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  • Writer's pictureTicking Off Breast Cancer

Cancer gift ideas

This guide has been written by Sara Liyanage, author of the incredibly useful website. Based on Sara's personal experience of going through breast cancer treatment, this is by far the most comprehensive and informative article we've come across on the subject of gifts for cancer patients and Sara has kindly given us permission to reproduce it for you.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis

Someone has been diagnosed with cancer. It might be your mum, your friend, your sister, your cousin, someone who lives a few doors down from you or your brother, boyfriend or husband. And you want to give them a special gift. But you don’t know what to give. So, based on the wonderful gifts that I received, and with the help of my lovely Twitter, Instagram and FaceBook followers, I have created this list to give you some ideas of firstly, what you could give, and secondly, how to give a gift….

What gift to give someone with cancer?

Practical cancer gift items:

1. Water spray

2. Hand held battery operated fan

3. Tissues (small handy packs because chemo makes your nose drip)

4. Hand sanitiser and wet wipes

5. If she is having surgery then she may need a bag for her drain (see Drain Dollies)

7. Plastic ice lolly molds (for her to make fruit juice ice lollies – they were a life saver for me)

8. Notepad and pen

10. A tray with a bean bag base for her to use on the sofa or in bed

15. Alcohol free mouthwash (perhaps even aloe vera)

16. Travel toothbrush and toothpaste

17. Essential oils, an oil burner and tealights (lavender is best)

Homemade gifts – in particular

homemade food and drink:

1. Meals for the freezer

2. Scones with a tub of cream and a jar of jam

3. Granola

4. Healthy snack bars

5. Homemade lemonade or other healthy drinks

Fun things:

1. A bell for her to ring when she wants a cup of tea to be brought by a family member

2. Things with uplifting words on them such as a mug or a T-shirt

Special treats/luxury items:

1. A nice journal or notebook in which to write down thoughts/plans, or take to appointments

2. A nice tote bag to use for chemo sessions

3. Soft pillow cases

4. Soft blanket

5. Luxurious slippers (I was given some that you can heat in the microwave)

6. A soft jumper

9. Soft shawls or scarves

10. A hot water bottle and soft cover

11. Bamboo clothing or pyjamas or a onesie

12. Eye mask

13. Nice candle (natural or organic candles with a very subtle gentle scent are ideal for someone going through treatment. Neom are gorgeous although a little bit pricey so it is worth doing a bit of a shop around)

a candle labelled and relax next to an aloe vera plant in a white pot
A scented candle can help with mindfulness and relaxation

14. Nice hand cream, lipbalm, toiletries, bubble bath, deodorant, nail oil (you may wish to consider paraben free/organic/sensitive skin ranges because chemo can make the skin more sensitive than usual – there are companies which sell products specifically suitable for chemo patients such as Jennifer Young: Beauty Despite Cancer)

15. Christmas sparkle (something sparkly and pretty during the Christmas period)

16. Trinkets, for example guardian angels and worry dolls

17. Framed photos of you and her

19. Vouchers for spa treatments, afternoon tea, cinema, reflexology, reiki (but be aware that body massages are sometimes not recommended during chemo, especially where the lymph nodes have been removed – although there are spas which specialise in massage for people having chemo)

Distractions and things to keep your loved one busy:

1. Puzzle books

2. Colouring books and pens/pencils (the mindfulness ones are great)

3. Reading books (not sad ones or cancer stories! However, there are two cancer books which may actually be of help to her: Dear Cancer, Love Victoria by Victoria Derbyshire and Tea and Chemo: Fighting Cancer, Living Life by Jackie Buxton. You could always read them first and give her a precis of them to help her decide if she is up to reading them)

4. Magazines or a magazine subscription

5. Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription, or DVD box sets (again, no need for these to be brand new)

6. Cook books – I can recommend the Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook and the Breast Cancer Cookbook (by professor Mohammed Keshtgar)

7. Notepad and pen (there are such beautiful notepads available, and they make a great place in which to make a note of all the lovely things she can do after treatment)

8. Mini/travel board games to play with the children, or arts and crafts to do with the children.

9. Depending on the ages of the children, books to read with the children

10. Pretty notelets or cards (and pop in a pack of stamps) so she can write to people

Edible gifts:

Orange box of pukka tea lemon ginger and honey
Lemon and Ginger Tea is included in our nausea care boxes

1. Luxury food items like chocolates, biscuits, cakes (I had a few deliveries from Betty’s and Biscuiteers which were gorgeous, but the homemade ones were extra special). Maybe a little hamper of a few treats

2. Nice hot chocolate

3. Nice herbal teas (possibly organic brands like Pukka and Tea Pigs which do loads of flavours, such as ginger, tumeric, chamomile and night time blends)

4. Sweets, mints and chocolate

5. Homemade edible gifts

And remember that meals for her freezer are always appreciated very much indeed.

Cheer them up items:

1. A tree to plant in the garden

2. Flowers are such a lovely thought but check with her husband or carer first because sometimes patients with low immunity shouldn’t be in contact with flowers

3. Write lots of uplifting quotes, affirmations and mantras on small pieces of colourful paper, then fold them up and put them in a jar or box so she can take one out whenever she is having a bad day and needs a little bit of help.

4. Get friends and family members to write little uplifting notes which you then seal in individual envelopes and (depending on what is written on the note) write instructions on the envelopes as to when she can open them.

For example:

· open when… you need to smile

· open when…you need a good laugh

· open when… you are stressed

· open when…you are bored

· open when…you need a hug


5. Give her the gift of your time and write her a card, asking her to choose five places for you to visit together when she is better.

6. Give her some “feeling better” vouchers: vouchers for things to do together when she feels up to it and she can present these vouchers to you when she is feeling up to doing these things (for example: lunch out, a picnic, sharing a bottle of wine one evening, Sunday roast at your house for all the family, going for a walk, shopping, a trip to the cinema and so on)

Ways to give gifts when someone has been diagnosed with cancer

Yes, you can buy or make a gift and deliver it when you hear that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer. That would be lovely and gorgeous and very well received. Or, you could do something a little bit different. After all, getting through breast cancer is a long old slog and it would be extra nice to have things spread across the duration of treatment to help break up the drudgery, monotony and misery that treatment can bring.

Examples are:

1. A bag of wrapped presents with one to open per day. For example, one per day in the build up to say, surgery. Or one to open every day of chemo. Or one to open every three days after chemo (which are the worst days of side effects). You don’t need to spend much and you can include things like: puzzle books, tissues, lipbalm, hand sanitiser, magazines, books (no need for them to be brand new), chocolate, herbal tea bags, sweets, mints, water spray and so on (take a look at the list of gift ideas below)

2. A box of sunshine. A box full of lovely yellow things. Try finding items on the lists below in yellow such as: tissues, toiletries, sweets, stationery, pens, mug, socks, scarf, and lemons (lots of lemon things are nice during illness: lemon tea, lemon lipbalm, lemon sweets, lemon hand sanitiser and so on). Or you could wrap a bunch of items in yellow paper. The point is that this is “box of sunshine” to brighten her day

3. A F*@K You basket. A box or basket of individually wrapped gifts (choose from the suggestions below) with the idea that whenever she is having a particularly bad day, she can open one of the gifts and tell the world to “F*@K YOU”. Make sure you pop in things that will make her smile when she opens them – the idea is to bring a smile to her face

4. A human repair kit/chemo care package. A box of useful chemo things. Things that will be of practical help during chemo, and things that will make life a little easier or more bearable.

Choose items from the lists above, for example:

chemotherapy care box containing a body wrap, queasy drops, cotton gloves, cotton booties, fluffy socks, lip balm, keep calm balm, pot of udderly smooth cream and nausea wristbands
Our chemotherapy care boxes are a thoughtful and practical way to support your loved one

· A chemo care package: – Tissues – Handcream – Lipbalm – Boiled sweets/mints – Magazine/puzzle/book – Notepad and pen – Chocolate – Antibacterial handwash – one of the nice ones

· A home care package: – Tissues – Handcream – Lipbalm – A bell (so she can ring for a cup of tea!) – A nice shawl, scarf or blanket – Puzzle book/magazine/book to read – Something nice to eat, like biscuits or cakes – Chocolate – Teas

5. A pamper care package. A bag or box of luxury items which would provide a special treat for her during her treatment. Choose from items listed above, for example: – Luxury brand handcream, shower gel, body lotion – A nice shawl,

scarf or slippers – A candle – And treatment affects

everyone in different ways – but maybe a bottle of her favourite drink? Prosecco? Gin?

And remember...

If you are delivering something (whether food, gifts, flowers) you could text beforehand to say that you are going to deliver something and you will leave it on the door step at a certain time. This means that she has the option of opening the door to you if she feels up to seeing you, but if not then she doesn’t have to be disturbed.

Where to buy gifts for someone with cancer?

You can of course source all of the gift suggestions yourself - that's how the idea for CancerPal first came about. But if you're short of time, why not take a look at our thoughtful range of cancer Care Boxes.


Thank you again to Sara and www.tickingoffbreastcancer for allowing us to reproduce this really useful Guide.

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Jul 12, 2022

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