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Towson woman turns family cancer experience into company sending care packages for those dealing with disease

Samantha Apel, of Armagh Village, recognizes the importance of self-care when life gets complicated. She recently started Help Them Thrive, a small company that sends soothing care packages to comfort and support people who’ve been thrust into the cancer world — newly diagnosed, post-surgery, mid-chemo, or beyond.

Apel is a psychologist who splits time between her practice in Timonium and at Charm City Natural Health in Roland Park. Her life has been touched by cancer multiple times: as a young child, she watched her mother battle breast cancer; and as a newlywed, her husband was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

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“In an effort to improve my husband’s health and reduce the likelihood of cancer in the future, I started learning more about food as medicine, how to have an anti-cancer lifestyle, and what self-care really is (and isn’t),” Apel explains. She returned to school for a certification in Functional Medicine. One course on “Optimizing Cancer Survivorship” referred to people with cancer as “thrivers,” and that terminology struck Apel as empowering. Hence, the name for her new venture.

Often, people feel helpless seeing loved ones navigate treatment, work and side effects. It’s good to feel like there’s something you can do. Over the years, when friends would announce life-changing diagnoses, Apel appreciated being able to run errands, cook healthy meals or make care packages to help ease burdens and provide small pleasures.

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Her care packages were a hit, and Apel started getting requests from other people to create a box of her favorite items. Thriver Boxes emerged from this pursuit.

Samantha Apel of Armagh Village has started Help Them Thrive, a business that sends "Thriver Box” self-care packages to cancer survivors and thrivers. Photo by Samantha Apel.
Samantha Apel of Armagh Village has started Help Them Thrive, a business that sends "Thriver Box” self-care packages to cancer survivors and thrivers. Photo by Samantha Apel. (Courtesy Photo)

“I chose items that either serve as a reminder to take time for self-care (camomile to improve sleep), boost immune function (turmeric) or that address mild side effects (lavender for headaches, ginger for nausea),” Apel says.

She sought plant-based comfort items and supports small woman-owned businesses with box components.

“I was able to get all but one item at wholesale, so the cost of the entire box is not much more than it would be if someone gathered and mailed all the items at retail price. I tried to make the process simple. Friends/family buy a box online and include a personal message. We send the package, an affirmation card and the personal note.”

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It is a particularly welcome solution when people can’t be with their loved one in person. Find Thriver Boxes at www.helpthemthrive.com or helpthemthriveco on Instagram.

Apel donates 20% of proceeds from every box to an organization supporting cancer patients. Currently, funds go to Imerman Angels (www.imermanangels.org), a group that pairs people with the same type of cancer so they don’t feel alone in their journey.

“Being a psychologist is fulfilling work, but there is a burnout factor,” admits Apel. “Service has been an antidote to that, but volunteer opportunities with my kids, which were plentiful in elementary school, have dwindled. This venture feels like a natural progression for my love of coordinating and desire to support people with cancer, especially moms who are used to being the caregivers!”

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