Bringing packages of hope to those battling cancer - CJN
Joy Rodgers knows how scary a cancer diagnosis can be. The school nurse, volunteer paramedic and mother of two young children was only 35 years old when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2016. After 16 rounds of chemo, a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy following the subsequent discovery that she is a carrier of the BRCA1 gene mutation, Rodgers went into remission in December of that year. But her experience changed her – and gave her an idea.
“When I was sick, I got tons of gifts and food. It was amazing. But my best friend in Toronto put together a care package for me and she really did her research and sent me everything that I really needed,” says Rodgers.
Inspired by this, she started Joyful Packages, a business that creates and delivers gift packages specifically for cancer patients and caregivers. Launched this past fall, the business has taken off quickly, with gift baskets having already been sent all over Canada, the U.S. and Israel.
There are four types of packages offered through the service. The in-treatment package offers a variety of healthy snacks and carefully selected items that Rodgers knows are useful during treatment, like Chapstick and ginger chews to combat nausea, as well as some fun specialty items.
The in-recovery package offers those who have completed their treatment items to help them with their first steps on the road to recovery. “That was my first basket,” says Rodgers. “When I was told there was no evidence of disease and that I was in remission, aside from occasional follow-ups, I was on my own. It’s hard to go, like the flick of a switch, back to being you. The goal of the recovery package is to make life easier to get back into life following treatment.”
The caregiver package offers something for the often-unsung heroes who take care of cancer patients.
The young warrior package, which contains fun items to keep young hospital patients occupied, was the most difficult for Rodgers to put together. “It breaks my heart to hear of a child diagnosed with cancer. I don’t want there to be cancer out there, I don’t want there to be suffering, but at the same time, if there’s going to be cancer, I want to put a smile on their faces,” she says.
To Rodgers’ surprise and delight, there have been a lot of packages that have been purchased anonymously for strangers, prompting her to add an entire section to her website devoted to this category. “I’m brought to tears by how helpful and how wonderful people are. There are people who are buying baskets and, in the shipping address, writing, ‘To anyone you feel who might need this.’ ” When possible, Rodgers sends a photo of the recipient opening the packages to the sender. Each month, Rodgers also features a “warrior of the month” and a portion of the month’s sales go to that person’s charity of choice.
Her main goal with this project is to help cancer patients and caregivers feel loved and understood. She says that people are often at their most vulnerable when they are ill and that they worry that life will go on without them. “I want people receiving the packages to feel loved and cared for,” she said. “Know that people are fighting with you and fighting for you.”
For more information, visit joyfulpackages.ca.
How did Joyful Packages come about?
Very randomly… accidentally, in fact. It was over the summer and I was by myself up north, and your mind wanders. In my mind, because I’d had my last surgery, I was thinking of all I went through and all the gifts I received, and I started thinking this would be a cool idea to do. When you start treatment, they really go over everything, from your diet and how much sleep you should get to what kind of physical activity you can do, but once you’re in remission they follow you medically but you’re really left on your own – there’s fatigue, you want to start working out again, and I found it all very overwhelming.
My first idea was to do something for people in recovery. I brought the idea to my best friend, and he suggested doing something for cancer patients as well. Another friend of mine is a business coach and her mother passed away from cancer, so I ran the idea by her. She loved it and wanted to help me launch, and from there it’s grown.
So, what is a Joyful Package?
They are gift boxes that come in the mail, and we have a box for patients who are in treatment and another for those in recovery. They’re not geared toward any specific cancer – it’s for any cancer, men or women, and it’s all stuff that is needed. I found that when I was sick I got some great gifts but one that stuck out was a girlfriend sent me things that would help me. So our “in treatment box” has things to help you make life easier in treatment, things like ginger chews for nausea, hand sanitizer because you can’t have germs, Biotene mouth wash because of dry mouth – all sorts of things you need while you’re in treatment. The “in recovery box” helps you get back on your feet, and includes a resistance band to lightly work out at home, LYNQ powder to help you get back to nutrition, a cute T-shirt – all things to help you get back to being you.
Any plans for other types of Joyful Packages?
We’re launching a package for caregivers – they are often overlooked, and the caregiver is the one who does all the schlepping and really helps. I had a few people ask me about that so I thought it would be a nice addition.
The last box we’ll be releasing was quite emotional for me to do but I really wanted to do it, and that’s a children’s box. It’s more of a fun box with some of the necessities along with little toys.
How can people order from Joyful Packages?
They can order directly from our social media pages or our website www.joyfulpackages.ca. Customers can pay by PayPal or credit card. And a portion of our proceeds is donated to our “Warrior of the Month,” which is someone currently in treatment or a survivor – we ask them some questions and then what cancer organization they want their funds donated to. For the month of December our Warrior is a teenage girl currently in treatment, and she chose for her funds to go to a childhood cancer organization.
Joyful Packages on Breakfast Television
Joyful Packages on CJAD