12 thoughtful holiday gift ideas for loved ones going through cancer treatment

‘It’s the little things that count’: The thought behind the gift can put a smile on any cancer survivor’s face

If you have a loved one receiving cancer treatment during the holidays, they might spend long hours in clinics daily. Here are some great gift ideas you can give them this season that will be useful during treatment. Keep in mind that you don’t always have to buy a present. Thoughtful, low cost or priceless gifts are also incorporated below to help make your loved one’s day.

Audiobook subscription

  • If your loved one is a bookworm or a podcast fan, getting them an audiobook or podcast subscription is a good idea. They could use this while in treatment or simply while trying to pass the time and get rest at home.

Blanket or pillow

  • Treatment often takes a toll on the patient’s body, causing them to feel tired and very worn down. Gifting them a fuzzy blanket or pillow they can use at home or during treatment is a great way to bring them comfort and warmth.

Crossword puzzles, books and coloring books

  • Some treatments require patients to spend long periods of time in the hospital or clinic, whether undergoing treatment, waiting for an appointment, or recovering after a procedure. Items like books, crossword puzzles, and coloring books can help them stay busy and entertained. Find out what puzzles and genres your loved one likes and go from there! If you purchase coloring books, don’t forget the markers, coloring pencils, or crayons – and maybe a nice carrying case for your loved one to take their supplies to and from their appointments.

Handmade gift

  • Whether you are creative or not, a handmade gift can have a meaningful impact and sometimes communicate a message that cannot be purchased in a store or online. Creating a gift shows that you put thought and consideration into your decision, which can help your loved one feel seen and appreciated.

Hard candies

  • If you've accompanied your loved one to treatment, you might have noticed hard candies at the checkout desk. Why are those there? Patients have frequently reported having an unpleasant, metallic taste in their mouth after undergoing chemotherapy. These hard candies are offered to patients to help them eliminate that taste. Gift your loved one their favorite type of candy so they can take it with them to have after their treatment session.


  • A gesture or an act of kindness can go a long way. Maybe this cancer survivor has helped you in the past, and you want to return the favor by helping them. Some ideas are helping them clean their home, cooking them dinner, dropping off groceries, running errands for them, stopping by for a visit, or just picking up the phone and calling them.

Lotion or tea tree oil

  • It's common for patients undergoing cancer treatment to experience dry skin, which can be a side effect of chemotherapy or radiation. Lotion and tea tree oil help to protect their skin. Some patients are sensitive to smell while undergoing cancer treatments, so purchasing unscented lotion is best.

Music subscription

  • As one of our clinical psychologists and her team have learned from a recent study, music can help reduce stress and improve mood during chemotherapy treatment. Help them have a commercial-free listening session while they receive treatment by paying for their music service subscription.

Pictures of family and friends as encouragement

  • Understanding a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be very hard on a person's mentality. Give the gift of uplifting spirits this holiday by putting pictures of family and friends together as tokens of encouragement to help them get through this rough time.

Sleep beanie

  • One of the most common side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss. While regular beanies and head scarves are fabulous for everyday use, most people don't realize that patients' heads can also get cold while sleeping. An excellent remedy for this is gifting them a sleep beanie! Most of these sleep beanies are designed with breathable fabric, ensuring those wearing them experience warmth without overheating while getting some sleep.

Water bottle

  • Gifting a reusable bottle to your loved one will encourage them to stay hydrated, which is extremely important for them to remember while undergoing cancer treatment. Want to step it up a notch? Consider including electrolyte packets with the water bottle for your loved one to mix into their water for an extra boost of hydration.

Write a letter or make a handmade card

  • Anyone can buy a card from the store, sign their name, and mail it to a loved one. Nowadays, not many people write their own cards, personalizing them for who they are intended for. A handmade and handwritten card or letter can be meaningful to a cancer survivor. It’s the thought and time that you put into the letter or card that shows you care. And if you handmake it, you’ve put the cherry on top.

While it’s nice to participate in the season of giving, remember that showing love and support to loved ones who are cancer survivors is just as remarkable as any gift, maybe even more extraordinary.

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, it is important to be seen by a cancer specialist. The oncologists at Karmanos Cancer Institute and McLaren Health Care are well known in their fields. Find your nearest Karmanos location here.