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Did I send a thoughtless gift to my friend with cancer?

Gifts for cancer patients

Some years ago, and with the best intentions, I sent a package of gifts to my friend with cancer. As it turns out, it was the wrong gifts. Not that my dear friend would've ever told me that she couldn't use them.

I hated that she was diagnosed with cancer. Desperately I wanted to do something for her. Something nice. Thoughtful. Caring.

This was long before I'd spent a lot of time researching and learning about appropriate gifts for someone with cancer. Before I knew for example, that if she was in hospital then flowers weren't a good choice to send - no flowers in oncology ward.

And before I learnt more about some of the cancer treatments and what are useful gifts. When I sent the gift, I didn't understand the effects of some of the treatments and how they might make her feel.

In the pack, I included bubble bath. It seemed thoughtful. A nice relaxing bubble bath always sounds lovely. I also included some decadent chocolates. Because who doesn't like chocolate? And a scented body lotion. Because I thought that would be nice on her skin.

My intentions were heartfelt, but I've since learnt there are gifts that are more helpful. If you live close, then your gift of time is one of the best. Time spent with them or doing things for them eg;

  • housework

  • lawns or gardening

  • pick up prescriptions

  • driving them to medical appointments and sitting with them if they would like you to

  • cooking a meal for them and their family

  • if they have children, driving the kids to after-school activities, sports trainings etc

If you live further away like I did, you can send thoughtful handwritten cards or text messages. (But without expecting a reply because cancer treatments can be exhausting). I wished I had sent cards more often to my friend.

Another thoughtful gesture is to send a gift around the time of any chemo or radiation treatments.

You may be wondering what was wrong with the gift package I sent?

My friend had to have surgery and chemo. To sit in a bubble bath with chemicals wouldn't have been good for her wound. (Many skincare and body products contain lots of chemicals). Her body was already overloaded with chemicals from chemo. Extra chemicals from bubble bath and body lotion, wasn't going to help her immune system.

The perfumed lotion and bubble bath make some people feel nauseous after chemo. And chocolate! When you've been vomiting from chemo? What was I thinking?

I really wanted to do something nice for her. Now I've learnt there are more thoughtful gifts. Natural skincare without chemicals. A nice lipbalm because cancer treatments often result in dry and chapped lips. A soft throw blanket for treatment day, because people often feel cold during chemo. Nice new slippers for hospital stays.

Check out more ideas here for cancer gift hampers

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