Gifts for a friend who has chemotherapy

I would also like to add a suggestion. Not the day of chemo, but the day after if a friend could come in and tidy up so the cancer patient gets a break from unloading the dishwasher since bending can spur on nausea or changing your bed linens since the cancer patient will sweat out the highest concentration of chemo the first 24 hours. Like any mother with small children their little ones tend to end up crawling into bed, or bouncing on it. Stripping a bed becomes important and it is a physically demanding task for most chemo patients.
It would be my honor if I could take some of the content and add it to a survivour section of my blog, and add some of the suggestions too.

Cancer Visa — of course! Take whatever you like. All I ask is a link back or a mention of inflammatory breast cancer, so that another woman might hear of it before it’s too late.

There are also great suggestions in the comments to the post I linked to above.

The most amazing help that I’ve personally experienced are all Big Deals, but here they are:
– Team WhyMommy – a bunch of online friends and blogneighbors that got together to keep me company, especially on the low days, but most importantly EVERY day, just in case;
– MOMS Club support – they divvied me up and each mom took a week to take care of me. On Sunday, I get a call from a friend offering babysitting, shopping, cleaning, cooking, or company, and we set something up for the week. (I’ve been lucky to only need babysitting, cooking, and company. But God Bless Them for offering to clean.);
– Morning out – one of my mom friends babysits Widget each week while I go to yoga, giving me “permission” to spend a couple hours on myself. I know I can truly relax in the darkened yoga room if my little Widget is out having an adventure with his friends and not missing me that much; and
– Chemo Fairies – every Thursday morning before chemo, one of the moms drops off a little gift bag filled with treats, mints, and happies to help me through the day. It’s totally spoiling me, but and it’s made a huge difference in how I view Thursdays. Although I dread getting up to go to chemo in the morning, I also know that friends are thinking of me and I’m NOT ALONE as I fight this beast.

Like I said, these are all Big Deals and committments. But they have made all the difference to me.

(Guess this should have been a post.)

Why mommy posts =a week of posts about how to help a friend through breast cancer.  But the reality is, I don’t know.  I’ve never done it.  It’s got to be incredibly hard to be the friend of someone with breast cancer, and I don’t wish that on any of you.  All I know is what’s helped me.  And here it is:

Listening.  And talking.  About the cancer, if you want, or if she wants, or about anything else.

Being there is the most important.  Don’t forget about your friend and the good times you’ve had together.  She’s still the same person and she’d still love a phone call or email now and then.  Just what you’re used to, nothing special.  And certainly no “OMG, I’ve got to go visit her NOW because she just got a diagnosis of cancer.”  Is she dying?  Because if not, she’ll surely think she is if everyone rushes to her side upon diagnosis.  Seriously.  Just keep on what you’re doing, and offer to come help if you want to and can, but don’t put pressure on yourself to do too much at once.

Cooking.  Always good.  Whether she’s the cook or her husband, someone is certainly taking up a lot of her slack and would appreciate the time saved by the delivery of a good meal.

Shopping.  Ask what she needs.  Or surprise her with a little giftie now and then.  Could be as simple as an early chemo gift basket, if you’re very close.  What would you put in there?  Well, anything that makes you feel pretty.  Or the basics that she’ll really need and may find difficult to shop for: 

  • baby wash or baby shampoo for her tender scalp;
  • unscented or lightly scented soaps since she’ll be very sensitive to smells;
  • ditto on the hand lotion;
  • plain toothpaste and gentle floss, as chemo patients can’t use the minty, power-packed, or whitening kind;
  • a pretty scarf to hide early hair loss;
  • a light cotton cap to sleep in;
  • a long sleeve shirt to hide the IV tracks or bruises in the summer;
  • a button-down or zip shirt or jacket for after masectomy (I’m told that you can’t raise your arms for up to six weeks!);
  • mints to take away the tastes and fight metallic mouth;
  • healing lip balm to counteract dry lips;
  • a magazine to read during the interminable waits at the hospital (but please, no magazines with a focus on stylish hair or perfect abs!);
  • a special bread, fruit, or healthy cookie to tempt her appetite; or even
  • any craft supplies that you know she uses but can’t get out to get out as often — a new stamp, perhaps? fancy paper? pretty yarn?

Does she have young children at home?  If so, an offer of babysitting is always appreciated.  Maybe you and some friends could take turns watching her kids while she goes to chemo each week or, even better, as she goes to cancer yoga or something else that makes her feel better and heal faster.

Kids are even more challenging when mom has cancer or another serious disease (or a cold!).  Perhaps you’ve done a fun craft recently … why not package up the supplies, write out the directions, and drop it by one morning before chemo as a playdate-in-a-box?

Real playdates are good too.  Really good.  Call her and ask “what day this week” would be a good day to come over.  Or offer to just take the kids for a morning and giver her some time to relax.  Or suggest a coffee date together one afternoon.  But be specific in your offer so that she’s more likely to take you up on it.

If she’s not able to get out as much, bring the fun to her.  Ask if you can come by and hang out with her for a while.  Bring over some brownies or a DVD or a good book that you’ve been meaning to loan her.  Or just come by and listen for a while.  Catch her up on the office gossip or who’s new at the playground.

Basically, whatever your friendship was based on before should provide you a good guide for how you can best help your friend.  Whether it’s a daily email, weekly phone call, or occasional trip out for coffee, regular contact will help you stay in touch with the friend you know — and help your friend know that as she fights the cancer, you’re there by her side and SHE IS NOT ALONE.

Does that help?  Please leave comments with your suggestions, so we can all learn from each other!

To everyone, thank you for all the advice, the research help, the cards, emails, phone calls, bouquets of flowers, balloons, and the many many gifts, including a handknit blanket, soft pajamas, the 10 shirts that button in the front, the target gift card, a freezer full of meals, a stocked cupboard, a stocked fridge, a massage chair, books galore – thank you. And for those of you who took care of me after surgery, an extra thanks for your gift of time. And for those of you who made gifts of cash, my deep gratitude. I feel very supported and very loved.



  1. Thank you. My professor from graduate school, who is like a second mother to me and a wonderful friend, is undergoing chemo. I want her to know that ahe is not alone and you have given some great advice on how to do that. AC

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