I've written blog posts and guest articles about the gifts I would most recommend to get for a cancer patient, but on the flip side, there are gifts that I would definitely recommend avoiding to err on the side of caution. Obviously, everyone is different and some people will completely disagree with me, but based on my experience, here are my top 5:
1) Flowers. Now, I know that by the name of this website you might assume that I hate flowers, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I also realise that I am in danger of never receiving flowers again! It's just that I would never buy someone else who had been diagnosed with cancer flowers, for no other reason that they will be inundated by flowers and I would rather send a more useful and thoughtful gift that would stand out from the rest. Also, flowers are definitely a no-go for anyone in hospital as they are now banned on most wards and just get confiscated.
2) Food Hampers. Cancer patients may be advised or choose to avoid certain foods and food ingredients. Chemotherapy andradiotherapy can also make you feel very queasy and take all of the joy out of food. Something that may have been their most favourite treat could now turn their stomach. I avoided dairy during my treatment and was sent some delicious hampers of chocolates, cheese, cupcakes and biscuits that I would ordinarily have gobbled up with glee, but instead had to give them to my husband. I also couldn't stomach any alcohol all the way through my treatment.
3) Self-help Books. I was inundated with self-help books with terrifying titles such as 'Your Life In Your Hands' by Jane Plant and 'Anticancer - A New Way Of Life' by David Servan-Schreiber. Both advocated very strict diets and suggested that if you followed the diets you would save your life and if you didn't then you would be killing yourself. Unfortunately their books don't work as David Servan-Schreiber has since passed away and Jane Plant has developed secondary breast cancer. I was given so many books with conflicting information that just ended up confusing and terrifying me. My oncologist had one opinion, these books had many conflicting opinions, and every dietitian talk I went to had different opinions too. In the end I opted for a healthier lifestyle, but still consume everything in moderation. I do feel that these books are best left to the cancer patient to buy for themselves if they so wish. That way they can choose a theory that they most agree with - rather than be overwhelmed by conflicting opinions.
4) Jokey Gifts. OK, if you're very close to the cancer patient, and you know for sure that they will find the gift funny, then go for it - anything to cheer someone up is very welcome. However, if you're not sure, I would avoid it. Cancer is a serious illness and the emotional stress of all of the issues that the diagnosis brings with it cannot be underestimated. You don't want to belittle their feelings with a gift that ends up upsetting them rather than making them laugh. I had a friend who was distraught when her colleagues sent her a jokey 'Grow Your Own Boobs' gift - pretty bad taste while she was trying to get her head round her mastectomy and living breast-free.
5) Anything Clinical. It might be really useful to have a thermometer, a sick bucket or a family-size tub of E45, but we get enough of the clinical stuff with our constant hospital appointments. Something to take our minds off this and make us feel more 'normal' is much more appreciated. If you want to get something that they are going to get a lot of use out of, then anything cosy and comforting for them to use in hospital or at home while they recuperate will go down a treat.