Since this is a gift-giving time of year, I have been thinking about gift suggestions for people who are being treated for cancer and for those who have recently completed treatment.
As a starting point, my recommendation is to give gifts of life rather than gifts of cancer. No matter how well-intentioned the gift, I become cranky if I find my stocking stuffed with pink ribbons or books with titles like, "Cancer is a Special Blessing" or "I Beat Cancer with an Eggplant and Zucchini Diet."
Give people an opportunity to think about something other than cancer.
In addition to everything else, cancer is expensive and disposable money is often tight. Give little luxuries. A gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or to a local theater can be a real treat. Join together with friends and give a person a day of pampering at a local spa. If they have an iPod, give a gift certificate so they can download their favorite tunes.
Sometimes, basic necessities are needed most of all. Something as simple as a gas card to help pay for trips back and forth for treatment can give a family a little breathing space.
For the person who's completed treatment, consider something with a future orientation. The time immediately following treatment is often unexpectedly difficult, so help them look ahead. Perhaps tickets to a play that's coming to town in a few months or an upcoming sporting event.
Many people who have had a life-threatening illness recommit to making their lives as meaningful as possible. Consider making a donation to their favorite charity in their honor.
You can also give of yourself in a very tangible way. You can register with the National Marrow Donor Program (1-800-627-7692) to help people with leukemia, lymphoma and other diseases that can be treated by a bone marrow transplant.
Finally, make it a point to send cards and call people who have been affected by cancer and tell them that they are in your thoughts, not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Reprinted with Permission of the Ithaca Journal
Original publication date: December 13, 2007.