Gifts Closed the Distance
by Linda Slusser
Marilyn (left) and author Linda Slusser
When my long-distance best friend was diagnosed with cancer, I had to find a way to support her from afar.
Even over the phone, I could tell from her voice that my best friend of 58 years was about to share bad news. But I wasn’t prepared for her matter-of-fact announcement: “I have breast cancer.”
Marilyn would be facing a lumpectomy, followed by three weeks of daily radiation. How could I support her when I couldn’t be there by her side?
I decided to create a morale-boosting kit and have it delivered to Marilyn’s house. Her first reaction to the mysterious box went something like this: “You said you were sending a box in the mail, but I didn’t expect it to be so big! Each wrapped package and gift bag has a note dictating when I can open it. NOT FAIR!”
Yet, as the weeks of treatment proceeded, Marilyn looked forward to the little surprises I had lined up for her. She felt they sparked her curiosity and cheered her during a bleak period.
As the weeks of treatment proceeded, Marilyn looked forward to the little surprises I had lined up for her.
My kit consisted of items chosen especially for Marilyn. In addition to the directions for opening I had taped to the outside, a colorful note was tucked inside each gift to let her know she was in my thoughts.
Marilyn’s top picks among the kit’s morale boosters? “Most useful was probably the radiation cream because it was the most practical,” she says. “Probably the one I enjoyed the most was the fleece blanket. I use it every night when I sit on my living room sofa or lie down to read a book.”
Marilyn’s cancer journey is not over. But even when I can’t stand beside my best friend, I can still wrap her in a warm fleece hug.
Gift 1: Open the night before your
Inside: A burgundy fleece throw
The note: This throw is to wrap you in warm, healing thoughts.
Think of it as a plush hug.
Gift 2: Open before your first post-surgery appointment.
Inside: A tote bag with a cute sketch of her much-beloved breed,
an old English sheepdog
The note: Your tote bag, with an old English to make you laugh,
can hold all you need for appointments.
Gift 3: Open the day of your first
appointment with the oncologist.
Inside: A notebook, pen, and hand sanitizer
The note: Put these in your tote bag to record your questions and the doctor’s information and to keep the germs away.
Gift 4: Open before the first radiation treatment.
Inside: Radiation cream
The note: This cream got lots of great reviews. I hope it relieves any discomfort to your skin.
Gift 5: Open during week one of
Inside: Lip balm and mints in a variety of flavors
The note: These are to add to your tote bag for a quick,
Gift 6: Open during week two of
Inside: Socks with a dog’s face on the cuffs and
a book of pet-themed humor
The note: These are to make you smile – some funny stories
and some cozy socks.
Gift 7: Open during week three of
Inside: A container filled with an assortment of candy,
including her favorite – Tootsie Rolls
The note: These are for when you need a sugar boost.
Gift 8: Open after the last radiation
Inside: A key ring with beads and a pair of feet
The note: This is to remind you to keep your feet on the ground
and stay strong.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Linda Slusser lives in Wellington, OH.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2016.