Gifts For Someone Diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Going Through Chemo and/or Radiation

This is one of those topics you never really want to have the experience to write with great authority, yet here I am. Today, I’m officially four months out from my last chemo treatment, more than 6 months out from my first surgery and finished with radiation.

I will forever be grateful for the many cards, flowers, gifts, care packages, meals and more that have been shared with me throughout this experience. My hope for this post is that it be a blessing to you by helping you support someone in your life and in turn, that gift will be a blessing to them.

There are a few ground rules I want to give you though before you jump into this list.

First, my cancer experience is my cancer experience and these gift ideas are simply a result of my what I’ve lived through. (If you’re new here, I recommend listening to The {full length} Breast Cancer Diagnosis Episode to learn a little more about my cancer journey.)

Second, when it comes to supporting someone “who’s taking chemo,” it’s important to know that chemo varies greatly, even among women being treated with breast cancer. There is a spectrum of toxicity, dosing, side effects, timing, etc., to all forms of chemotherapy. This is important to know as it influences the differences in what makes for an ideal gift from person to person.

One thing remains true about all of it, unfortunately. It sucks. Period. I’m sorry, but there’s really no other way to put it. I ain’t fun, but if the stats are correct, it’s saving millions of lives, mine included. And anything you can do to make someone’s life a little bit better while they’re going through it is a gift.

Third, having said all that I say this — I can only give you insights into gifts that were either helpful or meaningful to me based on who I am and what my experience has been like. At the end of the day, some gifts you’ll simply know to give based on your relationship with a person.

So don’t overthink it.

A heartfelt prayer, kind gesture, a card, a phone call, a text…. Having people checking in on you, encouraging you, letting you know how much you mean to them… they don’t sell that on Amazon. So don’t hesitate to make your gift simply that of care, prayer and concern. Say it with me:

Gifts don’t always come with a price tag or in a package.”

But for the times that you want to materially give something to someone diagnosed with breast cancer and/or going through chemo and/or radiation, here’s my advice:

Give gifts that inspire, comfort, pamper or provide a solution to a problem.

Here’s a list of gifts people gave to me that did just that (and a few ideas of my own.)

book cover of Notes from the Valley by Andy McQuitty

Notes from the Valley by Andy McQuitty – I’ll confess that I didn’t actually discover or read this book until a couple of years after my diagnosis. But it’s a powerful read no matter where you are in your journey. Cancer can be a time when people either lean into their faith or lose it. I believe this book does a wonderful job of framing the suffering we ALL experience here on Earth, and most importantly, gives encouragement to the believer as they traverse this new world of post-cancer diagnosis.

Handmade Prayer Bracelet – I had lunch with a friend just a few weeks after I finished chemo and she gave me a selection of her new bracelets. Not all of her bracelets are what I would call “prayer” bracelets, but all of them are super cute. I especially liked the ones she gave me that had a cross weaved into the design. I wear these types of bracelets daily to remind me of the grace given to me and of God’s love. If you have someone in your life whose faith is important to them, I can’t stress enough how much spiritual support gifts can mean.

Gold Clover Necklace – While I don’t have a link to share with you of the exact necklace my friends gave me, this Etsy link has a wide variety of styles and prices. I love this as a gift because the clover part can be symbolic of good luck to come, or in my case, the four friends who gave it to me said it represented each of them. I wear it now and keep them close to my heart.

New Morning Mercies – I’m including this daily devotional not because it was given to me at my diagnosis, but because it’s meant so much to me since then. A friend gave it to me in the new year, and I’ve studied it daily all year. As a Christian I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to speak if I’m listening. And there have been many days that the devotion scheduled for the day addressed exactly what was on my heart and mind.

Flowers – I know a lot of people are hesitant to give flowers since they aren’t long-lasting, but I love receiving them. I never think “Oh man. This stinks. Flowers… they’re just gonna wilt and die.” In theory, I guess some people feel that way. But if your first thought is to send flowers, don’t think it’s a cop-out. Fresh cut flowers brighten up any room and for many weeks when I was first diagnosed I had them in multiple rooms in my house. If you’re looking for a unique bouquet to send online, FarmGirl Flowers and Urban Stems have some really beautiful options.

Personalized Heavy Cable Knit Throw – I received two different throws from friends when I first got diagnosed and both were amazing. I kept one in my bedroom and one in the chair where I watched TV. Throws are easy enough to come by on their own, but having something to hold tight when you’re not feeling well that reminds you of good friends really is comforting. (Note: An electric throw would make a WONDERFUL gift for someone going through chemo if they’re going to do Cold Capping or Scalp Cooling. I’ll have a larger post and episode about that process posted very soon.)

Chemo Port Friendly Clothing – This is one you’d seldom think of if you haven’t either been through chemo or been close to someone who has. I was gifted this shirt (pictured below) and hoodie (pictured below the shirt) both of which were ideal for wearing to chemo. I also purchased a top from Amazon very early on and wore it as well (also pictured below). In general, finding clothing that fits comfortably when you have a port can be a challenge, depending on how prominently your port sticks out from your chest. I found that my best bets were cotton tanks/camis with button-up shirts or hoodies.

Long Sleeve Zipper Shirt (for port access)

Vintage Soft Classic Hoodie – This is an awesome choice for both chemo and radiation. With chemo, you can zip it down just enough to give your nurse easy access to your port. With radiation, you can wear it by itself to your radiation appointment for quick zipping out/in to make wardrobe change quicker. Radiation is usually an everyday process for a number of weeks. Spending time changing in and out of clothes is something I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on while I was there.

Women’s Waffle Knit Tunic – This is the shirt I picked out for myself at the very beginning, before my first chemo treatment. I wanted something that I would be able to wear after chemo. I’ve been thinking about buying this in a few different colors. I love it with leggings.

Port Pillow – Remember what I said earlier about how everyone’s chemo is different? That’s true. But some things do have commonalities among many chemo patients. And the chemo port I told you about earlier is one of them. Chemo ports often sit right smack dab in the middle of where a seat belt hits your chest… no matter what side your port is on. I was a left-sided chemo port person, so I needed a chemo port pillow for my seat belt in order to drive. Port pillows are often given to patients by the hospital where they have their port placed, but it never hurts to have another one. I found this one to be more comfortable than the one gifted to me by the hospital, so I used it in my primary car and used the other one in my husband’s car.

A Supply of Soft Toothbrushes – This may sound a little off the wall, but oral care is so important when you’re going through chemo. Since chemo targets rapidly dividing cells, most people experience some degree of irritation in their mouth. It can range from mild (I was fortunate to only experience a “shedding” of taste buds that gave me some pretty weird taste sensations) to more severe forms of thrush, mouth sores, etc. Patients are often advised to switch over to “soft” toothbrushes to reduce the risk of irritation from rougher toothbrushes, but I took it a step further.

First, I brushed my mouth after every meal and gargled with water to avoid any lingering food residue that natural oral yeast could feed on (which can lead to thrush). More importantly for this guide, though, is the fact that I changed my toothbrush out a few days after every treatment on the advice of a friend. The idea here is that you’re excreting and secreting chemo (which is highly toxic) for many days after your treatment. Who really wants to keep brushing with a chemo-tinged toothbrush? I’m not saying there’s any clinically studied evidence to support this recommendation, but it worked for me. So I’m sharing it with you.

And if you find yourself thinking “But Regan, I can’t just show up with toothbrushes.” Well first off, yes you can. I’m here to tell you it’s not about the size or spend of the gift. A thoughtful helpful gesture is always welcome. But I understand if you want to go the extra mile. In that case, I’d recommend pairing this with some other self-care, personal pampering items — such as body lotion (chemo made my skin dry from top to bottom), bath bombs, or even a gift card to a cosmetic/beauty store like Ulta. The time following surgery, chemo, and radiation for many women can be a struggle to feel their best self. While not every woman necessarily enjoys trying new makeup, etc., I did/do. Being able to browse around for a new shade of lipstick or eye shadow can be a welcome distraction from the physical aesthetic changes that breast cancer can bring about.

Lemon Drops – This is a gift very specific to patients going through chemo. I had heard that whenever your nurse accesses your port to begin or end chemo, you might get a metallic taste in your mouth. Apparently, it doesn’t happen for everyone, but it did for me. The classic advice is to suck on a piece of lemon drop candy to help minimize the taste and I found that it worked well. The taste was still there, but subtle and tolerable.

Organic Fruit of the Month Club – This was such a nice surprise when it arrived! The fruit that came each month throughout my chemo experience tasted wonderful. My general advice on giving food gifts during chemo is again, DON’T OVERTHINK IT. And by that I mean I know personally I’ve been hesitant to deliver food to a friend undergoing chemo or surgery out of fear that it wouldn’t “sit well” with them or be appetizing, etc. The overwhelming majority of people going through chemo, etc., likely have either family or friends with them throughout much of their experience and those people need to eat, too. So while there’s always a chance that on any given day a particular food might not sound good to the person you’re giving the gift to, the likelihood is that someone in their family or who is visiting/helping will enjoy it. And I know for me personally that always made me feel better — to know my family was fed and enjoying good food, even when I didn’t feel like it myself.

Crumbl Cookies – I was blown away by these cookies the minute a mom friend delivered these to my doorstep after driving my oldest son to lacrosse practice. (Also note that the gift of RIDES for kids is HUGE GIFT to moms going through chemo or recovering from surgery!). These cookies were super delish.

Goldbelly goodies – If you have a friend you want to share some goodies with but you don’t live close by, this is an awesome service that ships gourmet goodies from small shops and restaurants. Some dear friends sent me these awesome apple fritters from Kane’s Donuts via Goldbelly to celebrate the end of radiation. I love the idea of both being able to support small businesses while also delivering a yummy treat to a friend.

Patagonia Hand Poured Natural Candles – A local mom friend here in the Augusta area started this company and I LOVE her candles. The scents are wonderful but even better is how clean these candles are. She uses natural wax and wicks, and will even customize labels for you. I had her develop a coffee-inspired candle for a gift I was giving one of my nurses who loved coffee.

Sunshine Box and Etsy Cancer Care Gift – I loved both of these gift boxes that were sent to me by work friends. It’s easy to feel distant and forgotten, honestly, when your work world starts moving on and you feel like it’s all passing you by. But receiving these little boxes was such a sweet reminder that I wasn’t forgotten. You can never know how checking in on people can mean so much to them.

Also note, it’s never too late to check in on a friend. If you’re feeling weird that too much time has passed, it hasn’t. Send that text. Pick up that phone. Make that call. In conversations with fellow cancer friends, I’ve heard a recurring theme — it hurts when people you thought you were close with don’t reach out. Again, don’t overthink it. Just let them know you care.

Subscription to A Streaming Service – Seldom do I meet someone today who hasn’t “Cut the Cord,” BUT it’s also rare to find someone who has every service out there. And while I’m not saying you should go to that extreme, I am suggesting that there may be a streaming service you like that your friend doesn’t have yet. Gift it to her with the recommendation of a show to watch. Or better yet, watch along with her. It’s nice to have someone to talk to about something OTHER than illness sometimes.

Lash Boost Serum for Eyelashes – One of the “gifts” chemo itself gave me was the gift of thinning eyelashes and eyebrows, which happened AFTER chemo ended. Ugh. For some women, it happens during chemo. And while I hesitate to recommend using this product too often during chemo (your body, including your eyes, can be super sensitive during chemo), I did use it a couple of times during the one week before my treatment when I was most closely back to something near normal. I’ve yet to lose all of my lashes, thankfully, and I think this helped. It’s not cheap, so if you have someone who loves their lashes as much as me (remember The Eyelashes Episode?) this would be a nice gift to give.

OPI Nail & Cuticle Oil + Natural Nail Strengthener – You’ll hear me talk more about “Margaret” in a future episode about scalp cooling, but lemme tell ya… she gifted me knowledge about that and SO many other things about going through chemo — not the least of which was the recommendation to use this Oil & Strengthener combo to keep my nails from falling off during chemo. And I’m happy to report it worked! My nails did discolor pretty badly once chemo was over, but I never lost a single nail. No guarantees here. (What did I say – Every chemo is different.) But this is definitely something I think worthy of gifting someone in the hopes that helps.

The Brobe – Since I went the lumpectomy route with my surgery, I never had the experience of coming home with surgical drains. But I’ve seen them before and know friends that had them post-mastectomy with reconstruction. And they can be a doozie to deal with. This robe is specifically designed to help hold drains during recovery and also comes with a post-surgical bra. This would be an item to gift someone only after you’re sure what kind of surgery she’s having.

OOFOS Recovery Footwear – A good friend told me about these after I experienced some serious hip pain after my first treatment. I have loved them since! Some chemo regimens are harder than others in terms of joint pain, as are the effects of the drug Neulasta often given after chemo to raise white blood cell counts. These shoes do a great job of minimizing pain worsened by standing on hard floors.

I hope this list is helpful. I welcome your input if you have either received or given other gifts to women diagnosed with breast cancer or going through chemo. ~Regan


  1. Chris Laak on November 4, 2021 at 8:33 am

    I.Love.A.GiftGuide. This is a wonderful one to file away to bring out and brighten a friend’s day with a thoughtful gift. Thanks Regan!

    • thisunmillenniallife on November 10, 2021 at 8:16 am

      Hope it helps Chris! ~Regan

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