Cornwall nurses helping patients through chemotherapy with a little 'box of kindness'

stillRCHT box
RCHT staff and former patient Frankie Brett with a 'Heart of Headland' box

Specialist cancer nurses at a hospital in Cornwall have launched a project to give a gift box to all new chemotherapy patients.

The first 100 'Heart of Headland' boxes of kindness will soon be given to patients, but staff are now appealing for help to buy more.

Breast Oncology Nurse Amy Byfield from Royal Cornwall Hospital has been working on the scheme for 18 months.

She first had the idea for the project after hearing about a similar scheme at North Devon District Hospital.

Amy said: “ChemoHero boxes were started by breast cancer patient Lisa Wallis in 2014. Sadly, Lisa passed away but the charity she founded continues to help thousands of others.''

“Our new patients are recommended products to help them, but the cost of buying them can mount up – especially on top of all the hospital travel required," added Amy.

A Heart of Headland box Credit: ITV News

Former breast cancer patient Frankie Brett told ITV News West Country that she wishes the boxes had been available when she was going through her 18 months of treatment.

Frankie said: "I think it would have been amazing to have this box because the things in there you really need. Amongst the chaos you either forget to buy them or you can't afford to buy them.

"It would just be so nice to get something like this to set you up for what's to come, and to manage your side effects.''

Each Box of Kindness holds £45 worth of carefully chosen items, including a digital thermometer, ginger tea, pill sorter, soft bamboo toothbrush, chocolate, organic socks, water, a tin of mints, aromatherapy for sleep, lip balm and a mindfulness puzzle book to keep patients occupied during chemotherapy or immunotherapy.

The Headland unit at RCHT sees about 50 patients each day, and all tumours are treated there. Highly specialised nurses like Amy want to make the experience as comfortable and uplifting as possible.

Amy said: “Each new patient will be given a box and a member of our team will sit with them whilst they open it, explaining every product and why it’s important.”

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Charity has coordinated fundraising for the first 100 boxes of kindness and a team of volunteer packers will put them together before the official Heart of Headland launch on 1 December.

Karen Murrish, fundraising manager for the charity said: “One of our primary aims as a charity is to help patients feel more comfortable and supported and giving one of these boxes to every new chemotherapy patient is a way of easing them into treatment."

“A cancer diagnosis is horrible enough without the added worry and cost of buying items to improve that journey.''

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Charity is now aiming to make enough boxes for 1200 cancer patients a year through its new JustGiving fundraiser. It's also appealing for businesses in the region to help sponsor boxes or provide items for the boxes.