Special Gift Ideas

OncoLink Team
Last Modified: November 28, 2012

OncoLink Holiday Gift IdeasA product of speaking with former and current patients and their families about what "gifts" they found most helpful during their battle with cancer. Check here for gift suggestions to help ease the load - our list includes gifts of communication, gifts of time, spiritual gifts and more!


  • Short visits - Due to treatment cancer patients may be very tired. Be mindful of the length of time you spend visiting.
  • Emails - but don't expect responses- that can make it more work for the person.
  • Letters and cards - Spend some time focusing on the positive aspects of your relationship with this person.
  • Phone calls - Again, be mindful of the amount of time you spend.
  • Ease up on expectations and commitments. Do not expect the patient to travel during this time or bake the usual 3-story gingerbread house!
  • Tell them you understand they can't visit and don't have the energy to host. A phone call from the whole family - or even a Skype video call! - on the holiday, could be just what the doctor ordered.

Gifts of Time

  • Treat them to lunch.
  • Treat them to a movie.
  • Take them on a nature walk or an outing in the city.
  • Take photos of the patient's health care team and record them in a special memory book with quotes from friends, family, doctors, and nurses.
  • Promise to assist with daily chores. Make a "home-made" gift certificate or ”coupon” for any of the following:
    • Take out their trash
    • Rake the leaves/shovel the snow
    • Help with the laundry or ironing
    • Help with house cleaning.
    • Provide home-cooked meals (Organize a "cooking circle" with a group of friends whereby one person brings a meal to their home each night.)
    • Offer transportation to and from treatments
    • Provide child care
    • Wrap gifts
    • Shop
    • Decorate
    • Help with Holiday baking
    • Help to maintain the patient's volunteer activities (Scouting, church groups, civic groups, school activities)

Humorous Gifts

  • Humorous Books: (OncoLink's pick: A Life in the Balance, by Scott Burton or Cancer Has Its Privileges: Stories of Hope & Laughter, by Christine Clifford)
  • Humorous videos: either buy a favorite or make one of your own
  • Joke Books
  • Dart Board (Useful for taking out frustrations with insurance companies, healthcare team, or the disease itself!)
  • Funny Cards

Material Gifts

  • Cancer related Books (for suggestions see OncoLink's Book Reviews).
  • Uplifting Books (Read some of Alysa's favorites in her blog).
  • Cancer related Nutrition Books.
  • Guided Imagery and Meditation tapes and books.
  • I-Pod or other MP3 player or gift certificate to purchase electronic music (iTunes or Amazon.com).
  • Video game machines or laptop computers to entertain while in the hospital or at treatments (offer to lend an older one you aren't using).
  • E-book readers or gift certificate to buy the books. Be sure you know which reader they have so you get the certificate to the correct place.
  • Audiobooks or books on tape or CD.
  • Movie theater gift card or Movie rental service like Netflix for those who aren't feeling up to leaving the house.
  • Answering Machine (This helps to maintain some control over precious time at home).
  • Gift certificate or set-up cleaning service, home delivery of premade meals
  • Gift certificate for grocery store especially one that has home delivery service
  • Pre-paid gas card especially for those going back and forth to treatment/doctor's visits.
  • A small stuffed animal or toy. (This is helpful for adults and children alike. It can be very comforting to hold during "down time" in the hospital).
  • Hats, scarves, baseball caps. (This is helpful for patients who will be losing their hair due to chemotherapy).
  • A Personal Calendar – electronic or old fashioned paper!
  • Hard Candy is often welcomed as it often helps to take away the taste changes associated with certain medications.
  • A single lottery ticket (To encourage the patient to think about statistics and how anything is possible -- things can turn around so quickly).
  • Small gifts that encourage the use of imagery. (For example one patient used wolves as a metaphor during his battle with cancer, his friends sent him many gifts with a wolf theme. Angels are also popular).
  • Bookmarkers with uplifting sayings on them.
  • Puzzle books such as crosswords and Sudoku.
  • A prepaid phone card (Include a note that they may call you any time they feel like they need a little "pick me up").
  • Special drinking mugs- get one made with a picture of you and the friend.
  • A quiet activity to occupy their time such as a scrap book kit, cards or board games.
  • Easy-to-move luggage (with wheels- for trips to the hospital).
  • Slippers, robes and fashionable pajamas.

Personal Items

  • Gift certificate for a massage, facial, or manicure
  • Bath beads
  • Lotion (Water and aloe based lotions are helpful for patients undergoing radiation therapy)
  • Aromatherapy
  • Gift certificate to Yoga or Reikki
  • A donation to a special charity or organization in their name.
  • A journal to help organize their thoughts and reflect on the experience.
  • A photo album or scrapbook with inspiring words or words of encouragement from family and friends.

Spiritual Gifts

  • A Bible or other sacred book
  • Inspirational verses
  • Poetry
  • Prayers or meditations
  • A positive attitude
  • Affirmation of personal Faith