Holiday gift guide with the cancer patient in mind

Holiday gift guide
When looking for holiday gifts for someone with cancer, there are special circumstances to consider. Here are some holiday gift ideas designed especially for cancer patients.

The holiday season is upon us, and with it, the annual quest for just the right gifts for those on your list. The search is especially challenging if your friend or loved one is undergoing cancer treatment. Gifts that may be fitting for one friend may not be appropriate for someone undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy—so it’s important to consider the special circumstances involved.

Think twice about giving a gift certificate for a massage, for example. A therapist with little or no training in working with cancer patients may inadvertently worsen the swelling and pain associated with lymphedema. Also, deep-tissue massage may increase the risk of bruising for patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. How about a mani-pedi? If a salon’s utensils are not properly sanitized, a cancer patient could get an infection, putting them at risk for potential complications.

While these stocking stuffers should be crossed off the list for cancer patients, there are plenty of others that could bring a little holiday cheer.  

Gift ideas for men

Good for gamers

Portable, handheld gaming devices are a great way to pass the time for a gamer who’s sidelined by surgery or treatment. The same goes for a subscription to streaming TV services that would allow your loved one to binge-watch current and past seasons of favorite TV shows, catch up on movies or have a good laugh watching a standup special. You may also want to throw in a nice pair of wireless headphones or ear buds.

Getting Groomed

For days when your friend may not feel well enough to get up and move around, a little personal hygiene may be a mental game-changer. A travel shaving kit, complete with a toiletry bag, razor, shaving cream and after-shave, may make it easier for him to shave or shape his beard. If you want to get creative, assemble your own kit with a compact mirror, moisturizer, deodorant, and even a toothbrush and toothpaste. Look for unscented skin-care products, since many cancer patients have sensitive skin.

Gadgets and accessories

Gadgets may help make pass the time in the hospital or at home a more quickly. A portable charging bank with multiple ports would allow for simultaneous charging of a smartphone, tablet, smart watch, wireless headphones and other devices. Consider 6-foot or 10-foot charging cords for a longer reach when a power outlet isn’t located near the bed or sofa. Personal voice assistants may be useful in helping the patient to search for information without leaving the couch or bed—like finding out about local weather conditions, what restaurants offer delivery or what time the pharmacy closes.

Gift ideas for women

For the perfectionist

Occasionally, especially following chemotherapy infusion or surgery, some patients may not have the energy or ability to take a shower, fix their hair or put on make-up before company comes to visit. To make the process a little easier, consider creating a basket with dry shampoo, a mini flat iron, and travel sizes of her preferred hair spray, foundation, eye shadow and blush.

Getting things done

Many women wear multiple hats: working professional, wife, mother, chef, housekeeper, chauffer. Add cancer patient to the list, and efforts to keep things running smoothly while she’s under the weather can overwhelm the rest of the family. One helpful gift option is just that: help. Offer your time and talents to clean the house, prepare meals or shuttle children to and from school and activities. If time is a luxury you don’t have, consider purchasing gift cards for these services or pooling your resources with friends or co-workers. You could even start a signup sheet, enlisting friends, family and neighbors to volunteer for a meal delivery rotation, or encourage them to donate toward the family’s bills or for takeout.

Fashion and style

Women who have undergone a mastectomy or lost their hair after chemotherapy may feel self-conscious about their appearance. Consider buying your friend a hat, scarf and/or tops designed specifically for patients like her. Depending on her style, you could go with a wide-brimmed sun hat or, for more casual women, a beanie may be more fitting. Scarves come in many fabrics, while tunic and handkerchief tops may offer some stylish and practical options, allowing for room to move and breathe.

Gift ideas for anyone

Other gifts you can consider for cancer patients of both genders include:

  • Homemade meals or treats. Find out in advance if they have dietary restrictions.
  • Body lotion. For many patients, cancer treatments affect their sense of smell, so stick with unscented options.
  • Insulated water bottle. Doctors advise cancer patients to stay hydrated, so make it easier for the patient on your list with a metal or glass bottle that keeps liquid temperatures steady.
  • Soft blanket. This may be especially soothing for patients during chemotherapy infusion, where rooms are often kept chilly. Slippers and warm socks also make good options.
  • Hard candies and lip balm. These options may help patients with dry mouth and chapped lips, which are common side effects of some cancer treatments.
  • Plush pillow and/or neck cushion. Make your loved one more comfortable when dozing and/or sitting up in bed. A lap desk might be helpful, too.
  • Gift cards. Think food delivery, hair salon, grocery services, ride share apps—options that can ease the patient’s burden.

Get course-by-course tips for holiday meals.