Not Another Bunch Of Flowers was set up by me, Anikka Burton.
I was diagnosed with an aggressive, locally advanced primary breast cancer in 2011 at the age of 33 and had the full works of chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy and 5 operations to date. During treatment I wrote a blog to help others through treatment: www.chemoforbeginners.com.
When I was first diagnosed, my wonderful and caring friends, family and colleagues sent me so many bunches of flowers that I ran out of vases, jugs, pint glasses... until I was putting them in saucepans and anything else that would hold water! Knowing that so many people were rooting for me was incredible - it gave me a much-needed boost on the days I was struggling - but, while flowers are bright and beautiful amongst the gloom of illness, there are only so many a girl needs!
But what do you buy instead?
For many, food and drink is a no-no
As well as lots of flowers, I was sent some tempting edible treats including a hamper of cheese, chocolate and wine, and a box of cupcakes. Again, gorgeous gifts… but I couldn’t enjoy any of them, as I was advised to avoid dairy during treatment. Alcohol was also a complete no-no. My stomach lining had already been eroded by chemo treatment, so even a small sip burned. And even if I could have indulged in these gifts, my taste buds were significantly altered by the concoction of toxic drugs.
Toiletries are lovely… but you need to know the ingredients to avoid
Pampering products are another option, but many patients have to avoid anything containing chemicals such as parabens and sulphates. Even some natural, aromatherapy and homeopathic products can interact with the treatment, or even mimic the very stimulants the treatment is trying to reduce. So unless you know your stuff, and read all the small print, buying toiletries for a patient undergoing treatment is a real minefield.
I loved anything natural and pampering, as it was the only way I could spoil myself during treatment. I have handpicked some thoughtful and useful gifts that I would have really appreciated myself. These are pampering yet practical, and the toiletries I’ve chosen contain natural ingredients with no nasties such as parabens or sulphates. The edible goodies are dairy free.
The right practical gifts are a much better treat than flowers
I really appreciated more practical gifts, as I didn't want to be dashing around buying things like eye masks and button front pyjamas appropriate for surgery. When I had an emergency hospital admission I was very thankful to friends who bought me useful treats for my stay as I hadn't had time to pack an overnight bag myself.
Practical doesn’t mean boring!
The gifts I’ve chosen are really, really lovely – so while they’re ideal for someone going through the kind of treatment I had to endure (and some are specifically for those going through chemo), almost all of them are just as special for people in different circumstances – it could be a gift for someone who’s about to have an operation or recovering from one, someone who’s having a tough pregnancy, a new mum, or just a friend who’s had a rough ride lately. We all need a pick me up sometimes! So instead of saying it with flowers like everyone else, or unknowingly giving your loved one something they can’t use, why not send a practical and thoughtful package full of useful and pampering bits and bobs?
Your gifts will also contribute further afield…
By buying a gift here, you will also be doing your bit for charity. I will be donating a proportion of all profits to selected charities, and hope to raise much more for charity in the future.
How to find the right gift
With each gift suggestion, I have explained whom it is particularly suitable for, and why I have personally selected it. If you’re still not sure though, get in touch and I will do my best to answer any questions. This list might help with ideas too:
Cancer patients: anti-sickness sweets, beanies, naturally pampering packages, good luck momentos, cooling pillows and sprays and gorgeous loungewear
People in hospital/recovery: sleep kits, cosy pyjamas and dressing gowns, pretty eyemask and ear plug sets, relaxing pillow spray, slippers, laptrays, colourful tablet stands and pretty puzzle books
New mums/mums to be: naturally pampering kits, anti-sickness sweets, pretty kimonos, tablet stands, button front nighties and cosy slippers
People with limited mobility: funky walking sticks, crutches and accessories
Gifts for men: men’s chemo kits, soft cotton beanies, nightwear and tablet stands
Anyone in need of a pick me up: from pampering packages and cosy quilts to hot water bottles and jewellery
As for me…
I'm doing OK now (touch wood). Unfortunately you never get the "all clear" with breast cancer and I am battling with a few lingering side effects of the aggressive treatment, but I am very happy to have just celebrated my second year in the land of "NED" (No Evidence of Disease). Long may that continue!
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