Etiquette question- sending gift to cousin in chemo?

My cousin (technically my dad’s 1st cousin, so she is my 1st cousin once removed) started chemotherapy on 5/30/14. She lives about 90 minutes away and I don’t see her very often but I am close to her mother and one of her brothers who live near me. I was very close to her when I was young (she is 54 and I’m 39 now) and when we do see one another, I enjoy it very much and I genuinely love her and tell her that.

I was planning to send her a card this week just to let her know that she is on my heart and in my thoughts. I also plan to cook dinner and take to her and her family (husband and two teenagers) after a chemo treatment in the next few weeks.

Instead of a card, I decided to send a box of Royal Riviera Pears from Harry & David with a brief note saying that I am thinking of her and I love her. If you aren’t familiar with H&D Royal Riviera Pears, they are the sweetest, juiciest most wonderful pear in the known universe! With an online sale and a free shipping coupon, I sent a dozen for $29.99.

Does that seem like an appropriate gift to send in this situation? I knew flowers would be a bad idea because a lot of chemo patients are very sensitive to smells. But I thought this was something healthy that the whole family could enjoy and it’s not something you can get at a local store.


Seems like a thoughtful enough gift to me. Even if they don’t like pears, I expect most reasonable people would appreciate the sentiment.

Thanks, that was kinda what I thought.

BTW, these pears are like heroin…not like any normal pear! :smiley:

Chemotherapy frequently causes loss of appetite and nausea. She may not eat them.

Unfortunately, I’ve been down this road with another cousin who was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer in 2010. Nausea and vomiting are common with chemotherapy but good nutrition really helps if possible. Her doctor has already prescribed a strong anti-nausea medication so hopefully that will help with the worst of it…

Having recently spent a whole lotta time with my Mom as she went through chemo, I’d shy away from any food gifts at all. Everyone takes it differently, but I’d err on the side of assuming her appetite isn’t very big.

For my Mom, it was worst a day or two after chemo, but even in between treatments she couldn’t eat much. Her digestion was off, lots of stuff (especially fruit) caused problems that I will spare you the details of, and often food simply didn’t taste good to her (chemo often affects your tastebuds.)

I’d shy away from fruit in general, and food if you could. Maybe a box of candy, small bits, so she had a treat when she did feel like eating. Flowers never bugged my Mom, though she got way too many of them.

Honestly, cards with a heartfelt notes is what really perked her up. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it meant a lot to know that people were thinking of her.

During my treatments(and there are many different ones), nothing went in my mouth for five months and most of what went into my feeding tube came right back up. I really enjoyed cards and visits from people even though I wasn’t the best company at the time. A meal for the family to help may be a great idea.

I sent my mothers bf a fruit basket, Edible Arrangements. I didn’t know he couldn’t eat it but he still appreciated the thought and his family enjoyed it.

Even if she doesn’t eat it, the family probably will, and its the thought that counts.

Hand lotions (chemo is bad for your skin) - unscented (chemo makes you sensitive to smell), scarves and hats for women (at this time of year, a sunhat - I’ve done “chemo showers” - where everyone brings a hat or a scarf - if you do it, keep it short and at whatever point in her chemo she feels best - but most people want to know that people care about them more than anything - a lot of “friends” suddenly disappear), helpful help (with a husband and two teenagers, a visit that involves you using the vacuum and cleaning up the dishes lying around - or cleaning out the fridge before some of the food becomes sentient - might be very appreciated), relaxing music, and stupid movies (ones that don’t involve a lot of thought and are fun - it isn’t the time for Schindlers List)

Just wanted to add little things can mean the most. My wife and daughter had tickets to an event and I couldn’t really be left alone. My friend came over and babysat me. She watched TV in one room while I was in another. I was only able to speak about two sentences to her all night but having her there gave me great peace of mind. Best thing anyone has ever done for me.

Ask what kind of help they want/need and then do it, that is a great gift.

FYI, fresh fruits and vegetables are sometimes verboten during chemo, especially if unpeeled. Depends on the doctor, but someone I know wasn’t allowed to eat them for weeks after. Not that a gift isn’t a nice thought. If you definitely want food to be the choice, maybe some nice peppermint or ginger candy? These have anti-nausea qualities.

Entertainment is a better choice, IMO. A book to pass the time sitting around in medical offices, or an iTunes card to buy some mobile games or other entertainment, is nice. Being sick is often pretty boring.

FWIW, I bought myself a box of those pears for Christmas and they really ripped through my stomach :frowning: I looked around online and found info on fructose malabsorbtion. I guess the ratio of fructose to glucose in pears is kind of high, and even higher in these sweet, sweet H&D pears.

But it’s definitely the thought that counts. Seems like she won’t be eating much of anything at all, anyway.

I vote no on fresh fruits. Depending on the type of chemo, your immune system may be suppressed and fresh fruits can carry bugs that can make people sick. That is why many hospital ICUs will not allow fresh fruits or flowers. As noted above, she may not be allowed anything that can’t be peeled.

If this ever comes up again I would recommend checking with the sick person to see if they can eat and be around fresh fruit, but since these pears are already sent I wouldn’t worry about it.
Even if she can’t eat them, she’ll probably appreciate your thoughtfulness and appreciate that the family can enjoy them.

And, hey, hopefully she will be able to eat those pears. Not everyone who is on chemo becomes terribly nauseated or neutropenic (that is why some chemo patients are banned from things like fresh fruit - neutropenia, which means you are very vulnerable to infection because of low white blood cells). Some chemotherapy medications are more likely to cause these side effects than others are, and so fortunately some people can still have a very normal quality of life while on chemo.
While certainly nobody wants to be on chemotherapy, it is not always relentlessly horrible. My mother was able to make several trips out of state with me while she was on chemo for terminal cancer.