50 Thoughtful Gift Ideas & Gestures for a Friend in Need

You get the phone call or email that a friend has just been diagnosed with [insert crappy diagnosis here] and you don’t know what to do. Do you call? If you call, what do you say? You opt not to call because:

1. You aren’t sure you should know.
2. You don’t know what you would say because you haven’t been in their shoes.
3. Or your friend must be swamped and you don’t want to bother her.

So, how then do you help a sick friend?

I get it. Crappy life situations lead to hard conversations. Not knowing what to expect or say often leaves many speechless. This is uncomfortable. From my experience, I truly appreciated the simple gestures made by friends near and far when I was diagnosed and re-diagnosed with cancer. Those that reached out without expecting me to return a call or email promptly made me smile. Those that proactively came up with ideas on how to help me so I didn’t have to ask were greatly appreciated and utilized. And those that came and sat with me and kept returning were my lifelines.

If I were to get on my soapbox and make a blanket statement about what somebody should do when they find out their friend is sick, I would say, “Know your audience.” How does your friend like to communicate? What might make her smile? Spending a few extra minutes to send a thoughtful package could literally make a stressed out, tired and anxious friend, who is too busy for visitors, laugh. Sending an email to a sick health-conscious friend about your interest in helping her research healthy food delivery services might relieve her tremendously.

So, in an effort to share my experiences as both the sick friend and the friend of someone sick, here is a list of my ideas.

50 Thoughtful Ideas and Gestures for a Friend in Need

Tried and True Idea:

1. A handwritten note by mail every week. Just letting her know you are thinking of her is priceless.

Creative Ideas:

2. Create a playlist with upbeat songs and burn them to a CD or gift them on iTunes.
3. Drawings, poems or art projects made by your kids.
4. A goofy limerick written by you or a comedian.
5. A video card. Have one person pick a song and ask friends to dance or sing to it. Have one person pull all videos together (iMovie) and send one video card. This can be done with kids, too.
6. A collage of old and new personal photos.
7. A collage from magazines of inside jokes or funny heartthrobs from childhood.
8. Come up with a weekly text theme. Send a funny memory via email or text on Throwback Thursday.

Comfort Clothes & Food Ideas:

9. A basket of juicy magazines.
10. New cute pajamas.
11. New yoga/sweat pants.
12. A basket full of organic teas or coffees.
13. A fruit bouquet from Edible Arrangements.
14. An organic fruit subscription.
15. A wine membership from California Wine Clubs.
16. Your favorite humorous book on CD or iTunes.
17. Yoga or exercise DVDs.
18. Goofy fun socks (Wonder Woman, neon high socks.)
19. An herb, tomato or small vegetable potted plant.
20. Soups. Cook or buy so that she can freeze.

Thoughtful Gift Card Ideas:

21. An iTunes gift card with a note listing your favorite happy songs.
22. An iTunes, Best Buy or Amazon gift card with a list of your all time favorite silly, funny, ridiculous movies to make her laugh.
23. An iTunes gift card with a list of apps that you like and think she would enjoy.
24. A grocery store gift card – one with online ordering and delivery.
25. A gift certificate to a local restaurant that delivers.

Family Gift Ideas:

26. Toys, books or any present for her child.
27. A favorite family board game.
28. A few different decks of cards including family favorites like Uno or personalized playing cards.
29. A yearly magazine subscription.
30. A Netflix subscription.
31. HBO or other TV series DVD box sets.

How to Help Ideas – Living Nearby:

32. Give her an option of a few days when you could come over and babysit or make dinner.
33. Give her an option of a few days when you will come over to tidy the house or do laundry.
34. Offer to do her specialty shopping (ex: Whole Foods, Target, etc.)
35. Organize a dinner caravan (if she wants it) – where neighbors and friends drop by to deliver food.
36. Offer to make her kid(s) lunch daily if your kids go to school together.
37. Offer to take her to a makeup boutique and get a cancer makeover (finding makeup to help accentuate her beauty while going through treatment.)
38. Play chauffeur to help grocery shop, run errands, or pick up a child.
39. Offer to attend meetings/doc appointments that her family can’t attend.

How to Help Ideas – Living Far:

40. Offer to be her chief researcher. What is she interested to learn more about to help with her treatment? (ex: good foods to eat after surgery, radiation side effects) She can then present these findings to her doctor to inquire more.
41. Offer to create a list of companies that support her hospital or the particular diagnosis. She might want to buy more Yoplait yogurt because they support breast cancer research organizations.
42. Organize a cleaning service like to clean her house.

Practical and Pretty Good Gift Ideas:

43. Buy or make a beautiful scarf (especially if she will go through chemo.)
44. Buy or make a cozy blanket.
45. A juicer machine or Vitamix for simple clean eating at home.
46. Hire a personal trainer to go to her house (or put together several YouTube Videos with simple workouts to increase energy and optimal health.)
47. If your company has extra “items” ranging from food to T-shirts, send a huge box so that she can bring a care packages to her appointments and “wow” her doctors.
48. Donate to a charity in her honor.
49. A good luck charm to bring to appointments. Mine is a Yoda Keychain.
50. A beautiful notebook, journal or binder to store all appointment information.

Need some more ideas? Check out Happiness through Hardship-The Podcast mini-episodes about cancer. Our second mini-episode is about what to say, do or gift for a friend diagnosed with cancer.

Want a practical gift for a friend or family member in need?

Your purchase of Happiness Through Hardship: will support metastatic breast cancer research through The Cancer Couch Foundation. Happiness Through Hardship: A Guide and Journal for Cancer Patients, Their Caregivers and Friends During an Initial Diagnosis can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and This book is dedicated to three angels, Ellen, Mary Ann and Meghan for guiding me through my first few weeks of diagnosis.

Looking for a speaker to inspire your organization or business team? Hire me to present or facilitate a seminar on resiliency, positivity or wellness in the workplace. Check out my business website and demo reel at I can be reached at [email protected].

Some of my favorite gift ideas now:


This post may contain affiliate links meaning I may receive a commission with no costs to you. I pro-actively try various products and then affiliate myself with these items that I already use and love.