Not Another Coloring Book
Last updated: March 2023
Let's get in the time machine and go back to September 2019. I was freshly healed from my radical cystectomy, starting to get acquainted with having a urostomy and grappling with my bladder cancer diagnosis. The plan at that time was to do radiation and chemotherapy. I knew that my chemo days would be long, and I was trying to prepare myself for what would bring me comfort on those days.
My wonderful family and friends were thinking the same thing. On my doorstep arrived the first care package, and in it was my first "adult coloring book." I have to believe there must be some article out there that says "Top 10 Things to Give a Cancer Patient," with coloring books topping the list.
Coloring books? Not on my list
Let me be the first to tell you to please, please, PLEASE ignore the coloring book suggestion. Within a week, I had 80 coloring books. At least, that's when I stopped counting. Every size, design, and theme imaginable could be found in my collection.
The worst were those specifically for cancer, with ribbons and inspirational quotes. I know the intention is to provide entertainment and comfort. The books came from a place of love, but I was overwhelmed. I ended up donating the coloring books to my cancer center and the pediatric ward at the hospital.
Very quickly, I had to think of how to direct my support system toward items that I could actually use during treatment days and hospital stays.
90/10: Naps and a good read
To be frank, I napped during 90 percent of my treatments. Something about a quiet infusion floor and those warm blankets just knock me out. The same goes for most patients around me, especially if your premeds involve IV Benadryl.
If I wasn't napping, I read, and that's what I encouraged folks to do instead of coloring books. I asked all my friends and family to send me the titles of their favorite books. Between my virtual library card and unlimited book membership, I can read everything and anything. I loved reading the books recommended to me.
Trying to pass the time
Because my treatment primarily took place in the world of COVID, I wasn't been able to have visitors to the infusion center with me.
To pass the time and have some kind of social interaction, I've brought my handheld gaming system with me. I can log on and play games with friends. It is always fun to be distracted and make an infusion day go faster.
What a bladder cancer patient actually wants for infusion appointments
Now that I'm no longer in active treatment, I partner with other cancer friends to put together meaningful and useful care packages for those entering treatment. These are my actual recommendations for what to send to your loved one undergoing cancer treatment.
A soft pashmina. They work great as portable blankets, but most importantly let you cover up the exposed area of your port.
Coffee or food gift cards. Even on my sickest days, I rewarded myself with a yummy coffee or snack after treatment.
Your company. Whether video chatting, texting, meeting up in online games, or swinging by if the cancer center allows it. Infusion days can be incredibly lonely. Having someone to talk to can make the time go by much faster.
Whatever you do, please don't send another coloring book.
How long did it take for you to receive a bladder cancer diagnosis?