Cancer Consumerism

Happy Halloween!

I had meant to carve out the breast cancer awareness symbol on one of our jack o’lanterns today, but realized after the last piece of candy was handed out that I’d created it sideways.  I’ll bet a lot of trick-or-treaters were wondering why we had an alpha pumpkin.

If you’ve been anywhere near a store during October, the official month of breast cancer awareness, I’m sure you’ve seen a plethora of products festooned with the same pink ribbons.  From shampoo to bracelets, from eyewear to flatware to sportswear to hardware, that little ribbon has been everywhere, compelling consumers to increase awareness and further the cause.  Oh, and does it hurt if they happen to drum up a little business while they’re at it?

Listen up, retailers!  Want to know what and how breast cancer patients really buy?  Yes, those pink running shorts and breast cancer themed tiffany lamps are cute, but I’m a practical woman with practical needs.  Not only did I not want to waste my energy during reconstruction recovery on mall hopping, but now that Taxol is compromising my immune system, I also don’t want the exposure to germs lurking in large crowds of people.  So I’ve been keeping Amazon and UPS busy over the past month ever since the day after surgery, when I found I could still drag my finger across a computer track pad and click on ‘Add to Cart.’  Here’s an eclectic shortlist of items which I have found useful while recuperating from surgery and gearing up for chemo.

1)  It all started with a pair of Swiss Gear Adjustable Telescoping Hiking Poles to help keep myself steady when walking around the neighborhood after returning from the hospital.  The walker was out (yes, I was embarrassed to be seen with one) and I didn’t want to risk stumbling and falling while walking solo.  Although I only needed them for a few days, my kids were only too happy to assume ownership.

2)  Vitamins, vitamins, vitamins.  I’ve bought some from Whole Foods (too expensive) and Trader Joe’s (limited selection).  Amazon filled in the gaps and offered very compelling prices.

3)  Surgery left some pretty wide and bumpy scars and my surgeon recommended I massage the affected areas every day to improve their appearance and contour.  After perusing a large selection of special oils and lotions purporting to minimize scarring, I stumbled across reviews for ScarAway, the same sort of stretchy sticky silicone based sheet used by hospitals on burn patients to help scars go away.  I plan to wear them almost constantly for several weeks and will post later if I have a positive experience.

4)  We already had an infrared thermometer, but needed to upgrade to make sure my Cold Caps are at -32ºC when they go onto my head.  Fortunately, this is a versatile tool with many other applications, including monitoring the compost pile, gauging when to put food into hot oil, and checking whether the barbeque thermostat is really accurate (it’s not).

5)  Two days after my first chemo session, I suspected water already tasted slightly plasticky (though it’s fine now).  During that time, I found fizzy water to still be palatable, so ordered more iSi 10-Pack Soda Chargers to make our own seltzer water at home.

6)   Cold Caps leave a chemo patient, well, cold!  Fight off the shivers with this cozy electric heated throw.  My kids lined up on the couch the day it arrived to test it out.  I foresee this blanket will still see a lot of use long after chemo is a cold and forgotten memory.

7)  Last week we packed the folded Cold Caps in large tupperware type containers before piling them into the dry ice filled coolers.  This week, to cool faster and improve on the temperature consistency throughout the caps, we’ll be storing them flat separately in  3 gallon Double Zipper Ziploc Bags.


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