15 Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Cancer Patients

When you find out someone you know has cancer, you won’t always know exactly what to say or do to make his or her experience easier.

Giving a thoughtful gift is one of the many ways you can show support to a loved one going through cancer treatment. For inspiration, we asked members of the CaringBridge community whose lives have been touched by cancer to share the best gifts they’ve given or received.

Check out the list and get inspired by these 15 thoughtful gift ideas for cancer patients:

1. Homemade Meals or Restaurant Gift Cards

Offering meals is a gift-giving staple for a reason: it takes a huge burden off a patient. Finding the time to cook regularly is a challenge even for those with no health issues, let alone someone struggling with cancer. A home cooked meal or a gift card to a favorite restaurant can make a big difference.

A couple CaringBridge members who received meals during treatment shared their appreciation for this gift:

“We are an eat at the table family…when my daughter was doing chemo it would have meant takeout dinner….for over two years the people of our church (St. Mark’s Episcopal in Irving, Texas) came weekly with homemade meals and sat down at the table with my other children while I was at treatment with Echo….I still tear up thinking of it.”

Evan J. M.

“A home-cooked, sit-down dinner and someone coming to clean my house were the two best gifts I ever received while undergoing chemo.”

Nicole Nic N.

“Gift cards for meals for my family. The cutest was from a coworker who sent me a DQ gift card with a note that said ‘Have a cold one on me’!”

Michelle B. A.

2. Throw Them a Party

What takes someone’s mind off of things better than a party? When a loved one has cancer, it can feel difficult to get in the party mood, but it’s important to stay positive and celebrate any victories, big or small. Whether it be a birthday bash or recognizing a cancerversary (a significant milestone in one’s cancer journey), your loved one shouldn’t have to miss out because of their illness.

Here’s another unique party idea from a member of our community:

“A friend threw a hat and scarf party for me! I received hats, wigs, scarves, bandannas, headbands, and pretty pink earrings and bracelets! I can’t even remember everything I got! The whole church was there plus my family and friends! I was so surprised! I cried! I was so happy!”

Debbie W. M.

3. Make a CaringBridge Site

CaringBridge is a personal health journal that lets you easily share your health journey with all your loved ones. Creating a site is a great way to help your loved one easily communicate and receive support, which makes it an awesome gift to give someone battling cancer. Check out what a couple CaringBridge users had to say about creating a site:

“Doing a CaringBridge for my mother-in-law was the best thing I did for myself! My writings were priceless in the time it saved me. I then could spend more time with her. Then trying to keep everyone up-to-date, which would have been impossible. Thank you for being there for us!”

Linda W.

“Some of the best gifts my husband and I are receiving right now aren’t “physical” things, but support on our CaringBridge site from people we haven’t heard from in a very long time. Another thing that was an amazing gift to me was the Loving Kindness Meditation connected with CaringBridge. It helped me focus every day, and I saved the link and still go back to it.”

Carolyn M.

Start a CaringBridge Site

When you’re going through a health journey, you have a lot on your plate. CaringBridge replaces the time-consuming task of sharing your health news over and over. It’s a free, easy to use online journal for sharing health information with your family and friends.  

Don’t go through your health journey alone.

You can stay connected to friends and family, plan and coordinate meals, and experience love from any distance.

All of this is ready for you when you start your personal CaringBridge site, which is completely free of charge, ad-free, private and secure. Don’t spend another minute alone!

4. Help Out with Daily Tasks

One thing a cancer patient does not need any more of? Stress. Offering to help out with tasks like rides to treatments, house cleaning, feeding pets or driving kids to school/sports will lift a huge weight off your loved one’s shoulders. The less they focus on day-to-day chores, the more they can focus on getting better.

Here are some specific ways you can help out with daily tasks:

“One of the best gifts I got when I had my cancer in 2001-2002 was, a church friend would come pick up my 3 kids and drive them to 3 different schools each school day. She had 2 daughters that went to school also. It helped me tremendously, because a lot of times my cancer appointments were early and I could not drive my kids to their schools. Others gifts were gift baskets of things that I could use for different things during my cancer treatment sessions like cards, money or gift cards and people praying for me ALL over the world while I had cancer treatments and appointments.”

Debbie W. R.

“Years ago a women in our town had TB and was staying in a special hospital. She had 5 small children. The Junior Women’s Club took this on as a project. We took care of her children on a Friday – took turns feeding the family and whatever was needed.”

Carol L.

5. Simple Treats

The simplest gestures can often speak volumes. Many times, cancer patients are so occupied with treatment that life’s little pleasures get left to the wayside. Here are some ideas of simple yet meaningful gifts:

“Fresh fruit was always really welcome – whatever was nicest & in season. My mother-in-law sent me flowers every single treatment day – beautiful, and felt like an indulgence, but the consistency of her thoughtfulness meant a lot to me.”

Hanna C.

“Top favorites were chocolate covered pink ribbon strawberries, a super soft prayer blanket, and a Good Wishes head scarf/wrap.”

Angela K. C.

“My 6-year-old daughter Alyssa at the time of treatment received a red wagon that we used to transport her through the hospital and back to the car. She loved having her own wagon & her favorite blanket to comfort her during hospital stays.”

Patricia G.

6. Something to Look Forward to

Having something positive to look forward to is a great motivator for cancer patients to get through treatment. You can plan something to anticipate, or keep them reminded of a goal they have.

“When my sister was very sick with ovarian cancer, her friends and family did a mini-makeover on her kitchen, living room and dining room….including paint, new decor, new couch, etc. She got to come home to a fabulous, clean and beautiful home to recuperate!!!”

Renee B.

“During my radiation for breast cancer my main objective was to backpack with my friends & husband again. I went for radiation daily and then I went to the gym….daily…. to get ready for the hike in the spring. I was so focused on the physical recovery that at times I forgot about the treatment the hour before.”

Jean K.

7. Photos of Happy Memories

Giving pictures of friends and family from happy times are sure to brighten your loved one’s day. Here’s a sweet idea of how you can incorporate photos into an awesome gift:

“When my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, her nephews presented her with a blanket with pictures of them that she could use for her chemo treatments.”

Kathy J.

8. Financial Gifts

Gifting money can sometimes feel uncomfortable or less thoughtful than other gifts. However, offering financial support can be one of the most thoughtful (and needed) gifts you can give to a cancer patient.

Many patients have to limit or give up working altogether due to their condition, and on top of that, treatment is expensive. If you’re still not convinced that money is a good gift, check out this heartfelt quote:

“I am our primary bread-earner and when my husband went through massive cancer/chemo in 2015, it was a struggle financially…. a lot of unexpected co-pays, hospital stays where I needed to be with him. I’m self-employed so I was able to reschedule my hours to some degree, but still missed work that I really needed. Just when I wondered how we would make it, a check for $50 or $100 would appear in my mailbox or in my Bible at my church. All gifts of love mean the world when your world caves in.”

Cheryl B.

9. Regular Visits & Calls

It’s free, it’s easy and it’s so important. Going through cancer treatment can feel isolating and having the support of regular visitors is the best way to combat that.

Coordinate with your loved one to find the days they’ll be undergoing treatment and pick times that work for both of you to come visit. Trust us, simply showing up makes a world of difference to someone going through a health crisis.

And when you’re not visiting in person, pick up the phone and give your loved one a call. Hearing the voices of people they care about can be an incredible source of comfort and entertainment.

“The gift of time, to sit, help take my husband to chemo, stay while I ran an errand, take him to lunch with the guys if he was able.”

Carole C.

“Visit as much as possible and talk about old times.”

James W. H. Jr.

10. Thoughts & Prayers

Knowing that many people are thinking of you and praying for your wellbeing can provide a deep sense of comfort and support. Let your loved know in a text or a card that they’re always in your heart and mind. To widen their support net, consider starting a prayer chain for your loved one, so they know people are always thinking of them.

“I received a wooden prayer cross from my friend when I started chemo. I will always cherish it!”

Kurt K.

“Give words of encouragement and prayers to friends, family and even strangers.”

Sharon S.

11. Professional Massage

The benefits of massage include helping manage pain and muscle tension, plus emotional perks like stress relief and feelings of comfort and connection. A gift card to the spa for a facial or the salon for a manicure can be just as nice.

Whatever you choose, giving someone struggling with cancer an hour of pampering and relaxation will always be a great option.

12. Handwritten Cards

It may sound old-school, but there is something inexplicably sweet about receiving a handwritten note. Taking the few extra minutes to write kind words by hand is a great way to both tell and show your support. Plus, then they’ll have a physical memento to look back on when their day needs a bit of brightening.

For some ideas about what to say, here are some tips for what to write in a get well card.

13. A Special Surprise

Surprising your loved one with something personal and thoughtful is sure to put a smile on their face. Think about what activities or events they really love, and consider doing something special related to those things.

“When I went through cancer my sister came over and put a fall decoration on my front porch, it was a pumpkin, a bale of hay and a pot of mum’s. One of my favorite memories.”

Sammie P.

“When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer and started her first treatment, she was petrified! When we arrived, the receptionist gave her a gift bag from her “Chemo Fairy”. Every time we went, there was another bag filled with different goodies. We later learned it was her Mother-In-Law. There were lots of little details to keep it secret, but it was so successful that everyone in the chemo room could hardly wait for her to get there to see what she got. It affected everyone.”

Karen H.

14. Books

Hospitals aren’t the most exciting setting, and boredom can set in quickly. Keep your loved one entertained by bringing over some of your favorite books. You could bring anything from your favorite mystery novel to a prayer book – the main focus should be on sharing something you love (and think they’ll love, too.)

Check out these entertaining book suggestions to spark some ideas.

15. Gift Basket

Ah, the gift basket: It’s a solid classic. You can’t go wrong with a well put-together care package of your loved one’s favorite things. You can use a mixture of the previous suggestions or look to these other gift ideas for inspiration:

“As I was preparing for treatment, my family gave me a wonderful “chemo basket” filled with things I didn’t even know were a thing. It contained two cancer hats, a chemo port T-shirt with zipper closures on both sides of the front for easy access to the port (and it’s pink), a small jigsaw puzzle, books, puzzle book, a cancer support bracelet (“in this family, no one fights alone!”), as well as drops to suck on for nausea, cream to support the skin, and a few more delightful gifts.”

Kay R.

“A meal service. Gift card to spa. Red blanket for bottom of the bed (no verbal sign of very important patient). Phone charger and cords. Posters for endless beige walls. A Kindle with a one-year subscription to Prime. Sleep mask. Earplugs.”

Anna G.

“I got a gift basket of find-a-word books, ink pens, cards to send out and scarves for my bald head.. So thoughtful.”

Lela P.

Give the Gift of Love

It matters much less what you choose to give as long as you give it with love. We hope these gift ideas for cancer patients got your imagination whirring. They certainly put us in the giving mood.

(Important note: If you plan on bringing your gift to the hospital be mindful that there are restrictions. Please contact the hospital staff or patient to ensure that there are no allergies or other limitations that might prevent you from bringing your gift.)

What Are the Best Gifts You’ve Ever Given/Received? Comment Below!

We’d like to hear even more inspiring ideas from our readers! Please share your all-time favorite gifts you’ve received or given to someone in need.

  • Chrissy N

    When I underwent a double mastectomy a friend sent me a short sleeved mastectomy zip up shirt with pockets for my drains. It was the BEST gift!! Other friends sent meals, a really soft blanket, snacks. My sister (who is a chef) flew down and cooked meals for me. The shirt was functional but every single kind gesture was so greatly appreciated!!

  • Debs

    My most amazing gift was from my son (a plumber). Before chemotherapy started he installed a heated toilet seat – with and internal light – hot, warm and cold water jets (which could vibrate if desired).

    I did not realise at that time how grateful I would be – especially by my 5th, 6th and 7th chemo ‘!

    It was fantastic.

  • Holly Heiman

    Been sending alot of cool cards. and I asked my sister in law who has weeks to live, if she has an appetite. She said she loves a good ham sandwich!! She has stopped all chemo nothing was working. So I am using the Violet Flame for sending healing and sending a big box of very special Hawaiian cookies. I wish we could be there with her but we are so far away.

  • J.Quick

    I just got diagnosed with colon cancer last week and a good friend whose son was diagnosed with cancer 2 years ago (doing well!) sent me a care package of a large, easy to use 7-day am/pm pill case, 2 good quality pill splitters, a pretty basket for meds, a heavy duty folder with 3 ring binder clips for appointment info and faux leather tote (she had asked me the colors in my kitchen for the basket and favorite color for the folder and tote). It made me cry because it was so thoughtful, practical, and very much took some “to-dos” off my list of things to find.

  • Ed Vincensi

    Yes this is a reminder of a dear friend I lost. Not due to cancer. And her daughters listed her on your site.So friends could be informed da to day conditions.
    I like what I just read,very peaceful

  • Lynn Cutter

    This is an excellent list of ideas! Thank you for compiling this!

  • Mary E. Jucius

    Since I am a gift giver, I love to give little gifts to my family and friends especially those who were coping with cancer. I ordered “Cancer Awareness” fabric on the internet and asked a friend to make potholders from this
    material. Also, I designed a little Garden Girl Stake with a little dress of cancer ribbons to be inserted into a potted plant. Cancer awareness fabric bookmarks was another craft. Every one of my friends greatly appreciated my little gifts. Even if one does not knit, crochet or sew, you still can create other little gifts. A friend of mine makes kitchen scrubbies and I added a little note that said, “Scrub your worries away.”

  • Leigh Anne Trivette

    This is a way to lift the spirits of those most dependant on their caregivers:

    “When Summer Dale was first diagnosed with cancer at age 15, she didn’t want to have anything to do with other kids with cancer. But as her battle wore on, she came to realize that they were the only people who could truly understand what she was going through. She began reaching out to other kids with cancer by raising money and buying special gifts to cheer them up. Although Summer lost her battle with cancer in 2012, her unique approach to gift-giving for and by kids with cancer continues to uplift children still fighting this disease.”

    I donate to this organization monthly and would hope that CaringBridge would join or aid in this effort. TeamSummer.org

  • Terri

    One of the most thoughtful gifts during my treatment was very several lightweight cotton head coverings to keep my head warm when I lost my hair. They were quick to put on when I had visitors, and washable. Another friend gifted me with housecleaning services, which was a huge blessing!

  • Virginia Todd

    Excellent suggestions! Recently we bought fruit for a cancer patient. Oranges, sweet and juicy, made her smile.

    She is recovering from chemo.

  • Scott

    Thank you. I appreciate this post and find the information helpful and encouraging. Thank you for your work.

  • Angie & Dan wachter

    Fran, we continue to pray circles around you. We hope you are doing well. Love you♥️

  • Fran

    Prayers. God hears every prayer and He answers them by His Will Be Done. The best gift ever.

  • Sandra Garrison

    The hospital where I began my chemo treatments gives out “chemo bags” filled with things one can use during chemo–a soft throw, notebook, pen, puzzle books, lotion, tissues, hard candies, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, a pocket calendar, etc. A local church group makes them up for chemo patients. It was the most useful things one needs when sitting for two or three hours for chemo infusions.

  • Sheila Checkley

    One of the nicest gifts given during a protracted hospital stay –
    A pretty homemade fruit basket for the nurses station.
    Cut 8” squares of colored tissue and place each washed piece of fruit in a square before placing in basket.
    Or sometimes deliver a handwritten gratitude card (or funny card).
    Medical personnel came to understand that this was a very precious person in their care.

  • Carol A Moore

    I saw on a news program that students had tee shirts made up and wore them to school that said the name of the cancer patient and strong. __________STRONG.

  • Lauren Law

    When my neighbor heard I had to go through chemo, she sent out a spread sheet of dates for friends to bring dinner which they’d leave in a cooler on my front porch on their assigned day. It was lovely!
    Also, my cousin sent me this book. “My Grandfather’s Blessings “ written by a pediatrician who had cancer. It was very soothing.

  • Jan H.

    I have given two different hat and scarf “showers” for friends who were about to undergo treatment for breast cancer. Both of them loved it and laughed with friends and family and had a great time. Both of them cleaned and donated the items they were no longer using to cancer centers after they recovered.

  • Kay Roberts

    As I am preparing for treatment, my family gave me a wonderful “chemo basket” filled with things I didn’t even know were a thing. It contains 2 cancer hats, a chemo port T-shirt with zipper closures on both sides of the front for easy access to the port (and it’s pink), a small jigsaw puzzle, books, puzzle book, a cancer support bracelet (“in this family, no one fights alone!”), as well as drops to suck on for nausea, cream to support the skin, and a few more delightful gifts.

  • Susan

    These are great suggestions. I appreciate all of you who have been going through this experience…ordeal. (I don’t know what to say).All I can think of was this store that carried all kinds of goodies from the country he was born in. I know he’s having trouble keeping food down so I don’t know if this would be insensitive. Maybe he’ll get an appetite? I want to let him know how much I care.

  • Jean Kalseth

    During my radiation for breast cancer my main objective was to backpack with my friends & husband again. I went for radiation daily & then I went to the gym….daily…. to get ready for the hike in the spring. I was so focused on the physical recovery that at times I forgot about the treatment the hour before.

  • Leona Coburn

    I received care packages with many things including Wonder Woman hat and earrings and a Good Karma tshirt, cards, restaurant gift cards, Amazon gift card, cash, do rags and hats, skincare gift set, fuzzy blanket, books, bracelets,and ” F” cancer socks .

  • Martha

    I got a huge basket of goodies when I was in hospital for 4 weeks. My family and I enjoyed them (my grandgirls loved it) and I shared goodies with my hospital staff. This has great returns, I promise. They felt appreciated and knew that I really cared how hard they worked.

  • Marcia C.

    I sent out of the box/ odd / exotic surprises to my friend who had a strong support group in her town. Sending kimonos and teas added humor and conversation starters for her daily visitors!

  • Maggie Soff

    On my chemo days, 2 friends took turns sitting and gabbing with me as the hours slowly moved along. At first, I thought we both would be bored out of our minds, but the time passed quickly with lots of laughs and through conversations. I made truthful light of my cancer by saying in response to “How are you doing? Maggie.” I would always respond, “I’m still this side of the green grass!” And I followed up with a chuckle. My response brought chuckles right back to me. When at the cancer center, I would take short walks around the floor and stop by other patients and ask how they were doing that day. It never failed to evoke a response of “I’m good. How are you today?” I would always respond with a grin, “I’m still this side of the green grass – and so are you.” One man, who had been looking rather down at first, responded with a warm and genuinely hearty laugh. I knew he would feel the warmth for the rest of the day, which made me feel that warmth in turn.

    My best advice, and easiest to do, is: Don’t be afraid of talking to other cancer patients. It’s nice to be noticed by someone other than a nurse or a doctor. I’ve met some of the most interesting people, who just like me, happen to have cancer.

  • Karen Hicks

    When my daughter was diagnosed with Cancer and started her first treatment, she was petrified! When we arrived, the receptionist gave her a gift bag from her “Chemo Fairy”. Every time we went, there was another bag filled with different goodies. We later learned it was her Mother-In-Law. There were lots of little details to keep it secret, but it was so successful that everyone in the chemo room could hardly wait for her to get there to see what she got. It Affected Everyone.

  • Colleen

    A friend had a special quilt made for me that had funny sayings on it from our time working together… it was not only a great reminder of fun times, but it also gave me hope those fun times would happen again! It was also a real conversation starter with chemo nurses.
    I also LOVED getting funny cards, or just thinking of you cards in the mail- always brightened my day.

  • Dianne Tencer

    A friend made me a soft cover for my seat belt (when I sit on the passenger side of the front seat) which is where my port and the seat belt come together. She put it together with a ❤️ on it and it’s a thoughtful and very useful gift.

  • Andrea Trainor

    The best gift I gave to my friend Nancy,while she battled cancer…a personalised journal for her two young daughters . She said it was therapeutic and made her feel like she really left something wonderful for her girls. God bless you Nancy,miss you everyday

  • Debbi Miller

    Cleaning for a Reason provided 3 monthly housecleanings while I was on chemo. What a gift! It gave me peace of mind so I could concentrate on resting and getting better.

    Cleaningforareason.org.