When someone you love has cancer, it can be difficult to know what to say, let alone trying to find them appropriate gifts during this time. Do you get them something practical they can use while having treatment? Or do you buy something completely unrelated, to distract them from the repetitive treatment cycles or discomfort they may be in.

One of our editors Sofiane asked people affected by cancer what they think are the most useful gifts.

The gift ideas below are all designed to make the person with cancer feel a little bit more at ease, no matter what type of cancer the person is faced with.

Image shows a quote from Iona that reads: When I bought some gifts for a friend, I put together a small hamper filled with goodies that  I knew she’d like, but tailored it to her condition – perfume-free body lotions, books by a favourite author that I knew she hadn’t read, and a silk pillow case. She loved it!'

When you are stuck in a hospital bed, having or waiting for treatment, you suddenly end up having a lot of free time on your hands. An audiobook of the person’s favourite read can be a great gift, as the person may have concentration problems or be feeling very tired (fatigue). These symptoms can make reading physical books difficult.

If the person doesn’t fancy listening to an audiobook, you can always make them a playlist of their favourite songs to pass the time.

If they prefer playing games or doing puzzles, you can buy these through apps on their smartphone or tablet device.

Ginger and lemon products
It may not have been your first thought, but buying foods containing ginger can help reduce feelings of sickness. You could try buying ginger biscuits, ginger sweets or even ginger tea. Lemon drops can also help those suffering from a dry mouth.

Buying these types of gifts can really show the person with cancer you’ve been thinking about them and what they really need.

Help with heating bills

Image shows a quote from Daloni that reads: Living with cancer during winter can mean hours spent at home on the sofa feeling unwell. Chemotherapy, for example, can affect your body temperature, leaving you feeling cold all the time. All this adds up to higher than normal heating bills.   One gift idea might be to pay for the person’s gas or electricity bill for a month. If you think you’ll find it difficult to suggest this idea to someone with cancer, perhaps try saying something like, “I know you may be facing higher than normal heating bills this winter, so please use this gift to help keep you warm."

A V-shaped pillow
When you’re not feeling well, there’s no better feeling than resting your head on a soft and fluffy pillow. A V-shaped pillow is particularly comfortable and can help someone you love with cancer feel more relaxed, especially if they have back pain.

If the person has swollen arms or legs, for example because of lymphoedema, extra pillows can be useful to support the affected limb.

If you do buy pillows for someone with cancer, make sure that the pillow cover is made from cotton. This is because cotton is less likely to irritate sore skin caused by treatments such as radiotherapy.

Homemade meals for the freezer
After finishing cancer treatment and going back home to recover, the last thing most people want to do is cook. Tiredness, side effects and nausea can make cooking an unpleasant experience. However, eating regularly and maintaining a healthy diet is important when recovering from cancer treatment.

Cook and freeze several meals for when your loved one returns home. That might be one of the best ways to make life after treatment a little bit easier for them.

Need some inspiration for meal ideas? Our large collection of sweet and savoury recipes have all been designed for people with cancer.

Spa day or weekend away
When someone has finished with cancer treatment, they may crave a well-deserved break. A relaxing spa day or weekend away can be great for the person to completely unwind and feel re-energised. If you are planning to buy a spa break for your loved one, always make sure you discuss the person’s medical condition with spa staff before booking.

Image shows a quote from Hazel that reads: 'A weekend away at any of our beautiful coastlines can do wonders to lift spirits. The sea breeze is so good at blowing away the cobwebs, leaving you feel invigorated and ready  to face the next big challenge.'

Other gift ideas

The image shows thought bubbles containing gift ideas. Sea bands for nausea, good quality moisturiser and hand cream, cotton headscarf or cap for hair loss, cashmere bed socks and good quality make-up including eyebrow pencils and eye make-up

If you’re still stuck for ideas

If you are still unsure or you’re strapped for cash, why not offer your loved one a ‘voucher’ to help with practical tasks. The ‘voucher’ can promise that you’ll:

  • do some housework
  • walk their dog
  • take their child or children to school or to the park
  • take them out for coffee or lunch on a day of their choosing.

Whatever you decide to offer, remember that it is not the gift alone that will make them happy. Because you are reading this blog, it means that you care about the person. Your compassion, support and just being there to talk or help is what your relative or friend will value the most.

To see what else Macmillan's cancer information team has been blogging about, please visit our blog home page! You can subscribe to receive our blogs by email or RSS too.

We're with you every step of the way

The Macmillan team is here to help. Our cancer support specialists can answer your questions, offer support, or simply listen if you need a chat. Call us free on 0808 808 00 00.

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  • <p>I was given a soft and thin poncho, while having immunotherapy every 3 weeks you can&#39;t wear a cardigan or jumper, or at least you can only drape it around your shoulders. My new poncho can keep me warmer and give access to put the cannula in. Hospitals are not always too warm or perhaps they are but the treatment gives a little shiver. My new one unlike one I had in my youth which was square with a whole in it, has a square for my back  and two scarf like pieces at the front that I can move and wrap around me how I want it&#39;s brilliant. Bought for me by a fellow cancer patient who had also been suffering from cold in the hospital.


  • <p>a warn throw to comfort . some soft sock type slippers.</p>

    <p>cotton tee shirts so easy to wear, buy the larger size to get in and out of easier.</p>

    <p>none perfumed creams and lotions for the skin.</p>

    <p>softness is the key. comfort is the word. soothing foods easy to eat.</p>

    <p>favourite video dvd, music.</p>