Great Gifts for Cancer Patients

What to give a family member or friend with cancer can stump even the most creative gift-giver during the holidays. Karen Wynn, BSN, RN, who manages the chemotherapy infusion center at the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center at Ochsner, offers these suggestions:

“One of the greatest gifts you can give someone going through cancer is yourself or your time,” says Wynn. “Just being there to listen and be supportive, without giving unsolicited advice, is an enormous benefit to patients. In addition, think about comfort items they can use at home or during chemo, or, some small service you can do to make life a little easier.”

For example, Wynn says, chemotherapy has a number of odd side effects that small, thoughtful items can help patients manage. In addition, things that help someone navigate the emotional side also make considerate gifts.

  • Cancer patients are often chilled, especially those who use a cooling cap during infusions to prevent hair loss. Soft socks, shawls, blankets and hats can make a cancer patient more comfortable at home or during chemo sessions.
  • Chemo can cause dry skin. It also alters many patients’ sense of smell. Look for lotions, lip balms and body washes intended for sensitive skin and without fragrance.
  • Nausea is a common side effect. Queasy drops, ginger tea, ginger ale, or ginger candy can help alleviate an upset stomach.
  • Cancer patients are often tired. Can you assist with meals, housekeeping or running errands? Do it yourself or give the gift of a meal service, laundry service or housekeeper.
  • Boredom sets in. Hours in a chemo chair pass slowly. Streaming music, videos, audiobooks or meditation apps can help pass the time. Even a sleep mask and comforting pillow spray can help.
  • Laughter is the best medicine. Books, cards – anything that uses humor to address the cancer journey can brighten up a patient’s outlook or day.

“Cancer takes an army,” Wynn says. “By offering yourself, your time or a considerate gift, you become part of that army and help your friend or family member stay strong throughout the process.”

Wynn also suggests a few items to avoid:

  • Plants or flowers – parasites or spores on them can increase the risk of infection. Brightly colored socks, hats or shawls, or comfy clothing can serve the same purpose.
  • Sad movies or books – look for inspiring items instead, such as survivor stories.
  • Get well cards – cancer’s outcome is never guaranteed. Choose blank cards and write your own encouraging message.


Ochsner Health System is Louisiana’s largest non-profit, academic, healthcare system. Driven by a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate, coordinated clinical and hospital patient care is provided across the region by Ochsner's 30 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and more than 80 health centers and urgent care centers. Ochsner is the only Louisiana hospital recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Hospital” across three specialty categories caring for patients from all 50 states and more than 60 countries worldwide each year. Ochsner employs more than 20,000 employees and over 1,200 physicians in over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties, and conducts more than 700 clinical research studies. Ochsner Health System is proud to be a tobacco-free environment. For more information, please visit and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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