As we get close to Mother’s Day, I think about those of you who have mums going through cancer treatment. I’ve been there myself, on both sides, as the supporter, and as the cancier patient. I know how hard it is to support someone following a cancer diagnosis, and to find meaningful gifts for cancer patients. Many of us are paralysed by saying or doing the wrong thing around someone who has cancer, but you know what, cancer is MAINSTREAM, we have to get over it!

Just last month, the World Health Organisation confirmed that cancer is now the biggest killer in Australia. This is horrible news, but the good news is that survival rates are going up. According to statistics from the National Breast Cancer Foundation, in 1994, 30% of the women diagnosed with Breast Cancer wouldn’t make it, today that figure is halved. So let’s stop whispering and panicking around the ‘C’ word and address it as something we may all face one day, and which is very much part of all our lives.

So, how can you help?


1) Your loved one love you, and would love you to drop off food/help with the kids/drive them to appointments, but they can only deal with a couple of people when they are going through cancer treatment. Work out a roster with your circle, and let one person co-ordinate that so everyone gets to help, but so only one of you at a time is in direct contact.

2) Arrange for one person to be the point of contact, and to send around regular updates to friends and family, so the cancer patient doesnt have to field dozens of calls and emails.

Gifts for cancer patients

1) Beyond the first four bunches of flowers, they really start to be more of a hindrance than a joy, all the smelly water and dropping petals. If you want to send flowers, dont send any for the first two weeks after a cancer diagnosis, and then maybe arrange to send a bunch a month for the course of treatment, by that time, they will be rare and special!

2) Absolutely no scented candles or cosmetics!

3) Food is tricky, tastes change (or disappear) but a box of organic fruit and veggies may be welcome, and again, something that can be co-ordinated by a group on a regular basis. Hell, even if they can’t stomach it, their vistors or nurses will!

4) Sensual luxuries – perfect. When you can’t eat, or are too tired to do anything, something soft next to your skin is one of the only sensations you can enjoy. Cashmere is beautiful, beanies, socks, shawls. Cashmere beanies are the best chemo headgear (see me in mine above!) they can almost make you appear normal :-)

5) Non-toxic skincare, make-up and nail treatments are all wonderful. Skin goes through strange changes during chemo, and burns during radiotherapy, but read the ingredients carefully as many familiar brands are packed full of petrochemicals.

Finally don’t be shy and don’t panic, they know they have cancer, feel free to mention the word, but be thoughtful around your activities and your gifts. And always, ALWAYS, apply anti-bacterial spray before a visit!


  • I helped nurse my mother in law through a couple of cancer battles, until she finally succumbed in 2005.


  • Really interesting article! Thanks for sharing this!


  • A friend has just been diagnosed so this was interesting to read.


  • These suggestions are so useful, thank you for sharing


  • My mum passed away from breast cancer, I wish I could wave a magic wand and that horrible disease would never hurt another family again.


  • What a beautiful article thank you – it’s so hard to know what to do with people suffering from Cancer and you never know who to ask or talk to about it.


  • I do not like the word Cancer, it is such a frightening thing

    • and unfortunately a lot of people have it these days :(


  • These are really good ideas. I have survived thyroid cancer and know that a great network of family and friends can definitely help one get through the tough times. The gift ideas mentioned in this article are also very clever.


  • Some good ideas on what to buy as gifts.. I think everyone nowadays has been touched by the c word in one way or another. so sad.


  • One of the most welcome gifts I provided for my friend, was cooked dinner that just needed reheated, such as plates of lasgne and things, helped out the family so much :)

    • that’s perfect, and meals that can be frozen too, particularly for the family.

      • I have been doing same for a friend, makes a huge difference for her she says, it’s the little things that lessen her burden in her tough times :)


  • what wonderful ideas the c word is one of the words that seam to make people forget the person going though it. You have some wonderful ideas thank you


  • that dreaded C word, it makes so much difficult


  • What a wonderful woman! And what a fabulous article on how to help people with cancer. So often we are frightened we are going to say the wrong thing! This article has very sound advice and I feel it will help steer a lot of us in the right when and if we are placed in this situation.


  • Thankyou for your article & very practical gift giving guide


  • My mother is a breast cancer survivor, and it is something that hangs over my sisters and I, but the important thing is that she is a survivor and seeing her go through that experience has made us all much more appreciative and protective of our own health.

    • i totally agree, look after each other and keep checking! :-)


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