just a little something
September 2, 2018 6:22 PM   Subscribe

An old friend is undergoing chemotherapy. I haven't seen her in a long time, and found out about it on Facebook. This question is about what she might like as a gift.

She has two young adult daughters who are taking amazing care of her. So when I reached out and offered to do something to help, like bringing food over, or having any combination of them for dinner, they said they'd love to see us, but invited our family to their house for dinner instead. I offered to bring the dinner, but they explained they all are on a special anti-cancer diet and it's easier for them to handle the food.
So .. I am going over there tomorrow for dinner. She is in the midst of chemo and I gather is feeling OK at the moment, but it can switch easily. I would like to bring a small, comforting, appropriate gift -- nothing big, just something on the order of what I would normally bring to a friend inviting me to their house -- the equivalent of a bottle of wine or a box of bakery treats under other circumstances. I also don't know if smells or perfumes would irritate her, so I don't want to bring soaps, lotions or other typical guest gifts. Finally, I don't want it to be a big deal, like a donation to a charity or anything like that -- just a light, comfortable guest gift.
She is an artist, so I don't really want to get one of those coloring books people often recommend for this exact situation. She is also a working musician. Thank you for your ideas.
posted by nantucket to Shopping (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I’d get her a visually interesting coffe-table type book. When my sister was going through chemo and not feeling well all the time - not feeling up to reading or watching tv or actually doing something - it was nice for her to be able to just look at interesting pictures. Sometimes that was all she could tolerate.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:48 PM on September 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

To build on Sassyfras' suggestion, if she is a President Obama fan, official White House photographer Pete Souza's book is terrific unless you think the contrast to the current officeholder is too depressing.
posted by carmicha at 6:52 PM on September 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can you find out what grocery store the daughters use, and give them a gift certificate there? Special diets can be expensive and that way they can decide what to buy.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 7:03 PM on September 2, 2018 [10 favorites]

Flowers. In a nice, stable vase. Bonus points if you can choose the individual flowers yourself, so that it becomes an expression of you.
posted by amtho at 7:52 PM on September 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think a lovely pashmima shawl might be just the thing, if you know her color preferences, especially if it's soft. She can wrap herself in it, and know you are thinking about her. Or maybe a squishable, if you don't think she'll think it is too juvenile?

The last time one of my friends was sick, I brought her some puzzle books and a sparkly unicorn stuffed animal. Maybe she was just being polite, but she appeared to LOVE both.
posted by dancing_angel at 7:56 PM on September 2, 2018

I like the shawl idea. A foldable lap table for all the sitting that she may have to do? Comfy housecoat and/or slippers?
posted by leslievictoria at 8:45 PM on September 2, 2018

Lots of nice ideas above. For me the question is really, is she the kind of person who’d like to have things be as normal as possible? In that case the flowers or coffee table book ideas would be grand. Would she rather the illness be acknowledged by the gift? Then go for one of the comfort gifts.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:55 PM on September 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think this is a good situation to flip the order of things and give a gift after your visit. For one thing you're old friends who have fallen out of touch (inasmuch as you found out about chemo via facebook) so while you might have a good idea about her preferences from the past, cancer can change a lot about a person's values (like if they want more stuff or not). For another thing you'll be given a bit of leeway in terms of not bringing a hostess gift because of your established friendship. I think going to dinner, paying attention, really listening and observing - that's going to lead you to a gift that you can drop by with on a subsequent visit (now that you've reconnected) or send to them to enjoy on an uneventful day.
posted by Mizu at 9:14 PM on September 2, 2018 [6 favorites]

Beeswax candles? I find them very soothing. Also, If you have something from the early years of your friendship, like a funny photo or other memento that could be nice.
posted by 2whitehorse at 9:16 PM on September 2, 2018

Comfy socks
posted by Little Dawn at 9:40 PM on September 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am quite intolerant of non-natural fabric on my ears, so I buy 100% cotton breathable hats advertised for cancer patients. These are two of my favorites: 1, 2
posted by vegartanipla at 10:22 PM on September 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

A set of Young Living essential oils. (don't work for them - just think they're good quality and quality is really important). She'll thank you very much for this. And they last for a long time.
posted by watercarrier at 11:41 PM on September 2, 2018

I would go for flowers, in the spirit of not making her feel like things are any more different than they have to be.
posted by penguin pie at 2:09 AM on September 3, 2018

Don’t do flowers - they are not a good idea for immunocompromised people.

I would do the gift card for food and a book, if she likes reading. The costs of cancer are harsh and ongoing, even for those with good insurance. The gift card will be very appreciated and a book adds a personal touch. I love the idea of Pete Souza’s book but obviously that depends on the recipient.
posted by something something at 3:35 AM on September 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

When I was having chemo a lot of people took great delight in giving me weed.

Depending on what kind of chemo she is having, her sense of taste, smell, and touch might be altered. I'd stay away from food and scented items for this reason. Some types of chemo can irritate toe and finger ends, so spa sox might be nice, or extremely soft open-toed slippers.
posted by Morpeth at 3:38 AM on September 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Agreed, no flowers. For certain types of chemotherapy, they are forbidden.
posted by eleslie at 5:44 AM on September 3, 2018

As a former chemo-haver, I like the suggestions for the pashmina and the Obama coffee table book. I also liked having a lot of soft knit hats, but not everyone on chemo loses their hair or likes to wear hats.

Essential oils are a bad idea generally (smells may be nausea-inducing), and the guy that founded Young Living is a charlatan and trash human who killed his newborn trying to prove a point about water births. So I'd advise against that.
posted by jeoc at 10:50 AM on September 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

Yeah, nope on essential oils. Chemo patients in some areas already get enough MLM snake-oil pitched their way, and adverse reactions are too likely to be worth the risk.

When my mom was in chemo, she appreciated stuff that kept her warm and comfortable at and after infusions, like easy-care blankets, zip-front hoodies, and the like. She also liked binge-watching good TV, rereading old favourite books, and puzzles she could step away from without losing her place if she got too tired.
posted by armeowda at 3:16 PM on September 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

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