Guest Blog: A Survivor’s Advice on Gifting for a Loved One with Cancer

December 21, 2016 · NCQA Communications

Our guest blog author is Heather Von St. James, an 11 year mesothelioma cancer survivor.

1. Distract them from their illness.heather-von-st-james

Cancer is a difficult thought to get out of anybody’s head, especially for someone that’s been diagnosed. The idea of your own body betraying you, the repeating visual image of cells uncontrollably multiplying, and the constant nausea from chemo makes it almost impossible to escape the constant reminder of cancer. The power of distraction can do wonders to the mental well being during such a tough time. Provide a gift that keeps their mind busy like:

  • A subscription to their favorite magazine or music service. Enjoying a new album is
    a great way to get the dopamine flowing.
  • Audio books. During the really tough days, sometimes a physical book may be too hard
    to focus on. An audio book is an easy way to plug in and get lost in a story.
  • Crafts. Paint a flower pot with them, or bring a bunch of old pictures and start a scrapbook. Teach them a new hobby like knitting! Anything to alleviate boredom!

2. Give to a charity or organization in their name.

Personally, this was one of the best gifts that I had ever received. A former client donated to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation in my name, and it meant the world to me. Not only did it make me feel special, but funding a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma cancer, gave myself and others suffering even more hope. Of course this can apply to whichever illness the person is suffering from. Another option is to donate to a cause that’s special to the person. If they’re a dog-lover and used to volunteer at a shelter, donate to a local dog shelter in their name!

3. You can’t go wrong with comfort!

Fuzzy socks. Slippers. A nice cozy throw that they can use during treatment. A fancy robe. Any loungewear is a perfect gift! If they’re currently going through chemotherapy buy them a warm winter hat of their beloved sports team or favorite color. If you know a certain type of drink eases their nausea, bring over a box that’ll last them a while.

4. Thoughtful Gestures and Favors can mean more than physical gifts.

Sometimes a simple reminder to show you’re thinking of them can turn their day around. Offer to take them grocery shopping, walk their dog around the block, offer to clean up their house or rent a cleaning service. It’s easy to overlook, but all of the easy daily tasks become 10x harder when you’re sick.

Don’t overthink gifting this holiday season. The most important thing you can do is visit and show that you’re there for them. The other thing to remember is to let the patient set the pace. Treatment is hard, and sometimes all they need is support. It’s a scary time for everyone, especially the patient, but good company is usually the best gift anyone could ask for.

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