No matter what type of treatment a patient is undergoing for cancer, it’s hard to anticipate or completely prepare for a host of brand new needs, from nourishing food that’s also palatable to comfy clothing for a host of brand new physical challenges. Friends and family offering emotional support and thoughtful gifts can really take some of the emotional and financial burden from the shoulders of a loved one facing an incredibly fraught set of circumstances.
However, for those who have never had cancer before, it can be difficult to know exactly what someone undergoing cancer treatment needs, and dealing with the stress of unwanted clutter is, unfortunately, sometimes an unintended side effect of all those well wishes. But there are so many things most cancer patients need and even gifts they’ll cherish. The trick is listening and even flat-out asking what would make a friend or family member’s life easier. Here are a few suggestions from a cancer survivor:
1. Comfy Pajamas
No matter what kind of treatment a cancer patient is receiving, it’s exhausting. Especially for people who are used to being on the move, the appropriate attire for a much slower pace requires nearly a whole new wardrobe. Ask your loved one what type of pajamas they prefer after any major surgeries. I mistakenly bought a drawer full of cute nighties, only to realize after my double mastectomy that my drains meant I really should have invested in soft, cotton button-downs, like this PajamaGram set.
2. Specially-Made Loungewear
Speaking of drains, there are several companies that make products specifically designed to not only keep drains out of sight, but also keep them from tangling or snagging. It’s My Secret makes a line of long- and short-sleeved hoodies to help drains stay comfortably hidden while providing just the right amount of coziness.
3. A Super Soft Denim Button-Down
During chemotherapy, especially for those with ports, a comfortable, button-down shirt with easily rolled up sleeves for easy access to veins or ports is essential for those long (honestly pretty awful) days spent receiving treatment. A super-soft denim button-down is a perfect, gender-neutral top that’s easy and comfortable. This is a guy’s version from Madewell, but it would look (and more importantly, feel) great for anyone.
4. A Food Delivery Subscription
The instinct to make a friend a homemade treat following a surgery is an incredibly kind one. But for those undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, tastes change… drastically. Even if your aunt or co-worker usually loves your apple crumble, it could quite literally make them sick while undergoing treatment for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with its quality. Asking a loved one to pick a subscription box they might enjoy, like Smoothie Box, or even sending a gift certificate to a delivery service like Postmates is a wonderful way to let them know you care without buying food that might go uneaten.
5. Luxury Hair (Or Scalp) Products
While it can be tempting to buy a cancer patient bath products for some good relaxing-in-the-tub time, if they’re having a more extensive surgery, it honestly might be quite a while before they’re mobile enough for a good tub soak. But a great dry shampoo (for those who aren’t experiencing hair loss from chemotherapy) is a truly wonderful gift. Drugstore dry shampoos are harsh and sometimes cause damage, but pricier brands from stores like Sephora aren’t overly scented and make hair look fresh without causing brittle dryness. Sachajuan is a favorite for its light scent and gentle-yet-effective formula.
And for those experiencing hair loss as a side effect of chemotherapy, a scalp exfoliant can be incredibly soothing. No one really explains that all that hair doesn’t just go gently—the hair loss is painful, itchy, and flaky. Keratese’s Relaxing Scrub for dry scalp feels refreshing but not irritating on an itchy, flaky scalp, but be sure to ask about skin allergies before making the purchase (or just get a gift receipt).
6. Cashmere Beanie
For those who have never experienced it, the sensation of being bald is not only strange, it’s downright chilly. Not only does cashmere feel lovely against a sensitive scalp, this Patagonia recycled cashmere-and-wool beanie is also nice and cozy.