Manitoba

This Manitoba cancer patient is making care packages for others' 1st day of chemo

​An East Selkirk woman who's battling cancer is creating care packages for others starting chemotherapy, giving them the little things she didn't know she'd need during treatment — and a little comfort on the side.

Kari Klassen, who recently finished 2nd round of chemotherapy, is creating packages for Hummingbird Project

Kari Klassen and her husband, Dallas, started putting together care packages for cancer patients to bring some comfort to the process of chemotherapy. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

An East Selkirk woman who's battling cancer is creating care packages for others starting chemotherapy, giving them the little things she didn't know she'd need during treatment — and a little comfort on the side.

Kari Klassen has breast cancer and recently finished her second round of chemotherapy. When she learned she'd be given the treatment, she was also given a laundry list of items she'd need.

"You need things like nail hardener, because my nails are going to get soft, and soft-bristled toothbrushes, because my gums are going to likely bleed, and they do," she said. "Chemo dries you out completely, so hand lotion, Chapstick — all these things that I never would have thought of."

Now Klassen and her husband Dallas are gathering dozens of those items and creating care packages for other patients in an initiative they're calling the Hummingbird Project.

"No one needs to have to worry about these little things when they're going through that on the first day [of chemotherapy]," Klassen said. "It's our way of just helping out to kind of ease that and bring a little bit of comfort on the first day."

The care packages include a handful of items chemotherapy patients need, including hand lotion, lip balm, soft-bristled toothbrushes and water bottles, as well as painted rocks, like the one Klassen's dad carried when he was fighting cancer. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

So far, the pair has created about 20 packages. Klassen hopes to distribute 1,000 of the packages this year to first-time chemotherapy patients in Selkirk, about 35 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The packages also include painted rocks, donated by painters through a Facebook group called Winnipeg Rocks. It's a nod to Klassen's dad, who recently died following his own battle with cancer.

"He had a courage rock, which he held all the time," she said.

"To have something like that in these bags is awesome for me because it brings back a lot of memories for myself, and I can't think of a better way to help people that day."

Klassen says she chose hummingbird for her project's name because the birds symbolize hope and healing. (Shannah-Lee Vidal/CBC)

Klassen chose the hummingbird name because the birds symbolize healing and hope.

"They go great distances to seek the sweetest nectar in the flowers, so it's a reminder for us to live our best day and to seek the beauty in each day — which is what we hope that this can bring to somebody."

Klassen has been overwhelmed by community support for the project. Small businesses have offered to donate goods and friends have called, wanting to know how they can help.

"I had no idea that in such a short time it would be this already," she said.

"And it's so heartwarming for me. I cannot wait to just get out there and start delivering these bags."

With files from Shannah-Lee Vidal