What can I do for my loved one??

First let me say that I am speaking for myself in this post. All cancers are NOT the same. All cancer patients do not get the same treatment or react to treatment the same. For example, radiation was absolutely horrific for me but my mom, who had breast cancer, said radiation wasn’t that horrible (it all depends on where your radiation is). Chemo wasn’t horrible for me, still very bad just nothing compared to radiation, but for others chemo is totally debilitating. Because of this I would greatly appreciate comments that can give additional advice. This is a topic that many, many people have asked me to write about so I know people would appreciate comments that could add to my post.

To Send or Not to Send……the answer is SEND! This is a very emotional topic for me, probably the most. When I arrived at Dana Farber I started to get very sad. I was away from all my friends, in a hospital room and afraid. At first I got lots of cards, flowers, stuffed animals etc…I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “everyone is sending things now but I know in a month the cards, flowers, gifts will stop and everyone will have forgotten about me” This made me so sad. I felt as though by being absent everyone would forget about me. I WAS WRONG! During my four months of treatment I received at least one card, package or flower delivery a day. This truly was what allowed me to make it through a horrible experience. I felt so loved, missed and inspired. I fought hard against cancer because I knew I would be missed and I felt I owed it to everyone who was supporting me to fight and live!! Each card & gift brought a smile to my face, something that was rare during my treatments. The only time I felt warmth in my heart was when I opened a package or card. It had very little to do with what I got but rather the escape from focusing on cancer & the knowledge that so many people were routing for me.

Here are some gift ideas for the cancer fighter in your life(If you click on the highlighted ones it will bring you to the website where you can purchase the gift):

  • Cards→ cheap, easy & so important!! I got multiple cards from the same people so don't think, I already sent a card, send another!! Home made cards are great too if you are on a tight budget.
  • Food (depending on the situation. When I was in the hospital before chemo and during the very beginning my friend Laura would go to cheesecake factory and bring me food, that was great)
  • Books (depends on your loved ones situation. I couldn’t read because my eye sight started to fail from all the medications I was on)
  • Read books/magazines to them or get books on CD(during chemo or at the hospital but ask first because many times I felt so nauseous that I wanted to be in silence)
  • Write on Caringbridge or blogs (depending on whether your loved one has one of these. Caringbridge is a program at Dana Farber but your loved one's hospital may have a similar program set up)
  • Flowers (Again this depends. If your loved one is having Chemo the smell may bother them. If you're not sure call your loved one's family or friends and ask them, do not ask your loved one)
  • Games ( I loved scrabble and played hours on end with visitors in the hospital and at home)
  • Chapstick (many times I had chapped lips from treatments and medications)
  • Pajamas (I lost so much weight nothing fit me. People sent me smaller sized pj’s that were soft and plush. Call a family member who would know what size your friend is now, probably a small!)
  • Angel statue (This was one of my favorite gifts given to me by my aunt. I linked this so you can click on Angel Statue to get to the site)
  • Pillows (I got a plush heart pillow and took it to chemo treatments with me every Friday. It was nice to have something soft to lay my head on, treatments make you very sleepy!)
  • Blankets (Three friends sent me plush blankets and I loved them. If I got admitted to the hospital b/c I was doing bad I would bring them and feel at home. They were also great when I was at home b/c I slept all the time!)
  • Stuffed animals (I don't know about other people but when I was sick I reverted back to being a kid! My stuffed animals help keep me company in hospital and during chemo)
  • CDs/music (I got some CD's after my treatment was over and I was recovering. During treatment I didn't listen to music at all b/c it made me feel sick)
  • DVDs (depending on your loved one. For a while I couldn't watch tv b/c that made me sick too but during recovery the CDs were great! You get bored laying in bed day after day.)
  • Inspirational Jewelry (One of my best friends gave me a beautiful necklace that had a cross and heart. Then when I found out I was cancer free she got me a charm that said survivor and had a ribbon. If your loved one does not have breast cancer do not send them a pink ribbon necklace! )
  • Lotion (if your loved one is having chemo don’t give them anything that smells)
  • Fancy Shmansy Water bottle (for those who have to drink all the time like I did. A cool water container could add a little brightness to their day)
  • Cancer books
  • Magazines
  • Eye Masks (Treatments make you very tired! This means us Cancer Fighters sleep during the day and its super helpful to have eye masks to block out the sun. I included a link to a site that sells these masks)
  • Hand Held Games. added in a comment by Joni. Joni's personal favorite was Yatzee and if you click on the link it will bring you to a site where you can buy that for your loved one.
  • Slip On Slippers. Also added by Jonie. Jonie and I both totally agree that those hospital socks SUCK!


  • Doing Nothing. Whatever you do DO NOT do nothing! I was very aware of what family and friends never sent cards, packages, flowers etc...It hurt! Sorry if I hurt anyone feelings by saying that but I am here to be HONEST! I noticed when someone acted as though nothing had happened to me. If you're not sure what to do I can tell you anything is better than doing nothing!
  • Try to avoid calling ( So many people called me but honestly the last thing I wanted to do was talk on the phone!! I felt guilty when I didn't take calls but when I did take the call I was miserable)
  • Nothing with an odor if your loved one is having chemo treatments
  • Nothing that takes work/concentration (no crossword puzzles or project. Treatment drain you and its frustrating not being able to do things)
  • Don’t ask them what they want maybe ask family member but don’t bother friend they don’t know what they want, they want to not have cancer.
  • Don’t sit by there bed side and try and figure out why is happened, because cancer is random and cruel and can strike anyone (added in a comment by a reader)
  • Joni added: "don't wait for your loved one to contact you. They aren't feeling well and won't for some time. To say 'call me when you're up to it' means you will NOT get a call."
  • Jonie added: "Don't get upset when they don't answer your call. They are tired and aren't up to talking, but they do very much appreciate hearing a loved ones voice on the other end say "I'm thinking of you".

Please comment to this post with additional gift ideas & insights.

P.S. Thank you to all my family and friends who supported me I think about you everyday!


Anonymous said...

This post really hit home so to speak- as a daughter whose mother lost the long battle with cancer, I know how to, and how not to show your support to those who are struggling with the disease and the treatment. I found that people react to those who are ill by how it effects them and also think about what they would want if in the same situation, people also rationalize why this would never happen to them and therefore feel the need to blame the victim and name all the reasons why they could be sick. For my mother I witnessed friends and even close family thinking up reasons (by her hospital bed) that she had ovarian cancer, one really good one was because she grew up in a coal camp and the toxins had taken effect now- it was almost as if they could name it, and they had never grew up in a coal camp they were safe. All I can say about support is think about the person who is sick not yourself and you will end up really being there for them. And this is the biggest biggest don’t_ Don’t sit by there bed side and try and figure out why is happened, because cancer is random and cruel and can strike anyone.

Anonymous said...

hey girl!
WHAT a great idea to write down what ppl can bring their loved ones that suffer from cancer!
i just read through it and i was waiting for the MUSIC part..and there it was...to me MUSIC has been(and still is) a VERY important part that helped me.
although i have to say, compared to YOU my "lil bastard" i had inside was nothing, lets just say " i have been lucky they found it that early"...i just wish you wouldn't had to go through all that...


Anonymous said...

Great post Meaghan, once again you hit the nail on the head! Especially with the "don't do nothing" and "nothing that smells"! To this day I'm still bothered by strong perfumes and colognes.

I wanted to add hand held games to the list of "buy" items. My sister gave me a hand-held Yahtzee game that I got a lot of use out of. It took minimal thought, but kept me occupied. And slip-on slippers. I hated those sock things. Anything that takes the extra effort of bending over (especially after surgery)won't get used.

On the list of what not to do...
don't wait for your loved one to contact you. They aren't feeling well and won't for some time. To say 'call me when you're up to it' means you will NOT get a call.

Don't get upset when they don't answer your call. They are tired and aren't up to talking, but they do very much appreciate hearing a loved ones voice on the other end say "I'm thinking of you".

Finding Liz said...

Thanks for the great ideas!!! My dad has lymphoma and when he is in the hospital I never know what to do or give.

Thanks you so much.

Noletubby said...

Great blog, Meg! Sorry it has taken me so long to get over here but I'll fill you in later. I love the Dos & Don'ts; however, I'd add one caveat about calling. I thought it was great when people called though Katie and I rarely answered. Our friends didn't expect us to and we got to see that they cared and hear their voice. It was nice.

Unknown said...

VERY well written! You speak for me, too!

Especially the phone calls. Those were so hard. I felt guilty not answering the phone. People got their feelings hurt. Then I felt worse. Hard, hard situation.

You kicked cancer's ass! and I'm proud to "know" you!

Junque Rethunque said...

suggestion: remember the caregivers! My mom with brain cancer lived with me for several weeks before her sugery, as she declined and lost mobility... I think people assumed that if she was with me, no help was needed. I have a family and a job... it would have been REALLY nice to have some meals brought by a couple of times a week and a little help with housework... Not whining - just sayin'!! :)

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