When a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer, it can be hard to know what to do. Reaching out to let them know you're there can be a big comfort and sending them a little gift can put a smile on their face. Here, our experts share the best breast cancer gift ideas.
In the US, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It's a devastating statistic and means that all of us are likely to know someone who will have the illness. "Letting your loved ones know you're there for them following their diagnosis, and as they have the treatment and beyond, can make a huge difference," says Grete Brauten-Smith, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Now. "There are several things you could do to support them, from practical things—like cooking meals or helping with chores—to offering a listening ear or sending a little gift to let them know you’re thinking of them.”
Of course, a bunch of flowers won’t make everything better, but it can make your loved one smile, and let them know you're there for them. Whether you've got a family member who's just been given a diagnosis, or a friend who is starting their breast cancer treatment, we asked experts and breast cancer survivors to share their top gift ideas.
If you want to support breast cancer awareness and research, see our round-ups of stylish breast cancer awareness t-shirts to support a great cause and gorgeous breast cancer awareness products for beauty lovers.
1. A curated box
Fill a gift box with your loved one's favorite things or practical items to use during their treatment. Think puzzle books and journals for long treatment days, or comfortable loungewear and cashmere socks for hospital stays. Add a thoughtful touch with a few of their favorite snacks or homemade treats, and anything else you think will make them smile.
If you're unable to see them, you can send them a pre-made gift box from a brand like Little Lifts. Founded by Oa Hackett after her own breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 28, a Little Lifts box is filled with specially selected products to provide practical and emotional support for breast cancer patients. Eco-friendly, ethically sourced, and organic, each box contains at least 25 items such as soothing heat packs and ice lolly molds to gentle body lotions and mindfulness puzzles.
Created by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the HOPE kits are filled with products cancer patients have told the foundation they find comforting during treatment. Inside, they'll find cosmetics, educational resources, and journaling essentials. The best part? When you buy a HOPE kit for your loved one, you also give one to a woman in need for free.
2. A voucher for something they love
Whether it's a facial at their favorite spa (using products that are safe for those having breast cancer treatment) or a Zoom yoga class, a voucher can give your loved one something to look forward to and the opportunity to indulge in an activity they love or have always wanted to try.
"Studies have shown that Pilates can help to relieve the impact of breast cancer-related symptoms and any type of physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer and improves outcomes for those who have been diagnosed with the disease. So our suggestion would be to gift someone with a voucher for Pilates sessions," says Thalie Martini CEO of Breast Cancer UK.
The Yoga Rooms offer in-person and virtual yoga and Pilates classes, and workshops for all levels. There's everything from Saturday morning Pilates technique courses and Sunday Vinyasa Flow classes, for all levels from beginner to pro. Classes cost $10/£10 and you can gift your loved one a voucher for up to 6 classes.
3. Safe-to-use beauty treats
"When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was advised to use mild and skin-friendly products on my skin, but quickly realized this wasn't an easy task," says Nevo Burrell, Hair & Image Advisor at Perci Health. Doing some research and curating a box of safe-to-use beauty treats can be a thoughtful way to introduce your loved one to new alternative beauty products they can use for some R&R or an instant pick-me-up.
"We're all unique, therefore, we react to treatments differently. But the common complaints during active cancer treatment are dry and itchy skin, soreness, redness, and flakiness. With this in mind some key ingredients to avoid are: Talc, parabens, phthalates, petrolatum, mineral oil, synthetic fragrance, BHA/BHT, propylene glycol, PEG's, D4, D5, D6, and chemical screens," advises Burrell.
Instead, she suggests gentle, non-abrasive, and fragrance-free products with ingredients such as Vitamin E, Glycerine, and Sunflower Oil. Her favorites include Palmers Coconut Monoi Cleansing Balm, Jennifer Young Sandalwood & Neroli Moisturiser and Itchy Skin Oil, La Roache Posay Rosaliac UV Riche Anti-Redness Moisturiser, Ilia Beauty Multi-Stick, and MooGoo Oncology Care Pack.
"I remember this product from the early days of my own treatment. The oils worked brilliantly and I've had so much positive feedback from clients who have used it," Burrell says of the Jennifer Young Itchy Skin Oil. The brand promises the product will relieve itchy and tight skin that those receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy often experience.
4. Prepared food boxes
Batch-cooking, filling their fridge, or sending your friend a food box full of their favorite fresh food and store cupboard essentials, is a practical yet thoughtful way to show you are there for them during this difficult time.
For many, cooking is the last thing on their mind when they've just been given a breast cancer diagnosis or are going through treatment. Sending them a selection of frozen nutritious meals gives them an easy, effort-free way to fuel their body. Better yet, offer to go to their home and cook them a delicious meal with plenty of leftovers that can be frozen. If they've already got someone cooking for them, instead send a food gift box or a selection of their favorite snacks.
COOK's Pots for One are nutritionist-approved frozen dishes that can be popped in the microwave and ready to eat in minutes. The brand has made sure the meals only have a third of the daily Reference Intake of fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Each meal costs £4, or you can purchase a meal box and get 15 meals for £60.
5. A listening ear
Everyone will cope with a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment differently. "There are no right or wrong feelings to have," says Grete Brauten-Smith, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Now. Some people may be in shock, some may feel angry or anxious while others can experience a numb feeling. "Some people might feel like they need to put on a brave face for family, friends, and even for the doctors and nurses looking after them. Others prefer to share their feelings and draw strength and support from people close to them," explains Brauten-Smith.
Either way, knowing you're there to listen if they want to talk can go a long way. Showing up for your loved one during this time is most important, and that can look different for everyone. You could drop by with a bag of groceries, call them on the phone, ask if they'd like to have a movie night or join you on a Zoom quiz, or you can send them a handwritten letter—sometimes writing how you feel can be easier than saying it out loud.
At the same time, if your loved one isn't ready to open up, don't push them. Instead, if you're worried they aren't talking about how they feel, gift them a journal or diary so they have a place to write down their thoughts when they're ready. Journals with suggestions of what to write or daily questions can provide prompts for them to explore their feelings if the prospect of a blank notepad feels daunting.
w&h thanks Grete Brauten-Smith, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Breast Cancer Now, Thalie Martini CEO of Breast Cancer UK, Nevo Burrell, Hair & Image Advisor at Perci Health, and Eleanor Howie founder of Valiant Lingerie for their time, expertise and suggestions.
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Ciara McGinley is a meditation practitioner and health journalist. She qualified as a meditation teacher with the British School of Meditation in 2020 and is the founder of Finding Quiet, a series of classes, workshops and retreats that combine meditation practices and mindfulness techniques to make mindful living realistic in an always-switched-on modern world. She is all about bettering that mind-body connection but believes wellness looks different to everyone.
Ciara is also the former Health Channel Editor at woman&home and has covered all things health and wellbeing for years, from fitness to sleep to relationships.
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