I have been consumed with the anticipation of finishing radiotherapy treatment today and then jetting off to the sunshine. I depart from Heathrow on Christmas Eve and arrive in Sydney on Boxing Day. Thus Christmas Day, for me, has been vaporised.
But not for you... I receive an email from Eleanor asking what she might give her breast cancer afflicted friend for Christmas.
Here are my top tips.
If your friend is having or is about to have chemotherapy she will probably lose her hair. A soft cotton or silk sleeping cap is a necessity both for catching falling hairs and for keeping her bald little head warm in the cold winter nights. Similarly, a cotton beanie is great for wearing around the house. If it’s freezing outside, she can don a cashmere hat over the top of the beanie.
Just because your friend has cancer doesn’t mean she can’t be drop-dead glamorous. Get her a velvet turban for topping off dramatic evening looks. If you want to splash out, an Hermès scarf is a gift that will be fabulous for a lifetime and then be handed down to her daughter.
Cancer treatments can be very drying to the skin. Here are three products that she will thank you for: Spiezia organic rose and vanilla face oil; enriched hand cream by Absolute Organics and organic foot softening balm by Saaf. I found myself keeping tubes of lip balm everywhere that I went - in my handbag, in the car and by the bed. Burt’s Bees do a three-pack of their lovely beeswax balms.
Your friend will be spending a lot of time lying on the couch. A pair of cashmere socks or a luxurious cashmere throw will make her feel more like a reclining princess that a languishing invalid. A subscription to Lovefilm is like giving a present every week.
There’s not much that you can do about the fact that everything she eats will taste revolting. But even at my most ill I could always manage to force down a bar of Green & Black’s Mint Chocolate. Alternatively, if your friend is of the 'all sugar is poisonous' camp then Sanchi Furikake Japanese Seasoning and Clearspring Ume Plum Seasoning are a couple of condiments that will lively up her brown rice.
What with feeling sick all the time and the thought of food being enough to turn one's stomach there are few pleasures left in life. Things that smell nice will give her a lift. Either a divine scented candle or a bottle of gorgeous Weleda bath milk is a sensory treat.
Reading trolley loads of cancer memoirs, cancer cures and cancer diets can be overwhelming, not to mention tedious. If your friend is the kind of person who likes to help herself there is one book that I would recommend: Your Life in Your Hands by Professor Jane Plant.
When your friend finally does haul her backside off the sofa, encourage her to go out dancing. To distract from the fact that she is bald a really bright lipstick and a pair of drop-dead chandelier earrings are in order.
If you're feeling super-indulgent, here are the most outstanding anti-cancer gifts that I have received. First, a Champion Juice Extractor (thank you Flossie). With this you friend will have life-giving, energising juice of the highest quality every day to keep her going. Add in a weekly organic fruit and veg box for good measure. And an aeroplane ticket (thank you Mr P), dated for two weeks after the end of her treatment will give her something to look forward to throughout her darkest days.
Finally, the best gift you can give is your friendship at a lonely and frightening time in her life. Make a commitment to visit once a week. Whilst you’re there make her a cup of anti-nausea ginger tea, cook her dinner, water the plants and take out the rubbish.