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CancerLynx - we prowl the net
December 25, 2000

Rice Bags Bring Comfort
Nancy Becker

Hi every one of you!
The other day I was reminded of something that has really comforted & helped my sister Sue thru her whole ordeal of surgery, chemo, high dose chemo, and now radiation.... It's totally silly sounding, but she highly recommends it! Sue takes her rice bag to bed with her...!

My other sister Lynn makes these bags on her serge sewing machine, but they can be made with a regular sewing machine by stitching each seam twice - or even by hand if you can get someone with the patience to make small enough hand stitches!

Basically, it is a large bean bag type item - but filled with long grain white rice (NOT Minute Rice... the smooth kind) and sweet spices. The unique - and salubrious nature of this item - is that you put it in the microwave oven for approximately 3 minutes ( + or - depending on the wattage of your microwave) just before going to bed at night or for a nap... then hold it's soothing warmth against you - your incision area; sore muscles; achy bones; where ever. It retains the heat for at least 45 minutes. Sue just found it very comforting. She gives it a one minute tune up in the micro sometimes if she doesn't fall asleep right away.

One time I dropped in on her unannounced during her HDC when she was getting a transfusion for low hemoglobin, and when she saw me, she just started crying, saying, "It hurts!" so pitifully and sad that I wanted to cry too... I asked if she'd told the nurse & she said,"Yes, but nothing helped". As I had just dropped by to quickly sneak some Easter decorations into her room (since she had indicated she wasn't wanting visitors at all at that miserable point in her treatment) I hadn't robed up or disinfected my hands - so couldn't stay - but told her I'd see what I could do. On my way out, I stopped at the nurses station and asked if there was anything they could do for her... the nurse said they'd "already heated the transfusion bag for her".. and, somewhat petulantly said "there's nothing else we can do..." I just looked her straight in the eye and said slowly, "She's in p-a-i-n!"; poignantly turned on my heal and walked out. The next day, Sue said right after I left, The nurse came back to her, smoothed her pillows, put another pillow under her arm and asked her where her rice bag was... heated it for her... and arranged it around the hurty arm.... and it made her feel much better - in fact - content and sleepy for the rest of the transfusion!!

I'm sure the attention and caring shown in the whole routine is a significant component in the rice bag's beneficial effects... and I'm all for that any day! It's something that feels good; makes you feel taken care of; plus gives the care-taker a nice gesture to offer in a sometimes (often) helpless situation where they WANT to help, but there's really not much they CAN do...

Anyway...Lynn says she takes a typical 44" wide piece of 100% cotton fabric; cuts off 12"; folds it in half (so it's approx. 22" x 12") (can easily be doubled over in when size seems too long). She serges the two 22" sides, leaving the top open; (close stitching with regular cotton thread twice with a typical home sewing machine or by hand will also work nicely) She then mixes approx. 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon and 1 teaspoon whole cloves with approx. 6 cups rice - pours it into the bag; folds in the cut fabric top edges and then sews up the top with a decorative stitch (if she's feeling elegant!) but any stitch (double stitch as necessary) will do.. In the winter, she sometimes uses cotton flannel fabric; in the summer, just regular sun dress type fabric.

Sue has adored hers even into the hot summer here - and says she'll probably have one the rest of her life now that she's discovered it. She carries it around like her favorite bankie or something!! (Don't DARE try to sneak it away from her!)

A little update for you on my sister Sue.... she is now officially 4 years from her Inflammatory Breast Cancer diagnosis and happily NED and STILL taking her rice bag to bed every night!! She even designed her new home she moved into 6 months ago with a shelf and plug in the closet for a microwave... just to heat up her rice bag!!! Now THAT'S an endorsement!!!

Hope you enjoy yours!

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