Category Archives: Treats

Luxury Christmas presents for friends with cancer

Gift Hampers 5


Cancer patients love luxury too!


Just because your friend has had to exist in a sterile environment, doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate luxury – and in spades!

So what can you give them?

As a patient, one often has the specialist nurse who frowns on anything that has the slightest touch of glamour!  Many is the one who has grabbed a skincare product to search for any suspect ingredients.

I try to tell them that any chemicals manufacturers might include, wouldn’t even come within a mile of the poisons that get pumped into our bodies during cancer treatment – but all I get is sour looks!

Or else they tell you piously, “I couldn’t possibly recommend anything commercial”, and get cross when it is pointed out that drug companies are some of the most profitable companies in the world!

But don’t let this put you off.  Cancer patients LOVE getting gifts, small or large.

A few ‘rules’ to help in choosing a present

  • If a product is scented – either buy something your friend already uses, or look for the ‘old’ flower perfumes. Lavender and rose in particular were often, and still are, used as antiseptics.
  • Most manufacturers have taken parabens out of products because of some dodgy publicity.  However, if you ask a nurse to show you ingredients for IVs, often they contain parabens!  Or ask if they recommend Blueberrries – apparently they contain parabens!
  • However, it makes sense to avoid the ‘chemical’ designer scents that are around, particulary those ‘celebrity’ perfumes that are produced just for Christmas market.  These can sometimes produce allergies.  Look for old-fashioned ones, that have stood the test of time.
  • If anything has a screw top, or is difficult to open, try to make sure the person’s hands are strong enough to cope.

What’s available?

I am NOT medically qualified, so if your friend is still in isolation during treatment, please ask a doctor or nurse what is suitable.

All of the following companies take great care with their products, and most cancer patients enjoy using them.  Ask the demonstrators at major in-store beauty counters if any of them do voluntary work at hospices;  they can tell which of their products are most suitable, but in the meantime here are some of the best products to help ‘cancer drug skin’.

And if you live outside the UK, and want to order online, delete ending and try .com – if that doesn’t work Google!


Avène is one of those French companies that developed clinically-trialled products designed to help problem skins.  If only our dermatologists in Britain would go over to France and see what their doctors prescribe (these or similar products), we might get more help with skin problems.

The basis of all their products is the thermal waters that gush out of the mountain;  their laboratories are constantly seeking new solutions to skin problems, and they undertake numerous clinical trials in hospitals.

Anyway, they make a whole range of suitable products;  best thing is to either find a major chemist that stocks their products, or go online and see what is available in your price range.


This is the ‘medical’ arm of the great Estée Lauder empire;  the company that started pink ribbons and has done an enormous amount for cancer care.   Currently I am enjoying using their Comfort on Call cream, which is also allergy tested, and described as a relief cream.  This means it is just right to smooth out all the bumps and rough skin we get as a side effect of drugs – darn them.

Another good cream is their Moisture Surge – which does exactly what it says to dried up faces!  Bliss!  Most of their creams cost around £30 – £35, and are very good value for money.

The also make eye serums, and their famous Dramatically Different Moisture Lotion – a staple of the Look Good, Feel Better beauty boxes handed out to us when we have those wonderful make-up lessons.



We should be very proud of this all-British company, as they made superb creams for us.

And each Christmas, they gather together gift sets with all the goodies that we love, in attractive packs.

Each pack aims to help with a specific problem, be is rough body skin or dull facial problems;  then they offer several suitable products at a knock-down price – saving a lot!

They are famous for Bath products:  foams, washes and body lotions in gorgeous scents.

They make very good face creams:  for cleansing, toning, moisturising and for an extra boost at night.

And also have a marvellous treatment spa at their HQ in Lancashire Court,  just behind Bond Street.  If you want to give a really special present, give a voucher for a treatment here.

Living Nature are really natural, organic products, made in New Zealand.  80% of their native plants are indigenous and many have remarkable bioactive properties. Sourced from forests, lands and seas, Living Nature’s active ingredients come from the most potent of these unique plants.

And the really nice thing is that these products are endorsed by New Zealand’s cancer organisations.

They make a range of products, packaged in their distinctive eco-friendly style – find them on


Neom makes body oils that celebrities really use.

And rubbing in body oil is less ‘sticky’ than using body lotions, especially for someone who hates using skin preparations!

There is a gift box containing all five Neom Bath Oils (Lavender, Jasmine, Rosewood etc.)  in small trial sizes, which pack a massive ‘feel good’ aroma whenever you use one.  £15.

Now their latest oils are in a spray bottle, and I have been trying out the  ‘Tranquility’ Organic Body Oil, containing Lavender and Sweet Basil.  This really does calm you down, and might be just the present for someone who has difficulty sleeping – have a bath at bedtime and spray it all over – bliss!

NEOM say their “Luxury Organic Bath Oils are made with a vitamin E packed certified organic Safflower base & Jojoba to leave your skin soft and toxin free;  if you use them during the day your skin really glows and feels good all day.  For once, the hype says what it means.

Peachykeen is a Hale, Manchester company that specialises in organic body products,such as their super Body Butter.

Containing coconut oil and ginger, this is what I would best describe as a mega-zapper for the dreadful dry skin one gets – particularly when you first go on certain drugs.  You take a teaspoon of the butter from the jar, rub it in your hands and it soon becomes almost liquid, soothing and softening as it goes.  £22.

Suitable for vegetarians , and especially useful in the winter, when skin needs an extra boost to counter winter winds.


Have fun – and don’t forget to buy something for yourself!



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Christmas Hampers for friends with cancer

The luxe housewarming hamper

Go to town with decoration Flickr

How to pick a


of goodies


Looking for a Christmas present for a friend who has canncer?

Have fun making up a Hamper of foods that are supposedly healthy.

I say ‘supposedly’ for good reason, because NO food can be said to cure cancer – don’t believe those that say it can.

However, there are some foods that doctors and researchers say good things about – and eating them (provided the patient likes the taste and the taste doesn’t conflict with drugs) can only be of benefit for one’s health – as well as being tasty.


First, try to find something to use as a hamper that can be useful afterwards.  Baskets that can be used for shopping/keeping things in are always welcome.  Or you might find an old box and decorate with fun symbols;  or one of those smart linen baskets – have a look round your nearest department store and ideas will leap out – promise!

What goes inside

All these foods have had good things written about them in medical research – just DON’T  make any claims.  Treat this as a fun exercise – that’s what it’s supposed to be.

Ginger:  nurses say nice things about this – so look for ginger nuts (biscuits or cookies); ginger tea; a ginger root;  cans of old-fashioned ginger beer or a bottle to take the place of the usual bottle of wine (but only if the recipient has a sense of humour!)

Marmalade:  researchers at the University of Arizona had nice things to say about orange and grapefruit peel Marmalade, and after all, the name supposedly came from ‘Marie malade’ given to the confiture as supplied to Mary Queen of Scots when she felt ill.

Berries:  Strawberries, blackberries, black currants, raspberries etc. all provide flavouring and bases for cordials, jams, tins fruit,  boiled sweets,  etc.

Coffee:  researchers are now starting to say nicer things about this ‘pick you up’.  Choose a top quality Fair Trade packet.

Herbs:  dot the Hamper with lovely smelling cuttings of rosemary, bay leaves, sage, thyme and oregano that can be used fresh, or hung up, dried and stored to add to dishes.

Chocolate:  make sure this is dark and at least 70% (and a bar – not a box!)

Tomato :  any tomato-rich sauce, ketchup, etc. even tins of speciality tomatoes all find favour.  And if someone is a ketchup freak, tell them two tablespoons equal a whole fresh tomato, and only contains around 15 calories.

Garlic :  pop in a clove, and not only do you scare away the devil but if your friend can tolerate the smell (don’t forget some drugs react to this) it is also a very healthy additive to cooking.

Honey :  I’ve mentioned this elsewhere – just make sure it is the best – organic – or manuka honey.

Bottle :  a Christmas Hamper always has to contain a bottle, but be creative. I’ve written about Pixley Cordials elsewhere;  not only do the bottles look festive, but the taste is really ‘fruity’.  They aren’t alcoholic, but can always be the basis of a fruit punch if someone must have something with oomph, but healthy!

Fruit :  and finally dot the hamper with shiny apples, perhaps an avocado, pears and any ‘hard’ long-lasting fruit.

Enjoy with your friend!  And I bet you have as much fun compiling the hamper as your friend will have poring over its contents!




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Looking after your hands

Mini-treat comes to the rescue


Known as a ’60 second Fix for Hands’, this Crabtree & Evelyn’s Citron gift box is available in two versions;  a big box costing £24, but is also available in a mini version costing £8.

I was mooching around Tescos trying to think of a present to cheer up a friend having chemo, when I suddenly saw a dinky little box.  It was just the right size for her to pop into her handbag, and take with her whilst she sits in the ‘chemo chair’.

Originally made for gardeners, but just right for anyone suffering from horrible skin with chemo, the 60 second fix consists of a hand scrub with pumice, ideal to get rid of nasty hang nails, ‘spare’ skin and rough bits;  and a lovely hand cream to smooth on and keep hands soft.

All set up in a little bag so you don’t have to wrap it!

Get this at major Tesco stores, or

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Keeping comfortable in winter if you have had cancer

Keep misery out this Winter



The next person who asks me to sign a petition against Global Warming~

is going to get their clipboard banged on their head.


Where is this promised Warming?  Why are we shivering and blue with cold?  And why is Macmillan starting their winter warming campaign even earlier than usual?

Luckily, my friend Sally popped in with the most fantastic present -it’s there  on the Right – and the glumps have disappeared.

She saw a Cable knit throw when she was in Tesco – and thought of me!  Bless!

And this throw is the  most fantastic thing to have around.

In the day I snuggle under it to watch TV, cuddle in to when phoning, and elegantly (well, I try) spread it over my legs to keep out chill winds.

And at night it lies on my bed, and ever since I put it on top of the duvet I don’t have cold feet any longer.

Don’t know why, but I don’t get hot flushes – I get cold feet!  But thanks to this throw they have vanished.

The throw is supposed to sit on top of sofas and look elegant – but since Sally bought it, it hasn’t had time to lie still.  It costs £30, is called a  F&F home Cable knit throw, comes in cream, size is 130 x 150 (centimetres that is) and is made of cotton and viscose.

If you have to go in to hospital, it is fully machine washable at 30 degrees, so why on earth the NHS doesn’t use this material instead of the new slimy thick cotton for blankets, heaven knows.  They don’t have any warmth.

The Throw is available from Tesco at, telephone number 0845 600 4411 .

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Forget cancer pink bling – some products are worth it

Company comes up with pink goods


and not a sign of bling


Every October I dread all the messages I get  saying something like

“X product is sporting a pink ribbon in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness – each product sold gives a donation to charity”.

One thing they all have in common;  when you investigate the ‘donation’ is usually tiny.

Last year I discovered you can even buy household cleaners with ‘pink bling’ stickers – just what I need to make me feel really good – I think NOT.

But – there are exceptions, and if anyone wants to give friends – or themselves – a pink treat, Brown and Harris in England have come up with a range of delightful English Rose skincare, so they are legitimately pink.

Rose, like lavender, was used as an antiseptic, so that is helpful.  (The range also includes Lily of the Valley – so all ‘old-fashioned’ scents.

The range of products are also packaged in an old-fashioned design, so you feel you are buying something that has a ‘feel good’ factor, helped by the fact that some of the labels have lines from Keats’ poetry printed on them.

They make you feel good, and I have been having fun trying them out, after a friend sent me a ‘goody box’.


Yesterday, I suddenly realised that I only had a horrible bar of soap in the bathroom, and with friends coming pounced on the box of soaps to add a bit of luxury to my basin!

As well as the usual body lotion (very creamy) and lovely bath essences, there are all sorts of ‘feel good’ additions to the line.

Things like perfumed sachets;  these are supposed to go in drawers and cupboards, but I add one to my bag to put into a hospital bedside locker drawer;  it takes away the smell.

Then there are room fragrances, which always give me a lift.

And really old-fashioned, but lovely Drawer Liners.  You put these into your drawers to line them, so every time you pull out a drawer to get dressed in the morning, out wafts a delicate scent.  Very luxururious and pampering.

But what I liked most of all were the prices.

They range from  a very reasonable – £3.99 up to £6.99

but certainly look much more.

All the products come in English Rose, Lavender and Lily of the Valley.

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Oils are nature's oldest beauty secret

Almond blossom

Almond Blossom Flickr

The problem~

that turned into a present!


It was a friend’s birthday, and I wanted to get her something Provencal, as that is her favourite part of France.

I had written about L’Occitane products in the past – so thought a box of their gorgeous ‘goodies’ was the right thing.

But nearly an hour later I was beginning to regret my decision, as their website just wouldn’t accept anything I inputted.  It was just behaving as websites can do – but IT guys swears never happens.

Worried that I might have inadvertently set all sorts of dire things in motion (such as multiple orders) I phoned them next morning.  Got through to Joelle, who was a genuine human being, not a call centre.  She was incredibly efficient, anxiously talked me through the process and assured me that they were very, very sorry.

Two days later, the postman delivered a lovely box of goodies from L’Occitane, with a delightful letter of apology from the ECommerce Manager (not an ‘executive’) Gaelle Debauge.   This was really old-fashioned service, and I only wish some of the other companies that have website problems would copy their kindness and efficiency.

Why can’t doctors help with our hair?

They say women’s hair is our crowning glory – well, after cancer this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Each Dermatologist I meet up with, I ask what can I do about my ‘druggie hair?’  They all look bored.  I even found out this week that some of the drugs we are put on actually leach out our hair colour.  I couldn’t work out why my mousey-blonde hair was colourless;  thought it had gone white, but realised it was just a faded version of my normal colour.

Reading an information sheet included in a Sanofi-Aventis drug, this said that one of side effects was loss of hair colour.  How French !  Of course being a French drug company, where the medical profession cares much more about women, they included this vital piece of information – why do French pharma companies bother about women – yet the British  couldn’t care less? I still smart when I remember the patronising NHS dermatologist who told me, “try a conditioner”;  this was the only suggestion he could make,  as if I might never have thought of this.

Now the good news – Oils can help

L'Occitane Shower Oil

Amongst the goodies L’Occitane sent me was a lovely Almond Shower Oil.  I had to wash my hair, so tried my current trick of rubbing some oil in first before shampooing;  my ‘straw hair’ feels better already.  Although the oil was supposed to be for showering – it did the trick!  Since then I have used the Oil as a a shampoo, and my hair is much softer.

Now I know that worked, I am off to their shop near me to check out their range of oils.

Next time I will rub their oil in before I go to bed (it doesn’t stain my pillow provided I just rub in a little);  then, when I shampoo my hair the next morning, it’s much softer.  If I really want to make it shine, or am going to be out in the sun, I pour a little oil on the palms of my hands, and smooth this over my hair, and it glistens!

The company has several outlets in Britain, or you can order online (Joelle promises it was only a temporary glitch!)

You can order on QVC, or go to





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A special Treat for anyone in Hospital

Finding something small that won’t take up too much room on a bedside locker, but is a treat, can be difficult.

But this tiny gift box containing all five Neom Bath Oils (Lavender, Jasmine, Rosewood etc.) is just right. And packs a massive ‘feel good’ aroma whenever you use one of the minute bottles – like letting a Genie out!

The oils not only moisturise skin, but if used in a bath will scent your room or ward,  and give everyone who comes within reach a lift.  I watched nurses go past a bathroom the other day where a friend had gone in to use my Neom bottles, and as each one passed she gave an appreciative sniff – then went on with a smile.

NEOM say their “Luxury Organic Bath Oils are made with a vitamin E packed certified organic Safflower base & Jojoba to leave your skin soft and toxin free with an alluring glow that only NEOM can deliver. Each luxury mini bath oil is designed to give you a specific treatment, creating your very own bath spa”.  For once, the hype says what it means.

I prefer to use them after a bath or shower to re-hydrate my skin – but either way these tiny little bottles are a real treat.


P.S  They are 70% certified organic ingredients and 30% pure essential oils.

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Little bottle that zaps itchy skin

Sasy n Savy is new kid on the block

I have been trying out a new body lotion just arrived from Australia, and suddenly realise I have stopped itching.

Called Silk Shimmer Body Lotion, I have been using it every morning after my bath.

Itches and rough patches are something we all put up with;  just remember to cream our skins twice a day instead of once when they break out.  But this natural skincare from Australia has made a big difference – I don’t keep on scratching when it’s getting late and some time away from the daily skincare routine.  Usually when we have very cold winds, I can be itching like mad – but horrid weather we had during March/April hasn’t bothered me this time


Reason I am not a big fan of companies that trumpet they are only made from ‘natural’ ingredients.  There are some pretty hairy natural products out there – and conversely not all chemicals are bad – and even if we add to the chemicals in our bodies, nothing the skincare boys could include in their pretty bottles would come near the lethal cocktails the medics shove into our bodies.

But ….. if a product contains lovely-sounding ingredients such as extracts from Kakadu plums, Bearberry leaf , Wild rosella flowers, Grass Lillies and lots of Australian essential oil – I’ll give it a try!

And this past month I have smoothed on the pink lotion, albeit a bit reluctantly because it disappeared immediately into my skin – but after a day or two I suddenly realised ‘no itches!’ – they’d stopped.

For a small bottle, it packs a massive punch well above its weight – and as I travel a lot this will make packing easier.  But I won’t be taking it because of that – but because itches have disappeared.

Cost:  £28   buy from Harrods or

And don’t forget, Australia as a country has some pretty impressive cancer care – they are in the forefront of much of the research, and practical products being produced.






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Treats for tired legs

Prettier colours for support tights

Sitting at the bottom of my tights drawer are pairs of grungy-grey support tights.  The colour, reminding me of very old ladies woollen tights dating from the War, is enough to put me off ever wearing them, however, much the nurses say I must.

So when Pretty Polly and Elbeo announced they were making support tights, I was first in the queue to see if they had anything remotely fashionable and wearable.

And they do!

What’s more, the prices are much more reasonable than support tights.

Will they work?

NO – if you have severe oedema you will have to stick with the NHS 1,2 or 3 strengths.

But if, like me, you have had MLD treatment, and are looking for something a little ‘lighter’, these  tights are made in support ‘strengths’ from 6 – 12, or as they say Light (Factor6) up to Extra firm (Factor 12).

Or if you are a nurse, on your feet all day. these could be very useful.

Others, on their feet all day such as airline cabin crew, will also benefit from this type of support.

I am not a doctor or a nurse, so have no idea if the support is what should be required.  All I can say is that when I wear them they give ME support, and as I was having big problems with wearing the NHS-type as my skin is so dry, dry, dry and itchy – this has to be an improvement.  But ask you nurse.

Extra Strength – I wear these when I need support all day.  They are made of a clever honeycomb weave, which lets air in so you don’t have that awful itch when wearing the old type, but are strong enough to give me adequate support.

Knee Highs – these are going to be bliss in the summer.  I am wearing a pair now, and can feel the support, but it’s not intrusive, and as they only go as far as the knee they will be ideal when the weather gets hotter.

Knee Highs with silver – Pretty Polly say ‘silver has been used as a powerful anti-microbial agent for many centuries’.  The socks are treated with silver which they claim ‘controls the development of foot nasties, bacteria and fungus’.

Colours – this is where I fall in love with the tights.  Elbeo’s Café Creme is a lovely colour, and the tights look just like the smartest, most expensive ones you can buy.  Pretty Polly has Sherry – another lovely colour that looks like tan colour tights.  Then they have Barely Black – a smart sheer stocking, and a rich deep brown for opaque tights – very trendy.

No-one would think they were support tights, and the looks varies from the sheerest 15 denier-type, up to a fashionable opaque.

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How to understand what nurses say

Do you Triage your laundry?

Some nurses speak ‘medic-speak’.  You may not understand them.  But, as in all jobs, those that work in a sector have their own way of describing things.

But their ‘in-speak’ can have its own words – hence one nurse who told a colleague “I am Triaging the laundry” .

Translation:  she just meant she was sorting clothes to put in the washing machine:  this pile was urgent – this pile could wait.

There is a video clip by an inspirational nurse, Donna Cardillo, which gives a short insight into what nurses mean when they talk to each other.  Listen, you might learn some interesting phrases to mull over whilst you have those moments when you are actually left alone in your hospital bed, and can reflect on life, the universe and everything.

She says nurses don’t have colds, they have an U.R.I. – or Upper Respitatory Infection.  (See, I told you!).

Or she says nurses don’t cough, they ‘Aspirate’.

Understand these phrases, and you begin to understand what they are saying in ‘nurse speak’.

And if you are a nurse, Donna has written several books especially for nurses:

“Dear Donna” columnist for Nursing Spectrum & NurseWeek
Your First Year as a Nurse from Random House
Career Alternatives for Nurses®
The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses
A Daybook for Beginning Nurses

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