Thoughtful Father’s Day Gifts for Dads Battling Cancer

Melanie Ball with her father

Every year, stores gear advertisements toward Father’s Day shoppers.

Store owners design displays to draw in the average customer looking for the perfect gift for the father figure in their life.

Sometimes, patrons come across grills and patio furniture strategically arranged to remind them of the perfect barbecue with dad. Other stores build power tool displays that make shoppers consider the “Mr. Fix-It” side of dad.

Retailers present their merchandise in ways that appeal to the average American father.

Unfortunately, these ads might mislead shoppers searching for a gift for a cancer patient. People undergoing cancer treatments might not feel like using a gas grill or power tools.

Choosing the right gift for a loved one might require careful reflection and consideration.

Gifts My Father Loved

I grew up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, and we were blessed to be a middle-class family.

My family didn’t buy fancy, elaborate gifts for each other. When I was little, my sister and I made gifts for Father’s Day. Our creations usually sparked discrete giggles from our parents.

Mom and Dad found humor in gag gifts, as well.

On more than one occasion we surprised Dad by wrapping things he already owned, such as his wallet or his car keys. It became a family tradition that Dad always got a box of Alka-Seltzer tablets — which he thought cured everything — for Christmas and Father’s Day.

Our silly presents touched Dad’s heart as much as those we’d carefully chosen.

My brother bought Dad a pocket watch one year, and opening it brought Dad to tears. Another time, Mom got him a set of picture frames. She filled the frames with photos of his recently deceased brother before wrapping them. Her gift also moved him to tears.

It was gifts from the heart — not high-price items — that meant the most to my father.

Consider Preference and Physical Ability

Dad was never a tie or cufflinks kind of guy. In his prime, he anticipated opening a power drill or a new pair of work boots.

His preferences changed a bit when doctors diagnosed him with mesothelioma. Finding something he liked and could actually use required a bit more effort. He no longer used power tools and had no use for steel-toed boots.

My family discussed gift ideas before any of us went Father’s Day shopping. We knew we wanted to stay away from house shoes, robes and pajamas.

Those items reminded us that he was battling cancer. You’re sick was not the statement we wanted our gifts to make. We thought a more meaningful gift might take Dad’s mind off his illness, even for just a little while.

We wanted to buy something Dad would enjoy, but also a gift he had the physical capacity to use. We brainstormed several ideas until we settled on the right one.

That year, we created a photo album containing 20 years of family photos.

And, of course, we didn’t forget the Alka-Seltzer.

Gift Ideas for Your Loved One on Father’s Day

Ignoring a loved one’s needs and preferences might lead to ill-thought gift purchases.

A few patient-friendly gift ideas include:

  • Personal Hygiene Items: Most people like electric toothbrushes. They require less effort than manual brushes and are much more efficient. Considering cancer patients may not feel like shaving with a razor, an electric trimmer or shaver might make the process a little easier. It might add a smile to dad’s face, too.
  • Portable Drink Coolers: When loved ones travel to and from lengthy oncology appointments for treatments, having cold drinks and snacks can be a lifesaver. A backpack drink cooler is easy to tote and a gift most patients would find useful.
  • Pocket Knives: The men in my family enjoy collecting pocket knives. More ornate blades are usually sold as collectibles, but other knives are more purposeful. My father always carried one in his pocket. Even after he got sick, he still enjoyed whittling sticks of cedar on the front porch with his favorite knife.
  • Books: If your loved one is an avid reader, they already know a good book can take a person anywhere they’d like to go. With a little research, you can discover your loved one’s favorite genre and use it to take their mind off their illness. Audio and e-books are also great choices for those who don’t want to carry around heavy books.
  • Movies: If the man in your life feels well enough, catching a flick together might be a relaxing getaway. If going to the theater is not an option, a Netflix subscription is a great alternative. With more than 13,000 titles, Netflix is sure to have something for everyone.
  • Smart Watch: It seems that smart watches are one of the greatest gifts technology has to offer these days. With many different brands and functions, a smart watch can be a great gadget to distract patients from long waits in doctor offices. There are countless applications that users can download instantly and enjoy.
  • Create a Legacy Keepsake: Reflecting on precious memories and crafting a legacy keepsake is a meaningful way to create a gift your loved one is sure to enjoy. The end result isn’t just a present, but a loving memory for the whole family. Quality family time is a gift itself.
  • When we really think about it, the best present a person can give someone battling cancer is the reassurance that they have the love and support of those around them.


    Melanie is currently pursuing a Master's degree at the University of the Cumberlands. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Phoenix. Her father was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1992. She is dedicated to writing about her unique experience with the rare disease.

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