Gift Bags For Cancer Patients in Sittingbourne

Cancer Research UK warns that one in two of us will develop cancer at some point in our lifetime.


It’s a sobering statistic. Cancer can affect anyone, and although there are factors that can increase one’s vulnerability to the disease, there are no guarantees that will keep a person safe. Cancer can strike regardless of age, medical history, or personal health.


29-year-old Heidi Williams was diagnosed with triple-positive breast cancer in the summer of 2020. This news would be overwhelming at the best of times, but for it to happen in the middle of lockdown was devastating as there were strict limits on who could enter a hospital and who could accompany Heidi to her appointments. Heidi credits her dad with helping her get through her treatments. “He never failed to be outside in the car waiting for me to be done with my appointment – even when he had to wait four or five hours at a time,” Heidi says. “I so appreciate everything he’s done.” Heidi also praises her daughter, Marilyn, who kept her going through the long hard months of lockdown and dealing with her diagnosis.


Heidi is now very vocal about people of all ages and stages being vigilant. “Age is only a number. Cancer doesn’t discriminate, if it’s going to get you it will get you regardless, so please check yourselves. I don’t want anyone to think that just because there’s no family history or because you’re a certain age you don’t have to worry.”


After eighteen gruelling months, Heidi has finally finished her course of treatment and, in a heart-warming display of empathy, has been putting together gift bags for the patients still receiving chemotherapy at Galton Day Unit at Medway Hospital, where she had her treatments.


“The reason why I made the gift bags,” Heidi explains, “was not just to give something back but also because when you’re at the ward and sitting in the chair having treatment, it never gets any easier, no matter if it’s your first time or second time or third time; you’re always worried, thinking in the back of your mind ‘What are the side effects going to be this time round?’ – It’s just horrible, it’s not a nice feeling. It’s do-able, but it’s the anxiety of the unknown. Even though all the staff and nurses at Galton Day Unit are amazing at what they do – really, really amazing, I must emphasise that – you still have anxious moments, and I wanted to make the gift bags so that even if it was just ten minutes of curiosity and looking at what’s in the bag, it would be ten minutes that were anxiety free where patients could distract themselves from what they were having done.”


Different chemotherapy treatments have different side effects, but a common one is dry skin, so Heidi included lip balms and hand creams in her gift bags, along with a water bottle with hourly intake marked on the side to ensure adequate hydration, gloves for the winter months, a chocolate bar, a box of coffee sachets, a guardian angel ornament, and a notebook and pen for patients to record their thoughts and journal how they were feeling. Heidi also wrote uplifting quotes on the sides of the bags for an added boost of positivity.


Heidi set up a GoFundMe page and held online raffles to help raise money for the gift bags. It was important to her to always bring 14 bags – enough so that every person undergoing treatment would also receive a gift bag. Heidi gave out the first lot of bags on the same day she finished treatment – a truly uplifting gesture that shows her compassion for people going through the same struggles she has experienced.


“The chemotherapy is horrendous,” Heidi says. “People think ‘oh you’ve had your operation, you’ve had your treatment, you’re on the mend’ but actually it might not be like that at all. There might be lingering cells, there are follow-up scans and follow-up appointments, and it’s never ending.”


Having only recently completed her treatment, Heidi is still healing. A diagnosis of cancer is life-changing, and chemotherapy takes a huge toll mentally, emotionally, and physically. Heidi is hoping to take a much-needed and very well-deserved break to recharge and focus on recuperating from her illness. She hopes to do more in the future for Galton Day Unit, whether that be gift bags or fundraising or running a marathon.


Any more donations made to the GoFundMe page will be donated to Galton Day Unit, so the remaining funds will be used for the benefit of the patients there. In the meantime, we wish Heidi a swift recovery.

by Alice Smales

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