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My husband and I had always been fairly well prepared for "regular" emergencies such as storms for quite a number of years, but our lives changed a bit over the course of 2019. For one thing, we no longer have a "home base" since we have been travelling a little and therefore renting everywhere we went.
When he was diagnosed with cancer last summer, all regular life plans went out the window. We still needed to rent a place to live - and settle for a little while, but where? Where was he going to get treatment?
UPDATE in 2022: I just wanted to let you all know that my husband's treatment was a resounding SUCCESS! He ended treatment in late April 2020, and has been keeping up with scans as required going forward. It looks good, and we're very grateful. Ok, continue reading for what we did - and actually, what we still use! :)
After a lot of thought, we decided on Florida because we had been visiting often over the years, and because we knew that a hospital in a specific area had quite a bit of experience with his type of throat cancer, and we would be able to get insurance via the Healthcare Marketplace to help.
We also knew that because his treatments would have to take place during the winter months, we would prefer to get help in an area where driving daily to appointments would take place in weather not compromised by the snowy and icy back roads of the rural areas where we had been staying.
So off to sunny Florida we went, and rented a unit in a condominium complex for half a year.
As things turned out, my husband's treatments weren't able to get fully underway until early in March of 2020. But, we knew that the chemotherapy and radiation required to get the cancer on the run would take a toll on his immune system.
With that in mind, and before any thoughts of a Coronavirus pandemic really crossed our radar (frankly, we were too focused on our own needs to pay much attention to what was going on in the world), we began to prepare for a self-imposed "shelter in place" situation in order to keep as many potential viruses and germs away from him as possible.
I knew that because I would most likely be the person going to stores, driving my husband to appointments, and meeting with people in general, I stocked up on some supplies to help me keep surfaces - and myself - as "germ free" as possible.
Here's what I got as far as disinfecting agents go:
- a few bottles of 70% isopropyl alcohol, and a small spray bottle for me to carry small amounts of alcohol around so I can wipe down any surfaces my or my husband's hands might touch,
- a few bottles hydrogen peroxide, which I use in various ways, including rinsing personal care items (e.t. toothbrushes), and countertops and, along with baking soda, some skins of produce before preparing it (including things like bananas, lemons, avocados, etc), and
- bleach, which I use for cleaning as well as laundry.
I also did stock up on paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper - only I didn't clear out any shelves. :) I kept a realistic timeline in mind - figuring that my husband's immune system was likely to be compromised for 2-3 months, and the fact that there are only 2 of us meant that I was able to leave plenty of supplies on the shelves for others.
I also figured, at the time, that I would still be going to the grocery store for short trips throughout his treatment - but I wanted to be sure that I spent as little time around others as possible during this time.
So, whatever I could realistically stock up on prior to treatment beginning, the better.
Again, at this point I had no idea that we would all be facing a shelter-in-place situation.
Because a feeding tube would be required* and because we prefer using "real foods" versus formulations like "Boost" or "Ensure," we had the good fortune to have someone "gift" us with an ample supply of "Real Food Blends" (which is shelf stable for months - actually, ours doesn't expire for well over a year) - which actually IS "real food" and can be eaten with a spoon if you so desired.
OR... if a true survival situation presented itself and it's the food you had on hand - you could go ahead and eat it (although the flavor might not be quite as good as you'd hope since it's all blended together in one mix!)
In a "normal" survival prep exercise, this might not be the type of food one might ordinarily think about, but for those with chronic health issues and disabilities, it's critically important to have a BIG supply of this type of nourishment on hand, along with spare tools that go along with it - e.g. feeding syringes, tube cleaner, and of course tons of bottled water.
By the way - we learned that it is a good idea to check with your insurance company to see if your plan may help cover the costs of feeding tube formulations. We discovered from a friend in a similar situation that her insurance WOULD cover at least part of the cost.
In her situation, the food of choice is "Liquid Hope" by "Functional Formularies" and she and her husband are very pleased with it.
*NOTE: Radiation and chemo to treat head and neck cancers can be brutal - and can result in terrible pain for someone trying to eat normally, so a temporary feeding tube is often advised to that the patient can get the nutrition needed to sustain him or her during and after treatment. As it turned out, my husband was able to not only pump 3,000 per day into his belly, but the fantastic nutrition he was "eating" DEFINITELY helped him stay as healthy as possible through the ordeal.
Living in a rental unit where our only available drinking water was either city-supplied tap water or store-bought bottled water, I had been buying gallon jugs of drinking water all along, but ensured that the jugs I bought had screw-tops so that I could refill them at the various refill stations at grocery stores for a fraction of the price.
The cost of a gallon of drinking water at Publix is just under $1. But to refill that jug at Publix is .35, and only .29 at Walmart (which, by the way, seems to taste better than the stuff we refill at Publix).
As I write this post, we currently have 9 gallons on hand. I always take the "empties" down to the car so that I have them ready to refill every time I do head to the store.
From personal experience, I know that we go through close to 3 gallons per day, so under normal circumstances, I usually have 4 days' worth on hand. Now that Florida is beginning to lock down due to the current Coronavirus pandemic, I've noticed that the bottled water shelves are emptying out quickly; but that the refill machines are still up and running. (2022 update: All restrictions are now off; however, we still take care to stay well-stocked. Because, you know... Florida and hurricanes!)
I'm still able to get some store-bought gallons, so during my next shopping trip, thanks to the prudent management of the local grocery stores, there is a limit as to how many gallons each shopper can purchase. That means I can still get a couple more to add to my current stock.
Even before people were talking about Coronavirus preparation, I was walking around the condominium complex with my little bottle of rubbing alcohol and a box of tissues - spraying and wiping door handles, the building security keypads, elevator buttons and railings, light switches, cell phones, toilet handles, water faucets, keyboards and mouse, refrigerator door handles, car keys, credit cards... you name it; anything that I could see that my husband's or my grubby little hands could possibly touch, I was wiping it down.
So, I've been practicing!
Interestingly, I began doing this weeks ago, even when checking my husband in for his daily radiation appointment. I would spray the computer keyboard and mouse with alcohol, and rubbed it clean - and the receptionist behind the desk commented that she thought that was a good idea. This of course, was before the Coronavirus emergency. Now I'm not even allowed in the building with him.
One more food prep idea I wanted to pass along, which you might not really have considered, is "meal replacement powders."
Before my husband was on the feeding tube, he was able to swallow "meal shakes." As it turns out, some of these are REALLY good! (UPDATE: We continue to use them in 2022 - they're awesome for when you're on the road, at work, hiking, etc.)
We've been through a BUNCH of them. I'm talking "beyond protein" powders. I'm talking about actual meal replacements.
These can come in mighty handy in an emergency situation. I've actually become very fond of them, and use them almost daily these days - emergency or not.
Here are my current favorites:
Garden of Life Raw Organic Meal Replacement Shake- I like either the Lightly Sweetened, Vanilla, and Chocolate flavors. The Vanilla and Lightly Sweetened flavors are particularly yummy when added to blended strawberries, blueberries, etc. I like them mixed with either So Delicious Coconut Milk or Almond Milk.
The Garden of Life blend is vegan, which I like since I've cut back on dairy as a rule.
RSP TrueFit - If I am going to use Whey protein, my absolute favorite brand is RSP TrueFit. It's a full meal replacement, and grass-fed whey protein - both of which are very important to us. My husband prefers this over the Garden of Life.
He feels that the Whey based mix is "smoother" - and I have to agree. If you don't like a "gritty" feel, then the whey blend will suit you better, I think, than the vegan (plant-based) products. The Garden of Life does have a touch of grittiness - which does not bother me, but I understand that others might prefer a smoother feel.
As far as the RSP TruFit goes, our go-to flavor is Chocolate. (BTW: For a power-packed shake, and easy way to get a lot of calories in one shake, he adds banana and peanut butter. He takes this blend pretty much everywhere he goes.)
Of course there are many other things that we and others continue to do for emergency preparedness, but in this particular post I just wanted to share what we did in our situation with the hope that it might be helpful to others who - for reasons other than a global catastrophe - have the need to think about a plan with a more custom tailored approach.
Thank you for reading, and stay healthy, safe, and sane!