The Holidays with Cancer

If you or a loved one is fighting cancer during the holidays, this can be an especially difficult time of year. Traditions may need to be changed, or you may feel too sick to participate in some events, or you may find it difficult to eat your favorite holiday foods. The holiday season can be stressful for even healthy people, and can be even more so if you are dealing with cancer treatment. Here are some tips to help you deal with the stress and emotions that come with cancer during the holidays.

  • Allow yourself to experience your feelings, whether they are joyful or sad.
  • Make sure to take extra good care of yourself. This is a stressful time, and eating balanced meals, sleeping regularly, and exercising when possible may be helpful in alleviating that stress.
  • Pamper yourself. Take a bath, read a good book, enjoy some of your favorite foods.
  • If you are struggling with depression, try to distract yourself with pleasant activities. Do a holiday craft, see a movie, or just have a nice chat with an old friend.
  • Prepare yourself. The holidays are easier for some cancer patients to handle when they have a plan. Consider which traditions you would like to honor, and which may need to be changed so that you aren’t surprised by any events or circumstances (if you can avoid it).
  • Rely on your support system. Friends and family want to help you enjoy the holiday season, so accept that help when you need it.
  • Learn to say no. You don’t need to be a part of every gathering—people will understand.
  • Don’t pressure yourself to do everything you used to do during the holidays.
  • Don’t try to force emotions you aren’t feeling naturally. Likewise, try not to dwell on negative emotions too much
  • Pace yourself.
  • Maintain your routine.

If you find that you are really struggling, enlist the support of your care team. Social workers and mental health specialists may be able to offer you advice or just an impartial ear to bend. Also try a support group of other cancer patients and survivors—they will understand how you are feeling more than even your closest “healthy” friends.