My Top 10 Cancer Essentials


Blue ninja pants AND my machete. Best. Day. Ever.

I am giddy with the self-indulgence of creating a list of my essentials! As a long time consumer of trash news and fashion magazines, I’ve read thousands of these, and now it’s finally my turn. Since I have so often mocked others and their inventory of what is considered necessary, you would think I might be a little apprehensive, and I am, but just a very minuscule, Lilliputian, wee bit. Mostly I’m basking in the intense warmth of the things that have brought me joy and solace, sometimes amusement, over the last year. It grows harder and harder not to think about what I’ll do after I’m declared cancer free and have my sweet little small intestine returned to her rightful place on the other side of my skin, so I’ll use this list as a practice to bring me solidly back into the present and thinking about the things I love and wouldn’t want to live without while being pummeled by my cancer killing champions, i.e., doctors. Do you think cancer treatment could result in the same intense emotions toward your captors as Stockholm Syndrome? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say yes, but this is so not part of my list! Who cares about Stockholm Syndrome when we can talk about the exceptional softness and magnificence of Ninja Pants? And speaking about my number one, all time everything essential, I believe it’s time to get down with this inventory of necessities.

  1. Ninja Pants ( I love my ninja pants. I wear them everyday. Truly, I spent the last 5 minutes sitting here trying to remember a day in the last few months when I haven’t had these on for at least 10 minutes and I’m coming up empty. They are simply plush. Pi Movement has created active wear that feels like the most luxurious pajamas you will every have the pleasure of exercising, lounging, or dining out in. You might recognize them from my pre-op photo at MD Anderson? They are exactly that hospital comfortable, anti-microbial, moisture wicking, and stretchy in 4 ways. What does 4 way stretch in pants feel like? Order some and find out for yourself, all the while experiencing the warm, fuzzy joy of doing good while looking good since Pi Movement donates 3.14% of each sale to building and improving parks and playgrounds around the world.

Travis, one of the founders of Pi Movement, in his ninja pants doing ninja type things and making it look easy. Seriously, notice his closed eyes? He might be meditating here. I have no idea. He held this pose for a while.


Peyton, the other founder of Pi Movement, and I at the Four Seasons both very happily attired in our ninja pants, not performing conventional ninja type feats of daring, but still contributing to their tradition of top drawer awesomeness.

2. Dry brushing. I was first introduced to dry brushing around 10 years ago by my astoundingly talented friend and massage therapist, Tony Senecal ( In those days I had the horrifying experience of the first tiny appearance of cellulite on my tush, and Tony brought up dry brushing as a treatment for cellulite as it helps break down trapped toxins within the fat cells in order to eliminate them from the body. In addition, dry brushing helps exfoliate dead skin, stimulate your lymphatic system, and unclog pores to decongest the skin. If you take into consideration that our skin is not only our largest organ, but also an organ of elimination, it makes perfect sense that with all the chemo, meds, anesthesia, dyes, and toxins that are coursing through my veins, using a dry brush to stimulate my lymphatic system, remove dead skin cells, and facilitate the release of toxins through my skin is incredibly beneficial! And to boot, it makes my skin super soft and helps me to better absorb moisturizers. Brush in a circular motion up toward your heart, if you’re gunning to diminish cellulite, brush those areas until the skin is red. This means you’ve increased circulation and more blood is going to the area.


My dry brush. Horse hair. Short handle. Stiff bristles for better exfoliation.

3. Soft, cuddly blankets. These are a luxury and a necessity. Hospitals are cold, as are doctors offices and infusion clinics. While they offer blankets in these places that have been warmed in a blanket warmer (heaven), they aren’t soft. They are actually a little scratchy. If there is ever a time in your life when it will be perfectly acceptable to don the  “princess and the pea” sensibility, it will be when you are diagnosed with cancer. You NEED a soft blanket to pair with the scratchy warm blanket because we have cancer and we do not like scratchy things. The royal “we” is very affective when affecting drama. Deep sigh, back of hand lightly to forehead, and gently swoon. Now you have nailed it and everyone will be rushing to provide you with snuggly blankets.


Barefoot dreams by far and away makes the coziest throws and blankets. Super snuggly, super soft, fit for a princess.

4. Meditation. 5 years ago I was in the thick of a dedicated and devoted meditation practice cultivated over the course of 3 years, and I loved it. During the stress and upheaval of my divorce, probably when I could have used it the most, I fell out of the habit. Over the last 5 years, I’ve often thought about how important it would be to get back to it, but could never recommit. Until this. Cancer comes with a cornucopia of stress and pain, and the more able I am to regain focus and calm my mind, the better I handle everything. Meditation also brings me peace. I’m so tired these days, the rough ones far outweighing the good, and I find a renewal of spirit and energy after sitting quietly for 20-30 minutes. I worked up to that, by the way, and was reminded by a Rinpoche that when you meditate and lose focus then bring it back, you’re flexing a muscle that will become stronger the more you use it. If you try this, which I think you should, let go of judgment and expectation and flex the muscle of quieting your mind. It’s SO good.


My altar. These are all things that mean something to me and bring me peace. It’s personal. This is my sacred space…you create your sacred space. Voila! All ready to get your focus on. I’m especially fond of this altar because the man who made it seems incredibly nice. Thank you, Yankee Woodsmith! (

5. Glass water bottle. Just do it. To be perfectly practical, think of all the money and wasted plastic you will save if you buy a good glass water bottle and refill it constantly throughout the day. Loads! Then you can buy more fun stuff than water! The other perfectly practical reason is that you must drink a lot of water if you want to feel even halfway decent. Water removes waste and toxins, transports nutrients and oxygen, controls heart rate and blood pressure, regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, and protects organs and tissue. Wait, hold the presses! You should be drinking a ton of water everyday whether you have cancer or not, but we all know this, and with certain disease processes, like cancer, it becomes even more important due to high risk of dehydration and the importance of flushing poisonous substances (like chemotherapy) out of your body.


Look at all these options! Pick one, anyone at all you like, and keep it with you all the time. Personally, I’m really digging that one in the top right corner. Mom, I know you’re reading this. Hint hint.

6. Chemo pump bag. If, like me, you end up wearing your chemo pump for a few days, you will know what I mean when I say these things are boring. Boooooooring. They look like a bad fanny pack. What I’m suggesting will take some crafty creativity because they don’t sell fun chemo pump bags. Leave it to Walshy to create something fun and gorgeous to hold my poison. Once upon a time, that would have referred to a fancy flask, but now its a crazy beautiful medicine bag full of healing energy and love, which I used to consider the contents of my flask. Ha ha. Dress this business up and take it out on the town! I’ve hit gallery openings, restaurants, and birthday parties in mine. Cancer chic all the way.


Ugggghhh, don’t judge me. I’m not much for selfies in the mirror, but look at this thing! It’s gorgeous and so full of life. I feel strong when I wear it, and that’s a huge gift. Thank you, Allison Walsh, crafter extraordinaire.

7. Toesox. The neuropathy associated with my chemotherapy makes my toes burn like they’re on fire when it’s cold, and I just happen to be going through my chemo during the winter. Please note, we are talking winter in Austin, TX, and it is 75 degrees fahrenheit and sunny today, so not too bad. However, sometimes it gets properly cold here and my hands and feet suffer. They also suffer from cracking due to one of my chemo drugs. Pain-full. Enter toesox ( Not only do they keep each one of my toes wrapped independently in it’s own little blanket of warmth, but they have grips on the bottom, and because I’ve also lost some sensation in my feet, they keep me from falling down the stairs or sliding on my hardwoods. One of my nighttime rituals is lotioning the bejeezus our of my feet with Eucerin, then sliding on my toesox to treat the cracking. This is necessary. I tried putting socks on my hands but I didn’t like it, and I hate sleeping in gloves, so I’ve basically just destroyed part of my linens from greasy Eucerin hands. Whatever, that’s the least of my worries.


I like to buy my toesox at Somaspace Pilates. Amanda has a great selection of knee highs, above ankle and and proper ankle lengths. She is also really great about getting a variety of colors. And I love supporting local businesses. Ok, full disclosure, she’s also my Pilates instructor, very dear friend, and mentor.

8. Books. Lots and lots and lots of books because I have lots and lots and lots of time to read. I sit a lot, and wait a lot. Therefore, I’ve taken these past months to catch up on the years of books I didn’t get around to because I was too busy with my very important life. I love to read, and I love that delighted feeling when I read a string of fabulous words, ponder a new idea, or come across a story that moves me to laughter or tears. I’ll never forget finishing The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman on a flight to NYC and sobbing audibly in the last pages. My seat mate was horrified, especially when I looked at him and said, still sobbing, “oh my god, that was phenomenal, I want to do it again,” and I did, just 2 short weeks ago. Bawled. It was still phenomenal. With all that time you will spend in chemo, doctors offices, and hospitals, reading is a great way to make sure your brain doesn’t atrophy.


My bedside table and what I’ve been doing since last June. So many pleasures in this pile!

9. Cookies. Once again, don’t judge me. Everyone talks about how when you get cancer you should cut out sugar and get all healthy, but what I know now is that when you’re in the thick of it that really doesn’t matter. I’m generally a pretty healthy eater, but I’ve had some challenges. Because of the ileostomy I had a few months where I had a hard time digesting raw foods, vegetables, or even much fruit. I was on a white bread diet. Coming from a woman who has avoided carb loading for 15 years, this was mildly traumatic. Between all the rounds of anesthesia and chemotherapy my test buds have taken a huge hit. Most things taste like metal except for sweets, and I have a real thing for cookies, so I have at least one cookie a day and it’s kind of my favorite thing. I want ice cream but cold stuff is too hard on my throat, and if I’m going to take that hit, I prefer it to be in the form of a rye old fashioned. Therefore, cookies it is, and seriously, even if I were eating healthily right now the affects would be completely diminished by the chemo. I’m being poisoned!!! It doesn’t matter what I stick in my mouth.


Who in their right mind wouldn’t want one of these?!? Cookies are so diverse in flavor and can be so beautiful in creation. I’m actually considering flying to Australia to get these particular treats. I follow these people on Instagram and think they are fabulously talented! Um, mom, when you order that water bottle maybe you can check out

10. Edibles. I couldn’t get by without edibles. Traditional anti-nausea meds didn’t treat me right. Super bad boyfriends, indeed. The Zofran barely touches my nausea and makes me feel kind of numb and dead inside. Phenergan, the strong one, knocks me out for a minimum of 8 hours, which is no bueno during the day. I’m not a cat! I need awake time. I tried cannabis edibles after my second round of IV chemo and the difference was astounding. They control the nausea, and that makes all the difference. When I’m nauseated I can’t do anything beside lay on my bed and hope it goes away, however, if the nausea is controlled I can move around and do stuff. Also, with the anti-nausea medications I was prescribed, I wasn’t eating because they weren’t all that effective and my weight began to drop drastically. Lose too much weight and they stop your chemo. With edibles my appetite is stimulated and I maintain a decent weight. As well they help me sleep so I don’t have to take Ambien or any of the other sleeping pills. I don’t know what to say beside the fact they are medicine and I would be in a bad way without them. Keep this in mind at the election polls and when reading articles on how Texas will soon push to legalize medical cannabis. Please.

4 thoughts on “My Top 10 Cancer Essentials

  1. JoAnn Nettles

    Shelby your blog is so well done. When I read it I get the goose bumps cry and laugh. You are truly amazing and many can learn from your continuing experiences. You are an inspiration! Thank you



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