Worrying About What to Get a Friend with Cancer?

If you have a friend that’s facing a cancer diagnosis, you want to make sure you’re there for them. You can’t personally make the cancer go into remission. But you can ensure that your friend knows you’re available to help them in any way that they need. Chances are they’re going through a lot of emotions right now, and feeling scared, alone, frustrated, or angry. These are all completely normal reactions to a cancer diagnosis.

Whether your friend is diagnosed, or dealing with the disease for some time, chances are they appreciate your support. Friends and family are lifesavers for people dealing with cancer. Many times are the reason they keep on fighting through treatment.

If at a loss of what to get your friend with cancer, we have suggestions that will make them smile. And feel a little bit more comfortable.

What to Get A Friend With Cancer

In this article, we’re going to cover:

  • Useful gifts to get a friend with cancer
  • Gifts that can help lift someone dealing with cancer’s spirit

A gift that’s inspirational 

Sometimes we all need a little inspiration, including a friend going through cancer treatment.

books on a shelf. what to get a friend with cancer
Inspirational books or sayings may help your friend with cancer get through the day. Image courtesy of Unsplash.

One of the best gifts you can give a friend who has cancer is something that is inspirational. There are a lot of books out there that have been written by cancer patients and cancer survivors. These offer all kinds of wisdom on what to expect now that you’ve been diagnosed. Hearing what fellow cancer patients have said and learning what they’ve experienced can be especially helpful. Especially for a friend who has just been diagnosed. 


They don’t want to hear platitudes such as “you’ve got this," or “it could always be worse." They want to hear inspirational stories or thoughts from people who have been in the same position they are. 


Our top inspirational (and informative) books written by cancer patients:


  • When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
  • Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, by Mirium Engleberg
  • What Helped Me Get Through, by Julie K. Silver


Another way to shed light on life’s journey and our own eventual mortality is to find an inspirational book that speaks to their faith or spirituality. These can be very helpful if you already know that your friend follows a particular path. If you’re unsure, it may be a better idea to stay on the safe side and find a book that speaks more broadly instead of focusing on a certain faith. 


These are our top picks for inspirational books that are sure to resonate with anyone. 


  • The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
  • The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
  • The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown


In addition to some of these helpful books, look for encouraging sayings or quotes that may resonate with your friend. 

supportive quote. what to get a friend with cancer
Quotes that offer support are a great way to help your friend get through tough days. Image courtesy of Etsy.

It could be something large or just a smaller frame they put on their desk or dresser. Perhaps this is just the encouragement they need to get things done throughout the day. You may even be able to find a book of inspirational quotes so they can read a new one each day. Or mark their favorites so that they can return to them.

Give the gift of meal trains

Meal trains are a great idea if you have a friend with cancer

One of the most helpful things you can do when someone you love has cancer is start a meal train. Meal trains are organized deliveries of meals to someone who needs a little extra support, and doesn’t have the time to shop for and cook a meal. They allow friends and family to pitch in and give the person dealing with cancer time to spend doing other things, such as resting, being with family, or attending their treatments.


You can even choose to go with a service like Give InKind, which gives you all the tools to successfully set up and organize your own meal train. All you need to do is find people who want to help out, assign meals, and coordinate deliveries. When the participants can do all of that in one place, it makes it a breeze.


There’s nothing more satisfying than not having to worry about getting dinner together. Someone dealing with cancer is sure to appreciate your meal support efforts. You can either home cook the meals, pick them up something prepared, or even contribute gift cards for meal delivery. Taking this one responsibility off their plate is a great idea. It is something any recipient would love as a gift.


And meal train deliveries don’t always have to be breakfasts, lunches, or dinners–they can also be a favorite treat. If you know that your friend has a favorite sweet, consider making it or purchasing it from a local bakery. Always check and see if they have any dietary restrictions before you start. We think these no-bake cookies would be perfect, and anyone can make them.


Handmade gifts

Sometimes the best gifts are those that are handmade

large knit scarf. what to get a friend with cancer
Get your creative side going and create your friend with cancer something that’s home made! Image courtesy of Mama in a Stitch.

You can never put a price on a gift that’s handmade with love and given to a cancer patient. Often these are the most precious and meaningful gifts that they can get because handmade items take time to create. If you’ve ever received a gift like this, you know that you mean a lot to someone else. Searching for ways you can give your friend something that’s handmade that will mean a lot? Consider some of these options.


  • Something knitted. If you like knitting, this would most definitely be appreciated by a friend dealing with cancer. You could knit them a scarf, hat, headband, gloves, or even an entire blanket. You don’t have to be an expert in knitting either. There are all kinds of beginner patterns available online you can check out. If you are an experienced knitter, you could try making them a sweater. They would really appreciate it in cold rooms when they’re having their treatments done.

  • Handmade card. While it may seem like a small gift, sometimes those are the ones that mean the most. A handmade card from cardstock or construction paper is a great way to show you care. Taking time to piece together a craft like this would mean a lot to someone who needs their spirits lifted. Knowing that they have a friend who went out of their way to create a heartfelt card means a lot. You can even try your hand at fancy script or calligraphy if you want. Another option is to get a stamp kit and use stamps to make the card a one of a kind.

  • A photo album. While you may think this isn’t exactly “homemade," it is a gift that you construct yourself. Besides, who doesn’t like looking back on pictures that bring back great memories? Just pick up a photo album and print out any pictures you have of them in happy moments. You could enlist the help of friends and family for additional pictures. Alternatively, you could create an album online from any images people have from their phones. Shutterfly is a great resource for creating books of pictures from digital images.

  • An ornament. Lots of people collect ornaments and look forward to placing them on their Christmas tree each year. If this sounds like your friend, why not create a nice ornament for them? It’s easier than you might think. You can create it out of anything. If you have kids, this might be a great project for them too. Another great idea is to get an empty glass bulb ornament and fill it with all the fixings for a hot chocolate!.
hot chocolate mix in a clear bulb. what to get a friend with cancer
Sipping on yummy hot chocolate is a small but precious gift. Image courtesy of Teaspoon of Nose.
  • Paint a picture/create art. If you like to paint or do anything artsy, why not create something special for your friend with cancer? You don’t have to be a professional artist to create something worthy of being framed. Whether you like to dabble in watercolor, sketching, acrylics, mold clay, or anything in between. An artistic gift that you create especially for a friend is very precious. Since no works of art are exactly the same, they’ll have something unique that was made just for them. It’s a great way to make someone feel loved.

  • Write poems or a story. Just like with creating art, you can also write your friend a poem or a story that they can turn to when times are tough. You don’t have to consider yourself a writer or a poet to make something meaningful for someone you care about. Some of the best ways to get a little inspiration are:

  • Think of what makes you feel better when you’re a little down.
  • Turn to nature and write about their favorite season, animal, or place they like to visit.
  • Use a structure such as a haiku to help you think of warm things to say to your friend that they can turn to when they feel sad.


Pro tip: Consider adding an original poem to a handmade card.

Soft and comfortable items

Everyone likes to be warm and comfortable.

Another great gift for a friend dealing with cancer is something warm and cozy for them to curl up in. Whether that’s a robe, a blanket, some awesome socks, slippers, or fingerless gloves, they’re sure to appreciate this thoughtful gift. Many cancer patients have to be in special rooms in the hospital for treatments, which can get cold. What better way to stay warm than with something that reminds them of home and their friends and family? 

A surprise gift massage

Let them relax and receive a little pampering.

Dealing with doctor’s appointments, treatments, and medication can be exhausting. Chances are your friend would welcome a little pampering. Consider getting them the gift of a massage that will allow them to relax and forget about what’s going on, if only for a little while. Gentle massages are great for sore muscles. And the soft steady movement allows you to relax the mind as well. If the massage spa has extras you can include such as aromatherapy, consider adding that on as well. Going to a space that’s quiet and comfortable will be a welcome respite from noisy treatment rooms.

Gift basket

Create your own or pick up a ready made one.

gift basket. what to get a friend with cancer
Bring a little joy into the life of your friend with a personalized gift basket. Image courtesy of Blissful Balance.

Another great gift for your friend would be a gift basket that includes items specifically for them. You can choose to have a theme, such as a spa gift basket or a snacks gift basket, or you can include a little bit of everything. There are lots of gift baskets available to purchase, or you could assemble items you know they’ll love and make one yourself.


Some of our favorite themes include:


  • Spa essentials (lotions, candles, bath salts, etc.)
  • Chocolate or sweet treats
  • Snacks you know they’ll love
  • Fruit
  • Coffee and tea


Dealing with cancer is not easy, but you can make your friend’s days a little bit more enjoyable with any of these amazing gifts.

Give InKind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We have an affiliate relationship with many of the advertisers on our site, and may receive a commission from any products purchased from links in this article. See Terms & Conditions.

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