Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Your Creativity Requested

I’ve lately been quite overwhelmed with concern for my cousin Scott who is 35 years old. The short story is that this past summer Scott was getting chemotherapy for testicular cancer and subsequently had 2 strokes.

Right before his cancer treatment started, his wife was laid off. After the 2nd stroke and the lack of return of Scott’s ability to talk, he lost his job. He had a morning radio show, was district manager, and was up for a promotion to regional manager—his voice was his career. The nurses couldn’t believe the tapes that his friends brought from the radio station were Scott. All he can say now is gibberish—boos, blips, peeps--no formed words.

Scott & his wife have a delightful 4-year-old daughter. Due to the intensity of Scott’s therapy schedule and limited functioning, his wife has not yet looked for new work. Plus, her mom (she’s an only child) broke her hip last month, so she is in a nursing home near them—they tend to her needs twice a day.

One thing that particularly tugs at my heart is that Scott did all the major caretaking for their daughter—bathing, soothing, entertainment, and cuddling. He was the family's main cook and housekeeper too. After the first stroke, he couldn’t make any sounds at all. They were avoiding letting his daughter see him. After a particularly bleak day for him, though, they brought her in to the hospital. His first vocalization was when he saw her, he said--like a vocal sigh-- “Aaaaahhhhhhh. . .”

Now, my aunt tells me that Scott can’t be left alone with his daughter because he can’t communicate with her to stop if she is doing something dangerous. It breaks my heart.

Equally heart breaking is the struggle Scott’s wife is going through—learning to be mother and father and “man of the house,” while feeling all the fear and anxiety that anyone would when faced with the potential loss their spouse—and when their spouse is already “lost” to them in so many ways. She’s having to face all this without being able to really communicate with the person she most relies on for help—Scott.

Scott has an amazing attitude and spirit. Like his mother--my favorite aunt who provided me and my sister a haven so many times from our strife—he is continuously optimistic. I saw him in Sept. when I was in MO for a family funeral. He was completely bald and couldn’t speak, but had magnificently communicative expressions and a big smile.

He pantomimed to me how anxious he was to get back to chemotherapy. The doctors didn’t know then that there was any connection between it and the stroke—he hadn’t had the 2nd stroke yet. He hadn’t been ricocheted back to step 1, losing the progress he’d made walking, using his arm, and learning to talk.

Now, in Nov., they do not think he will likely ever regain use of his hand & fingers. He has learned to mimic a few 2-word phrases, but he can’t use them appropriately. He doesn’t know the days of week or the month. He can’t drive. . . their lives have flipped upside down. They are hopeful, positive, but REELING. Who wouldn’t be?

As you can see, I have many, many thoughts and concerns about this. I want to do something to help, and nothing seems like enough. I don’t live near enough to make a real contribution (he’s about 7 hours away from me).

The only thing I’ve decided is rather than contribute to families or kids through my work or other charities this year, I’m going to scrape together any extra gift-giving funds to give to Scott’s family.

So I’ve been thinking about gathering together a package to send to them that will include a number of gifts. Depending on how quickly I can get this together, it may be like Advent boxes—1 for each day in Dec. up until Christmas Eve. Or it may be a 12 Days of Christmas thing—from Christmas day to Jan. 6. Or since Scott’s wife is Jewish and they usually have a "mixed" celebration, I could start it on Hanukkah, which starts on Sun. Dec. 21 and goes on for 8 days (until the 29th).

Anyhow, I think I’d like the last box to have a Visa or American Express Gift Card of at least $50 for them to use on whatever they need groceries, gas, utilities, daycare, etc. I know that’s not much, but frankly, it’s more than I usually do for them.

I want to fill the other boxes with fun things for them to do together or that will inspire them or offer them some kind of support or relaxation or get away. I’ll probably be lucky to stretch another $50 across these, so I need to be creative. That’s where you come in. . . Can you help me be creative?

Here are a few ideas I’m circling around:
  • X-mas mugs with the ingredients for cake in a cup you can make in the microwave
  • Instant hot chocolate with extra real marshmallows to put in those holiday mugs for another day
  • A CD with "I Feel Good" on it--with instructions to play and be ready to dance (Know any other upbeat songs to add to it?)
  • Some urls to look at fun things on the Internet (I will make sure they are still connected)—here’s the one I have in mind http://www.dennyweb.com/singing_horses.htm Do you know any others?

I'll need lots and lots of creative ideas that aren't too pricey to pull this off. . . please put your creative hats on and share your ideas with me.



  1. Does he have use of his other hand and fingers? If so, how about some play-doh for him to work his hand muscles with. He can play together with his daughter. Also a book on sign language, maybe he can find a way to comunicate withe his daughter. They can learn togethr. Just some suggestions.
    My thought and prayer are with this family.

    Peace - Rene

  2. cool notepads & pens - even if he can't physically talk, he can write it down on paper, right?

  3. For the URL list, you might add PBS.org. and PBSkids.org.

    A gift certificate for an evening's worth of movies from NetFlix.

    I put your post in the Spotlight post for today.

  4. Here are a few ideas:
    1) A game for kids. If it is something he could play that's great, but I am sure he would also enjoy watching his daughter play!
    2)A small gift certificate for a delivery/take out place in their area(I am thinking $15-$20). I am sure they could use a night off from cooking.
    3) You could compile a list of groups in their area that may be helpful (churches, recovery groups, etc.) as they transition into a new way of life.
    4) A family friendly movie and some popcorn for movie night.

  5. How about a CD with corresponding book they can listen to together (like a book on tape). 4-years-old is the perfect age for it and she would probably have fun working the CD player too. My heart goes out to the family and they are lucky to have a true friend in you.


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