Gifts for Cancer Patients


You can’t plan for cancer.  It comes even if you are getting married, switching jobs, or celebrating the holidays.  It is a weird thing, thinking about Christmas cheer in the midst of my mom’s cancer treatment.  I’ve been going to the grocery store about two times a day while my mom has been getting chemotherapy. If she happens to have a taste for anything, I run to the store to get it for her.  Recently, I walked into Jewel and immediately the smell of saccharine cinnamon-scented something hit me in the face.  It was so thick and overwhelming in the tiny, automatic door encapsulated walkway. I thought I would be sick.  Was it the smell that was overpowering or was it the thought of having to celebrate the season during such a difficult time?  All I could think about was, what are gifts for cancer patients?


The most recent round of treatment has been especially brutal. I think I’ve missed just about two weeks of work with all the doctor appointments and hospital visits.  In the midst of it all, I find myself doing my best to be helpful and stay positive.  When talk of Christmas came up, my mom and I started discussing what would be the best Christmas gifts for cancer patients.  None of the fallbacks like a scented candle or workout clothing would be appropriate gifts for cancer patients.


Electric Blankets

My mom has been using the Arctic Cold Cap system as a means to minimize her chemotherapy related hair loss. It seems to be working well, but the process of sitting with a -25ºF cap on her head for about 9 hours each treatment is less than pleasant.  No matter how many layers of blankets and coats we pile on her, she is a shivering icebox.  Even for people who don’t use the cold caps, typically the loss of hair and weight can cause patients to be more cold than usual. Electric blankets are useful gifts for cancer patients, and come in handy often.


Food Delivery

The appetite of a cancer patient is fickle. Sometimes they are hungry and able to tolerate the most complex of flavors, and sometimes even the mention of food is vomit inducing.  Since I’ve been living with my mom to help her through this difficult time, I find that I am at the grocery store two to three times a day.  Her taste in food is so different than what she normally likes and that means we’ve been ordering in a lot more Chinese food than usual.  Gift certificates for food delivery are ordering dinner from a cancer patient’s favorite restaurant make useful gifts for cancer patients.

Home Spa Treatment

With the drain that chemotherapy puts on ones body, trips out of the house are relegated to only the most necessary of appointments. While sometimes a massage may seem urgent, it is more of a treat than a necessity. When a cancer patient is accustomed to occasional massages or nail treatments, the loss of these pampering services can affect the patient’s identity and self esteem. Many massage therapists and nail technicians offer the same services at home for the same or even less than what a spa charges.

Wig Stylist

What is a wig if it’s never worn? Some people prefer to get wild wigs in different colors, looks that are so bold that one could never experiment so brazenly with their own hair. Some prefer options more akin to their natural look. While some wigs look great right out of the box, there are many that need professional tweaking. Through my mom’s experience, we needed to visit her stylist a few times to get the cut of her human hair wig just right.

Cleaning Lady

When undergoing chemo, it is tough to move yourself, much less push a vacuum. Taking out the trash, emptying the dishwashers, and folding laundry can all be daunting tasks. Paying for a visit from a cleaning lady, or acting as one yourself, is one of the most thoughtful gifts for cancer patients.

Hats and Scarves

Unfortunately, hair loss is a doleful, albeit temporary, reality for cancer patients. Some people choose to get wigs but even the best wigs can feel tight or uncomfortable after a fulld ay of wear. Many patients instead choose to keep warm and cover their heads with scarves and hats. As winter is in full effect in Chicago, cute beanies or structured wools hats are useful and trendy gifts for cancer patients.

Scent-Free Lotions and Body Butters

In the cold months of winter, dry hands and skin are itchy and uncomfortable. While normally any lotion is a welcome way to moisturize, smell sensitivity for chemotherapy patients make most scents intolerable. Finding a scentless moisturizing lotion or body oil is a blessing. My mom enjoys coconut oil for her body and unscented shea butter for her hands.

A Netflix and/or Amazon Prime Subscription

Once the nausea is under control, the chemotherapy related fatigue is never-ending. Even getting up to use the restroom requires quite a bit of effort and more likely, a nap immediately afterward. While some people prefer books or crossword puzzles, a common effect of chemotherapy is a foggy brain. Sometimes, books and crossword puzzles are a bit more complicated and require more mental energy than chemo patients have to give. A Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription provides endless entertainment without any exertion. The programs can provide laughs and a welcome distraction from the challenges of everyday recovery


Comfortable Robe and Slippers

Many patients first have surgery to remove tumors and then follow up with chemotherapy. Recent scars can cause discomfort when wearing zip up waistbands or other structured attire. And even if someone has not had surgery, sometimes it is not easy to get dressed in new clothes every day. When I’m sick, I often stay in my pajamas and cannot be convinced to change out of elastic waistband pants. A warm robe with big pockets and a pair of fuzzy slippers are great gift ideas. The big pockets can hold a phone, tissues, lip balm, really anything, which helps to make sure important things aren’t misplaced.

And Finally…Marijuana

I live in a state where marijuana is legal for purchase with an appropriate medical card. Unfortunately, it is quite a process to obtain the appropriate documentation to qualify. You can find specific directions to help your loved one qualify for a medical marijuana card here. Some physicians may not prescribe medical marijuana, and if that is the case, there are a handful of states that have legalized the sale of marijuana. While you can’t board an airplane with medical marijuana, if you drive from one of these states, well, you can take your chances.

Anything I Missed?

If you or a loved one have any additional recommendations for what gifts for cancer patients are both considerate and practical, write it in one of the comments below.

Landing Photo of Christmas Tree C/O PalmBeachLately.