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Holiday Gift Suggestions for People Diagnosed With Cancer

Dealing with a disease such as cancer can be particularly difficult during the holiday season. It’s hard to feel like a burden or to have to be excluded from activities because you’re not feeling well. It can take an emotional and physical toll on the patient and their friends and family any time of year, but the gatherings and festivities of the holidays can amplify any hardships.

Below is a list of gift ideas which may help bring some cheer to the holidays.


Humor helps us forget. Humor lightens the mood. Laughter is healing. Would you wear one of these National Sarcasm Society or Give Cancer the Bird shirts? Who doesn’t need a TriceraTACO holder? I do!


All cancers are represented by a particular ribbon color. Depending on the person, products like these are a welcome sign of support. Others do not want to be given a bunch of ribbon products representing their cancer battle.

In my experience working at a cancer center, patients fighting less common or rare cancers tend to appreciate ribbon-themed products more because they’re harder to find. Be considerate toward the person you’re shopping for. When in doubt, leave it out. Check out Ribbon Gear.


Depending on the treatment, cancer patients may experience sensitivities to temperature, smells, dry skin, alopecia, nausea and more. Handmade hats, adult mittens, ginger candy, and lotion (I recommend the no-fragrance options) are nice additions to a gift basket or stocking stuffers. For the chef, a cancer cookbook.

Does your loved one enjoy the visual arts? What about a lovely piece of art or a nicely framed photo? A great collection of books will help pass the time. Your electronics lover might appreciate a gift card toward an online music, books, movies or game purchase.

Spiritual and emotional. 

The mental health of a patient is as much (or maybe even more important) as the physical health. Consider gifts that allow healing in their spiritual and/or emotional needs. Journals are highly recommended by palliative care specialists to give patients an outlet for their thoughts and concerns. Add a nice set of colored pencils or pens to complete the gift. I highly recommend books from the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

Physical comfort.  

Who doesn’t love comfortable sheets, pillows, slippers or a nice massage? Useful comfort items may also include lap desks, a handwarming mug, and port pillows.

If you’re not sure what might be the most desired gift this holiday season, just ask. Give them the opportunity to talk to you as a friend. Oftentimes, friendship is the best gift you can give.

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Thinkstock photo by Muenz