When you find out that someone you care about has cancer, the natural inclination is to try to help them. But how? Giving a gift is always appreciated, but you want to do it in a way that seems thoughtful rather than condescending.
"Gift giving is about the other person, not what you want to feel giving the gift," Chelsey, a child educator with cancer, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "So think about the person, their personality and what they need. I would say that any type of self-care item would be greatly appreciated."
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If you're at a loss for ideas, here are a few great gifts for people with cancer, according to them and the people who care for them.
1. Skims Cozy Knit Robe
Especially if you know the person is about to start treatment, comfort is crucial.
"Cozy will always be key, because even when they aren't going through active treatment, they are more likely to have higher pain levels than a regular person," Chelsey says.
She recommends something from the Skims collection, such as their Cozy Knit Robe. She swears it's the "coziest of cozy!"
Buy it: Skims.com; Price: $128
2. Amazon Basics Ultra-Soft Sherpa Blanket
A soft, cozy blanket is also a good bet.
"One of my most memorable Christmas gifts from my family was from my sister-in-law," Chelsey says. "She got me a large, soft, squishy blanket with elephants on it. It was the absolute best and you better believe I used that blanket until it was completely worn through."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: From $7.02 to $28.08 (price varies with color and pattern)
3. Billow Heart Pillow
When it comes to comforting breast cancer gifts, it's a bonus if you get them something that reminds them of you, as a way of saying you're with them even if you aren't physically there.
Dena, who has breast cancer, recommends getting them this heart-shaped pillow to do just that. It's designed to support and cushion the arms and breasts after breast surgery, and it can provide comfortable support while the person is sitting, lying down or even wearing a seatbelt in the car.
Buy it: BillowGlobal.com; Price: $24-$28
4. Massage Envy Gift Card
Cancer is stressful, and some research suggests stress can play a role in cancer development and progression.
To help your love one relax and decompress, Sandy Kotiah, MD, director of the Neuroendocrine Tumor Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, recommends getting them a gift card for a massage or full spa treatment as part of a cancer care package.
Massage Envy has locations across the country, or choose another spa near your loved one.
Buy it: MassageEnvy.com; Price: $60-$80 for a 60-minute introductory massage or facial session (prices vary by location, and the price does not include gratuity)
5. Daniel Field Suite Body Lotion
"People with cancer aren't going to be thinking of their bodies as something worth pampering, but it's exactly what they need most," Chelsey says.
Dena recommends getting them something from the Chemo Hair and Skin Collection, which offers products that are toxin-free and specifically designed for people going through treatment. The Daniel Field Suite Body Lotion is an especially good choice to soothe dry or sensitive skin.
Buy it: ChemoHairAndSkin.com; Price: $16-$28
Fashion and Style
6. Chemo Beanies
Hair loss is often associated with chemotherapy. Dr. Kotiah says many of her patients opt to wear head scarves to feel fun and fabulous even when they're undergoing treatment.
As part of a chemo care package, Dena recommends these cute chemo beanies to make people feel ultra chic while receiving care.
Buy it: ChemoBeanies.com; Price: $24.99 each or $65 for 3
7. Miena Robe or Gownies Recovery Robe
Having cancer involves a lot of doctor's appointments. Dr. Kotiah recommends gifting your loved one with comfortable clothes to rest in while they're getting treatment, and which allow for any port in the chest area to be easily accessed.
Dena suggests the Miena Robe, which includes a drain management belt, or something from the Gownies recovery wear collection.
- Miena Robe: AnaOno.com; Price: $79
- Gownies Recovery Robe: Gownies.com; Price: $34.99-$39.99
8. Vans Custom Shoes
Your loved one may be limited in the clothes they can wear to treatment, but they can still express their personal style through their footwear. In that spirit, gift them with some custom-made Vans decorated with something that will make them smile.
Buy it: Vans.com; Price: From $100
9. Empowering Jewelry
"Not everyone wants to be called a warrior or a survivor or a fighter," Dena says. "We didn't ask for this fight."
That being said, she believes gifting something that's both beautiful and empowering, like this "Beautiful Girl, You Can Do Hard Things" bracelet from MantraBand, can be very sweet.
If your friend is battling metastatic breast cancer, Dena also suggests this necklace charm set from Kendra Scott, especially because every purchase provides a woman undergoing cancer treatment with a jewelry gift and a handwritten note of encouragement.
- MantraBrand bracelet: MantraBand.com; Price: $25-$35
- Metastatic Breast Cancer Charm Necklace Set: KendraScott.com; Price: $110
10. Cozy Books
Having cancer involves a lot of time waiting for doctor's appointments. Dr. Kotiah recommends gifting a book on nutrition to help them pass the time. Or perhaps a coloring book for adults, which many patients find soothing.
Chelsey suggests The Little Book of Hygge, because it is "a cute, aesthetically pleasing book about the value of comfort and taking things more slowly. It's not an overt 'cancer present.'"
If your friend has kids, Dena recommends a heart-warming picture book like Cancer Hates Kisses to help little ones understand and cope.
- Adult Coloring Book: Stress-Relieving Patterns: Amazon.com; Price: $6.91
- The Little Book of Hygge: Amazon.com; Price: $12.87
- Cancer Hates Kisses: Amazon.com; Price: $17.99
11. Shell Gift Card
On top of everything else, having cancer is expensive.
"Chances are most money will be taken by medical care, and someone with cancer will find themselves in massive medical debt in no time," Chelsey says. "So practical gifts are wonderful."
Indeed, "People with cancer typically go through a lot of financial stress," Dr. Kotiah says. "So gift cards for gas or groceries can really help."
Buy it: BuyShellGiftCards.com; Price: Your choice
12. Doing Chores
You may not think so, but sometimes the best gift doesn't involve any money at all.
"Having family support is priceless," Dr. Kotiah says. "The link between mental health and physical health is important. Patients who have social support generally do better with treatment. Cooking meals, helping with house chores or errands, or just a listening ear can make all the difference."
Dena encourages people to ask what their loved one needs. "Offer to babysit, walk the dog or feed the cat," she suggests.
13. A Listening Ear
At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is give someone something that lets them know you care about them and support them.
"Call, FaceTime or text just to check in," Dena says. "Write sealed letters or cards they can open on the hardest days."
And just be there to listen.
"When it comes to gift-giving, the best thing anyone can do is listen to the person going through the experience," Chelsey says. "A present isn't going to help or make anyone better. But there is a chance, at best, that the present will make someone feel not alone."
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.