What to give a sick friend this Christmas.

Emma Betts is 24. She’s a wife, a daughter, a sister, a crazy dog-lady, a lover of pavlova, a former international aid and development worker, and current writer/blogger/advocate. She also has terminal melanoma and writes a blog called Dear Melanoma. 

The Dear Melanoma Facebook Page went off last night. I felt like I was back to the evening when we had a mighty fine conversation about the stupid things people like to tell someone who has cancer – what a hilarious night it was! Last night I asked the Dear Melanoma community what they think should be in a ‘care package’ for people with cancer.

How did this come about? Well, as many of you know, I work one day a week at a fab little gift shop in Brisbane. I often have people come in to work and ask for advice on what to give a friend who is sick and I normally just point them in the right direction and make some suggestions. I often will not tell them my personal situation.

However, on Monday a lady came in and asked for help – she wanted to put a care package together for a friend who was about to start chemo. She was at a complete loss of how to support her friend and this was the perfect thing to show her love and support.

I don’t know what it was about this lady, but I told her I was undergoing treatment for cancer. I was enthusiastic about the idea of putting together a box of goodies for a lady I had never met, but felt an amazing connection with. So off we went for a wander around the shop choosing some great gifts and we also discussed some other items that were, in my opinion, essentials (i.e a colouring book and green sparkly slippers!).


So as promised, here is a very long list of my ideas, as well as the fabulous ideas that YOU have shared.

– Adult colouring in books and pencils
– Journal
– Gratitude book (I completely failed at completing a gratitude book, but has worked for lots of friends)
– iTunes, amazon, book vouchers
– Slippers
– Blankets
– Hot water bottle to get those veins working

My must haves for treatment!

– Magazines
– Moo Goo (especially for patients going through radiation)
– Lip balm
– Mints
– Hand cream
– Crossword/Sudoku books
– Munchies (chocolate, lollies etc)
– Comfortable earphones
– Crochet/knitting materials
– Herbal tea bags
– Eye mask
– A pair of fab PJs for those overnight stays
– Dressing gown
– Plastic cutlery to help with the metallic taste some chemos give
– Candle (scents that aren’t too strong)
– Soap, bath bomb, bath salts for post treatment relaxation
– Pamper vouchers (massage, pedi, mani etc)
– Pre-paid internet stick
– Home cooked meals for extended hospital visits or for home

The fabulous Eb & Ive dress.

– A dress that works with IV lines and any other lines coming out of your body. I left this one until last because it is by far the best gift I have been given for extended hospital stays (thank you to my darling sister!). I was given a fab Eb & Ive maxi dress before I had my lymph nodes removed.

As you can see from the picture the tie up at the top of the dress allows you to undo it and dodge your IV line or drains. I had my drain under my arm for two weeks and it was limiting! A dress is also fab for other reasons – sometimes your body just doesn’t agree with you and you have to have some tubes up places that you don’t want to think about. PANTS DON’T WORK PEOPLE. Look for dresses and nighties – avoid pants.

Emma Betts
Emma Betts. Image: Supplied.

I thank you for sharing all these wonderful suggestions because I know there have been people following the Facebook post who have found it really helpful. You have made a big difference!

This has been an idea that has loosely been floating around my little head for a while now, but the last week has been a bit of a whirlwind and this idea has gained momentum. An idea has flourished into something much more than just an idea. There are many amazing businesses that already provide similar packages or donate goodies to hospitals to make the lives of people with cancer easier, but I have been talking to some pretty fab people and will be turning this idea into a little project.


On Monday, I loved the feeling that I indirectly helped someone. I know that when this lady receives her gift from her friend that it is going to bring a smile to her face and will continue to. Having cancer is nothing short of shit and every smile counts.

I also felt I was giving relief to a friend that was helpless. We often forget how challenging it is to be a partner, family member, or a friend to someone that is faced with chronic illness. You don’t want to put your big fat foot into it and make the person feel worse and some times you straight out don’t know what to do.

I want to make this easier. I want to do the hard work for you.

Stay tuned and I look forward to sharing with you my grand plans and news from my meetings.

This post was originally published on Dear Melanoma on September 8th, 2015 and has been republished here with full permission. Since publishing this post in September, Emma is excited to announce that the idea of the ‘care package’ has grown into a business. Emma will be launching her business ‘Love, Emma’ in the New Year. ‘Love, Emma’ is an online shop that allows you to select the perfect gift with confidence that the products have been hand selected by someone who understands the struggles of long-term illness and hardship. 

You can find Love, Emma at their website and on Facebook and Instagram.