Gifts are a meaningful way to let the special people in your life know you care. It’s natural to want to present someone with the “perfect gift.” However, selecting the perfect gift for a friend or loved one undergoing cancer treatment can be even trickier.
When it comes to deciding what to buy or what to do to show you care, it’s important to consider their treatment plan but also to find ways to lift their spirits and motivate them along this journey.
We asked more than 30 Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center volunteers who interact with cancer patients every day—and many who are former cancer patients themselves—to share gift ideas for someone facing cancer treatment.
The following are some of their favorite ideas to get your creative ideas going.
Gifts of comfort
Gifts that promote comfort can help reduce stress and boost emotional well- being. There are several thoughtful and comforting gifts that not only allow the giver to express care and concern but serve a practical purpose for the recipient undergoing cancer treatment.
“There will certainly be good days, but there may also be days after chemotherapy where they don’t feel well or have to stay safe while their immune system recovers,” said Lisa Law, volunteer program coordinator at Banner MD Anderson. “Being sensitive to this can help guide gifts that can ease the burden and any unpleasant side effects should they occur.”
You may want to consider:
- Warm, cuddly sweater, pajamas and robe.
- Chemotherapy port access pullover hoodie.
- Heated blanket or soft throw blankets.
- Warming socks and slippers.
- Stocking caps, hats, scarves and gloves (fingerless are best).
- Ginger candy and soda, lemon drops and crackers to ease nausea.
- Lemon drops for dry mouth.
- Pillows of various sizes for comfort when sitting in a chair.
- Insulated water bottle or thermos for hot/cold drinks.
- A tote bag to carry items to chemotherapy.
- A family or friend photo book or album.
- Sending “thinking of you” cards and not “get well soon” cards to let them know you’re thinking of them.
Gifts of time
Having something to look forward to or someone to hang out with is an excellent motivator when you’re undergoing cancer treatment.
- Buy tickets to see a show, movie, sporting event, concert or something they enjoy doing that you can afford to give them.
- Take a day trip together to their favorite place or somewhere new for a little adventure.
- Arrange a fun outing together, such as golfing, an art class or shopping.
- Offer to drive them to chemotherapy or appointments to keep them company.
- Periodically send a text or call to chat and check in to see how they are doing.
- Schedule a pet visit or pet therapy if it’s OK for them to be around pets.
- Host a get-together or gathering with friends and loved ones (not a surprise, of course!).
Gifts that ease stress
Research has shown that chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease and depress your immune system. These can cause serious health problems if you’re undergoing treatment.
Here are some ways to help someone undergoing treatment reduce and relieve stress.
- Make an appointment for a massage or spa treatment (depending on treatment therapy, this may require provider approval).
- Purchase a gift subscription to a mindfulness app or streaming music service.
- Take them to a yoga or meditation class.
- Purchase a drawstring bag (12x12 or bigger) to hold pill bottles and keep things organized.
- Give them a journal to write down thoughts and day-to-day experiences.
Gifts that entertain
Cancer fatigue is common even for patients who aren’t currently undergoing treatment. Here are some gifts that can provide an excellent way to escape for a few hours.
- Purchase a gift subscription to a streaming service, such as Hulu or Netflix.
- Purchase a pair of earbuds or comfortable headset.
- Share a podcast that they may be interested in.
- Stock up on their favorite crossword puzzles or sudoku books.
- If they love art, give them an adult coloring book and a nice set of colored pencils or paint supplies with a gift card to an online painting class.
- Buy books in a genre they are interested in.
Gifts of nature
Being outside in nature can have a profound effect on wellbeing. One study found that even a momentary view at trees can enhance positive emotions and feelings of awe, joy and happiness. Here are ideas to help them enjoy nature.
- Go on an easy hike.
- Walk around a botanical garden or local park.
- Take an evening drive somewhere to see the stars.
- Set up an outdoor picnic to watch the sunset.
- If you can’t get to the great outdoors, bring it to them. Create an outdoor oasis with plants (real or fake) and water fountains or bird feeders—don’t forget the birdseed or hummingbird liquid. Even a comfortable deck chair can be nice, so they can enjoy being outside for periods of time.
There may be times during treatment (if their immune system is severely compromised) where real plants and flowers should be avoided. Check with your friend or loved one first.
Gifts of service
Sometimes the greatest gift isn’t a gift itself but an act of service—doing something to help ease someone’s burden. Here are some ways to show you care.
- Tidy up their yard: spray or pull weeds, mow the lawn, sweep the patio and blow the leaves. If you can’t physically do this, hire a lawn service.
- Bring a meal or start a meal train with meals that meet their dietary restrictions and appetite level as well as the family’s.
- Purchase gift cards to use for food delivery services or online stores.
- Deliver groceries.
- Pay for a cleaning service.
- Purchase the plane ticket, hotel room or gas for a family member or friend to come visit.
Gifts that show support
If your friend or loved one prefers not to receive gifts, you may consider making a charitable gift in their name. You can make a one-time gift or monthly gift to a charitable organization that is meaningful to them or one devoted to their specific cancer.
When a loved one or friend has cancer, it can be hard to know what to do or say to let them know you care and are thinking of them. Gifts of comfort, time and service are always appreciated, but just the thought alone will show them you’re thinking of them during a difficult time.
“And if you don’t know what to do, it’s alright to say, ‘I’m not sure what to say or do, but I would like to help if I’m able,’” said Amy Bobis, multidisciplinary program director for Banner MD Anderson. “Your gift may be as simple as being present, in-person or by phone.”
For related articles, please read:
- Supporting a Loved One Who Has Cancer
- Holistic Cancer Care and Psycho-Oncology: What You Need to Know
- How to Eat Right When You’re in Treatment for Cancer
- Talking to Children When a Sibling Has Cancer (an Age-by-Age Guide)