What I Learned about Gifting a Friend Going Through Chemo

I’m a gifter.  Like a plan-all-year, wrap for days, ship coast-to-coast, proud gift-giver for holidays, birthdays and everything in between.  But when my friend was diagnosed with cancer, I drew a blank.  What do you give someone going through the worst days of their life?  Flowers?  Food?  All of it seemed not quite right.  What could I give that would be practical and useful but also thoughtful and sympathetic?  How was I going to put together the equivalent of a cancer care-package without any knowledge or experience with what she’s going through? How could I help?

Here’s what I tried (and tried and tried) and eventually learned through that experience: 

  1. DON’T ASK, JUST HELP:  Send a list of jobs you will take care of for them during the long process of Chemo--from babysitting to odd jobs to grocery shopping, spending time helping out with the little things can make a big difference.  And don’t wait for them to ask or tell you what to do.  They won’t.  Just managing their treatment is hard enough.  Talk to their husband, kids, family, anyone with them day-to-day and invent your own list.  Or guess.  But DO something and they’ll let you know if it’s not working.

  2. SPEND TIME:  Your friend may not always be up for the work of having people over, so only stop by if you can be sure your visit is not overwhelming during an already tense and exhausting time.  If you’re bringing food, text that you’re dropping it off on the porch and they’ll come down if they can.  Send emails or texts with show recommendations or funny tidbits or inspiration.  They may not always respond but it may be exactly what they need.  Just give without expectations and be consistant through treatment—it can last months and they’ll need support the whole way through.

  3. FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT:  Join a cancer charity run or walk on your friend’s behalf. This is a lovely gesture, sure to warm their heart.  Make a T-shirt with their name emblazoned on the back to show you are on their Team!  This may work the best later in treatment, when your friend is a little more used to having the big “C”, but it is sure to be appreciated at anytime.

  4. CANCER CARE PACKAGES:  And I did finally find a company called CaraKit that creates great cancer care packages for chemo, surgery and radiation.  They’re not cheap but they are comprehensive, filled with product necessities curated by women who have been in treatment alone with some beautiful and comforting extras.  I felt really good about skipping the flowers and giving something she could use, that would actually help with side effects and support her both physically and mentally.  It didn’t hurt that she constantly commented about each product, telling me what was working and how thankful she was for the gift that kept on giving throughout her treatment.  Yay CaraKit!