How Chocolate, Mints and Math are Helping Cancer Patients

Chemo Buddy Bags

One Fort Worth teacher’s life-changing diagnosis led to something much greater.

The items in a Chemo Buddy Bag given to a Texas Oncology cancer patient are simple: hand sanitizer, ChapStick, mints, gum, chocolate candies, cookies, crackers, and even a math problem or two. For Nancy Love, a local teacher who started the program, each item has a meaning – because she experienced cancer herself.

Love, an ovarian cancer survivor, and her students at Harlean Beal Elementary put together Chemo Buddy Bags for patients at Texas Oncology. Last year Chemo Buddy Bags touched the lives of 258 cancer patients and have already reached 220 patients this year, with more to come. This year Love and her students decided to base their deliveries around the holiday season. They have already delivered four rounds of Chemo Buddy Bags, with one more delivery planned around Easter.

In coming up with what goes in each bag, Love said she thought about what items would’ve helped her when she was going through chemo herself. She said her mouth often got dry, so she included ChapStick, as well as chocolate candies so the patients had something to suck on. The mints and gum help ease nausea. Crackers and cookies were also included as a snack for the patients.

“I know when I went through chemo, you don’t have taste that much, and you don’t feel like eating anything,” Love said. “It’s something that they can eat while they are going through chemo at the time.”

Since Love teaches math, her students occasionally write a math problem for the patient and include it in the bag as well.

Stapled to each bag is the saying “NEGU,” or never ever give up.

“For the patients who receive the Chemo Buddy Bags, knowing that a child took the time to put these together for them brightens their entire day,” said Dr. Noelle Cloven, a gynecologic oncologist at Texas Oncology–Fort Worth 12th Ave. “It reminds them that the Fort Worth community cares and is thinking about them during this important fight.”

It’s a fight Love is all too familiar with. Love, who has taught in the Fort Worth Independent School District for 30 years, had to pause her teaching career in 2014 after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

She left for seven months to receive treatment at Texas Oncology, working closely with Cloven. When she came back to school, she knew she wanted to return the love that she had received from the cancer treatment center.

“They made me feel like family,” Love said. “They treated me with such compassion and kindness, and so I wanted to give back.”

Love decided to present to her then-fourth-grade students the idea of creating Chemo Buddy Bags for those undergoing chemo at Texas Oncology.

“I wanted them to know that some good things do come from cancer,” Love said. “Not all, but some.”

She said that, since starting the program, she’s seen a change in her students as well.

“They’re more kind to each other,” she said. “I’ve noticed that if someone is having a bad day, they are more compassionate with them.”

Love, who is retiring this year, initially started Chemo Buddy Bags solely to help Texas Oncology, but she said she would love to spread it further than just her class and school.

She has already contacted two other schools about expanding the program, both which seemed interested.

Cloven said the Chemo Buddy Bags have helped more than just the patients.

“Thanks to the community-based care Texas Oncology offers, Nancy was able to receive treatment close to home and continue teaching and, in turn, teach her students the most important lesson of all – never ever give up,” she said.