Anyone who has had cancer, or loves someone that does, knows that cancer treatments can make them feel absolutely horrible! Recovering from surgery can take a long time. Radiation often burns the skin and other parts of the body. And, depending on the type used, chemotherapy has a ton of different side effects!
Even though we know these treatments can work, it’s still so hard on your body at the time. A lot of people want to help, but they have no idea where to even start! For me, surgery was hard, but chemo was the worst. So, in this post, I’ve included 10 ways that will help make chemo patients feel better.
(Disclaimer- this post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to purchase from one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. All advice given is my own opinion and cannot be used as a substitute for consulting a medical or mental health professional. For more information, please view my disclaimer link page here.)
What are the Side Effects of Chemotherapy?
Before we get started on what helps chemo patients feel better, we need to go over the side effects of chemo. This can be a bit tricky! Each drug used, and each person is totally unique. Here are a few of the most common side effects people experience with chemotherapy.
Physical Side Effects of Chemo
The physical side effects of chemo are the most obvious. The drugs in the chemo are designed to kill cancer cells, which is a great thing. But, these drugs often attack our normal cells and cause side effects. The American Cancer Society gives more detail into the types of side effects a person can have from chemo.
Hair loss and nausea are two of the most well-known side effects of chemotherapy. You often see a person going through chemo wearing a wig or sporting a shaved head. Many chemo drugs cause an upset stomach where a patient doesn’t feel like eating. And some of the drugs cause a patient to throw up or other digestive issues.
Some of the other common side effects are fatigue, frequent bruising, low immunity, mouth sores, and skin/nail changes. Chemo patients are often tired and don’t have the energy to do normal activities. With low immunity, they are at greater risk of infection, so they have to be really careful with their health. Also, the skin, hair, and nail changes can be very uncomfortable.
Chemotherapy Mental Side Effects
It’s not always easy to spot, but chemo can cause mental side effects too. Many chemo patients experience what’s known as “chemo brain”. According to the Mayo Clinic, the chemicals being put into your body can cause loss of memory, shortened attention span, and difficulty communicating, along with other symptoms. At times, chemo brain can linger even after treatments have ended.
Depression is another mental side effect of chemotherapy. Cancer, even in the best-case scenario, is a lot for a person’s brain to handle! To go along with that, the fatigue and pain from treatments aren’t going to make anyone feel better about themselves.
Many cancer patients have a weakened immune system. All of these factors often cause a chemo patient to feel isolated and helpless. My oncologist told me that over half of his patients need medication and therapy to help overcome depression during cancer treatments.
What are Good Gifts for Chemo Patients?
So now that we know many of the symptoms of chemotherapy, I want to share some ways to make chemo patients feel better during treatments. One way to help Chemo patients is by giving gifts. Depending on the situation, I have some awesome gift ideas to share with you! Let’s get started.
Scarves and Hats Make Great Gifts
Hair loss is a common side effect of chemo. It’s also the most visible. Many chemo patients struggle emotionally with losing their hair. Our hair is a big part of our physical identity, especially for women.
Some women like to wear a wig, but others don’t. For those who don’t wear a wig, or who want other options, another head covering might make a great gift! If a chemo patient likes a lot of colors, they might enjoy a bright scarf.
Hats are another great gift for chemo patients. A ball cap of a favorite sports team might be fun to wear! Or you could find a cap with a funny slogan across the front. In the winter, a beanie would be a good gift for a chemo patient.
Puzzles and Games Will Help a Chemo Patient Feel Better
Many types of chemotherapy are given through infusions, which may take several hours. With nothing to do but sit and wait, games and puzzles are also great gift ideas for a chemo patient.
Crosswords and word searches are classic games many people enjoy. Sudoku is another great option. I started playing sudoku when someone gave me a book of puzzles during chemo treatments. Now, I play it all the time!
Puzzles are also a great option to give chemo patients. Cancer patients spend a lot of time at home during treatments. If their immunity is low, they might have to avoid people. Puzzles will help them keep their mind active and occupy their time at home.
Chemo Patients Love Comfortable Clothes
When you’re going through chemo, comfort is key! When you’re not feeling great, a comfy set of pajamas can help you get better rest. Pair those with some cute slippers and a cozy bathrobe, and you’re all set to lounge around the house.
Chemotherapy patients will also want comfy clothes to wear during treatments. Nobody wants to sit for hours in a scratchy shirt or too-tight pants. So comfortable clothes would make another great gift for chemo patients. Care and Wear has a great list of clothing gifts for chemo patients on their website. (I’m not an affiliate, but they do have some great stuff!)
Care Packages Are Good Gifts for Chemo Patients
Let’s say you have a group of friends going together on a gift for a chemo patient. If you can’t decide on a big gift, sending a care package might be your best bet. Each person contributes something to the care package. When your friend going through chemo opens it, they will be so excited by all the sweet gifts you put together for them!
I received several care packages during my chemo treatments. I loved opening them and finding all the little treats tucked inside. These care packages took my mind off how blah I felt at the time. My work friends sent an awesome care package to the hospital after my surgery. It was HUGE and full of some really great stuff! I remember going through it for weeks and finding new things every day.
Gift Cards Will Make Chemo Patients Feel Better
If you still aren’t sure what to give a chemo patient, a gift card might be the way to go. You can get gift cards to almost any business they might like. Plus, they can get exactly what they want with it!
What kind of gift card should you get? Here are some ideas. Amazon and Walmart are usually a sure bet. The person going through chemo can order anything and have it shipped directly to their door. If they aren’t up for cooking, gift cards to restaurants would be great. If you’re not sure what the chemo patient likes to eat, you can go with a company like Door Dash or Grub Hub.
There are so many gift card options out there. I’m sure you’ll find something that will make a chemo patient feel better.
How Do I Cheer Up Someone Going Through Chemo?
Gifts are always nice, but maybe you want to do a little bit more. You want to be involved past the point of comfy clothes and gift baskets. Chemo treatments typically last for several months, and the after-effects of treatments can last longer.
So you might wonder what are some other ways to make chemo patients feel better? How can you cheer them up as they continue to fight cancer? Here are five things that helped cheer me up while going through chemo.
Reach Out to Help Cheer Them Up
We already talked about loneliness being a mental side effect of chemo treatments. Since cancer patients often feel lonely, reaching out to them is a great way to help cheer them up.
When I was going through treatments, I had several family and friends who reached out to me every week. They would call to check-in and see if I would need anything. If I was really down, they would call a little more often. And sometimes, they would drop in for a quick visit.
You can jump on a quick call or send a text, but a visit might really help too. And if their immunity is low, you can set up a fun video chat. With all the social media platforms and messaging available to us today, reaching out has never been easier!
Cheer Up a Chemo Patient With a Fun Activity
Planning a fun activity is another great way to cheer up someone going through chemo. You could offer to pick them up for a quick lunch, visit a park, or simply take a quick ride around. If they’re feeling good enough to get out, these types of activities would be great!
If they don’t feel up to getting out of the house, you can bring the fun to them. Grab one of their favorite foods (if they can tolerate it) and plan for a fun day indoors. You can have fun chatting, playing a game, or binge-watching the latest Netflix hit! If they can’t have visitors you can plan a virtual activity through video chat. The point is to find something to give them a little fun.
Offer Your Help With Daily Activities
I constantly felt exhausted during chemotherapy. I never seemed to get enough sleep. Exhaustion left me feeling completely overwhelmed with everyday tasks. Throw into that exhaustion 3 young kids, a house, and a farm, and I was a hot mess most days!
Fortunately, I had several friends and family who stepped in to help. This help meant the world to me during chemo! My parents took the kids on a few day trips so I could relax at home. My inlaws helped babysit and helped around the house.
One friend gave my kids a ride to school every day I had treatment. Another invited them over for regular playdates. Some sweet ladies from church brought kid snacks with their casseroles, because “kids like fun stuff to eat”.
I had a lot of help around the house too. My husband did more than his fair share of housework, all while working full-time. Friends and family would drop by to help cook and clean whenever I needed them. One sweet friend came every week. She brought supper and took over the laundry and dishes for the night.
A Delicious Meal Will Help Them Feel Better
I know I’ve mentioned food a lot during this post. But, seriously, the meals people provided during my chemo treatments made me feel sooooo much better! I didn’t have to think about preparing dinner, which was a huge blessing to me during this hard season. It was a great blessing to my husband and kids as well.
There are several ways you can bless a chemo patient and their family with a meal. If you enjoy cooking (and have the time) a home-cooked meal is always a blessing. Or, you could pick up their favorite restaurant and stop by for a visit. Delivery services are always an option too.
One more thing about providing food- make sure you know the chemo patient’s dietary restrictions. You don’t want to send something that might make their symptoms worse.
Be There for a Chemo Patient
My number one way to help cheer up a chemo patient is simple: be there for them. You can be there to listen when they are scared. Be there when they are sad, angry, and asking God, “why”.
Being there doesn’t mean you are available 24/7. Just knowing you’re a call or text away can make a world of difference to a chemo patient. Knowing someone is in their corner, who will love them and listen to them through this horrible disease means more than you may ever know.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.” As a Christian, I am called to help those around me by showing love. One of the best ways you can show love and make chemo patients feel better is by being there for them.
More Ideas to Help Chemo Patients
These are just a few ways I know to make chemo patients feel better during chemo treatments. There are several other gift ideas from Care and Wear that would make a nice chemo patient gift. If you’ve been a chemo patient before, what are some nice things people did for you?
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