Lifestyle

'Heart Love Bags' provide comfort for Snohomish County cancer patients

EVERETT — Cancer survivors from Marysville, Arlington and throughout Snohomish County returned to the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership Sept. 24 to assemble "Heart Love Bags" tailored to suit the unique practical and spiritual needs of cancer patients.

Former Marysville resident Tracy Anderson explained the value of each item included in the "Heart Love Bags."

To relieve the dry mouth and mouth sores caused by chemotherapy, the bags contain Chamomile tea. To calm queasy stomachs, the bags also contain ginger tea, ginger candy and anti-nausea lollipops. Women's knitted hats and men's baseball caps are included to keep chemo patients' heads warm, while lip balm soothes the dry lips that are also a symptom of chemo. Hand sanitizer and soap helps patients stay strong by avoiding germs, and paperback books give them something to occupy their idle hours. Greeting cards are included to lift patients' spirits. The bag itself is reusable.

"It's all based on what we receive in donations," said Anderson, who estimated that she's given away more than 2,000 "Heart Love Bags" since 2008. "We have some folks who are regular donors, and some whose donations come and go."

Even the day's assembly crew was relatively light, with less than half a dozen volunteers in the conference room packing the bags, but two parts of the "Heart Love Bags" remain constant — the bars of chocolate, which Anderson buys herself because "chocolate is good for you no matter what's wrong," and the bags themselves, which are supplied by Providence.

Arlington's Kathy Patrick was there to stuff the bags with supplies to boost cancer patients' spirits.

"I wish I'd had something like this when I was diagnosed," said Patrick, whose date of diagnosis was Sept. 14, 2006. After a year and a half, her cancer went into remission. "It means so much, when you're going through something like this, to receive support from people you don't even know."

"This has such an emotional impact," said Marysville's Jerri Wood, quality of life manager for the American Cancer Society of Snohomish County. "Cancer patients are often terrified at first, but this helps them face their fears of the unknown. These bags come not only from people who care, but also from cancer survivors, who help them see that they can get to the other side of this. It's a huge attitude boost to the patients and their loved ones, who appreciate the gifts too."

Looking ahead, Anderson has enlisted the aid of Pirates of Treasure Island and the music of PJ Parsons Presents for a pirate-themed murder mystery fall fundraiser at SoJen Cellars in Everett, Nov. 20 from 5-11 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person and all proceeds will go to the "Heart Love Bags."

For more information, call Anderson at 425-381-1661 or log onto www.heartlovebags.org.

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