G is for… Gift Ideas for Cancer Patients

20 Nov

I was inundated with cards, flowers and presents when I was first diagnosed, which was incredibly kind and generous and it definitely helped knowing that friends and family were rooting for me. However (and I need to tread carefully here as I don’t want to offend anyone!) my house did end up looking like a florist’s and I quickly ran out of vases, having to make do with jugs pint glasses, and even saucepans! I love, LOVE flowers! And don’t want anyone to read this and never buy me flowers again (particularly Mr B!) but thought I would make a few suggestions for those who are struggling with what to buy for their loved one.

Green & Spring Relaxing Bath Foam and Body Lotion1) Toiletries. Now I am a sucker for smellies! And chemo is notorious for leeching your skin of moisture, so some lovely moisturising toiletries are a treat. However, it is a bit of a minefield when giving to a cancer patient as some decide to stay away from parabens and sulphates and anything with strong scents or fragrances – and we are also told to avoid some essential oils, so while a lavender bath soak seems like a lovely idea, in reality it will probably sit on the shelf as bathing in something that could feed your cancer while you’re trying to kill it is not as relaxing as was intended. However, nice, natural pampering products are a real treat – and it is important to relax and have some ‘me time’ – the fear and constant hospital appointments and treatment causes a lot of stress.

2) Entertainment. There will undoubtedly be some duvet days and time to kill in hospital waiting rooms or whilst having treatment.  Something light and easymags and entertaining is best as our brains are muddled enough with the steroids and drugs without having to try and make sense of The Works of Kafka. And NOTHING dark or depressing! So, easy-reading books, a magazine subscription or some upbeat DVDs or boxsets. I got stuck into Mad Men and looked forward to every Tuesday when Heat and Hello landed on my doormat courtesy of my lovely friends.

bottle in bed3) Cosy, Fluffy Things. Slippers, PJs, a snuggly dressing gown, hot water bottle, slouchy cardis or jumpers and fluffy socks would all go down a treat. I had a nightmare before my surgery running around trying to find button-front pyjamas – additional stress! They would make a great pressie.

Beefayre-candle-14) Aromatherapy candles. Pretty, relaxing and smell gorge! Again, it is very important to relax and take some time away from the stresses of the constant hospital appointments.

5) A nice overnight bag or washbag. Perfect for hospital stays.

Bold-Beanies-Bright-Bouquet-36) Bold Beanies Gift Bouquet. Practical and super cosy beanies that come presented as a floral bouquet. They have been designed by a friend who went through chemotherapy herself. They are really comfy and made of natural materials so they are breathable and wont aggravate sensitive scalps.

Chocolate-Buttons-Large7) The odd treat. Again, this is a bit of a minefield as some people with ER+ cancer choose to avoid all dairy products. And most treats contain a good dose of dairy! It might be safer to stick to high quality, dark chocolate which is dairy free. Unfortunately all of my edible treats containing dairy products went to waste as I read ‘Your Life In Your Hands‘ by Jane Plant and ‘Anticancer – a New Way Of Life‘ by Dr David Servan-Schreiber – both of which scared the hell out of me by saying that dairy will cause the cancer to spread. (On that note, I don’t recommend scary books as a gift! If they want to read something like that, they can easily order it on Amazon!).

8) Good, old fashioned letters. My cousin sent me regular cards and letters with humourous updates and gossip and occasionally the odd treat like some bluebell seeds. I loved my letters.

9) A charitable donation. I opened a Justgiving page so that friends could contribute to Breast Cancer Care – a charity that had provided invaluable support to me since my diagnosis – rather than buying me gifts. You could always make a donation to McMillan, Cancer Research, Stand Up to Cancer or a more specific organisation on there behalf.

Promise Cards10) AND MOST IMPORTANTLY – BE THERE. This costs nothing – but means everything. And not just at the start. Dealing with a cancer diagnosis, the treatment and the side effects is a long old shlog. The best friends will be supportive all the way through – offering help, visiting, lending a patient, listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. One of my best friends – we’ll call her Tennisgirl – is incredible. She visited regularly through my treatment, always coming via the supermarket and ensuring that my fridge was stocked up with all sorts of goodies and then just let me rant. She let me talk openly about my fears without the seemingly standard response of “oh, I’m sure you’ll be fine”. She was also a massive support to Mr B.

Since starting this blog I have actually set up a website selling pretty, pampering and practical get well gifts as an alternative to flowers. I have handpicked a number of get well gifts for cancer patients either to provide some cosy home comforts, or for practicality and use for hospital stays or to provide relief from various side effects. The name – Not Another Bunch Of Flowers – was inspired by the fact that I was inundated by flowers when I was first diagnosed! Many of my friends later said that they’d wanted to show their support but hadn’t known what to send me – so hopefully my site will help people through the get well gift minefield.

Anikka Burton

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