming at me when you said "go deb - I got your back" - kick it's butt Colory! You are strong, you are tough - you can do this - you can run those creepy little cels right out of your body! etc. etc. etc...... She loved it in the end
I'm sorry about your friend, I hope that this helps give you some ideas. I think the most important thing - is STAY in contact - so often when people don't know what to say - they don't say anything!
At Dollar Tree, or Walgreens, etc - they have little hand held games that are good when someone is lying around and has time on their hands - little puzzle links to un-tangle, wooden blocks to stack and pull apart, word games, playing cards, etc....
Good luck!



answers from Gainesville on

Can you afford gift certificates for housekeeping or the companies that prepare meals (Dine by Design or something like that)? Those are two things that will be essential for them-food and clean surroundings for her during her recovery.

She might really enjoy the Anthony Bourdain books based on his travel/food shows-Cooks Tour and others are great reads!



answers from Santa Barbara on

Hi C.-
My sister is a 5 yr survivor of breast cancer. She was able to function fairly quickly after her surgery, but found magazines, uplifting books and a journal helpful, especially when she was waiting for her radiation appointments. The radiation made her pretty nauseated, so I tried to send highly nutritious stuff. She loved just getting cards or notes every few days, just so she knew I was thinking about her. Her friends put together a meal rotation so that she and her husband got decent food. Her husband's cooking ability was nil outside the grill.
My prayers are with her!



answers from Tampa on

There are plenty of awesome travel/vacation magazines out there. She'd probably enjoy an assortment of those. Also, maybe you could get her a beautiful journal to record this journey of hers if/when she wants to.



answers from Tampa on


Sorry to hear about your friend. I haven't been through it. But I may be soon- due for follow up mammo & U/S myself. Hopefully it will be nothing. But this is what I would want.

A gift card to Amazon, or books you know she wants to read.

A Bell so she can ring her huband OR walkie talkies.

Aloe vera gel to put on incisions to help reduce. scaring. (better & cheaper than mederma)

If she will be going through chemo- scarves & or wigs. I suggest wigs with wild colors to have fun with this.

How about a gift certificate to pay for 2 months of HBO/Showtime- if you can afford it & if she likes movies. Or Blockbuster gift certificates.

Tea or coffee- both have theraputic effects.

all of the other ideas are great. My sister just told my about cleaning for a reason.- another great idea.



answers from Miami on

How about some gift cards for take out (you know local restaurants), NetFlix, or some really comfy slippers along with your cosmetic goodies. God bless you and your friend.



answers from Tampa on

I would recommend some books on tape or some movies. Some friends of ours have had children with cancer and having something distracting was essential. Especially if she enjoys reading but may not be able to a book on tape may be distracting. You could even do books and a movie that goes with it (like old yeller - but not that one). I know a lot of people are very cold while recovering so maybe a nice robe and some really warm and comfy socks and of course a matching hat and some scarves during chemo. I also know vommitting is a common affair, perhaps a lot of gum and some breath fresheners would help. Good luck getting it all together, I am sure she will appreciate it greatly, the little things can really make a huge difference.



answers from Orlando on

I have not been through this but was brainstorming ideas based on what you said about her. If she loves to read, how about some sort of pillow and/or blanket so she can be cozy and comfortable-- and an gift certificate so she can order a new book to read that can be sent to her home so she doesn't have to be sad that she can't get to a bookstore/library while she is recovering



answers from Orlando on

One of my favorite resources for cancer patients is Cleaning for a Reason ( do maid service for free for a number of months for cancer patients!

If she is having surgery she will likely have restrictions on what she is allowed to do (raising her arms, lifting things that are more than a few pounds, etc)...not to mention that the medications, even in the best of circumstances, can make you feel tired or yucky. There is nothing worse than feeling bad, being stuck at home recovering and having to stare at a house that needs cleaning while you don't have the energy to clean it. (Nevermind the fact that cleaning products often increase nausea in cancer patients!)

Get her hooked up with these folks so she can get some help with the house.

I also agree with the pillow idea. Most hospitals provide pillows to heart and breast patients...they can use the pillow to apply pressure to their chest when bending, coughing, etc. It really helps. Do a google search for "heart pillow" to see what I am talking about. Then go to the fabric store and get half a yard of super soft and comfy fabric in a color that is cheerful and make it yourself so she has a customized one. Super easy (you could sew it by hand in a short period of time if you don't have a machine.) It's similar to the paper heart pillows that grade school kids usually make.



answers from Tampa on

Get her a subscription to Health Alert with Dr. Bruce West- that will be the lifesaving gift.
best, k

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