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Gifts for Cancer Patients | The Patient Story

Gifts can be a great way to show your support for a loved one with cancer, but it can be tough to know what to give. Here are gift ideas from real-life cancer survivors – from physical gifts to volunteering your time.

Gifts for Cancer Patients

10 Gift Ideas to Show Support

When someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer, your first thought might turn to getting them a gift to help them feel better. But knowing how to support someone in your life who’s been diagnosed with cancer can be really tough.

Here’s what we know from interviewing hundreds of cancer patients: Giving something, whether it’s material or acts of service, is almost always better than doing nothing at all.

If you’re considering getting a gift for a cancer patient in your life, but don’t know where to start, here are some tips from real cancer survivors on ways you can help – whether it’s a thoughtful physical gift or just donating your time and support.

10 Gift Ideas for a Cancer Patient

Explore below for details on each of these gift ideas, including quotes from real cancer patients and survivors on why these choices made the biggest difference for them during cancer treatment.

1. Comfortable Clothing

Comfortable clothing (hats, soft shirts, sweatpants, etc.) are essential items for patients dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment and chilly hospital environment.

One leukemia survivor, Casey H., mentioned a thoughtful gift from her friend of some simple cotton shirts:

My friend went to Target or wherever and got a bunch of basic cotton shirts. She cut an entire side off each of them and velcroed them back together. That way I didn’t have to ask the nurses to take out my IV if I wanted to shower. I could just take the shirt off, wrap my arm and shower. 

Before that, I would have to wait for someone to come unhook me. That was the best gift anyone could’ve given me in a million years. Having the independence to shower when I wanted to was awesome.

Casey H.

→ Read more from Casey’s story

2. Gift Cards

A basic gift card may be just the thing to cheer up a friend dealing with cancer with a well-deserved night out at the movies or a restaurant. Gift cards can also help patients fill a crucial gap in their day-to-day needs. Breast cancer survivor, Caitlin J., suggests:

Little things here and there, like my aunts would send me gift cards for groceries. That was incredible because when you’re spending so much money on other aspects of your health, you can neglect simple areas like your diet.

Caitlin J.

→ Read more of Caitlin’s story

3. Blankets

Hospital rooms are often chilly, especially for cancer patients undergoing chemo or other treatment. A colorful, warm blanket can help warm the patient’s body and spirts at the same time. As leukemia survivor Casey H. explains:

Blankets are always essential for the hospital. It’s so freezing in there and they only give you the thin little blanket.

It just doesn’t help that much. Definitely bring blankets with you.

Casey H.

4. A Letter

There’s just something about getting a physical letter. In this age of technology, emails, texts and direct messages are king. That can make receiving a letter even more special.  Hodgkin lymphoma survivor Lauren C. says that the letters she received encouraged her.

I got letters and little gifts from people all over the country. They said ‘We’re cheering you on! We can’t believe you just ran a half marathon! You’re such a rockstar and you have more cheerleaders than you know!’

Any time someone that I know or friends of friends or family friends, if they’re going through a hard time, that’s one of the first things I ask is if there’s an address, and I try to send a note of encouragement.

Lauren C.

→ Read more of Lauren’s story

Shari B. felt the same way when she was going through treatment for mantle cell lymphoma. Her friends decided to visit her and surprised her with something that changed her day.

I got cards and letters from people all over the world after a recumbent biking buddy posted a story about me on his blog. 

My work family was wonderful. One day a giant box arrived for me. In it were these little gifts and cards from dozens of co-workers. I burst into tears and cried all day with joy.

The power of love is really remarkable.

I swear sometimes I think that cured me. It was amazing. It was just the whole of it. It’s how people come out of the woodwork, you didn’t even know noticed you were there for you and giving you encouragement. I think that really helps a lot.

Shari B.

→ Read more of Shari’s story

5. Coloring Books

Many patients go through at least a little bit of anxiety. Adult coloring books have been on the rise as a way to calm your mind for several years now and are easy to find at a lot of bookstores and online. 

For lung cancer thriver, Lisa G., coloring books were helpful through treatment not just for her, but her family, too.

It’s not as intense as it was in the first year but it’s still something that is very much part of our lives. We try to cope with it. We have a library of books and tools, anxiety tools, from coloring books to stress balls to games.

Lisa G.

→ Read more of Lisa’s story

6. Planner or Calendar

It can be hard to keep up with all the appointments and medications to take. Getting a planner for a patient is a great way to help them stay organized.

For sarcoma thriver, Nicole B ., a planner helped her stay on track and feel more in control, especially during times like waiting for pathology and test results.

It was difficult. It tested me in a way that I had never been tested before. I am a planner and an organizer. I have a paper planner that I write everything down in. I have stuff planned out through October of this year already with things going on.

Nicole B.

→ Read more of Nicole’s story

7. Food

Whether it’s sweet or savory, food is a definite favorite for many cancer patients and caregivers. Oftentimes, it’s about saving what little time they may have, so sending a meal by takes one important task off their to-do list.

They can also just be a nice surprise to deliver a smile, especially when you research what they love. That was one thing that helped ovarian cancer thriver, Susan R.

One friend sent pastries from my favorite Italian pastry restaurant in New York. I don’t even know how she did that. 

Susan R.

→ Read more of Susan’s story

8. Art

Seeing something pleasing to the eye can also bring some comfort to cancer patients, especially when they’re done with thought and love.

For Ewing sarcoma thriver, Ariane B., it was a piece of art from someone she didn’t even know that gave her the boost she needed during chemotherapy.

They gave me some drawing that some kid did in the school and said like, have a good first chemo like I’m behind you and you have like the name of the little kid that you know, drew you something. So it was pretty cute.

I keep the drawing. Every time I was doing my chemo, I put it in the chemo bag to remind me that people are behind me. I have family, I have people that care for me.  I didn’t know who the child was, but it was a cute ritual.

Ariane B.

→ Read more of Ariane’s story

9. Stuffed Animals

It can be comforting to have something soft to hold, or it may just be cute and brighten their day by looking at it.

Getting some stuffed animals from both friends and family members helped non-Hodgkin lymphoma thriver, Stephanie C., feel more comfort even before she started chemotherapy.

Especially when I was in the hospital undergoing tests just to figure out what kind of cancer I had, the stuffed animals people gave me were so cute they made me smile. That one smile could help me forget about the craziness of the situation, even if only for a short time.

Instead, I would think about the love I was so grateful to have around me in my life.

Stephanie C.

→ Read more of Stephanie’s story

10. Stories

One of the most overwhelming feelings cancer patients have to deal with are those related to isolation and being cut off from their family, friends, and peers.

That’s why we do what we do here at The Patient Story in trying to provide patients, and their caregivers, a connection to others and let them know that they are far from alone. Sending patient and survivor stories like the ones on our platform may also provide some hope. That’s what helped non-Hodgkin lymphoma thriver, Arielle R.

I cope with people, that’s just who I am. I’m a dependent coper. I do better when I’m in communication with someone, so finding other peoples’ stories was the best gift for me.

Arielle R.

→ Read more of Arielle’s story

If you want to send The Patient Story link as a gift to your loved one, just write to us and we can send them a “gift email” curated just for them. Write to us:

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