Holiday shopping tips: 10 do's/don'ts for a friend with cancer

December 1, 2014 | by Fran Rizzi

friend with cancer, holiday shopping list When shopping for a friend facing cancer, keep a few things in mind.

You’ve done the easy stuff – braved the toy store and the Black Friday frenzy, stayed up all night trolling deals online, picked up gift cards for your colleagues at work. There’s just one gift left, the one you’ve been putting off and the one that means so much. What do you give your friend who is in the fight of her life – fighting cancer? By now, she probably has more slippers and fuzzy blankets than she needs. Whether she’s at home or in the hospital, here are some holiday shopping tips to get you started:

  1. Silly gifts: Keep it light – the journey your friend is on is serious. What’s made you laugh together in the past will still make you laugh. A little laughter goes a long way in lifting her spirits.
  2. Coupons: No matter the prognosis, everyone diagnosed with cancer values memories and your help. Grab some index cards and some crayons and make her a coupon or a coupon book, redeemable at her whim, to: - Spend the afternoon sipping tea and watching your favorite movies. - Share a day of pampering – a manicure/pedicure or makeovers at the mall. - Take a yoga class together. Some practitioners believe yoga helps with the side effects that come with chemotherapy. - Offer your help with kids – picking them up or entertaining them for an afternoon. - Pamper the pooch. Walking or bathing a dog will save your friend’s energy and ease her guilt about not having the energy to do it herself.
  3. Distractions: She’s going to want to keep her mind busy. Movies, a Netflix subscription, books, an Amazon gift card if she has a Kindle, board games or craft kits are always welcome.
  4. Food: With treatment, your friend’s taste buds have changed and so have her needs. Before you bring her a rich fancy meal, ask her what she wants. She may be sensitive to sour, bitter or sweet tastes, or just nauseated. It’s different for everyone, so ask first, and then treat her.
  5. Something special: When you’re in the fight of your life, luxury isn’t something you look for. Give her a special scarf, small piece of jewelry or a framed photo of you together.

Here’s what you should avoid:

  1. Perfume: Chemotherapy and radiation can heighten the sense of smell.
  2. Cosmetics: Besides the chemical sensitivity that cosmetics can cause, it’s not fun to be reminded that you look tired and pale. which may be the message you’re sending with lipstick and eye shadow collections.
  3. Flowers and plants: Treatment can compromise your immune system. Flowers and plants may carry spores that put patients at risk or trigger allergies.
  4. Stuffed animals. They’re snuggly and soft, but they tend to trap dust and other substances that can be harmful.
  5. Awareness ribbons. This one is touchy. If you know your friend well, you’ll know her reaction. You might think it’s a thoughtful gesture to commemorate a cancer diagnosis with a symbol of awareness. To some patients, it’s a constant reminder. Instead, save ribbon jewelry or apparel for when your friend is ready to celebrate survival or for your circle of friends as a sign of solidarity.

The gift of time What your friend could probably use most is your help getting her own holiday shopping done. Offer to take her list along with yours and save her the time and energy. And keep in mind; this isn't a time to get out an etiquette book. Don’t expect a thank you note – she’s grateful, we promise. ** To find out more about what your friend is facing, visit cityofhope.org/living-with-cancer. Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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