How to Show a Loved One With Cancer You’re Thinking of Them This Holiday Season

How to Show a Loved One With Cancer You’re Thinking of Them This Holiday Season

The holiday season always reminds us how hard it is to shop for certain people. Whether you’re roaming around Target or scanning page after page on Amazon, the same questions cross your mind. “Oh god, what was that awful band Uncle Bill loves?” Or “Your sister’s favorite color is purple, right?” What’s even harder than shopping for the not so close friend or family member is finding the perfect gift for someone suffering from a major illness. You want to help any way you can. You want to make the person feel better, hoping your gift will somehow tell the cancer to go away. As an 11-year survivor of a difficult cancer with no cure, called mesothelioma, I’d like to share my most memorable gifts and gestures I received during my battle with cancer. Hopefully, my personal stories and suggestions provide guidance to anyone struggling to find that perfect gift!

1. Gear the gift towards the individual, not the illness.

Try to distract the person of their illness, even if it’s for a brief time. Maybe you grew up together and have a bunch of pictures from your childhood. Make up a scrapbook filled with silly pictures, fond memories, and a few stories of your favorite times together! It’ll be sure to put a smile on the person’s face and get their mind off their illness.

Gift cards were also a huge help. I had friends who gave grocery store gift cards and offered to take me shopping–anything to lighten the load was extremely impactful. The people I used to work with all pitched in and sent me a gift card to Nordstrom and said, “We know you feel terrible. Go shopping, It’ll make you feel better.” I did just that and guess what, I did feel better! It made me feel normal just knowing that they thought of me, and it wasn’t cancer-related. To this day I still keep in touch with an old client who paid my car payment for two months. Not having to worry about where the money came from made life that much easier during a really stressful time, not just for me but my husband as well.

Gifting time to friends undergoing cancer treatment to do their holiday shopping, run errands, wrap their gifts, decorate their home (e.g., Christmas tree, lights) is very much appreciated, says Sandra L. San Miguel, MS, program director of the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities at the National Cancer Institute.

2. Avoid food-like gift baskets.

To be honest, I didn’t use anything out of those giant snack-filled gift baskets.It’s a nice gesture, and extremely sweet, but I wasn’t able to eat any of the food because I was so sick. The cookies looked great, but the smell made me sick to my stomach. Caffeine wasn’t allowed, so some of the tea was off-limits. I felt bad not being able to use much from these expensive baskets filled with goodies, but my body couldn’t handle them physically. On the bright side, my husband enjoyed some of the items!

With that said, gift baskets can still be a great idea; however, only if they contain meaningful gifts, such as journals, coloring pencils/pens, hand sanitizer, candies (to get rid of the awful chemo taste), puzzle books, coloring books, books with motivational sayings, and favorite magazines, says San Miguel. “These baskets are great as later on they can be used to keep by them with their medicines, TV remote control, books, tissues, snacks, agenda with med appointments, etc.”

3. Donate to a special cause in the person’s name.

A former client of mine donated to the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation in my name, and that to me meant more than anything. Getting a letter from MARF saying that a donation was made in my name was truly special, and something I’ll never forget. It’s a really rewarding experience donating to an organization or charity connected to the individual–plus it helps so many others also suffering from the same illness! It was my first introduction to the foundation that has become an important part of my life.

The key to giving this holiday season is to remember the person who’s sick is still the same person. They may have chemo overwhelming their body, and energy levels at an all time low, but they’re still the friend or loved one that you’ve always known. Their interests, hobbies, and passions aren’t lost when diagnosed; rather, they use those same sources of positivity to help make their fight more tolerable. Distract them, help them, and most importantly, provide hope.

Great Holiday Gifts for Nurses

Great Holiday Gifts for Nurses

If you have a nurse on your holiday list this year, you have lots of choices for great gifts that are both meaningful and useful.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Relaxing Shower and Bath Stuff

Nurses work so hard that buying pampering gifts are almost a sure bet.

Aching muscles come with the job so nurses can appreciate things that help those tight muscles relax and recoup from a long day. Shower gels and lotions are always a great choice, but don’t stop at the basics. Shower scent tablets, a small ball or tablet that releases scent into the shower, is great for nurses who don’t want to or can’t wear scents. They can still enjoy the relaxing fragrance of lavender or rejuvenating scents like grapefruit and tangerine without having it linger all day.

If your nurse is a bath time devotee, bath bombs, those big, fizzy, fragrant additions to the tub are a luxurious gift that’s fun, too. Bath bombs come in a range of scents and with additions like oil or even petals, bath time can become a real event.

Personal Comforts

With those sore muscles also comes the need for heat and cold sometimes. Herbal heat packs that can be heated in the microwave and placed right on sore shoulders or lower backs will get lots of use. You can also get a few ice packs to help your nurse alternate. And don’t forget super-squishy slippers or socks so soft they feel like walking on clouds.

Nurse-Themed Everything

Nurses can show pride in their profession with a whole host of nurse swag. There are great items to add bling to stethoscopes, phones, and even cars. You can choose special jewelry like charms with medical symbols or RN that can make a bangle or a necklace special.

Lots of fun clothes are available like t-shirts or socks that pay homage to the nurse’s job and also just add fun or whimsy to an outfit.

Gifts of Time

Making dinner or giving homemade dinners that can be frozen and taken out (soup, chili, lasagna) can be a lifesaver for nurses who have a lot going on and could use some relief. If the person you are getting a gift for is taking care of family, is working more than one job, is a single parent, or is also a student, giving the gift of homemade food (which both saves them time and shows them extra caring) is most welcome.

You can also buy the gift of an experience. Depending on your budget, tickets to a play or a concert, ski lift passes, or a museum membership are all good choices.

Don’t Forget Grab-n-Go

What nurse can’t use a good mug to hold hot (or iced!) drinks. They come in all sizes and styles. Some even have nursing logos or saying written on them. Choose the right type, color, size, and purpose for your favorite nurse. And don’t forget roomy and sturdy tote bags or insulated lunch packs for toting lunches, dinners, and snacks for long shifts. A large bag to bring all the necessities around – books for class, a change of clothes, workout gear – is also a good option. Look for something comfortable and with straps that won’t dig into shoulders if the load gets heavy.

Choosing gifts for nurses can be fun if you just think of what they would like and what can make their lives just the smallest bit easier.