guest blogger, Side Effects

6 Things I wish I knew before I started Chemo

By Taylor Eames

Most cancer treatment centers require you to go through a brief “chemo class” to learn about possible side effects.  However, having been through both the class and six months of chemo, there are some things you just don’t expect to happen.  Upon hearing that my treatment plan included chemo, I automatically pictured baldness and vomiting like it is in the movies and tv shows.  But it wasn’t how I imagined it at all.  Here are some things that surprised me.

Chemo sucks.

Think car sick, morning sickness, and a hangover all in one.

The nausea is constant and it’s pretty debilitating at times.  But in my experience and from what I’ve heard from many other survivors, vomiting is rare.  You just feel crummy all the time.  Anti-nausea meds help for some patients.  Others just find the feeling to become a new normal.  But I’ll remind you, and I’ll say this again later on, this “new normal” is temporary.

When they say, “You’ll lose your hair,” they mean all of it.

Chemotherapy targets fast growing cells in your body in order to kill the growing tumors.  Hair, nails, intestinal track, and even brain cells are all collateral damage along

the way.  One of the most noticeable side effects is hair loss.  I went from having a thick, full head of hair down to my shoulders, to nothing at all.  But what I didn’t expect was that the hair on top of my head was only a starting point.

It will happen later on in your chemo cycles, but soon you will lose your leg hair (yay, no more shaving!), your pubic hair (this one was kind of weird), and even your eyebrows and eye lashes (more noticeable and somewhat sad).  Don’t forget, it’s all temporary.

Bye bye, eyebrows and lashes.


Chemo hurts.  (And so does Neulasta.)

I remember my chemo class nurse saying these exact words, “Some people experience some discomfort and bone pain during treatment.”  It was so nonchalant that I blew it off thinking it wasn’t very common, and if it did happen, it wasn’t really serious.  But, oh my gosh, I was wrong.

Chemo is attacking white blood cells just like it attacks hair follicles.  Neulasta is an injection used to boost white blood cells development during chemo so you aren’t as susceptible to infection.  The battle that ensues is painful…seriously painful.  It feels like pin pricks but deep in your bones. The pangs of pain come and go all over your body.  For me, my feet, ankles, shins, ribs, and jaw hurt so bad that I couldn’t walk at times, and I ended up on heavy opioid pain meds for the 3-5 days that I experienced the pain.  Do not be afraid to tell your doctor that you need something to help you through this.  If one med doesn’t work, ask for something else.  And remember, this is only temporary.

You will take more naps than you did as a child.

Sometimes when I couldn’t get out of bed, my daughter joined me.

The fatigue is real, and it’s something you just need to give in to.  As I said, chemo is attacking your body while fighting off the cancer cells.  As in any battle, your soldiers get tired. You need to allow your body to rest so this battle can be won.

I spent a lot of time sleeping.  There was one day in my third cycle that I slept for almost 21 hours in a day.  I remember calling the chemo nurse concerned that I had slept so much.  They did blood work to make sure nothing serious was going on, but when it came back as normal, she said I just needed the sleep.

Even when you are awake you can feel how exhausted your body is.  There were times when simply getting up from bed to walk to the bathroom tuckered me out.

You may gain weight.

When I first heard chemo, I remember saying, “This will be the most expensive weight loss plan I’ve ever taken part in.”  I was wrong.  While doing chemo, you also have to take steroids.  Steroids make chemo more effective, help reduce allergic reactions, and can be used as an anti-nausea medication.  Steroids also make you ravenously hungry.

Unless your doctor decides to use steroids for your nausea, you will most likely have to take it the day before, the day of, and the day after infusion, and you’ll probably get one in your premeds before the chemo is infused.  Because of this, you will feel great for the first and second day of your cycle.  (The nausea, fatigue, and pain will start on the third day.)  During the steroid bursts, you will experience sweating, insomnia, and as I said, veracious hunger.  I remember the day after my first chemo infusion we went to Red Lobster to celebrate my mom’s birthday, and I wanted to eat everything on the menu!

It’s only TEMPORARY!

Chemo sucks. I’m not going to lie about that.  But it’s doable.  You have to keep remembering that the cruddy feeling you are experiencing for 3-6 months is not going to last forever.  You may be scared, you may be thinking the worst, but you are stronger than you think you are.  Each cycle will fly by and soon your new normal will become part of the past.  I look back at it and remember the side effects—nausea, fatigue, pain—but it really wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be, and even knowing these things, I know I would do it all over again because it helped me kick cancer’s ass.  If you are facing chemo as part of your treatment program, you can do it!

I did it! So can you!


Taylor Eames is a single mom of four living in Yuma, Arizona, who was diagnosed with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma in January of 2016.  She openly chronicled her experience during treatment and continuing through the aftermath on TaylorTough on Facebook.  Taylor is one of the founders of Breast Cancer Sisters along with her dear friend, Kristy Irizarry.


July Giveaway #4: CJ Hats Gift Certificate


Mary Ann Weiss of CJ Hats has donated a $20 gift certificate to her store.  Mary Ann is an 18 year survivor of Stage IIIB Inflammatory Breast Cancer.   She began selling her hats for men, women, and children on Etsy and eBay a few years after beating the disease.  All of the hats are handmade in Michigan, USA.

Visit CJ Hats’ website HERE.
CJ Hats can also be found on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.




Giveaway #19: Recovery Tee and Care Package from Courage to Conquer Cancer



Kandi Stewart and Kristi James of Courage to Conquer Cancer have donated a Breast Cancer Patient Care Package including a recovery tee.

Visit Courage to Conquer Cancer at

Follow Courage to Conquer Cancer on Facebook HERE.  Visit Courage to Conquer Cancer’s Etsy shop HERE.


This is a great gift for any patient undergoing a mastectomy or other breast surgery.

Care package includes one of their patent pending recovery tees (for drain management, easy on/off while movement is restricted, and can be used during other breast cancer treatments), a soft, plush blanket to keep warm in the infusion center or hospital, small bottle of hand sanitizer, a small water bottle with straw, essential oil soap, lip balm, sickness bag, pocket-sized tissues, box of peppermint oil Angel mints, and a tote to contain it all.


Giveway #18: Zipport Shirt


Laura Buckman of Zipport Wear has donated a women’s pink or black Zipport Shirt.  Soft cotton blend t-shirt with the black plastic zipper on the specified side.

For every shirt purchased, one is donated to a child in need.

Visit the Zipport Website at

Like Zipport on Facebook HERE.  Follow on Twitter HERE.


Will was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2015.  He hated having to take his shirt off for port access every time we went to the doctor.  I knew there had to be a better way.  A few weeks later, the Zipport shirt was born and it was a game changer in our journey.  Since then, we have sold hundreds of shirts like this to kids and adults who need them.  In the early stages of Zipport, I knew that I wanted it to be something that would help people.  Zipport is now a one-for-one company.  When you purchase a shirt from the website, you are also donating a shirt to a child in need, you are paying it forward and helping solve this problem for another family.

guest blogger, Side Effects

It’s Just Hair

By Taylor Eames

Facebook memories are a wonderful thing, aren’t they?  A few days ago, it reminded me that I lost my hair a year ago.  I reread what I had written that day, and tears came to my eyes as I remembered the emotional impact this moment in my life had on me.  Let me share what I wrote on April 8, 2016:


“Last night, kind of suddenly, my hair started coming out in fist fulls.  I went from having a firm grip on my hair to it coming out so easily almost within minutes. It hit me hard. The thought of waking up and finding clumps of hair on my pillow gave me an anxiety attack. So we did what most do during this phase in chemo and shaved it off. It was a very heartbreaking moment in this journey. I never expected it to affect me that greatly. Yes, it’s only hair and it will grow back. But I feel a huge part of my femininity was taken from me. Also, everyone’s looks change drastically when their hair changes. I wept as my mom took the clippers to my head. Actually we all did. My mom cutting my hair, my sister on skype [in San Francisco], Annie [my daughter] (who’s in Michigan visiting her dad) also on video chat. We all just cried. We had joked about the shaving of the head being a fun occasion, but it wasn’t. It was like mourning a loss. Yes it’s only hair, yes it will grow back. But it still hurt me to the core. It will take some getting used to. Eventually it will be the new normal. Maybe later, after I get up for the day, shower, put some makeup on, and don a cute hat, I’ll shar
e a picture. But I have to allow myself to feel the full gamut of emotions or I’ll implode.”


I remember after the shave, I went to my room and cried some more.  Then I didn’t want anyone to see me for a while.  I hid in my room as my family continued their lives.  Finally, the next day I was forced to emerge from my solitary sanctuary and rejoin society.  This time as a bald cancer warrior.  Now I wore my badge, now everyone knew I was fighting cancer, I was getting chemo.  Now people looked at me differently.  Some with pity, some with admiration, and some with wonder.  Some stared, some purposely would not make eye contact.  And then there were the ones who boldly asked where I was in treatment and how I was taking it.  I didn’t know how to react to that.  Was it rude of them to ask or was it nice of them to make conversation with me and treat me like a normal person?  I guess I didn’t have anything to hide, so I was glad to talk to people instead of getting strange looks.

Later on in treatment, I was at a waterpark with my family.  I wore a cute floppy bucket hat for the most part because chemo makes you more susceptible to the sun, and my bald head was sensitive.  But we live in Arizona and this was the end of July where temps average 115 from day to day.  At one point, I was laying in a wading pool watching my kids play, and I decided to take my hat off because it was making me sweat.  (Don’t worry, I was slathered in sunscreen!)  It only took a few seconds for kids to start looking at me strange. Eventually, one little girl splashed up to me and said, “Why your hair like that?”  My daughter protectively said that I have an illness and the medicine makes my hair fall out.  She looked at me with concern and said, “You ok?”  I smiled and said, “Yes! Thank you!”  That satisfied her curiosity.  She smiled back and she happily splish splashed away.

I lost my hair in April, and it barely started growing back in September.  I kept my head covered in public with hats or bandanas until December.  Like I said, I didn’t think not having hair was going to affect me so much, but it does change everything about the way you look and the way people look at you.  I wasn’t comfortable braving the bare look outside of the home, but others are.  Some do just fine with the shaving of the head, some even celebrate it.  And some mourn the loss, like I did.

Whatever the reaction to losing your hair, it’s yours.  No one can understand what you are going through unless they have experienced it themselves.  Yes, it will eventually grow back, but the fact is your look is changed for at least 2 years.  It’s not just hair.  Regardless of how you handle it, just remember you are braver than you know.


Taylor Eames is a single mom of four living in Yuma, Arizona, who was diagnosed with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma in January of 2016.  She openly chronicled her experience during treatment and continuing through the aftermath on TaylorTough on Facebook.  Taylor is one of the founders of Breast Cancer Sisters along with her dear friend, Kristy Irizarry.


Giveaway #17: Cancer Care Gift Tote from Choose Hope


Karen Shreves of Choose Hope has donated this Cancer Care Gift Tote to one lucky winner.

Visit Choose Hope’s website:

Visit Choose Hope on Facebook HERE.  Follow Choose Hope on Instagram HERE.


Our Cancer Care Gift Tote is the perfect gift for anyone newly diagnosed or going through surgery, radiation, or even chemotherapy. Designed by our very own cancer survivors, this heavyweight tote includes everything necessary for medical appointments, treatments, hospital stays or just lounging at home. Screened with our inspirational trademarked phrase, “No One Fights Alone,” the tote has a secured zipper main compartment with a curved zippered front pocket. It allows for easy storage of cell phones, tablets, keys, appointment cards, notebooks, etc. Made of 600D polyester canvas, it measures 14″ x 18″ x 3.5″. It’s better than your ordinary gift basket and filled with the following very special items:

  • Soft Plush Blanket – Comfy and warm. Measures 50″ x 60″, 100% polyester, machine washable. Colors vary (please see photos).
  • No One Fights Alone® Ribbon Awareness Water Bottle – 28 oz. water bottle with colored ribbon.  Domed screw-on cap and buckle clasp keeps it germ-free.  Perfect for keeping your body hydrated.
  • Cozy Slipper Socks – Soft and comfy socks that are sure to warm those cold feet on any day! Complete with dot grips to prevent slipping. Colors will vary (please see photos).
  • What Cancer Cannot Do® Notebook – Screened with the popular poem, What Cancer Cannot Do, this 5′ x 7″ notebook is perfect for jotting down thoughts, questions and medical information. Comes complete with matching pen.
  • Hand Sanitizer – 2 ounce bottle with a push lid for easy opening and closing. Perfect for keeping those germs away!
  • Framed Magnetic What Cancer Cannot Do Poem – 4″ x 6″ magnetic frame that holds the popular poem What Cancer Cannot Do. Provides a great reminder that cancer has its limitations.
  • Dionis Lip Balm – Infused with nourishing goat’s milk and antioxidant Vitamin E. Free of parafin, phthalate and gluten (Vanilla Bean flavor).
  • Dionis Body Lotion – Specially blended formula full of goat’s milk, vitamins and proteins needed to replenish moisture. Fragrance free makes it perfect for cancer patients.

The Cancer Care Tote is truly one of the nicest things that you can do for someone who has just been diagnosed. All items are of the highest quality and have been carefully designed and manufactured to make the cancer journey a little more bearable. And with a variety of cancer colors to choose from, this is a a thoughtful and useful gift that is sure to be appreciated!

Please note the Pink Tote for Breast Cancer has our Pink Ribbon Socks.

guest blogger

Place of Yes

By Rebecca Weiss

As a writer, I’ve never liked clichés much, but there are a few that ring true to me as I get older, and one of them is “Coming from a place of Yes.” This really is a meaningful phrase for me now that I am a breast cancer survivor.

Because, as I can see now, I’ve spent most of my life coming from a place of “No.”

Growing up I was chubby and at times awkward, a kid who loved playing basketball but got embarrassed by my hot, red “sweaty tomato” face. Interested in the dramatic arts, but mostly relegated to the set crew. I often saw the world in terms of what was for me and what wasn’t. Eying girls in Seventeen Magazine who were waifish with long straight hair and perfect skin, I got used to thinking, “No, that’s not me.” “No” became my default setting after a while. No, I’m not pretty enough for the lead in the play. No, I’m not smart enough to join the debate team. No, I’m not popular enough to get elected to student government.

And, this thinking stayed with me as I went through adolescence and young adulthood. No, I wasn’t polished enough to land the job I really wanted. No, I wasn’t worth a second date. No, I wasn’t going to get a raise. And so on. This kind of thinking invaded my life to the extent that over time I began to experience a lot of anxiety. Among other things, I was a pretty bad hypochondriac, and I think that had a direct impact on my health because I became so used to combatting my panicked thoughts about my health that when I felt a lump in my right breast I told myself I was imagining it and put off seeing a doctor for much longer than I care to think about now.

I spent many years watching my friends and co-workers rise through the ranks, start their own businesses, go to grad school and travel overseas while I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to get anywhere—in my career or in the world and I even developed a fear of flying. On a smaller scale, I would watch people dance at a wedding or sing karaoke and sit it out worried about looking silly on the dance floor or my not-so-great singing voice. I might have thought I had a long life ahead of me back then, but I wasn’t really living. I often saw my life as a waiting game. Waiting for things to change. Waiting until I lost weight. Waiting until my boss finally appreciated me. And, then, in May of 2014 at the age of 43 I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.

wp-1490930844494.jpgAt first my anxiety took over, and I breathlessly and sleeplessly navigated through the dark fear of losing my life—of leaving my husband and children without me for the rest of their lives, of breaking the hearts of my parents and other loved ones. But, once I got into treatment and stared down the true risk of not making it through, I found my fighting spirit. I faced a hairless, breastless, potentially futureless me, and something shifted. It was gradual, but it was significant. Here’s what happened: I started to see the things I was afraid of before, the things I was so quick to say “no” to, as, just perhaps, being FOR me.

The only no’s I hung on to were related to giving up. No, I’m not going to go down without a fight. No, I’m not going to stop doing the activities I enjoy. No, I will not become a victim. And then, I decided to experiment with “yes.” I sought out what it would feel like to get on the dance floor at the weddings and bar mitzvahs I was invited to. I started interviewing for jobs at organizations and in fields I had always wanted to work. I took the honeymoon trip to London my husband and I were going to take in 2002 but put off. In short, I began to say yes to things big and small that I finally realized I wasn’t going to do if I lived my life waiting. Yes, I realize that’s another cliché. “What are you waiting for?” but, seriously, what was I waiting for?wp-1490930840700.jpg

Here’s what my life is like now that I’ve learned to say yes: I am famous—infamous perhaps—
for my crazy moves on the dance floor. I have a go-to karaoke song that I sing loud and proud despite my near tone-deafness. I’ve been to London—and Utah and Alaska—in just the past two years. I left a job I’d held for 12 years to pursue my dream of working in public radio. And, now the only downside is that I love my life so much I’m afraid to lose it. Yes, I want to be there for my kids and I want to make my parents and friends proud, but mostly I want to continue challenging myself and finding the joy that I never allowed myself before.

There’s room for you—for everyone—here at yes. But, there’s no waiting. Bring your dance moves, your favorite 80s rock song, and your travel itinerary. Then, let me know what you’re saying yes to now.


Rebecca Weiss is a 46-year-old breast cancer survivor whose life changed completely when she was diagnosed as stage 3 in 2014. A journalist and corporate communications professional, in 2015 she started Bob’s Boxes, a 501c3 nonprofit that sends post-mastectomy care packages to women with breast cancer. Rebecca has appeared on the Today Show, was featured in Parents Magazine and the book Live Happy; and serves as a Model of Courage in Ford’s Warriors In Pink campaign. She lives in Rutherford, New Jersey with her husband and two young children. You can find Rebecca on Twitter and Instagram @BobsBoxes, on Facebook at and at
collaborative post, Side Effects

Like Swimming through Honey

This post is a collaborative effort from the members of Breast Cancer Sisters compiled by Taylor Eames.

Submitted by Jane B.


Is “Chemo Brain” real?

If you ask the Mayo Clinic, they say, “Though chemo brain is a widely used term, it’s misleading.  It’s unlikely that chemotherapy is the sole cause of concentration and memory problems in cancer survivors.¹”  In fact, they mention many other conditions related to cancer and its treatment, such as stress, anxiety, fatigue, infection, insomnia, and even brain cancer, to try to explain the phenomenon.

But upon posing this question to our support group, Breast Cancer Sisters, the answer was an emphatic YES!  Thankfully, the Mayo Clinic is hearing the outcry from the foggy minds of cancer survivors.  They are acknowledging that “it’s clear that the memory problems commonly called chemo brain can be a frustrating and debilitating side effect of cancer and its treatment.¹”  Researchers are doing more studies on the subject.

Chemo Brain is characterized by our group members as a fog.  Cori K. was describing her experience with multiple sclerosis in one post saying her brain function at times was like “swimming through honey.”  I immediately thought that was a perfect way to explain exactly how my thought process has been since I went through chemo last summer.  About halfway through my treatment plan, I was trying to introduce someone to my daughter, and for the life of me, I could not remember the other person’s name.  It was incredibly embarrassing, and I felt like I made my friend of a few years feel as though she were not special to me because I could not recall her name.  Shortly after that, I was trying to remember our zip code and numbers floated around in my brain with no rhyme or reason.  I could see the numbers, I could reach for them, I know they were there, but I just could not get to them. The same often happens with our regular vocabulary. Fellow breast cancer warrior, Linda L. says, “I describe it like my brain is in a blender, and the words are swirling around.  I know what one I want, I just can’t grab it.”  I brought up the concern to my oncologist.  He acknowledged that I was having memory issues but refused to admit that it was caused by chemotherapy.

As I said above, our members believe otherwise as they hadn’t suffered from these problems prior to treatment.  Many of our members report forgetting names of family and friends and numbers they’ve known for long periods of time, stopping mid-sentence unable to remember what they were speaking about, or not being able to reach words in their muddied brain.  Below are some of the funnier moments our members have mentioned.

“During chemo [I] was on my way to work (bald) and thought I might have left the curling iron on.  And a few months back I did this (picture below)”–Kelly N.


“I was just on the phone with my doctor and they asked for my last four digits of my social security number…can’t remember it at all!”–Jane B.

“[This is] one of my greatest frustrations as I always had a photographic memory.  I work as an assistant principal and my campus supervisor always tells me, ‘You had a super power.  Now you are a human like the rest of us.'”–Christine A.

“[I] was asked for my address and had to look at my driver’s license!!”–Sue H.

“I almost made kitty treat tea instead of real tea and it took me hours to figure out we were out of tea!”–Lynn R.  (picture below)


“I forgot the chili powder for the homemade chili I am making.”–Jennifer G.

“I totally had chemo brain this morning.  I was walking out the door to run some errands and forgot to put on my shoes.  Good thing I didn’t get far, my feet got cold!”–Amy C.

“I literally called the PA at my oncologists office to ask a question, totally expecting to leave a message and she picked up.  And the question jumped right out of my head.  I had to hand up and call her later that day.”–Kristy I.

“When I was having my chemo treatments, I ended up forgetting, of all things, my husband’s birthday.”–Anna R.

“I left an $80 tip to a server last week and the bill was $220.  I’m sure she was happy, not sure how it’s going to look on my expense report.”–LaChelle M.

Now that we have established it is real even though the Mayo Clinic doesn’t believe it, here are some suggestions from our members on how to combat the foggy brain.

  1. Make lists.  Use your phone or a small notepad to create a to-do list for yourself and carry it with you everywhere.  Check off things you have done and add things you need to do any time you think of them.
  2. Set reminders on your phone.  I personally have 4 reminders on my phone daily just for my medications.
  3. Play memory games, read books, play Words with Friends, etc.  Anything you can do to work your mind can help restore your brain function.
  4. Keep a GPS in your car or use your phone.  Many of our members have mentioned getting lost when driving or walking.  If you keep your phone with you, you’ll be able to use it to find your way back to where you came from.
  5. Ask friends, family, and co-workers to be patient with you.  You can even ask them to help you out when you get stuck.  Explain why in advance so they understand.  Ask for vocabulary help or to remind you of people’s names.
  6. Sticky notes can be your best friend!
  7. Proofread twice!  Check over messages to make sure you didn’t misuse or misspell any words.
  8. Repeat information out loud.  I often say people’s names over and over again when I meet them so I don’t lose the name.  Sometimes saying something out loud, in your head, and even writing it down all at the same time will help yor remember something.
  9. Minimize distractions.  The more you can concentrate, the easier it is to remember things.  If you are used to being able to multitask, it may prove to be more difficult now.  Go easy on yourself if you aren’t able to do it any longer.
  10. Get plenty of sleep and rest.  A rested brain is a happy brain.
  11. Talk to your oncology social worker or a therapist.  This can be embarrassing and you need to work on accepting it.  Talking to a professional can head off any anxiety or depression you may develop.
  12. Stay organized.  Use calendars or planners.  Clutter can make your brain confused.
  13. Take breaks.  This is hard on you, and it’s exhausting to concentrate so hard.  Give your mind a rest now and again.

Lastly, remember you are not alone.  When I posted this topic in our group, it received over 100 comments in 6 hours time.  It was cathartic to relate and laugh at each others’ comedic stories of memory loss.  Join our group and laugh with us too.

….now, what was it I was talking about?

¹ Mayo Clinic Staff Print. “Overview.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.


Taylor Eames is a single mom of four living in Yuma, Arizona, who was diagnosed with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma in January of 2016.  She openly chronicled her experience during treatment and continuing through the aftermath on TaylorTough on Facebook.  Taylor is one of the founders of Breast Cancer Sisters along with her dear friend, Kristy Irizarry.


collaborative post, resources

Helping Your Favorite Breast Cancer Warrior

This post is a collaborative effort from the members of Breast Cancer Sisters compiled by Taylor Eames.

Once the breast cancer diagnosis is shared with friends and family, one of the most common things we hear is , “How can I help?”  or “What can I do for you?”  It’s difficult for many women to accept that they need help let alone to ask for it.  So I posed the question in our group asking what our warriors would have appreciated in care packages and what services their support system could do to take away some of the burden of a cancer diagnosis.

For Side Effects:

  • Hard Candies/Anti-Nausea Pops or Drops/Chewing Gum-Chemotherapy often causes nausea and can also leave a bad taste in the mouth.  Citrus, ginger, or mint are helpful for both of these side effects, but feel free to get something you know your fighter will like.
  • Head Coverings-Hair loss is imminent.  There’s really no getting around it with the types of chemo that are used to combat breast cancer. Talk with your warrior to find
    “Jules” from
    out what kinds of head coverings they would want to wear.  Wigs are available for free through the American Cancer Society, but you can always offer to purchase a gift certificate to a wig store nearby so they can pick out something in their preferred color and style.  Bandanas, silk scarves, bucket hats, beanies, baseball caps, and other styles are all up to the wearer’s preference.  A popular option in the group is  If you are planning to hand make hats, please remember that bald heads are quite sensitive.  You should use soft cotton, fleece, or silk.  Homespun yarn is a good choice for crochet or knit hats.
  • Lotion-Chemo and radiation both cause skin irritation.  Remember strong smells can make nausea worse, so we recommend sticking to unscented or sensitive lotions.  Eucerin and Aquaphor are fantastic options.  If you do go with something scented, lavender is soothing and peppermint helps with nausea.
  • Ointments-Radiation can leave burn marks on the skin.  Our members have suggested 100% Aloe Vera, Bepanthen, Aquaphor healing ointment, bees wax, Miaderm Radiation Cream, and Medline Skin Remedy.
  • Salt-This may seem weird but it’s going to show your fighter that you did some research!  Chemo patients often lose all sense of taste and/or they have a constant metallic taste in their mouth.  One of the things most often suggested to anyone complaining of not being able to taste food is salt.  Plain old table or sea salt!  From baked chicken to mashed potatoes to veggies, we cover it in salt and finally are able to taste something.
  • Plastic Utensils-This is another strange one, but believe me, it’s helpful.  Like I said above, chemo causes a horrible metallic taste.  Using regular metal forks and spoons makes it worse.
  • Biotene Mouthwash and Soft Tooth Brush-Another unpleasant side effect of chemo is sensitive gums and mouth sores.  The soft tooth brush will help massage the gums when they are sore without causing more issues.  Biotene is an excellent mouthwash that oncologists recommend to their patients who are experiencing mouth sores.
  • Baby Oil/Coconut Oil/Baby Shampoo-With hair loss, cancer patients’ heads get very sensitive.  We still wash our noggins even though we don’t have hair.  Using a gentle shampoo and then massaging oil into the scalp helps bring down the tenderness.
  • Sun Screen-Chemo causes a sun sensitivity.  I remember getting burnt after just being outside for ten minutes without any sunscreen on.
  • Claritin-Neulasta, a shot that is given to boost white blood cells, causes major bone pain.  For some reason, Claritin seems to help with that pain for a few people.  Everyone should at least try it before having to rely on heavy duty pain meds instead.
  • Imodium/Flushable Wipes-Here’s an embarrassing fact that you probably don’t care to know: chemo causes diarrhea.  Chemo nurses recommend Imodium.  And the flushable wipes help with the sensitive skin when frequent potty breaks are needed.
  • OTC Medications-Tylenol, Benadryl, Melatonin, Colace, all useful during chemo.
  • Fuzzy Socks-Neuropathy from chemo causes chilly tootsies.
  • Soft, Warm Blanket-Heat and cold tolerance is all sorts of messed up during treatment.  A nice cuddly blanky is a loving gesture too.
  • Hand Sanitizer-Germs are the enemy.  Chemo kills white blood cells.  Washing hands after touching grocery carts or money, after shaking hands, or when someone around you is sick, are essential parts of infection precaution.
  • Pill Case-Anti-nausea, steroids, pain meds, hormone blockers, etc.  Meds are taken all day every day.  So something to sort them out is helpful.
  • Calendar-Chemo often causes memory issues.  Chemo brain is a real thing.  With the many appointments that go along with treatment, a calendar all help keep them organized.

Post Op Items:

  • Button Up Jammies/Spacious Night Gowns/Robe-After a mastectomy, the arms cannot be raised for at least a week, and after that, it is often difficult and range of motion is limited.
    Drain Tube Lanyard and Pocket Pouch from
  • Drain Tube Pouch/Apron-Your fighter will most likely come home with at least one drainage tube.  It’s best to allow gravity to work with these tubes, so keeping them in pockets at waist level is advised.
  • Drain Tube Lanyard-This is great to hold the drain tubes while showering
  • Heart Pillow/Small Pillow-Placing a pillow under the arm after surgery is essential.  The nerves are extremely sensitive under the arm.  It feels like a severe sunburn.  I kept a pillow under both arms for about three weeks.
  • Ice Packs-Along with the pillows under the arms, ice packs also help sooth the sensitive skin.
  • Seat Belt Pillow-The seat belt goes right over the incisions and can irritate sutures.  A seat belt pillow can just be a small pillow that sits between the seat belt and the chest or one that wraps around the seat belt to protect the chest.
  • Slip On Shoes or Slippers-Again, it’s difficult to move the arms after a mastectomy, and frankly, it’s hard to move all together.  So being able to step right into your shoes with out having to bend over to put them on is very helpful.


  • Freezer Dinners/Set up a Meal Train-If you know someone going through treatment or surgery, or someone just diagnosed or feeling overwhelmed with life and stress caused by the diagnosis, make a meal and bring it over to their house.  I cannot tell you how much that will mean to them.  You can also set up a meal train at  Basically, you set up a schedule for others to bring in meals to the family in need.  This is especially awesome for single moms!
  • Cleaning-Either go to your warrior’s home and clean their bathroom or kitchen, or hire a maid to do it for them.  Even if it’s something simple like cleaning a toilet or vacuuming the hallway, it’s extremely helpful.
  • Babysitting-Chemo, radiation, and surgery are all exhausting.  Invite your fighter’s kids over for an evening or to do something special.  It will give your patient time to rest without worrying about taking care of the children, and it will make the kids feel special.  Mom is going through something rough right now and is probably getting all the attention.  The kiddoes need to feel some love and normalcy during this hard time.
  •  Gift Cards-Restaurants, gas, iTunes, Red Box, Massage, Spa, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.  Anything that will take you warrior’s mind off the fight is very helpful.

Fun Things:

  • Word Search Books
  • Crossword Puzzles
    Adult Coloring Page from
  • Books
  • Movies
  • Crocheting Hook or Knitting Needles and Yarn
  • A book about how to crochet or knit
  • Adult Coloring Books and Colored Pencils or Markers
  • A stuffed animal to be their mascot during treatments
  • Random Texts to Show you Care
  • Comic Books
  • Journal
  • Headphones
  • Audio Books
  • Sketch Pad
  • Send silly Snapchats
  • Go to their infusion and make fun videos together
  • Sudoku Books
  • Share a silly meme on their Facebook page just for the heck of it
  • Send a card.  Not a sympathy card.  A funny card.  Something that will make them smile.

The most common things requested are support and prayers.  Go do some research about their type of cancer and their treatment plan.  The more you know, the more you can be there for them as they go through this battle for their life.  If you ever feel awkward asking them what they need, ask a close friend or family member to give you a specific thing to do that will help them out.

Lastly, you should know that the battle does not end with “no evidence of disease.”  Some side effects can become long term.  Anxiety about future health issues and possible recurrence is often quite prevalent.  After spending a year or longer in treatment, suddenly being done being a professional patient feels strange and empty.  Your warrior is going to need you now as much as ever.  Check in often.  Make sure they are taking care of their mental health as well as their physical health.  Continue to give them the love and support they need to reenter a normal life.

Do you have anything to add to this list?  Feel free to comment with more suggestions!


photogrid_1489558558749.jpgTaylor Eames is a single mom of four living in Yuma, Arizona, who was diagnosed with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma in January of 2016.  She openly chronicled her experience during treatment and continuing through the aftermath on TaylorTough on Facebook.  Taylor is one of the founders of Breast Cancer Sisters along with her dear friend, Kristy Irizarry.