When Hard Times Strike, Give the Kindest Gift of All

On December 4, 2013, I went in for a routine test and the radiologist told me on the spot that it was cancer (bit of a shock). It was hard to absorb the news, it was hard to decide how to tell people, and it was hard to wait for all the tests to come back to find out how advanced it was. It was also the time that people rallied around and wanted to help. We didn’t know what we needed; frankly, it was difficult to ask people for help or even take them up on their offers. And so we said we’d be fine.

As treatment began (51 weeks of chemo and two surgeries), it became obvious that we did actually need more than just childcare help and rides to treatment, although we did need those. But, since we’d told friends we were OK, we didn’t feel comfortable calling people up and asking them for specific tasks. That’s when a registry like SoKind would be have been a great help.

SoKind is a place for people to register for donations, homemade gifts and experience gifts. Most folks use SoKind to celebrate their milestone celebrations and holidays. Happy occasions, but with less stuff. However, all I could think when I saw it was that it would have been a terrific tool for a really difficult time in my life. So, knowing what I know now, I decided to create a registry that would have helped me then. I created a Cancer Treatment Registry.

Here is what I learned.

Gifts of time.

There are many excellent sites out there that focus on caregiving for people that are ill. What I like about SoKind is that it combines gifts of time, secondhand and handmade items, as well as (yes) new things. And, in SoKind, I see a way to help the whole family, not just the person who is ill.

As you can imagine, there is no shortage of tasks that you can gift to a family dealing with cancer. Time becomes so important in many ways.

My kids were ages 5, 5 and 8, so going to school helped to keep things normal for them. Along with childcare help, it would have been great if people had taken the kids out on some fun outings more often. My daughter and I had begun skiing together the previous year, but I didn’t feel up to it during treatment. I would have loved it if another family would have taken Jess skiing with them once or twice.

Along with running to the store and bringing dinners, tasks like walking the dog and tending to the garden are things that people don’t think of to do, but are really helpful.

Another person that really needed the gift of time was my husband. Between commuting to a demanding job, helping with the kids and house and taking care of me, he had a difficult year. On my registry, I listed an outing for Scott with friends. He would not have asked to go himself, but loved going when invited. It was a much-needed break, and I wish it had happened more often.

SoKind also has a calendar function which works well when scheduling meals, rides to chemo, and childcare.

So Kind 3

Secondhand items.

Books and magazines are welcome companions during chemo, which sometimes lasted up to eight hours. People gifted me secondhand books, magazines they had already read, and even trips to the library. My favorite gift was a Kindle gift card (and the Overdrive library app). Chemo can cause eyesight changes, and I found that I needed to enlarge the print on my screen in order to read comfortably.

Handmade items.

Chemo can be cold, so my mother made me a lap quilt to wrap up in, and other people gave me blankets they made as well. My best friend sent me handmade hats from Etsy when I started to lose my hair, and my cancer group puts homemade personal products made from essential oils in the care packages we put together for newly diagnosed members. Remember The Story of Cosmetics? Well, it certainly becomes a lot more relevant once you start to pump toxins into your body for treatment and are looking for ways to detoxify the other products in your house.

Gift cards/money.

A gift card to a favorite restaurant was a welcome treat on the days when food actually tasted good. During one of my rounds of chemo, the only thing I could choke down were Asiago bagels, so I would have loved a bagel gift card or bagel delivery during that time. (Now, not so much. I have not eaten them since.)

Cancer treatment is expensive, and many people are unable to work for at least part of their treatment, so money is often tight. The SoKind Registry has a PayPal option where you can send funds to families who might really be able to use it. You can also send funds in lieu of a gift card, when you want to pay for something like housecleaning or a therapeutic massage but don’t know the right vendor.

New items.

With the advent of Facebook, more people are in touch with old friends that may live far away, but are up to speed on your story. Even if you don’t announce it, chances are someone else you know will. I had so many nice friends and unexpected old acquaintances offer support. Many live far away, so they couldn’t perform any tasks or bring meals, but wanted to send something.

Useful gifts of time far outnumber the Stuff that cancer patients need, but there are a few things that are useful. People that I know that went through radiation said that coconut oil was soothing on their burned skin, and a good water bottle is great to have during chemo.

so kind 4a

Multiple registries.

I created a registry for the duration of my treatment, but another one would have been helpful, as in the case of a friend’s husband that wanted to throw her a huge surprise party celebrating two years of successful treatment. He spent months doing all the planning; with a SoKind registry, he could have listed all the things he needed to be donated or made (venue, centerpieces, food, etc.), all the day-of-event tasks (setting up the tents, bringing the kids’ games, supplying the drinks, etc.), and people could have easily seen what he needed. He had no shortage of people that wanted to help, but no way to organize what he needed for the event.

Does a cancer registry belong here among these happy events? I’d say yes. I think a SoKind registry can bring some much-needed relief, and (yes) happiness, to people going through a hard time. The great thing is that people want to help. A SoKind registry gives people many ways to support the whole family.

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