Supporting Cancer Patients During the Holiday Season

November 2, 2022

The upcoming holiday season, from Halloween until the new year, is often considered the most wonderful time of the year. It can also be the most stressful.

For those with cancer and their loved ones, it can be a struggle to get in the “holiday spirit” while going through the treatments, side effects, and battle with cancer. If someone in your life is fighting cancer, we have a few tips on how you can help make their holiday season a little brighter.

Gift Ideas for Those With Cancer

If you are interested in giving a gift that can bring some joy to a loved one in your life with cancer, consider making up a holiday basket with some valuable items:

  • Peppermint candies for nausea
  • Unscented, high-quality moisturizing cream/lotion for dry skin
  • Warm socks, hats, gloves, blankets
  • Crossword puzzles, sudoku books, and adult coloring books
  • DVDs or gift cards to entertainment subscription services
  • Recovery items to help with resting, like tea, earplugs, and a sleep mask

Often during treatment, a cancer patient and their caregivers are traveling and are away from home for long hours, making it difficult to eat in a timely manner. Consider coordinating or bringing healthy meals that the whole household can enjoy. If you live out of state, look into local delivery services for nutritional meals. Gift cards to favorite restaurants are another helpful contribution.

Some unexpected gift-giving ideas include a heartfelt, handmade craft such as a card or art piece. If there are any books or words that have inspired and encouraged you during difficult times, share how they helped and what they mean to you.

There are a few gifts that should probably be avoided. Anything with a synthetic perfume, such as candles or lotions, could potentially cause nausea. Many cancer patients have special dietary restrictions while undergoing treatment, and sweets like candies and cookies may not be allowed. Another common present to steer clear of is plants and flowers. They can contain fungal spores that could put your loved one at risk for infection.

Ways to Help this Holiday Season

Not every present has to be a tangible gift. Another way to give support can include helping those with cancer and their caregivers mark items off their to-do lists. You could volunteer to run their errands, such as grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, and other tasks outside of the home. Additionally, you could help them with household chores like laundry, vacuuming, or lawn maintenance.

There are also a few tasks that are particular to the holidays. Consider offering to help mail their holiday cards this year by addressing and stamping physical cards or designing and ordering cards online. Decorating is another holiday task where you can step in and provide assistance. Also, offering to shop and wrap gifts for a cancer patient can help alleviate stress.

Creating Memories with Loved Ones

Perhaps the greatest gift of all is to be present. Give your time and support by being there by phone, text, video, or in person for both those with cancer and their caregivers. Being the holiday season, you may think that mentioning cancer could bring down their spirits, but chances are they are thinking about cancer daily, so don’t be afraid to talk about it. Lend your shoulder and ear so they can talk, cry, be angry, or whatever they may be feeling.

If you are available for logistical support, you could help with driving and spending time with someone with cancer while they are receiving treatment. You can spend that time playing games and reconnecting while giving their usual caregiver a brief respite.

Also, consider ways to adapt or adjust your plans if you have traditional festivities that a cancer patient normally participates in. For example, if you have an annual Holiday party, you could make it a pajama party. This way, everyone is comfortable and relaxed. And for entertainment, watch everyone’s favorite holiday movies.

Most importantly, send your love and support virtually if you are sick or have been around someone sick. Unhealthy germs are unwanted gifts for cancer patients.

During the holidays, give your loved one with cancer the opportunity to join in with the merriments so you can all have a joyous and bright season.