When someone close to you is diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard to know how to support them. Nothing seems like enough.

But when a big life event happens, like a cancer diagnosis, it’s not the gift that’s the biggest or the most expensive that will necessarily be the most helpful. The best gift is the one with the most thought behind it.

When deciding on what to give someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, the following is a guide to four broad categories:

Comfort gifts

Gifts for comfort could include anything that makes a hospital stay (or home stay, if they’re at home), more comfortable. This includes pillows or cushions, blankets, or a heat pack. If you want something a little bit different, you can look into monogrammed or novelty printed cushion covers (such as a pet or a loved one). If the comfort gift is food related, check if they have any food restrictions before you bring it to them.


When you’re sick, there is a lot of downtime. Entertainment is useful is many ways—to distract, to relax and to make them laugh or cry (whatever they need that day). Entertainment comes in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, from novels to movies and TV shows, to puzzles and activity books. You can pay for a streaming service, borrow a library book, or put together an album of pictures. You can bring them markers and paper, go old school and make a mixtape, or perform a show for them. The options are endless!


These gifts are all about de-stressing. This can be personal pamper products, such as face masks, a DIY pedicure or manicure, a massage, or helping someone with washing their hair. Even though it feels like it, life doesn’t stop after a person is diagnosed. To help alleviate the stress of an ever-growing to do list that they may not be able to complete between, offer to help them with some chores.


Grab your mop and your broom, it’s time to get cleaning. This is the gift of cleanliness, and for anyone who has ever scrubbed a floor or cleaned the shower, knows how hard it can be. Create a cleaning crew with your friends to make sure the house or room is spic and span, or pay for a professional cleaner. This is particularly important during COVID-19 for those with a suppressed immune system.

Other gift ideas

If you are unable to give the person a physical item, there are plenty of other options for gifts. You can offer to babysit or drive their kids around. You can cook food for them (make extra for them to freeze), or you can go grocery shopping.


For something that is affordable and easily accessible, you can buy flowers. Flowers are an easy way to brighten up a space. However, before you buy flowers, be sure to check if the person is allergic, or has a lowered immunity, as flowers may not be appropriate for them.

Epworth is here to help every step of the way.

All four of our major hospitals, Epworth Eastern, Epworth Freemasons, Epworth Geelong, and Epworth Richmond, offer comprehensive cancer services. More than 40 Epworth-accredited oncologists, surgical oncologist and radiation oncologists practise across the specialist wards, day oncology facilities, radiation oncology services and palliative care wards.

26 January 2021


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