Gifting a Friend with Cancer

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It seems that one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is about how to gift a friend with cancer.  I have such generous friends who know me so well who gifted me with such thoughtful tokens.  The last time someone asked me this question, I started to list for her all the things people had given me and things that I’ve given others since.  But it occurred to me that the perfect gift for me might not be the perfect gift for someone else.  There aren’t a whole lot of things that someone going through cancer needs.  Yes, once your hair falls out, you’ll need a few good hats, so that’s a  nice place to start.  But really, gifting a friend is about making her happy.  So what makes her happy? If chemo makes her feel badly, then probably don’t buy food or smelly candles.  And if she’s trying to work and is exhausted, then don’t insist on taking her out for dinner.  For me, the best gift was always time.  An easy run, thrift shopping trip, or coffee or lunch date was exactly what I wanted.  But if you don’t live close to your friend or your schedules just won’t match up, here are a few ideas.  Just remember, keep in mind her personality– give her something that will make her smile!

  • Cupcakes.  I got bunches and loved every bite!
  • Starbucks card. If you can’t go with her to coffee, you can help her take someone else!
  • Jewelry.  Of course, who wouldn’t love a little blue box? Alas, I had to earn that one.  But several friends know that a pretty bracelet or pair of earrings always brightens my day.  Even almost two years later, I still smile, remembering the thoughtful giver when I wear a special gift.
  • Something completely frivolous.  I would never buy an Us Weekly magazine. Not that I am above being sucked in by salacious celebrity gossip. But I would feel guilty, I should spend my money on something more redeeming. But when it comes from a fun friend? What an indulgent way to pass the time!
  • After I had my mastectomy, the neighborhood ladies took me to get a pedicure.  Such a fun outing! A gift card for a pedi would be a great gift for a friend after surgery, but a mani/pedi is off limits while she’s on chemo.  Maybe a gift card for a massage instead?

Of course, especially if you live nearby, things like childcare and dinner are always appreciated.  Pitching in with some friends for an occasional visit from a house cleaning service would be amazing.  But really, what I wanted from my friends more than anything was their friendship.  Pay attention to her– what makes her happy? What is making her smile right now?  Lip gloss, twizzlers, a sassy tee, or her very own cancer card.  (Man, I wish I’d seen those back when I was in treatment.  I would have whipped that bad boy out.  I wonder if it would have gotten me out of a parking ticket if I threw it in my dash instead of the parking meter receipt…)

I had a friend who was so sick during her chemo, the only thing that she wanted to eat was an Egg McMuffin, so I would drop one off every once in a while.  When I was diagnosed, she had moved away, but sent me the sweetest card with a McDonald’s gift card. You should have seen the smile on my face.  Clay thought it was the strangest gift ever, I don’t even really like McDonald’s. But I understood the gift, and it made me so happy.  Another great gift? The back scratcher a friend picked up after I complained that percocet made me itchy and I couldn’t scratch my own back after my mastectomy. Neither of those gifts came in a fancy blue box, but they both showed me that my friends were really listening to me and thinking of me. As much as I love me a little blue box, I’d prefer a thoughtful little gift any day.

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