FOOD: Initially I think of the delicious meals given to us (a lasagne that knocked my socks off, and a whole foods bounty that I devoured), but I also had some trouble with appetite at times. Here are some great alternatives to prepared meals...
- Fruit Baskets. Again, I didn't have much of an appetite. When I ate, I wanted it to be filling and healthy. Buying and preparing fruit can be a lot, so this gift was amazing. I could just reach into the fridge for already cut watermelon and then shuffle back to the couch.
- Hand Held Snacks. Food preparation was at the bottom of my list and when Neil went back to work I spent even less energy on feeding myself. The piles of cliff bars sent to us were like bars of gold!
- Restaurant/Grocery Gift Cards. I was eating like a bird and I didn't know when I would crave something. Having these were fantastic, especially when this vegetarian said "I don't know why, but the only thing I want right now is a steak. I need red meat!" It was even better for the restaurants that deliver! It felt like getting to eat out while I was stuck in bed, and we could eat well at the times it worked best for us.
- Poopin Mix. Lets just get real here. Narcotics can mess you up. I was in a bad place until I discovered this magic mixture.... equal parts apple sauce, prune juice, and fiber one cereal. Big shocker here - it actually tastes good! (all new moms out there: you're welcome)
HEALTH: Here are a few things that were so wonderful, I began to depend on them for my healing.
- Ice/Heat Pack. This reusable gem became my new best friend. So simple but so necessary!
- Healing Lotion. Years ago I discovered this Anti-Stress Massage Lotion that works wonders on sore muscles. It functions something like icy/hot but its all natural (and doesn't smell so strong). I would use it on my legs after a long run or my low back when I felt achy. After the surgery, rubbing this on my neck and shoulders was a highlight of my morning.
- Advice. I couldn't see my incision and Neil couldn't deal with the pressure of deciding what looked "ok" so having nursing friends available for simple questions and spot checks was great.
- Pillow. Before surgery, Neil had his favorite T-shirt made into a small pillow for me. It was the perfect size for bringing to the hospital. It was a great for additional neck support. Plus it was so perfectly sentimental (and I was a swooning sentimental mess at the time.)
CLOTHES: I would have never guessed getting clothes would be important in my recovery time but having that new comfy item to wear really did make me feel better.
- Sweats. The gold standard. My easy, cozy, all the time wardrobe. I got everyday gray pants and basic t-shirts and some thoughtful hooded shirts (to cover up my neck). I also got a blue zip-up made from Alternative Earth, the softest cotton material in this world. I wear it almost every single day (still).
- Robe. It was summer so getting a soft, breezy robe was perfect. I took this to the hospital and it appropriately covered my backside while I walked the halls. When I was home, I could wear this and look presentable for visitors, while still laying around.
- Travel Bag. Okay so this isn't technically clothes, but its pictured above and its worth a shout out. I got this incredible travel bag from my mom on my birthday (shortly before surgery). Her intent was for me to pack what I needed for the hospital stay - knowing that soon I'd feel better and I'd be packing this bag for weekend trips with Neil. We are headed to Louisville in a week and as I pull this out, it will feel so good to remember how far I've come (not to mention its a fabulous bag)! *note Lo and Sons is a family owned company, and when they heard my story, they gave my mom a discount on the bag along with a really sweet note! That's unheard of these days!!
- Dress Up. After spending all my days in sweats (again, thank God for those!), there were times when I wanted to look better than I felt. There were days of doctor follow-ups when I still wasn't ready for "society pants" that button, but I was in the mood to look nice. My two favorite things to wear were a long cotton skirt and an activewear dress. The skirt made me feel like I was still in sweat pants but look like I had my sh*t together. The dress, oh man the dress. The women in Neil's family got this Lole dress for me and it has become my staple. It is from this website - which boasts 'activewear' clothing (which means it can look fancy but can even be worn exercising). Its wrinkle resistant and incredibly comfortable. I wore it when stuck on the couch. I wore it when we went out to eat for the first time. I've worn it to birthday parties and baby showers. And it will be my standard traveling outfit forever more!
SPLURGES: Like the clothing, technically these things weren't necessary for my recovery, but they sure did make a girl feel great!
- iTunes Gift Card. When I would take my walks each day, I began wearing my ipod and the music helped me pass the time. Getting this gift card was so fun because I really got to treat myself. I would contemplate which album to buy next and the soundtracks now remind me of an important time in my life.
- American Express Gift Card. We were so thankful for this for similar reasons as the itunes card. After spending all day (and night) consumed by our needs (physical and otherwise), it was such a joy to discuss our wants. We used this card to gift ourselves with something we would have never bought on our own and it was a blast to decide what to buy. We ended up with a TV stand (which sounds boring, but if you saw the rickety coffee table that used to be our TV stand, you'd understand why it was so delightful to change things up).
- Porch Furniture and Pillows. This bonus gift ended up becoming a life saver. When I was tired after walks, I could sit down and recover. When I was sick of being inside, I could comfortably breathe fresh air. It was the perfect change of scenery for me and now that I feel better, I can't wait to spend healthy days on the porch with our dog.
- Books and Movies. My dear friends, who know me so well, lent me a ton of books over this time period. I loved these hand picked items. I loved taking quiet time to read (or, in the beginning, having Neil read to me). I loved feeling connected with friends. I especially loved the escape of a good book.
SUPPORT: this is by far the most important one.
- Cards. Notes. Email. Calls. Texts. Comments. I never appreciated the power of these things until I found I NEEDED them. I had more than one day that dissolved into tears where I would tell Neil "I honestly don't think I'm strong enough." and without fail, I would get a text or a card that suggested otherwise. Sometimes it was just a funny picture and sometimes it was a long written sentiment - every time it helped tremendously. I would read and re-read my cards every single day. Without fail, I would begin to cry with thankfulness and comfort and joy. I never felt so loved and so well cared for.
Here's a get well card from a group of prisoners who were praying for me.
(beyond amazing, right?)
So that's my comprehensive list. I'm sure I forgot some things. Feel free to add to this with your own recovery care kit items.
I hope you never find the need to get these things for your loved ones - but in case you do, I hope this post helps. At the very least, for those of you reading this that had such a big hand in my healing - I hope you know how grateful I am.