This time of year can be difficult if you’re having treatment for cancer. The celebrations, parties, visits with family and friends, shopping, travel, eating and drinking can all be a bit much. Let’s face it, even without cancer it can be utterly exhausting! But if you’re undergoing/recovering from cancer treatment you may not feel physically or emotionally able to join in.
If you are finding the whole season a bit daunting, here are a few suggestions that might make it easier.
It’s important to be realistic about what you’ll be able to cope with over the holidays. You may have less energy than usual, so think about how to spend that energy wisely.
Your friends and family will understand if you can’t make it to every party or invite everyone over to see you. Make a list of all the things you’d like to attend or do and then cross out half of them, that way you’ll end up with a list you are more likely able to manage and it’ll just be the things you really want to do!
If you usually host the celebrations, why not ask someone else to do it this year, or even go to a restaurant instead? Or if you’re having treatment during the holidays, why not keep celebrations small and have a bigger celebration at the end of treatment when you may feel more able to enjoy it.
If you can at all, avoid long journeys. Travel is very tiring and it may even be something your medical team doesn’t want you to do. With modern technology you can still be part of celebrations even if they’re far away, so arrange to Skype, Facetime or have a telephone call during the party so that you can be part of it without the five-hour car journey!
Choose the traditions that work for you
Traditions can be wonderful, those time honored yearly rituals can be meaningful and comforting. But just remember, they’re not obligatory, so don’t let them become a burden. Choose those traditions that work for you this year, or even make new ones.
Gift giving is an important tradition for many of us at this time of year, so instead of tiring yourself out in the shops, why not shop online or buy gift vouchers? Or you could suggest doing a ‘Kris Kindle’ with friends and family, so each person only needs to buy one present. Not only would this reduce the stress and exertion of shopping, but it could reduce the financial burden too, something which is all too often a worry for cancer patients.
Maybe getting to the Christmas Panto as a family is a bridge to far this year, but what about a family movie that everyone can enjoy together?
Be kind to yourself
At this busy time of year, it’s even more important than ever to make sure you look after yourself. Getting the proper rest and nutrition your body needs should be a priority. So take time out to rest when you need to. Eat what makes you feel good, and if that’s not turkey, that’s ok!
Tell loved ones what you need
The holiday season can leave you feeling overwhelmed. So don’t be afraid to ask your loved ones to help out, they’ll probably be delighted you asked.
Be specific about what they can do to support you. Ask them to come over and decorate the tree, or do some shopping, or help you with your cards or whatever it is that will make things easier for you.
Cancer and its treatments can have an effect on your eating/drinking habits. You may have loss of appetite, nausea, constipation or experience a change in how things taste. You may wish to avoid alcohol so as not to interfere with medication or because it makes you feel unwell. Friends and family may unintentionally make you feel pressured into partaking when you don’t feel like it. Don’t hesitate to discuss it with them in advance, let them know if a smaller portion or an alternate dish/beverage would be better for you, that way you can join in in a way that suits you best.
If you’re attending a get together, it can be a good idea to talk to the host in advance to see if you can have a quiet place to retreat to should you need to. Or if that’s not an option ask a trusted friend/family member to be ready to get you home without any fuss if it all becomes too much.
You may experience a whole range of emotions at this time of year. Mood swings are entirely normal. Each person is different and has their own way of reacting or coping, there is no right or wrong way to feel. Some use the festive celebrations as a way to forget about their cancer or to celebrate putting it behind them. Some feel it is a reminder that they are not as healthy as they once were. Whatever your feelings, talking about them can really help, either with someone close or with one of the many support agencies out there.
Holiday Season and Healthcare support
Many healthcare facilities are closed for at least part of the holidays, so ensure you have all the medications that you need to get you through those days.
Make sure you know who to contact should you need support from your healthcare team during the holidays, it may not be the usual person or phone number.
And finally, if you are waiting on test results, these can sometimes take a little longer over the holiday period, so be sure you know when you should expect them, it can make the wait that bit easier.
Wishing all of our readers a peaceful and restful holiday. We hope that these suggestions will go some way to helping you enjoy the season. If you have other tips to share please don’t hesitate to add them to the comments.