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Gifts for People With Cancer – Don’t Make Them Feel Like “Patients”

Written by on December 7, 2012 in Christmas Holiday Tips, Gift Giving Tips with 2 Comments
Gift ideas and tips for People With Cancer

Some people who are fighting cancer might wear a pink cowboy hat with pride! (image by Roswell Park, flickr)

What do you give someone with cancer? These gift ideas and tips won’t make people feel like “cancer patients”, yet they encourage healing and balance.

“I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen,” writes Rachel Naomi Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom. “Just listen.  Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.  And especially if it’s given from the heart.  When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them.  Just take them in.  Listen to what they’re saying.  Care about it.  Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it.”

Perhaps the best gift you can give someone with cancer is your time. You don’t have to talk…you need only listen. You don’t have to understand…you need only care.

Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal by Rachel Naomi Remen is one of the best physical gifts you can give people with cancer. She’s an oncologist (cancer doctor) and a surviver of Crohn’s Disease; her book reveals the meaning of life and living through stories of cancer survivors.



An audio version of Kitchen Table Wisdom might be easier for people with cancer than the print or Kindle version.

Gift Ideas for People With Cancer

Guest post ~ Sydney Tyler Thomas

When someone you know has cancer, it’s hard to know what to say or do.  It can be particularly awkward to figure out how to express your concern and offer support if you don’t know the person very well.

While a family member, close friend, or loved one may be more than willing to tell you what he or she needs, it may be harder for someone you don’t know as well to feel comfortable answering that question. However, finding a thoughtful and helpful gift for someone who has cancer doesn’t have to be difficult.

People with cancer typically have needs that fall into three major categories: comfort, convenience, and for lack of a better word, concentration.  Thoughtful gifts will address one or more of their needs by helping them feel better, making day-to-day living easier for them, or helping them take their mind off cancer treatments, pain and other symptoms.

Gifts that comfort – scarves, shawls, pajamas

Gifts for People With CancerWhen women think of cancer treatments, hair loss is usually one of the first things that comes to mind. A pretty chemocap or silk scarf can help many women feel a little less self-conscious about losing their hair, and they can help keep her head warm too. Pre-tied scarves are often easier than long scarves that need to be adjusted.

Some women prefer hats over scarves, such as a trendy knitted newsboy cab driver hat.

A silk shawl or pashmina for a woman or a fleece travel blanketor lap quilt for a man is also great for providing warmth and comfort during and after chemotherapy treatments (during which some patients report feeling very cold).

When selecting any item that will be worn against the skin, be sure to pick something made from soft fibers, so your gift doesn’t cause irritation to already sensitive skin. Silk or bamboo fabrics are soft and gentle.

Comfortable, loose-fitting pajamas made of very soft fabric also make a great gift to help people with cancer feel better during hospital stays or when welcoming visitors at home.

Gifts that make life easier – certificates, juicers

Many people think gift cards or gift certificates are impersonal, but they may be the perfect gift option for someone who has cancer.  If you have no idea what they need or want, a gift card or certificate is the perfect opportunity for them to decide.  Whether it’s an item that they really need, or something that they know will make them feel better but that they wouldn’t have bought for themselves otherwise, give them the opportunity to choose their own gift.

An Amazon.com Gift Card will help them order what they need online, rather than going out shopping. Or, a gift certificate to their favorite store can encourage them to get out and about! Offer to take them out shopping when you give them their gift card.

People with cancer often experience nausea and have difficulty eating solid foods. Although it might sound odd, a smoothie machine or a fruit and veggie juicer is another gift idea for people with cancer.  They can use either machine to quickly and easily make smoothies or freshly-squeezed juice, getting much-needed nutrients and avoiding solid foods that often upset their stomaches.

Another gift that may make life easier for a cancer patient is information about communication. Parents, for instance, may appreciate tips on how to talk to their kids about cancer.

Gifts to distract people from cancer

If the person on your list likes to read, consider an eReader such as a Nook or Kindle, with a few good books already installed.  If they’re movie buffs, consider a boxed set of classic movies or a collection of all the seaons of one of their favorite TV shows.

A great gift for a movie lover is a subscription to Netflix.  For very reasonable prices, you can give a month, a few months, or even a year’s subscription and they can watch an unlimited number of movies or TV shows on their computer or TV with the right equipment (such as a Wii).

For more gift tips, read Healthy Gift Ideas to Encourage Wellness and Balance.

The gift of time

Whether you decide to buy one of these gifts or others not included here, remember the most important gift of all for people with cancer: the gift of time.  Think about what you can do, and offer to do it.

Prepare meals that can be frozen and easily thawed, and drop them off. If you are handy around the house or lawn, offer to help with home maintenance. Offer to babysit or walk the dog, go grocery shopping, chauffeur the patient to doctor’s appointments or the store, or simply sit and watch a movie.

Or, buy a new board game and make a standing date to play once a week – if your “cancer patient” feels up for it. There probably isn’t a better way to show you care than to give the gift of yourself.

Are you a man coping with your wife’s cancer? Read When Your Wife Has Cancer – A “How to” Guide for Husbands.

If you have any thoughts or ideas for gifts for people with cancer, please comment below…

Written by Sydney Tyler Thomas, a writer and small business owner living in Virginia. She is author of The Joy of Soulful Knitting: Reflections on the Art of the Craft. You can also visit Sydney at her blog, New Calling. You can see Sydney’s other Quips and Tips posts here.

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  1. Laurie says:

    Thanks for your comment, Lynda. You’re right — your time is the best gift you can give someone with cancer. Just be there for them, cry with them, and let them journey through their illness their way.

  2. Lynda says:

    Ok i believe you have a point. Whether you decide to buy one of these gifts or others not included here, remember the most important gift of all for people with cancer: the gift of time. Think about what you can do, and offer to do it. ….

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