Subscription boxes are “in” even when the onco doctor is in thanks to Kimberly Fink, a local young adult who utilized her cancer experience to improve that of her peers through subscription boxes designed specifically for those dealing with cancer. Check out our interview with this YA cancer innovator below.
How did your personal journey with cancer inspire the idea for TREATMiNT? How did your background prepare you to create TREATMiNT?
A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with a rare form of Uterine cancer. I noticed that I had many friends who reached out when I was first diagnosed, but who found it hard to know how to continue their support past the initial card or phone call. As a result, when I was in the middle of my treatment I was left feeling isolated and alone. I loved the idea of a subscription model, because it allows the giver to continually support their friend though the whole process even if you don’t know what to say.
What did you hope to accomplish by creating this innovative service?
Most importantly, I wanted to connect people so they feel less alone through this awful disease. The idea of the box is really that it’s a tool for friends and family to stay in touch. It takes the pressure off the gift giver to know what to get (as you know most people aren’t great with knowing what to do or say) and it provides useful inspirational items to the survivor to encourage them. Secondly, I love the idea of something to look forward to each month. Everyday can seem like groundhog day when you have cancer…days run into each other. So if knowing you are going to be getting a surprise in the mail anyway puts a smile on your face… then that makes me happy.
Based on the feedback you have gotten, what does receiving a TREATMiNT box mean to cancer patients and survivors?
Our gift subscribers tell us that they love the fact that they got a gift that was just for them and what they are going through. The inspirational messaging on the inside of the box is very popular. I think knowing that someone is reaching out to you month after month (and not just sending flowers or a card once) is quite popular.
Recently, there was a very poignant piece published on the TREATMiNT blog about surviving cancer (“The Aftermath that Cancer Brings”). It mentioned that many issues faced by cancer survivors are not necessarily “dinner table conversation.” Is there anything friends or families of survivors can do to make that dialogue easier?
I think the biggest thing is understanding that you are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. Underneath is a massive amount of things that aren’t necessarily things that you tell people outside your family. Many times those things are the most painful to deal with, but just having someone know that there is actually a HUGE iceberg under the surface feels good.
The boxes contain gifts that are carefully curated for the needs of cancer patients. How do you decide what to put inside the boxes?
Choosing the right items is important to me. I want the box to be filled with both comfort and inspirational items. Keeping your mind in a good place is half of the battle and I think people benefit from visual reminders of their own strength. We have created products that speak specifically to the cancer experience, because those are difficult to find. The comfort items are curated from other brands. For those we look for beautiful aesthetics combined with quality.
What does it mean to you that you were able to open a store at the MD Anderson Cooper Cancer Center? How has the presence of TREATMiNT served the patients, survivors, and their loved ones?
It’s an exciting venture and we are curious to see how it goes and see if we are able to grow in this capacity. Something that we love about it is that it puts us in front of patients everyday. We love to hearing their stories, listening to what they are dealing with, and just be there for them. I feel like it connects us back to our mission. It gets us out from behind our computer screens and reminds us why we do what we do.
There are some beautiful tips you provide on the TREATMiNT website (the “no need to write me back” pointer comes to mind). Do you have any other advice for friends and family of cancer patients, regarding the more nuanced ways to be supportive in their battle with cancer?
They are so many, but a guess one of my favorites is…. just pick something and do it! Saying, “Call me if you need me” is (no offense), but kind of worthless. Tell someone you are coming to do their laundry, send a babysitter on night, ask if it is okay for you to talk their dog for a walk…. there are a million things to do. Just pick something.
Where do you see the future of TREATMiNT going? How do you want it to evolve as it grows?
As we go forward we will start to open the box to other chronic illnesses, but we want to keep it simple and do what we do best.
–Interview done by Bilal Mohammad