by CATHERINE NGUYEN
Finding the right gift for a cancer patient may seem hard, but a thoughtful gift can really help the person feel loved and cared for at Christmas. Below are some ideas which were much appreciated by a number of cancer patients:
Cancer fatigue is a given as well as many hours spent in hospitals for chemo and scans etc. Books and movies are useful gifts to help pass the time, especially if you know your loved one’s interest (e.g. that latest thriller from his or her favourite author). Subscription to streaming services such as Netflix or Stan are also good possibilities.
An iPad or a tablet provides an all-encompassing entertainment experience and is a great gift. My husband never went to the hospital without it, and appreciated it so much that he gave me one shortly after (a hint for anyone looking for a gift for carers).
Please note that while cancer books may seem to be relevant, it is best not to give this unless you know for sure that the person is interested in such a gift. While some may want to read all about cancer, others do not want to be reminded of their condition and so it’s best to check before going down this path.
You can never have too much comfort, and this is even more important for someone undergoing cancer treatment.
Soft and cozy socks, slippers, pajamas, or robes may sound boring, but can bring much warmth and comfort. Sheepskin and chenille items are especially comfortable. A warm and luxurious shawl or fleece blanket is also a great gift, and bright colours can help to cheer your loved one up. A breast cancer patient said that her blanket was a source of comfort when she was restless or cold, both at home and in the hospital.
Personalised photo albums, pillowcases and memory blankets made with pictures of family members are another great way to surround the cancer patient with love. Michelle L’s father, a brain cancer patient, loved his memory blanket so much that he sat with it every day, looking at all his children and grandchildren on it and smiling.
There is also nothing wrong with giving a normal gift if that is what the patient wants. Cancer does not define the person and their gift should not be about the cancer either.
One cancer patient wrote in her diary that she still wanted the diamond earrings her husband promised her for Christmas, i.e. she wanted to be treated as she would have been without her illness.
A friend of mine baked cookies with his wife who had cancer so that they could continue the tradition of sending homemade cookies to families and friends. For her, that moment of normality was the best present that she could have asked for.
For my dad’s final Christmas, my mom and I got him a lobster which was what he wanted. Even though he could not taste it properly, he said that he could remember how it used to taste when he ate it and was happy. That in turn, was a precious gift for my mom and me.
Catherine has been volunteering with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre since 2017, and joined Solaris Cancer Care as a blog writer in early August 2020. She lost both her father and her husband to cancer, and the experiences changed her life. Catherine developed a passion for researching all matters relating to cancer during her husband’s fight, and is keen to continue building on her knowledge and using it to help others.