Even people in perfect health often feel exhausted and overwhelmed during the holiday season; that feeling is often magnified when you’re battling cancer. You may not have the stamina to battle Black Friday crowds, deck the halls and entertain as lavishly as you have in years past, and that’s OK. If you’re a cancer patient try not to overexert yourself, but don’t isolate yourself either. Here are six ways cancer patients can manage and even enjoy the holidays.
1. Accept Help
When you were diagnosed with cancer and going through cancer treatment, you were probably inundated with offers of help and support. Now is the time to accept those offers. Whether you need help hanging Christmas lights or wrapping gifts, don’t hesitate to ask friends, neighbors and family members for help. Most people will feel honored that you asked, and you’ll probably enjoy both their help and their company.
2. Tweak Traditions
It’s easy to become caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and become overwhelmed. This year, try to focus on the underlying reason for your traditions: Celebrating relationships and enjoying spending time with loved ones. If your tradition involves gathering the family for Christmas dinner, you can achieve that without spending hours in the kitchen. Ask each guest to bring a dish and have a pot-luck, have the meal catered, meet at a restaurant or go to someone else’s house.
3. Let Your Fingers Do the Shopping
One of the most daunting aspects of the holidays is battling traffic and crowds to buy gifts. You certainly don’t have to buy gifts. If you want to though, consider shopping online. You’ll save time and energy, and you’ll probably also save money. Visit sites such as Retailmenot.com, Offers.com, and freeshipping.org for online coupon codes. Another benefit of online shopping is that many sites offer a gift wrapping option. You can buy your gift and arrange to have it wrapped and shipped directly to your loved one.
4. Carve Out Time for Yourself
It’s easy to become overwhelmed during the holidays, so take care of yourself by taking breaks to recharge your batteries. Take a walk, take a bath or take a nap. This is a good idea for cancer patients, even when it’s not the holidays. But it’s almost critical during the holiday season.
If it becomes clear the festivities will carry on into the wee hours, it’s OK to excuse yourself and make an early exit. If you’ve accepted an invitation but aren’t feeling well, feel free to send your regrets at the last minute. The holiday season is a marathon, not a sprint. Make your health top priority.
5. You Don’t Have to be Cheerful All the Time
When you have cancer, that fact is always on your mind. For most people, the holiday season is a time for reflection. As a cancer patient, it’s only natural that you’ll mourn your life before cancer and feel anxiety about the future. Anger, sadness and frustration are common, understandable emotions that don’t go away during the holidays. Express your feelings, as your honesty gives your loved ones permission to express their feelings, too. Cancer is a terrible disease, and it’s cathartic to acknowledge that. It’s OK to laugh and to cry.
6. Celebrate Life, Love and Happiness
You have cancer, but cancer does not define you. Celebrate and enjoy your life. Whether you spend time with friends and loved ones, volunteer to help others or meditate in preparation for a brand new year, take time during the holiday season to celebrate all the wonderful things about your life.
For ideas and tips on how to connect with loved ones during the holidays when you can't be there in person, read our blog.
Originally posted November 2016. Updated November 2018.