Do you have a friend or family member who is newly diagnosed with cancer?
Chances are you’d like to get them a gift to show you’re thinking of them.
While any thoughtful gift will be welcomed, there are some gifts that are particularly helpful at this time.
The gift ideas listed in this post are from my own experience as a cancer patient and other patients’ experiences. Remembering back to the shock and anxiety surrounding the early days of my cancer diagnosis I wouldn’t have been able to say at that time which gift would have been most useful because I simply didn’t know what lay ahead of me. Now from the other side of the cancer shore, I’m much more clued into the type of gift that I would love to have received at that time.
If you’re looking for the perfect gift to help a friend get through cancer treatment find inspiration in the list that follows. Each of these gifts will be guaranteed to help your friend or family member feel truly cared for because you took the time to think of a gift that is not just thoughtful but useful and practical.
Gifts To Help Get Through Chemotherapy Sessions
I won’t ever forget my first experience of the chemotherapy infusion room – a cold and sterile environment I was ill-prepared for. Sarah Dow (@he4dgirl) suggests gifting “big thick long soft bedsocks” which she used during her own chemotherapy sessions along with a soft warm fleece blanket. Although most chemotherapy units supply patients with blankets, there’s nothing quite as nice as snuggling into a blanket lovingly chosen for you, rather than a hospital issue one.
Continuing with the coziness theme, another great gift idea is loungewear. Pick out some soft sweat pants and tops that will be comfortable to wear. If the patient will be in hospital for surgery then pajamas are another perfect gift idea. Consider whether they may face limitations after surgery, for example after my breast surgery I had great difficulty lifting my arms, so I wore button-down pajamas.
Gifts To Help Pass The Time During Chemotherapy
The length of time for chemotherapy sessions can range from an hour to eight or more hours depending on the chemotherapy regimen. To pass the time Sarah suggests good headphones. You might also like to consider purchasing a subscription to Spotify or Audible for something to listen to on those headphones.
Creating A Comfort Box
Sarah Connor (@sacosw) suggests creating a “box of comfort” filling it with “tissues, unscented soap and moisturizer, sucky sweets, tissues and something to read.” Or you could buy a tote bag which you can customize and fill with useful items to carry to treatment sessions such as:
- A reusable water bottle that will keep drinks cool as it’s important to stay hydrated during chemotherapy.
- A travel toothbrush, toothpaste, and alcohol-free mouthwash to help get rid of the metallic taste chemotherapy.
- Wet wipes and hand sanitizer.
- A squishy stress ball.
- Puzzle and coloring books.
- A notepad and pen – a gift Nancy Stordahl (@nancyspoint) would love to have received at the time was “a journal or pretty notebook for writing thoughts, making lists, writing reminders.”
Post Chemotherapy Gift Ideas
Chemotherapy does all sorts of not-so-wonderful things to a body. From sleep disturbance to hair loss, nausea, aching joints and cracked skin, the effects of the treatment linger on.
Here are some gift ideas to bring comfort and ease to the patient.
- To help your friend sleep, get them a silk eye mask or pillowcase. Add a lavender pillow spray, although be aware that sometimes scent and strong smells can be off-putting for chemo patients (this goes for scented moisturizer too).
- Organic lip balms to help soothe chapped lips.
- Foot rollers and mini massagers to ease aches and pains.
- Paraben-free/sensitive skin toiletries because chemotherapy can make skin more sensitive.
- Anti-sickness wrist bands to help with nausea.
- Healthy snack bars, peppermint candy, and herbal teas (peppermint and ginger are good for nausea).
- Soft hats and pretty scarves (again choose silk scarves as other material may get hot, itchy, and uncomfortable).
- Chemotherapy can plunge some women into menopause. Julia (@BCCWW) suggests a chargeable, portable fan and chill pillows. Lisa Holtshousen (@LHoltshousen) is still grateful to her teenage sons who gifted her a ‘pearl’ necklace which she kept in the freezer and put on when hot flashes struck, and a box of “20 beautiful fans (the kind where your wrist does all the work) – enough for every spot in the house for quick access.”
More Gift Ideas
If you are really stuck for ideas, gift cards and subscriptions are always welcome. From meal delivery and uber rides to magazine/TV streaming subscriptions and gift cards to purchase books, audio, and games, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Gifts That Can’t Be Wrapped
Not all gifts can be wrapped up with a pretty bow but they are no less appreciated and often the most remembered. Sarah Connor recalls such a gift: “One of my neighbors came round once a week, took a load of washing, brought it back clean and folded. I had two small children. That made such a difference. But it’s not something you could wrap up!”
Offer to walk the dog, carpool kids to school, do grocery shopping, drop off some meals. “Cooking is a chore,” says Nancy, especially when the patient is fatigued from treatment. “A warm (or cold) food item is so appreciated by the entire family.”
Give the Gift of Kindness
Finally, don’t underestimate the simple gift of kindness. Cancer can be a lonely and isolating time. A card or note to let your loved one know you are thinking of them can go a long way to helping a person feel less alone.
To quote Allie Moon (@alliemoonUK) “I think predominantly it’s knowing that someone is there for you, to listen and to be present. Other than that anything that provides a wee bit of comfort or joy is gratefully received.”
A Stanford Medicine X e-Patient scholar, Marie Ennis O’Connor is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, writer, and consultant on global trends in patient engagement, digital health and participatory medicine. Marie’s work is informed by her passion for embedding the patient voice at the heart of healthcare values. She writes about the experience of transitioning from breast cancer patient to advocate on her award-winning blog Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer.