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What to Buy Someone with Cancer by Type

friend with cancer

Different types of cancer present different treatment and healing challenges. Here are our recommendations for what to buy someone with cancer, organized by diagnosis and treatment type.

What to buy someone with cancer

Consider these suggestions as you search for a gift for a friend, family member, or colleague.  

  • Go for practical over “feel good” gifts. Choose a practical gift that the patient can use versus something that will end up as extra clutter.
  • Consider their situation. Someone who had surgery has different needs than someone undergoing chemotherapy. That is why our suggestions in this blog are organized by diagnosis and treatment regimen.
  • Still stuck? Think about what would be useful to you. Could you use help around the house, assistance with meals, or a cheery note? Chances are, if something sounds helpful to you, it could be helpful to your loved one as well.

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Gifts by type of cancer 

Each cancer type presents its own challenges and needs. Consider tailoring your gift to the diagnosis your loved one is facing, Here are our gift suggestions for two of the most common cancer diagnoses:

Breast cancer

  • Lacey mastectomy bra: A lacey mastectomy bra brings femininity to an item that often feels institutional and unfeminine. The lacey mastectomy bra also features pockets to accommodate breast forms.
  • Breast pillows: Specially shaped pillows can be hugged while coughing, sneezing, or switching positions to take pressure off sensitive sites. Body pillows can also help with sleeping.
  • Post-Mastectomy Clothing: comfort is essential after a mastectomy. See our full guide on post-mastectomy clothing here.
  • Haircare products: Some days, your loved one may feel too exhausted to shower. A refreshing dry shampoo can help them feel clean and presentable after surgery, even on their most tiring days.
  • Mastectomy gift box: Mastectomy gift boxes take the guesswork out of figuring out what to buy someone with cancer. Our mastectomy gift box includes a breast pillow and pain cream to manage discomfort, a multifunctional robe that is easy to put on, a shower shirt to protect surgical sites while bathing, and temporary nipple tattoos to help your loved one reimagine what reconstructed nipples could look like.
  • Had I Known: A Memoir of Survival by Joan Lunden: In her memoir, the former Good Morning America host details her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as how the diagnosis changed her outlook on eating and beauty.

Prostate cancer

  • Comfortable briefs: Absorbent underwear made from ultra-soft bamboo provides protection from intermittent leakage.
  • Stress and breath tracker: Created by Stanford University researchers, this stress and breath tracker helps your loved one find patterns in your breathing that indicate feelings of tension. 
  • Erectile dysfunction products: This gift is great for a couple exploring intimacy after a prostate cancer diagnosis. Items like erection rings are noninvasive and effective. 

Gifts by type of treatment 

Every cancer diagnosis has a different treatment protocol. Surgery, chemo, and radiation are the most common. If you know what your friend might be facing, you can choose a gift that helps manage side effects.  

Surgery

Common challenges after surgery are pain management, wound care, scar treatment, neuropathy (numbness in extremities), and detoxification of residual anesthesia. Here are gifts that can help:

  • Surgery meditation guide: Meditation can help quell anxiety before surgery and help facilitate healing. This meditation series is a favorite of Mend Together’s Founder, Lisa Lefebvre.. The series is recorded by Belleruth Naparstek, a social worker deeply respected by the psychologist community.  
  • Seatbelt pillow: A seatbelt cushion reduces pressure on the surgical site while driving, making car rides more comfortable.
  • Surgery homeopathic gift set: Sleep disruption, soreness, and fatigue are common after surgery. Natural homeopathic formulas can help with pain, sleeplessness, and exhaustion. 

“After I complained about chronic insomnia to a former Head of Chanel Beauty, she introduced me to these sprays. The scientific literature on the effectiveness of homeopathy isn’t strong, so I was skeptical about its efficacy. However, after trying their Sleep and Stress products, I was surprised to find they were helpful.” – Lisa Lefebvre, Mend Together Founder/2x cancer “endure-er”

Radiation

Common side effects from radiation are insomnia, fatigue, and skin irritation. 

  • Burn cream: Radiation can cause painful burns or a skin condition called radiation dermatitis. A natural, chemical-free burn cream can moisturize skin and soothe discomfort.
  • Sleep meditation light: Synchronize your breath with the light this device projects onto the ceiling. This helps you relax and lulls you into a more restful state.
  • Radiation gift box: Our Radiation Gift Box includes personal care items that soothe irritated skin, including repairing body lotion, healing salve, and a burn spray. We also include a meditation guide to assist with relaxation and help manage pain.
  • Chocolate gift set: An alternative to sugary treats, antioxidant-rich dark chocolate is a thoughtful and delicious gift without compromising on healthy eating.

Chemotherapy

Common side effects from chemotherapy are hair loss, nausea, dry mouth and mouth sores, fatigue — and memory or cognitive problems sometimes referred to as “chemo brain.”

  • Anti-nausea products: Nausea and vomiting is one of the most common side effects of chemotherapy. Anti-nausea ginger gum can help naturally quell bouts of nausea.
  • Hair growth products: Hair loss induced by chemotherapy is devastating. Many hair growth products utilize harmful chemicals, though, so look for a hair growth gift set that utilizes natural stimulants that encourage hair growth.
  • Dry mouth melts: Chemotherapy can cause dry mouth. Items like dry mouth discs encourage saliva production naturally. Your loved one can leave the discs in their mouth overnight when dry mouth is often at its worst.
  • Chemo gift box: Prewrapped in a reusable package, a chemo gift box includes hats, hair regrowth products, and herbal digestive candies. Our website offers chemo gift boxes for women and chemo gift boxes for men.
  • Neuropathy cream: Tingling or burning nerves are a common side effect of chemotherapy. A fragrance-free, natural neuropathy cream can help improve blood flow and relieve discomfort.

What to buy someone with cancer who is terminally ill

Some people live with a metastatic cancer diagnosis for a long time; others may face a more foreshortened future. Here are some ideas for patients who have treatable but incurable cancer.  

  • Books and literature. Books like The Art of Dying Well by Katy Butler explore practical actions your loved one can take and is a Founder favorite. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande reframes perspectives on death to focus on a good life.

    “My father and I read this book together when it became clear he was facing declining health. We both found this book to be uplifting and surprisingly filled with helpful, practical tips.” -LL
  • Personal mementos. Your loved one may appreciate a photo album or videos of friends and family members so they can focus on positive memories.
     
  • A digital voice recorder. Your loved one may want to record their thoughts or notes for others when they are feeling up to doing so. An easy-to-use digital voice recorder with a large memory card gives them ample time and space to do so.
  • Time. Watch their favorite movie together, share stories, or simply sit with them and keep them company. Whether they are able to engage or not, having somebody in the room or in the home can be comforting to a patient.  

Finding the right gift on Mend Together

Still stuck on what to buy someone with cancer? You can explore dozens of gifts in our carefully curated shop. All products are recommended by cancer patients or our medical advisory board. The shop is organized by type of cancer, symptoms, treatments, and surgeries, making locating the right items easier. You can start a Gift & Donation Registry for a loved one and populate it with the items they will find most helpful. 


Stella Morrison is an award-winning journalist who partners with mission-driven companies to share their stories. She is based in New York City.

Information provided here is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare team for advice tailored to your personal diagnosis and treatment.