Sleep Caps and Ginger Tea: Practical Resources for Chemotherapy Patients
Anne Marie Paolucci is the third generation of her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer, and she understands exactly what chemotherapy patients need to deal with experience and its side effects. “That knowledge cost me a lot to get," she notes, adding that she founded Chemo Comfort, a volunteer-run organization that provides Chemo Comfort Kits to meet those needs.
The motivation behind the kit is the comfort aspect,” Paolucci said. “There is a ton of technical medical information out there, but the information on tools and items to help you deal with how you feel going through chemo are not as readily available.”
The idea for the kit came as Paolucci was finishing her own chemotherapy treatment and a friend was just beginning the treatments. "I wanted to do something for her," Paolucci said. "So I pulled together some practical items and resources that had helped me, and called it a chemo starter kit."
Paolucci believes that while a great many cancer programs are information based, these programs were not providing tools that primarily addressed chemotherapy’s side effects. The Chemo Comfort Kits Paolucci developed are more personal, not overwhelming patients with an endless list of resources, but empowering patients with ways to make the treatment experience easier and giving them the tools to cope with day-to-day needs from the start.
“Patients love that the tone of our kits is gentle and not overwhelming. It’s in stark contrast to the overwhelming feeling when you are diagnosed with cancer,” Paolucci said.
Chemo Comfort Kits is one of many innovative ideas that strengthen and improve communities entered in the "Revelation to Action: Your Place. Your Idea. Your Change" competition—check them out and vote for the best until June 30, 2010.
"I got one letter from a 64 year-old women on Social Security, going through serious, advanced Stage 2b breast cancer, who said that her life appeared very bleak. But she wrote, ‘It is through a person like yourself that one regains the courage to continue living’.”
"Starting chemotherapy is a frightening experience,” Paolucci adds. “Buying the right toothpaste and toothbrush is pretty far down on the list of priorities."
"Yet, having the right products is invaluable. With our kits, a patient doesn’t have to research this on their own once they find out that mouth sores make it painful to brush his or her teeth. A kit recipient is already equipped with the right toothpaste and effective, nausea-reducing teas. They do not need to spend time and effort investigating products or even go without them due to financial constraints.”
Chemo Comfort Kits provide practical tools to helping patients to manage side effects and offer things that can be used daily, such as toothpaste, a soft toothbrush, and mouthwash to help one deal with the sensitive mouth sores; ginger and mint products, including lozenges, tea, and crystallized ginger, to help address nausea and dry mouth that may come as a side effects of the treatment. The kit also includes a sleep cap, to help patients stay warm when they lose their hair, a satin pillow that helps to alleviate hair loss, and warm fuzzy microfiber socks.
The kits, which are largely assembled by volunteers, also include a CD of guided imagery meditation prepared specifically for chemotherapy patients, a blank book to encourage patients to keep a journal, a booklet of Paolucci’s own helpful hints, and a publication about how to live well with cancer.
Paolucci is especially proud of the fact that most of the items in the kit are all or in-part donated. “The kits have a retail value of about USD $120, but our costs are closer to USD $55,” she said. “We’ve distributed 1,200 kits so far."
“I’ve received many letters from people who write because they or family member has received the kit and it touched them. Often they are moved to donate, or want to send a gift kit to someone else they know who is going through chemotherapy."
"We’re small but mighty, and have found partners for distribution, that are serving very needy people, including Cancer Care, the Cancer Support Team in Westchester County, the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in Chinatown, the Staten Island University Nalitt Institute for Cancer and Blood-Related Diseases, and the Phyllis Newman’s Women’s Health Initiative at the Actor’s Fund.”
Currently, Chemo Comfort is serving the greater New York City area, but will ship gift kits to anyone nationwide. Paolucci’s dream is for everyone who is starting chemotherapy to have a Chemo Comfort Kit before they begin treatment. She hopes to raise the financial resources to hire full time staff from her pool of volunteers, and to put all of her energy into programs instead of raising funds.
“Ultimately, I’d love to have a children’s kit, but we can’t develop just one children’s kit. We’d have to have different age levels, and one set of kits for boys and another for girls. I’d love to do it, and Chemo Comfort has the ideas for it, but right now, we need to stay focused.”
|[banner-35388:]Anne Marie Paolucci||32.63 KB|