When you find out that someone you know has a horrible illness - something that requires ongoing treatment, operations or hours in bed or hospital – all you want to do is help them feel better. You want to be there for them; to make them smile or to let them know you are thinking about them. Buying a gift is a natural response but what is the right type of gift?
This is something Not Another Bunch Of Flowers founder Anikka Burton knows only too well. Having been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33, she found herself overwhelmed by gifts she could not use or enjoy due to her treatment.
“I received lots of lovely bunches of flowers when I was first diagnosed and while it was wonderful knowing I had such strong support behind me, I never actually got to see many of them. Most people don’t realise that many hospitals do not allow flowers or fruit on to the wards due to risk of infection. The flowers that had been sent to my home had died by the time I had been discharged from hospital and I was unable to use the toiletries that had so lovingly been sent to me by family and friends, due to some of the ingredients within them. It was just such a shame as people had obviously sent the gifts and flowers with the very best of intentions.”
So what is the answer?
Having taken a break from work due to an exhausting treatment schedule which include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and several operations, Anikka felt she needed a distraction. Noting a gap in the market for gifts that could be used during cancer treatment and which were welcomed on hospital wards, Anikka set about creating an e-commerce gifting website with a personal touch.
“Friends and family had all told me they had been really stuck on ideas of what to buy me. It made me realise that actually it was pretty difficult to buy a present for someone who was in hospital or needed some TLC. There was nothing out there that sold “gifts for poorly people” and even more importantly, there was nowhere selling such gifts that actually understood what poorly people really wanted or needed. I wanted to see gifts that could be used during treatment.
“Our gifts have been all been personally selected based on our own experiences. When you feel unwell or are constrained in what you are allowed to ingest or use on your body not only do you feel restricted but so do those around you who want to help. My range of gifts is natural, organic and pretty and is designed to make you feel good, while remaining practical for use during surgery and treatment. It is extremely important that they are not clinical, after all gifts are often sent to raise people’s spirits and show how much you care not to remind them that they are unwell.”
Not Another Bunch Of Flowers was launched in October 2013 and the past 3 ½ years has been a mix of hard work and determination.
“The business has grown beyond what I first imagined and has become something I hadn’t at first envisaged. We started by providing gifts for cancer patients and those in hospital due to a variety of reasons, as well as general get well gifts, but have now also become more of a lifestyle gift-giving brand with gifts for mums-to-be, new mums, birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions.”
Not Another Bunch Of Flowers sends beautifully wrapped gifts all over the world. Each gift is hand-wrapped with a handwritten message, which can be anything from “we’re all thinking of you” to “OMG, this sucks”.
In recognition of the fantastic support Anikka received during her own treatment, a percentage of the profits posted by Not Another Bunch Of Flowers will be going to charity. The website also sells Little Bags Of Happiness (unique cute little bags that contain little gifts with heartfelt messages) priced at £2 and Promise Vouchers (vouchers promising support or help such as babysitting, a home-cooked meal etc) priced at £1 – 100% of which is donated to charity. Donation vouchers are also available for those that want to include a donation as part of their gift hamper and other ideas are in the pipeline.
But for Anikka there was still something else she wished to achieve, to start a family.
Two years of breast cancer treatment is extremely hard and challenging for everyone involved. But then to be told that the very same treatment which saved your life can now no longer create life is devastating, something Anikka can really relate to.
“Many young woman are faced with the real possibility that they could be left infertile. There is the possibility of freezing embryos and eggs, but only if there is time and if they get funding or have the cash to fund it themselves. Shockingly, many young women don’t have their options discussed before starting treatment.”
“Following my own treatment and after a number of lengthy tests I was told I had been left infertile. More crushing and devastating news. It took months to pick myself up from this latest blow but I never accepted it.”
Unable to believe and accept that there was no possibility, Anikka decided to seek a second opinion. Along with her husband, they sought the advice and help of a specialist who had experience in working with cancer patients. This time the news was more positive. The original test turned out to be unreliable so soon after treatment. At last Anikka was given some hope.
In January 2017, Anikka gave birth to a beautiful healthy boy, Monty.
“I feel very blessed to be a mother, and very proud to be a working mother. I have built a business which is not only successful but has a real purpose. We receive a lot of feedback, not only about how our gifts have really helped and have been lovingly received, but also from customers and other cancer patients who were also inundated with flowers and gifts they were unable to enjoy during treatment and recovery.”