18 Gift Ideas for Families Dealing With a Cancer Diagnosis


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It’s challenging to know what to say to someone with a sick family member. After all, what do you say to someone whose whole world has been turned on its side? 

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You may be afraid of saying the wrong thing. You know you shouldn’t offer treatment advice or compare someone else’s experience with cancer to theirs. You also understand that you shouldn’t promise that “everything will be ok,” when you don’t know if it will or not. 

Instead of saying anything, you may choose to show your support by giving a present to the family. Here are some ideas of gifts for families who are struggling with a health crisis.

Gift Ideas for Families With a Parent Diagnosed With Cancer

It’s one thing to find appropriate gifts for cancer patients, but it may be even more challenging to find something to give to the whole family. It may be especially tricky if there are various age groups represented in the family or different likes and interests. Here are some family gift ideas to consider.

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1. Home-cooked meal

Even if mom or dad are feeling bad, the family still needs to eat. We know that this is not an earth-shattering idea, but providing a struggling family with a home-cooked meal is one of the nicest things you could do for them. 

Ask about likes and dislikes, allergies, and food sensitivities before planning the meal. Tell whether you will be delivering the food hot and ready to eat or ready to be baked. And don’t forget to prepare the dish in containers that you don’t want back.

If you can't be there in-person, consider sending gift cards to a grocery store like Whole Foods or Safeway.

2. Home cleaning service

It’s hard to keep a home clean when a family member has cancer. Suddenly there is more to do in less time. Consider purchasing a gift card to a reputable, local home cleaning service for the family.

They may appreciate this offer instead of you showing up with buckets and brooms. They may feel weird having someone they know cleaning their shower and toilets. 

3. Hospital treats

If the family is spending a lot of time in hospital rooms and treatment centers, consider packing a tote bag with granola bars, packages of trail mix, and pieces of fruit. Alternatively, you can ship them a box of treats. We like this charcuterie and cheese gift box or this healthy snack box from Amazon.

Hospital snacks can be pricey, and the family will appreciate having a ready-made bag of treats to take on each of the appointments.

4. Books about cancer

If the family has young children, the parents may be struggling with how to describe the illness and treatments. Thankfully, there are many quality children’s books written about the subject.

Consider purchasing some of those titles or other books about dealing with cancer. You'll also want to think about the family’s spiritual beliefs before purchasing titles that offer a specific perspective.

We recommend The Upside of Cancer and When Breath Becomes Air.

5. Escape room gift certificate

It’s important for families dealing with cancer to take time for fun. Escape rooms are great family activities that don’t require a lot of physical activity, which may be exhausting for a cancer patient. Escape Rooms are also great because they don’t require immunocompromised individuals to intermingle with the general public.

Ask the escape room employees to sanitize the room ahead of the session. Most escape rooms are designed with teenagers and adults in mind, so this may not be an appropriate gift for families with young children.

If you can't make it to the escape room, consider sending some puzzle books, like sudoku, crossword puzzles, and others.

6. Board games

Consider purchasing board games for the family, especially ones that are quick and easy. Pay attention to the recommended age range of the games, so you buy something that is appropriate for the entire family.

But, everybody loves games like Uno, Sorry, or Monopoly.

7. Kids day out

Treat the kids of the family to a day out in the community. Take them to the zoo, an amusement park, or a trampoline park. The children of the family are going through a traumatic experience.

Give them something else to think about for the day. This gift will also give the parents time for uninterrupted, guilt-free rest.

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8. Movie gift certificates

Purchase gift certificates for a local movie theater for the family. Parents can choose whether or not they would like to use the gift certificates as a family activity, or something special for just the kids to enjoy.

Again, even those who are struggling physically can usually enjoy a movie. Pair the gift with the family’s favorite movie snack.

If they can't get to the movie, consider buying them a subscription to a streaming service like Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu.

9. Fruit arrangements

Consider delivering a fruit arrangement to the family. The whole family will enjoy feasting on healthy, attractive fruit.

It’s more practical than a floral arrangement and is packed full of healthy vitamins. 

You can even send a dried fruit arrangement on Amazon, like this dried fruit platter.

Gift Ideas for Families With a Child Diagnosed With Cancer

A childhood cancer diagnosis can devastate a family. You may struggle to remain upbeat and send a positive message for the cancer patient when a child has to undergo painful treatments. 

Since many of us don’t know what to say during these difficult situations, here are some gifts to consider giving to the family. 

10. Stuffed animals

Purchase a gift certificate so each child in the family can build a stuffed animal.

Even though it would add to the cost of the gift, allowing each child their own stuffed animal is important. After all, all the siblings are going through a traumatic event, as well as the patient.

Or, you can consider getting the child a stuffed animal of their own, like a cute stuffed animal bunny or another cute stuffed animal.

11. Gift certificates for restaurants

It’s difficult for parents who are going through a traumatic event to keep their heads above water.

Parents who have sick children have no time to cook nightly meals. Assist the family by purchasing gift cards to local restaurants. This is a thoughtful gift that you can give from afar.

12. Frozen treats

What kid doesn’t like a popsicle? Popsicles are also great treats for cancer patients who are undergoing treatment.

Check with the parents to see if there are any dietary restrictions, and then purchase a ton of frozen treats to be enjoyed by the entire family. Don’t forget to make sure the family has freezer space before inundating them with your gift. 

13. Zoo membership

An ill child may struggle to spend an entire day at a zoo or amusement park. If the family had a membership, they could go for a couple of hours at a time and not worry about wasting money from paying for frequent admissions.

You may also consider purchasing a membership to a children’s museum or play center as well. 

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14. Form a team for the child

Most childhood cancer research organizations have walks or runs in major cities across the country.

Check to see when one is scheduled in your community and form a team to participate in honor of the child. Design special t-shirts and encourage others in the community to join. 

15. Balloons

Purchase a ton of helium balloons (you can get them in bulk on Amazon) and ask family members and friends to write positive messages on them. Decorate the child’s home with these colorful reminders of support and encouragement.

A house filled with balloons would be beautiful to return to after an extended stay in the hospital.

16. Streaming video service

Check with the family to see whether or not they have a streaming video service. Consider purchasing one for all the members of the family to enjoy.

Most services allow you to buy gift subscriptions, like Disney Plus or Amazon Prime.

17. Small cooler full of drinks

Fill a small cooler with ice and drinks for the family to transport to and from the hospital. Periodically stop by to refill the container with ice and favorite beverages.

Include a permanent marker in the bag so the family members can mark their individual containers. 

18. Money

The mom or dad may have a difficult time working during a traumatic event such as a childhood cancer diagnosis. Consider giving the family gift cards or money to help pay for the extra expenses they will encounter.

Cancer can be financially devastating, so any financial help that you can give them would be appreciated. 

Offer Your Support In Other Ways

Some of the best gifts that you can give may have little to do with the items that you purchase. You can always show support for a family in ways that don’t cost money.

Do things around the house for the family. Mow their grass, plant annuals, and weed flower beds. Shovel the snow during the winter and salt the ice. Scrape the windows of the car in the mornings the patient has treatments. 

Organize a carpool so the healthy children can get rides to and from school and practice.

Volunteer to be the communication director for the family. Write a blog or text to share with subscribers.

If the family has specific spiritual beliefs, offer to pray with the family.

Sometimes people walk a fine line between being helpful and being obtrusive. While you should consider saying, “I’m bringing a ready-to-eat meal at five tonight,” instead of “let me know if you need anything,” you also need to give families space.

Sometimes people are also quick to help at the beginning of a diagnosis but forget about the family who is still struggling months later. You may consider holding back on your help at first, and then jumping in when others disappear.

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