good gifts for a chemo patient?
November 21, 2007 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Good gifts for a chemo patient?

Need ideas for small gifts that will brighten the day of/make life easier for/make more comfortable, etc. a chemo patient recovering from breast cancer (with an empty nest)?
posted by AceRock to Human Relations (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There are special considerations for people undergoing chemotherapy, for whom many traditional gifts are inappropriate. For example they can be incredibly sensitive to scents and certain foods, which knocks out many (if not most) of the types of gift recommendations people automatically tend toward. The question is valid.
posted by hermitosis at 10:20 AM on November 21, 2007

phone calls and visits are always great. if she's lost her hair, some cute hats would be appreciated with cold weather coming.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:30 AM on November 21, 2007

Warm fuzzy bathrobe and slippers.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2007

Books on CD? Good for taking awake-naps.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:45 AM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

If she does lose her hair, nice hats made of soft materials (the scalp can be really tender during chemo) are always appreciated. But if she has not lost their hair maybe hold off on that because not everyone does lose their hair, and if they haven't yet, it could possibly be upsetting.

Some mild teas, like peppermint or chamomile could be nice as well. You may also suggest she find groups to talk to other women. The American Cancer Society has a lot of services and info for patients as well if she is needing help with anything, like getting to appointments, etc.
posted by fructose at 10:58 AM on November 21, 2007

things to keep the person warm and snuggly are a big plus. when i was going through chemo i couldn't get enough hats and i loved my microbead pillow (it really helped me get comfortable post-mastectomy).

you should also ask her what she's been enjoying food wise. some nice, easy to heat, soups could be good. and mint gum- to clear the chemo yuckmouth. i know when i was going through chemo, i was sad that most sweets tasted like paper or dirt and people kept buying me chocolate.

offering to come by and help out would probably be nice if she would be up for it. i know lots of people offered to clean my apt, but the bf said no.
posted by kendrak at 11:04 AM on November 21, 2007

Searching the AskMeFi tag "chemotherapy" gets you these two good gifting threads.

Much luck to your friend.
posted by weatherworn at 11:08 AM on November 21, 2007

First of all, best wishes for your friend.

kendrak hit the nail on the head... warm and snuggly.

After chemo, my mom was hyper-sensitive to cold. Even had a hard time getting things out of the frig.

I ended up getting her a few pair of gloves. One pair I used a clip to attach them to the frig.
posted by ChainzOnline at 11:26 AM on November 21, 2007

actually, gloves might be an excellent idea. especially moisturizing gloves. one of the more annoying side effects of chemo they didn't talk about was how dry my hands were- to the point of cracking. gloves kept my hands warm and made it so i could handle things without leaving greasy hand prints everywhere.
posted by kendrak at 11:34 AM on November 21, 2007

posted by JimN2TAW at 12:37 PM on November 21, 2007

I'm a breast cancer survivor and have been through the whole chemo trip. Please feel free to email me.

Not a "small" gift, but a gift of a cleaner to come in - or you coming in to clean or just do dishes - is much appreciated. Chemo not only zaps your energy, it fries your brain.

Little packets of instant soup like chicken noodle, with crackers, and tea.

Cotton kerchiefs (they breathe so much better than synthetics). You can get really cute ones at JoAnn's for cheap.

Books and DVD's - especially funny and/or light ones. If she's into P.G. Wodehouse at all, the Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry version on DVD (and the books too) got me through many a yucky evening.

Companionship. I may have been zapped but I welcomed people who just wanted to come over and sit with me to chat and hold my hand.

Ix-nay on anything strong-smelling. Normally I love scented candles, perfumes, etc. but during chemo I never knew what would set me off. Scents I loved or even just tolerated before would send me racing to the porcelain god during.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:58 PM on November 21, 2007

A Nintendo DS! There are lots of games of all kinds, truly something for everybody. Helps kill time and relieve tension during chemotherapy sessions or interminable waits to see a doctor.
posted by lia at 1:49 PM on November 21, 2007

Beware the ice cream suggestion. As other's have pointed out some chemo will make your friend especially sensitive to cold. I'm talking really sensitive. My mother went through a period where she couldn't touch anything in the fridge nor drink anything that wasn't room temperature.

For her an iPod loaded with her favorite music was great. She says it makes the time go by quicker. She also sometimes takes a dvd player, but the iPod is so much easier to use.

Good luck.
posted by justgary at 3:18 PM on November 21, 2007

is she home or still in the hospital? that'd affect my recommendations.
posted by groovinkim at 3:21 PM on November 21, 2007

Assuming this isn't in-patient, bed-ridden for weeks chemo, gift certificates to a movie theater so she can go out and feel like a real person.
posted by Airhen at 4:08 PM on November 21, 2007

I also am a survivor. The things I treasured most were not "things" but rather small acts of kindness and service --- meals brought in around chemo day and 10 days later when fatigue was at its greatest. Errands that helped save what precious energy I had left. Cards...often. Music. Short funny emails. Also links to websites -- here's a new one that is particularly good for both patieints and their loved ones - Understanding Cancer.

Best of luck to you and your friend. Sometimes someone just being there is the best gift of all.
posted by peace_love_hope at 5:16 PM on November 21, 2007

If she has or is losing her hair: Chemo Caps by Cranky Chic. Looks like she's not got a lot in stock and it takes a while if you have to order one. She does have several of her Cranky Cheeps in stock though.
posted by FlamingBore at 5:36 PM on November 21, 2007

fyi - If they're inpatient, most people undergoing chemo cannot have fresh plants and flowers or fresh fruits and veggies because their lowered immunity makes them a greater risk to pathogens / resident flora that come with them. When these come to the unit the nurse has to confiscate them from the room and the family has to take them home.
posted by dog food sugar at 5:18 AM on November 22, 2007

If she's in-patient, put a note on her door reminding visitors to use the hand sanitizer. If she's at home, buy a nice big pump bottle of hand sanitizer. Put sign on that bottle. That way your friend doesn't have to pester people to use it. It's that crazy germ-phobic AceRock!

Every person who comes to visit brings a host of germs. Icky as it is, most people do not wash their hands thoroughly enough. There's a lot of controversy about whether regular use of hand sanitizer helps the person using it. This isn't about the person using the sanitizer, but about your friend in chemo. Her immune system is compromised. Getting sick during chemo can be a big problem because the doctors may need to adjust the dosing schedule.

Probably not what you were looking for, but it's really important.

Good luck to your friend.
posted by 26.2 at 8:51 AM on November 23, 2007

Just wanted to thank everyone who contributed comments on this -- my mother's just finished her 4th chemo treatment and the insight I got (months ago) from these comments was invaluable.
For anyone else who stumbles on this googling for "gifts for chemo patients", here are some of the things I did that got the best feedback from Mom (most ideas taken from here, but I got inspiration from other sites as well):

- A big packet of funny/upbeat pictures for her to flip through to pass the time in chemo. We have a large and close but geographically dispersed extended family, and they came through wonderfully when I put out the request. I got a bunch of smiling cousins etc holding up "we're thinking of you" signs, and some truly hilarious shots (including one of the cute 3-year-old grandnephew apparently peeing "We love you Aunt B" onto the sidewalk).
Months later, that outpouring still brings tears to Mom's eyes.

- Simple, UNscented lotion and aloe, plus simple cotton gloves (FYI, I didn't know where to buy those but finally found them at a drugstore) so she can touch things without getting lotion on them.

- Mints and gum for the yucky taste in her mouth.

- Super-soft and warm pj's, plus fun fuzzy socks (these are now her chemo uniform)

- Puzzle books (also to help pass the time during chemo)

- On the issue of hygiene and scrupulously avoiding exposure to germs, we read it's best to use mutliple toothbrushes, alternating so each one has time to fully dry out (at which point any germs should be dead). So we got her 4 toothbrushes plus a toothbrush holder with 4 slots and labeled each slot [odd (days) AM, odd PM, even AM, even PM] so that she just needs to know the date to keep track of which to use.

- And since I'm out of state and can't be there, I send her a little note for each session. Maybe I'm too optimistic/sentimental, but I'd like to think she'll hold on to the notes and that packet of pictures and then maybe have the tiniest little positive to think about later when she reflects on the whole crappy experience.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me.
posted by bigjoec at 2:47 PM on June 23, 2008

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