Great Gift Ideas for Cancer Patients by Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel

What can you give to someone diagnosed with cancer that might be helpful, soothing, inspirational or just plain comforting? Cancer is unlike other situations thereby creating uncertainty about what to give that is appropriate.

Here are some ideas from cancer patients themselves.

Gifts of Time:

Fatigue and side effects from cancer treatment make everyday tasks a
challenge. This is especially true for those with children at home, someone living on their own, or seniors. It’s the little things that make a difference – your gift of time and caring with the understanding that their life right now can use some help.

  1. Get groceries – the physical act of buying groceries can be exhausting.
  2. Take children to their activities or babysit them for a day to give the cancer patient some quiet time.
  3. Prepare and deliver meals, for the cancer patient and/or the family. Set up a schedule with friends.
  4. An outing to restore some normal to life. An event, a drive in the country, or a lunch.
  5. Offer to drive them to doctor’s appointments and cancer treatments. This also provides companionship.
  6. Provide housecleaning – either yourself, organize a team, or provide through a service.
  7. Organize a ‘notice board’ to update family and friends and even family.
  8. Shovel snow, rake leaves, weed a garden, etc.
  9. At Christmas, timely right now, put up Christmas lights, do the Christmas shopping, wrap presents, bake cookies – create a Christmas spirit in a time of uncertainty.

Thoughtful Gift Ideas

The process of healing from cancer is a long journey filled with doctor’s appointments, cancer treatments, and recovery time. Much that was normal before the diagnosis is now in flux. Rethinking life is now a present challenge which requires some soul-searching. It also requires activities or items that provide comfort, reflection, inspiration, and joy.

These are a few that I particularly found helpful:

  1. Music – when I was tired and had no energy to read or do much of anything, I could listen to music. It soothed my soul.
  2. Books and Audio Books – there are so many inspirational books out now that provide comfort and inspiration for the days ahead and hope for health again.
  3. A Teddy Bear – my father-in-law brought me ‘Teddy’ when I was in the hospital. Never being a child who had stuffed toys, in this instance, Teddy immediately became my ‘Hug Buddy’. He reminded me of the love of my family and was a real presence to hug in quiet moments when I was overwhelmed with uncertainty and fear of what lay ahead.
  4. A hand crocheted afghan -my mother-in-law made one for me. I took it with me everywhere. When I wrapped myself in the afghan I could feel her love and comfort. It also kept me warm on the days when treatment caused me to feel so cold on the inside.

Other Ideas:

  1. Cards with notes of encouragement and care. They keep the lines of communication open to family and friends when energy for visits is marginal. Share normal things too – what is going on in your life, the world, funny things that give an opening for laughter.
  2. Videos – ones that are uplifting, humorous, educational. Choose according to their interests.
  3. Book a massage or spa day – a get away from it all day.
  4. A Journal and a lovely pen. Most cancer patients will be advised about the benefits of keeping a journal to unload and explore inner emotions and turmoil – or even to simply express gratitude for what they do have that is right in their world.
  5. An Adult Coloring Book – they are very popular right now. I have one myself.  You can get totally absorbed in minutes in the pure fun of coloring as we did when we were kids.
  6. Technology – if it’s in your budget. So many resources are available online now.
    • An iPad is a great tool for accessing this information anywhere, anytime.
    •  An eBook – paperbacks and hard cover books can be heavy and cumbersome. Fatigue makes arms weak and neuropathy, a side effect of treatment, creates tingling and weakness in the hands. Having something lightweight which can also be used in a dark room will be valued.
    • A Smartphone – an easy way to stay connected, reach out for help if needed, take pictures, keep a calendar updated, etc., It will make life so much easier.
  7. Head coverings – a hand knit hat, a special cloth hat designed for cancer patients, a beautiful scarf. All needed when chemotherapy causes hair loss.
  8. Jewellery – healing gemstone jewellery, or any jewellery that will add some ‘bling’ and fun, especially when they are feeling exposed and different with their hair loss.
  9. Organic Skincare – unscented products made without harmful chemicals will be so appreciated. Skin becomes dry and sensitive from treatments and stress. Plus who wants to add more chemicals to their body at this time, if ever.
  10. Pajamas and lounge wear – much of their time is spent in these types of clothes. Something comfortable, fun, and colorful will give some variety to this casual wardrobe. Think of wicking clothing, especially for women as they may be tipped into menopause early from chemotherapy.
  11. Socks, slippers and robes – wardrobe staples during this time.

Financial Gifts
Many cancer patients are not able to work through their treatment. This puts an extra financial burden on the family budget. Not everyone has coverage for a crisis such as cancer. For those that have these financial resources, providing financial aid to others going through the same journey is their way of giving back.

  1. Contribution to an organization that helps and provides services for cancer patients.
  2. Gift cards for general use. They can be applied to items that are so needed – a complementary therapy, vitamins, bills that need to be paid.
  3. Fundraising for a family in need or an individual in need. Not all standard treatment protocols are covered by insurance. In Canada, this also applies and varies by province. In the United States, healthcare is not universal so many will be paying out of pocket for treatments.

Hopefully some of these ideas listed above will spark an idea for you. Even though Christmas is now a few weeks away, cancer is always present and these ideas apply at any time. They also apply at any time during a cancer patient’s recovery. This can be anywhere from several months to years depending on the cancer diagnosis, the treatment, and any lingering side effects or physical changes.

Ideas for gifts above are mostly for the cancer patient, but it is worth noting that cancer affects a family. They are also experiencing cancer in their own way. Children are especially impacted and can use some extra attention that distracted parents may not be able to provide during this time.

Regardless, the fact that you have reached out is a kind and caring step that interestingly enough is not often taken. Cancer patients have felt distancing from both family and friends at a time when they need them the most. Be there for them. It will make a huge difference.

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