When someone receives a cancer diagnosis, it can change their entire world in an instant and lead not only to fear but also isolation and confusion about what comes next.
Everything during this initial diagnosis from the urgent referral and arrangement for private oncology treatment can feel worrying, strange and almost unreal at times, and it is difficult to know what to think or how to prepare for that first treatment.
This was particularly true for many people facing their first treatment session in the first part of the 2020s, as due to public health restrictions people could not bring a member of their support network with them such as a friend, partner, or member of their family.
This is what inspired the Hug-In-A-Bag initiative to help to provide hope and care, as well as ensure that no one faces cancer alone.
Comfort And Practicality
There are a lot of hugs-in-a-bag initiatives up and down the country, but the main principle of all of them is the same.
They are a bag given to someone after they are diagnosed with cancer but before their first treatment session, whether it takes the form of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery, as this is the point where in most cases the worry peaks.
The bag, and often a literal hug that goes along with it, helps people know that they are not alone when they fight cancer, and they have not only their support network but many people they do not know in their corner.
What is actually contained within the bags can vary between the different charities that run a hug-in-a-bag initiative, typically the items are identical per bag (with variations for bags for men and those for women) and contain a mix of practical items and luxury comforts.
The former are the types of items a lot of people need or at least would like to have at their first treatment session to make it a little easier, particularly if you need to spend time in a hospital, but would not even think to bring.
These include a card with information and contacts, a water bottle, a pen and notepad for journaling your thoughts, moisturiser, tissues and a travel bag for toiletries.
There are also items that are important but are not always thought about, such as a scarf for helping with the sudden temperature drops that can be felt after chemotherapy, and nail varnish to help hide discolorations in nails that can also be a side-effect.
It also contains a lot of items to help bring comfort, including a small teddy bear, bubble bath, soap, a candle, a set of cards as well as specific gifts for men and women.
Men receive shaving cream, a shaving brush and a shower brush, whilst women get a cushion, foot lotion, body oil, a mirror, a nail file and lip balm.
Initially, they were supplied via referral but many organisations quickly set up agreements with local hospitals and clinics to ensure there was a supply of them to be given to patients directly, for as long as donations and supply would allow.