Holiday Gifts When the Cancer is Advanced

Bob Riter
Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes
Last Modified: November 16, 2010

Bob and Queenie
Bob and Queenie

About this time last year, I wrote a column on buying holiday gifts for people with cancer. I discouraged gifts that focused on illness. No one I know wants a stocking stuffer titled, "Prunes and Persimmons: Fighting Your Cancer with Foods that Begin with P."

I recommended gifts with a future orientation - tickets for upcoming concerts or perhaps a trip to somewhere pleasant. Thinking about life after cancer often brings a smile.

But what if your loved one has advanced cancer and this holiday season may be their last? Gifts with a future orientation might be well-intentioned, but they ignore the elephant in the room.

If your mother is nearing the end of her life, why not celebrate that life?

A photo album or scrapbook that captures your mother's life will have more meaning for her than a new pair of slippers. Ask her friends and other family members to contribute photos and mementoes. They'll be delighted.

And I think it's a wonderful tribute to make donations in a person's honor before they die. Suggest donations to your mom's favorite charity, perhaps creating a special fund in her honor.

Some people say that gifts that celebrate a person's life are wrong because they imply the person is dying.

Hello? If your mom is dying, she knows that she's dying. Giving her a family scrapbook isn't going to push her over the edge.

Holidays bring families together and most of us make special efforts to join loved ones if a family member is seriously ill. Sharing stories is not an admission of impending death - it's a celebration of life and a recognition that a person's life continues to have meaning.

There's no question that holidays take on an added poignancy when a loved one is nearing the end of life. Expect some tears. But expect laughter as well. It's all about life.

Bob is the Executive Director of the Cancer Resource Center. His articles about living with cancer appear regularly in the Ithaca Journal. He can be reached at

Reprinted with Permission of the Ithaca Journal
Original publication date: November 14, 2009.


7 Tips for Giving Smart on #givingtuesday
by Christina Bach, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C
November 25, 2015

Related News

Breast Density Readings by CT, Mammogram Consistent

Jan 27, 2014

Semiautomated computer-derived measurements are consistent with radiologist assessments

Drug sensitivity may be restored by 'drug holiday' or by inhibiting emergence of resistant cells

Apr 22, 2010

Drug sensitivity may be restored by 'drug holiday' or by inhibiting emergence of resistant cells

Obese Patients Require More Operating Room Time

Dec 10, 2012

For patients undergoing lobectomy, operating time increases with increasing BMI