Gift Basket for a Friend About to Start Chemo?

Updated on September 18, 2012
L.E. asks from Los Angeles, CA
17 answers

I have a dear sweet friend who just recently found out that she has cancer, and unfortunately it has progressed quite far. She is going to begin chemotherapy this coming week. I live about 1.5 hours from her and I wanted to do something special for her. I thought of maybe sending a chemotherapy gift basket to her--- things she'll need and maybe things that can be comforting during the process... I've, of course, offered to take her children whenever she needs me to, but I know that she has school/babysitters and family for that. I would drive there in a moments notice, though, if she needed me.
Mostly I want to find a way to help her feel comforted during what I know will be a very uncomfortable experience.
Any thoughts or ideas as to what I could put together? Or any ideas of something else I could do for her? Anyone who has been through this experience--- what did you hope that someone would do for you? I'm not even sure if she's at a hospital full time right now or if she's partly at home... I know she already had one surgery so she is probably in a hospital. I'm just getting updates from her health-blog (on caring bridge), as it's difficult for her to keep everyone updated via emails. Do people generally stay in the hospital during this whole time of chemotherapy?

Any ideas or ways I can be of comfort to my friend would be greatly appreciated.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone for all the wonderful ideas! I'm so glad I had this post because I feel like I can get her things she will actually use!
I ended up making a lovely, lovely gift basket--- full of luxuries that I don't even buy for myself! I found the coziest, soft, light weight blanket for when she's cold or going to get chemo--- she can pop it in her bag. I also found a light weight, delightfully soft robe that she can put on when people unexpectedly show up... or just when she's around the house. I got her a hand creme, body moisturizer and lip balm (all unscented) from kiehls, and some burts bees face wipes for when she doesn't feel like getting up. I added some natural ginger candy (for nausea) and a box set of a season of THE OFFICE for laughs (that was a great idea! THX!).
I have offered to take the kids and will continue to do that so she doesn't feel like at some point she doesn't have anyone helping anymore... I'm going to make cookies for her kids and take those too!

Thanks everyone so much for all the ideas and kindness!

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answers from Jacksonville on

I don't know if this is helpful at all, but I think that if I were in the hospital (or just incapacitated at home), what would give me a boost is if someone did something nice for my family---since my family would be going all out for me, and usually it is my job to take care of them. So some homemade cookies or a cake for the husband and kids. Steak dinner for husband, delivered. Someone giving the dog a bath. Someone seeing to anything the kids needed for school (project materials for upcoming assignments, etc), getting the kids squared away for Halloween...

I know it sounds silly or lame.. .but if I were not able, that is the kind of things I'd want. Somebody taking care of the people I felt like I was letting down.

7 moms found this helpful

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answers from Austin on

My business partner was going through this last year at this time. ''netflix" subscription helped.. She was given an ipad, so she was also able to use the subscription for her ipad. She took this to her Chemo appt. since she was usually there all day long.

She was also told to take her own lunch.. so we found a super cute lunch bag for her.

I purchased her a very soft tshirt type night gown, since she became very sensitive to weight on her body and the rubbing of fabrics on her skin.

Sheep skin lined slippers. Her feet became very sensitive.

She will need calories..... One of the things my friend enjoyed were very thin and crisp cookies. I cannot recall the name of the brand, but they make fabulous cookies that are packaged that are thin almond cookies, thin butter cookies. also very thin ginger cookies. All of these are at the grocery store, but are the more expensive cookies.

She also needed to eat high calorie foods, but had no taste in her mouth.. so creamy soups helped.

She really enjoyed the Sonic Strawberry Lime slushes.. So before I would visit her, ! would call and see if she wanted one.

She also needed to use fruit and vegetable cleanser.. for all of her fresh produce.

She could eat eggs, soft boiled and scrambled.. and keep them down. So we made sure she always had fresh eggs

The first piece of medical equipment she needed, after her oxygen tank ,was the shower chair. So consider finding her one. we borrowed one.

And a light bathrobe. The heavy ones were to cumbersome for her to deal with..

I also gave her a small suit case with the long handle and wheels, so she could pull it to and from her treatments and the doctors office.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My father-in-law passed away this summer after a two year battle with cancer. During those two years he went through three rounds of chemo. I'm not sure if chemo is different depending on the type of cancer but my fil's chemo treatment was once every three weeks for five hours at a time. He would go to the hospital to receive the treatment and then would be home that evening. He would feel fine the first day but would quickly go downhill for the next seven to ten days. He would begin to feel better and get some strength back and an appetite just in time for his next treatment. It was a vicious cycle.

Once he started chemo he seemed to always be cold - he also lost a ton of weight quickly due to his lack of appetite and when he would force himself to eat anything he would bring it back up shortly after - his skin was very dry and he was always lotioning his hands and reapplying chapstick to his lips. He had some friends that would send him cards often ... just simple thinking of you cards and regardless of how often he would receive them they always put a smile on his face. A few of my suggestions are a nice blanket, sweater or slippers to help keep her warm and cozy, body and hand lotion, lip moisturizer, maybe some mints since I've heard that sucking on a mint can help with feeling nauseous although not sure if that helps when dealing with chemo, inspirational books (I love the Chicken Soup for the Soul books), and every so often just send her a card to let her know you're thinking about her. Oh one more thought I just had was a pin that my fil was given and wore all the time - it said Cancer Sucks! He was actually buried wearing that pin along with his fishing pole =(

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Davenport on

I have recently had the same experience you are going through now. I made a basket for my friend and her family. It included my gently used books for her to read, fun nail polish for her and her daughter to share, videos, a cute notepad and pen, a Subway gift card for her husband and kids, a few different candy bags, and what ended up being her favorite thing from the basket....fuzzy socks! I got her a couple pairs from Walgreens, the ones with the little plastic dots on the bottoms, and she said she loved them for walking around the hospital, and then to snuggle in at home.

I wish you and your friend the best!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

When my godfather was going through chemo, I would make freezer meals (to make life easier on my godmother), bring him his favorite treats (Godiva brownies!!), coloring books (GI Joe, no kidding) and colored pencils, puzzles, and sit there and play chess with him...

Sometimes I would just sit and talk (or listen)... he would stop telling stories if he got too tired or felt ill, then I would fill the silence until he fell asleep... I'd bring baskets of old magazines with crosswords puzzles and things he could pick up and put down at his leisure... he LOVED sticker books, LOL... pretty much anything that would entertain a 4 year old (with the same short attention span), made him smile :)

It's the thought that counts. Just enjoy your friend, don't act like they have one foot in the grave... life is for the living, and they're still breathing, so live it up!! :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My suggestion for a gift basket is... something to occupy her kids. She is not going to feel well for a long time... and the children need to be distracted with quiet activities.

Chemo is a nightmare. If you can, go with her and hold her hand and tell her stories and try to distract her. Chemo is generally administered in a room with many people in rows receiving treatment.

After chemo is administered, she will feel truly awful & not able to rest or sleep. Take her to get a mani-pedi to pass the time... followed by a massage if possible.

Do sweet things for her children. The most painful thing for a mother is knowing that she is not able to care for them optimally, and the fear of leaving them motherless. And she will NOT be herself. Her level of agitation will go through the roof while she is undergoing chemo.

Your kindness through her suffering will be a comfort to you if she passes. Look for ways to lower your toxic exposures for your own family, so that there will not be more suffering. Hug your own babies extra tight. Bless you.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Every type and progression of cancer gets different treatment protocols. Some have many days as an in- patient while others are rarely in over night fir chemo. Much of the time is hurry up and wait so movies and music help a great deal. Either a DVD set of a great tv show she would like to pass the time or I tunes card to buy on her IPad or I touch. Usually scented stuff grosses you out so no lotions etc. Magazines are good. Books are sometimes hard to read as you are bugged every 5 minutes by a staff member. A cute soft shirt or fun lap blanket would be helpful. Also depending on the drugs hard candy like lifesavers help with the horrible taste in your mouth. Of course, cards and supportive emails help too. Many blessings for your friends successful battle.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Since she has a family to take care of , meals would be very helpful. If you know people that are local to her they could sign up on this site. They could bring meals or groceries or fresh cut up fruit and veggies. All would be so helpful as I'm sure cooking is the last thing on her mind. Try out this site:

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Chapstick! My mom's lips got VERY dry during chemo. Don't get Carmex though. The menthol in it stung for her. Just regular chapstick or Nivea brand did well for her. Also a good lotion. Not one of the yummy smelly ones that don't hydrate that well, but like Vaseline brand or something like that.

I think the Visa card for meals is good. Chemo can affect everyone's tastes differently. My mom loved orange marmalade, but couldn't eat it during chemo (said it tasted like lard!). BUt she really craved acidic things like pasta with tomato sauce. So a gift card would make it so your friend can get things accordign to her changing tastes.

A SOFT knit hat (or 2 or 3). My mom had one on constantly. She was cold alot. Even in the summer. She did lose her hair with one chemo. With her second cancer she didn't but still felt cold. She just liked the inexpensive winter knit caps from the men's department.

My mom loved getting little notes from friends. Even fiends that she could talk to, the cards were a pick me up. I am sure you will be calling often, but "thinking of you" cards are great, too.

Just listed to what she tells you and feel free to step in and help when she doesn't ask. Sometimes people feel like they need to be strong and NOT accept help. We know that does't make them "weak", but some people are reluctant to accept help. Just help with out asking. Instead of saying you will take the kids when she needs you to, call and say "Is is o.k. if I stop by on Saturday to take the kids to the park?" Then you are making a specific plan and she isn't asking you to some take the kids. Does that make sense?

You are a good friend for looking out for her. That is the best gift! :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Hats or wraps
FOOD!! Already prepared dinners! Ones that you make or that you could buy (dinner's ready...although I was not impressed with them I have heard other people love them)
Housecleaning services
Yard services
(the two services you could call ahead to the place and pay over the phone and just have them come to her house)
Could you go once a week and help with laundry?
I have quite a few friends who have gone through Chemo and Radiation and each one of them has reacted VERY differently. Some have been sick as dogs and some have been ravenously hungry. ALL of them have been tired and not able to keep up on housework. It may be nice to have a service come out and cook and clean so that she and her husband do not have to worry about it at all.
Here's praying your friend does well.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

When my mother had chemo, I crocheted several super soft chemo caps for her and got her a slew of word search books to keep in her purse, because she would often have to sit and wait in numerous doctors' offices and through her chemo. She did not stay at the hospital the whole time -- she had two rounds of chemo, interrupted by heart surgery (coincidental) and then followed by two more rounds of chemo.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Fuzzy warm socks.

Fuzzy, cozy blanket.



Crossword books.

Word search books.

Some frozen meals.

Tell her you are a phone call away is he is "up for a visit".

Best wishes for your dear friend.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

This depends so much on her character, but I think I would include a small stuffed animal, something like a little companion to help her get through this, something that can be in her pocket when she goes there. I know I would like something like that, my husband would too. Maybe we are childish? But then grown-ups feel like babies too when they are sick, don't they? Good luck for your friend!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I have a friend who is going through this right now, and she has 4 kids. So I have been making them meals. That is what they requested. So my first thought for you, is to maybe send some gift cards, even a Visa gift card, so they can pick up dinner when it is difficult to make it, or when they have nothing to eat. Also, a nice very soft hat. My friend said her head hurt really bad, where her hair follicles are, and anything soft made it feel better. How about a comfy pair of pajamas? Something that would look nice when people come over to bring her things and visit. In my experience, people do not stay in the hospital the whole time during chemo, but that doesn't mean in some cases they don't.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

You have so many great ideas here! I have a friend undergoing chemo right now. One of our mutual friends reached out to a bunch of us via email about putting together a support rotation. I never heard of this, and it has been working very well. We each were assigned a week where we did nice things for her. I am short on money right now but I bought her a nice notepad for her purse, little funny/inspirational books from the card store that could fit in her purse when she goes to chemo, greeting cards, etc. I sent 4 in one week, in separate envelopes every day, since I live 3,000 miles away. She told me it was fun to get something different every day. I just finished my 2nd week in the rotation and I thought to send a joke book one of the days this time that her 5 and 7 year old would like looking at with her. She said the kids took turn reading jokes to her and her husband and had a blast. I was thinking about how they say laughter is the best medicine. We never told her there is a rotation, but she did figure it out after a couple months. I think there is a dozen of us. The ringleader said it was to make sure we all didn't fall over each other at the same time, so that there wouldn't be weeks when our friend had no one reaching out. I imagine that a lot of times people are very supportive at the beginning and then it wanes, we wanted to make sure we are helping throughout.



answers from Los Angeles on

My girlfriend loves warm, cozy socks and adorable beanies. She LOVED her false eyelashes that she used when her lashes thinned along with a cozy blanket and pillow. Cute sweat pants and pajamas were nice as well. I am going off of what my sweet friend enjoyed and would ask for when I was on my way for a visit. :) My heart goes out to you not being able to be closer at this time and my prayer for her is that she is strong and determined in her tough friend used to take photos of herself before her chemo with her fists up, ready for battle :) I truly believe that her positive attitude was what has her with us today. I will pray for your friend to keep her fighting spirit and her positive attitude throughout this difficult challenge.


answers from Columbus on

Wonderful idea. She will really appreciate anything you do to help out.

Here are my go-to items for goody bags: breath mints (chemo can leave a bad taste), hand sanitizer, extra tooth brush, sensitive-skin unscented body lotion (Aveno is good), I-tunes gift card, eye mask (for napping).

My grandma currently went through chemo and radiation, and she had trouble with her fingernails turning brittle and breaking, so I found a really good strengthening nail polish for her.

A dear friend of mine when through a year of cancer treatment and she was in & out of the hospital quite a bit, not including her surgery. But typically chemo is an outpatient treatment, they just need someone to drive them. I was shocked how quickly my grandma was sent home after her mastectomy, there was a lot of delicate home-care she needed help with that I thought should be done by a nurse.

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