16 Thoughtful Gifts for Someone With Breast Cancer
What to give someone with breast cancer
"When someone is going through any illness, you immediately want to help," says AnnMarie Otis, 45, who was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer at age 40. "But you want to know what are the best things to help with."
We asked Otis, who writes about her own experience with breast cancer on her blog, Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer, as well as other breast cancer patients and survivors, to share the very best gifts to support someone you care about through their cancer treatment, recovery, and survivorship. Here are their suggestions.
To buy: From $60, blueapron.com
It's normal to start thinking of your most comforting casserole recipes to drop off at the home of someone with breast cancer, but "people do not realize that a lot of patients may have foods that they cannot eat," says Rebecca Scheinkman, 36, who was diagnosed in 2014 with stage 4 breast cancer. "For example, I cannot eat dairy products while on one of my treatments. A great gift I received was a gift card to an online food delivery service, [which] allowed me to pick out my own food based on what I could handle eating." Try gifting meal kits from a service like Blue Apron for perfectly portioned ingredients, which take the brainpower out of meal prep, or a gift card to an online delivery service that partners with local restaurants.
To buy: $29, amazon.com
"Some of the best ways to help sound so easy and so simple, but you're going through a lot," says Otis. "You're just not thinking about the essentials." She puts together packages of paper towels, toilet paper, paper plates, napkins, cups, and even garbage bags for friends who are going through breast cancer treatment so they don't have to occupy one iota of brainpower on these simple necessities. "On more than on occasion someone has said, 'Oh my gosh thank you, we are on our last roll.'"
Even plastic spoons and forks could come in handy, especially since some people going through chemo might be bothered by a metallic taste, which might be made worse by using a regular fork, she says. Online outlets make it easy to buy these goods in bulk, like this 12-roll bundle from Amazon, or you can hand-pick several individual items that ship together.
RELATED: 25 Breast Cancer Myths
Amazon Prime account
To buy: $39 for 3 months, amazon.com
Breast cancer patients can often use a distraction, whether it's during chemotherapy sessions or while recuperating from treatment at home—or even just for some welcome family time. "With an Amazon prime account, you can read, watch TV and movies, and even buy whatever you need," says Otis. A Netflix subscription is another fun gift.
Time to Spa gift card
To buy: $50 and up, timetospa.com
"My girlfriends treated me to a mani-pedi the day before my mastectomy and to get my hair done," says Otis. At first, she says, she wanted to save the treat for another time, but they convinced her doing something special for herself right before surgery was important. "I think when you feel good it helps you heal. Maybe it's a little frivolous in this time, but it's okay to be frivolous. You need some me-time when you’re going through a lot." Added bonus of the professional blow-out: She didn't have to wash her hair for several days after the surgery, which would have been difficult and painful.
To buy: $53, theradiantwrap.com
There are few thing as impersonal as a hospital gown—and is it just us, or do they never fit? The patterned robes from The Radiant Wrap allow breast cancer patients to feel just a bit more like themselves during treatment. "With something pretty, soft, maybe in a fun pattern, you get a little bit of you back," Otis says. She loves that they fold up into a pouch small enough to pop into a purse on the way to appointments. "I give them as gifts all the time."
To buy: $59, nordstrom.com
Button-up PJs are a must after breast cancer surgery, when it can be extremely painful for breast cancer patients to lift their arms, Otis says. Not only does a silky satin material feel luxurious, it also has a practical benefit for people recovering from treatment: "I slid in and out of bed easier because satin slides in the sheets!"
The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen cookbook
To buy: $33, amazon.com
"I was already a very healthy person, but I wanted to learn how to make even healthier decisions after I was diagnosed," says San Diego-based Sandy Hanshaw, 50. She was 46 when she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, and she underwent a single mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. "I got a lot of great cookbooks that are about being smart about what you're putting into your body," she says. This one features 150 nutrient-rich recipes that are healthy for anyone, but with a particular focus on people with cancer, especially those currently experiencing treatment side effects.
It's My Secret surgical drain hoodie
To buy: $40, itsmysecret.org
Some breast cancer patients leave the hospital after surgery with surgical drains, which help prevent fluid from building up around incisions. A drain is made up of a rubber tube that is inserted into the patient's incision and a squeezable bulb connected to it. It's My Secret makes short- and long-sleeve zip-up sweatshirts with concealed inner pockets to hold the drains. This ensures that they won't get caught on anything or accidentally tugged, which can seriously hurt, says Otis.
Ana Ono Miena robe with drain belt
To buy: $78, soma.com
For a similar drain-concealing garment that's a bit more sophisticated than a hoodie, Otis recommends a robe from Ana Ono, a lingerie and loungewear company for people who have had breast surgery and/or reconstruction. If you aren't sure about gifting something so intimate, you can always opt for a gift card!
A cozy blanket or shawl
To buy: $28, macys.com
Chemotherapy and radiation facilities are notorious among patients for being cold. Otis recommends gifting a blanket or a shawl that can help keep someone warm and cozy during treatment but isn't too big to fold up and toss in a bag. It might even feel more comforting than asking for a blanket at the facility, she says. "When you walk in with stuff of your own, it makes you feel a little less like a patient."
A pretty scarf
To buy: $30, bcrfshoppink.org
"Constant doctor's appointments, treatments, dealing with insurance, coping with side effects, all in addition to the 'typical' everyday stressors like family and work takes its toll," says New York City-based Scheinkman, who continues to treat her metastatic breast cancer, the only terminal form of the disease, with a combination of chemotherapy and targeted therapies. She suggests buying someone anything that can help them relax, and for her, a good de-stressor is wrapping herself up in a comfy scarf, especially in colder weather. We like this on-trend plaid pattern that's perfect for fall–and sales benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
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Ready for Recovery two-piece breast cancer planner set
To buy: $50, cancerplanners.com
Just a few months after her diagnosis, Hanshaw and her husband created Bike for Boobs, a local charity cycling event now in its fifth year that raises money for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. As if she didn't already have enough to keep track of! You can help a friend take some of the burden off with a planner like this one to keep track of appointments and other crucial information all in one place. This set also comes with a journal, a gift Hanshaw herself received. "I had never been a diary writer, but cancer is life-changing," she says. "Someone gave me a diary, and writing in it was very therapeutic. I still have it–it reminds me of what I have to be grateful for every day."
Lindi lip balm
To buy: $10, amazon.com
Hanshaw says she didn't experience too many of the life-altering side effects that other cancer patients might experience from chemotherapy or radiation, but she did have dry lips. Friends would send her lotions or lip balms from Lindi Skin, which has a line of products specifically for people going through chemotherapy and another for people going through radiation treatment. "I didn't even know about these products pre-cancer, but my friends would research and send me care packages," she says. The products are made antimicrobial and antifungal ingredients to help protect the skin while still being gentle enough for sensitive skin irritated by treatment.
To buy: $42, bcrfshoppink.org
"I take so many pills, and staying hydrated is recommended for many cancer patients' overall health while going through treatment," says Scheinkman. "I love S'well water bottles; they are really cute, easy to drink out of, keep water cold all day, and don't spill in my purse!" For every one of these limited-edition designs, $19 will go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
A comfy beanie
To buy: $58, bloomingdales.com
"You wouldn't believe how cold your head gets without hair on it!" Hanshaw says. Not every breast cancer patient will lose her hair, but anyone would appreciate a cozy knit hat like this cashmere beanie, available in two flattering colors.
To buy: $35, amazon.com
Chemotherapy can cause debilitating nerve damage that could leave some breast cancer patients dealing with numbness, tingling, and even difficulty using their hands. Some research suggests that wearing cold wraps on the hands and feet may prevent this damage. If there's a special breast cancer patient in your life with chemo ahead, consider gifting a pair of these therapeutic gloves–to use with her doctor's approval, of course.